…because as Baltimore residents, that’s what we do. I’ve never discussed garbage more than after I moved to Baltimore in 2000. It’s a constant struggle and source of frustration — if you belong to your neighborhood’s Nextdoor, you probably see the same complaints over and over again, as I do. One of my neighbors constantly described the goings-ons by one family he dubbed “The Trash Heaps” — lest you think he was simply being unkind, let me assure you, he was being dead-on descriptive. That house was a nightmare and a constant source of emails in my inbox. They no longer live on my neighbor’s street, and God bless whoever gets them as neighbors…I hope you really like the sight and smell of a lot of garbage.
Trash in Pigtown, West Ostend Street, June 22, 2015
Now, according to the Baltimore Brew, the City wants to implement a pay-as-you-go scheme for trash collection. You may think this is a great idea. You may wonder what took them so long. You may be so thrilled you’re beside yourself, reveling in the glee that comes with city-provided trash cans and a pay-as-you-go trash pickup scheme. Or, like me, you could shake your head and wonder why on earth our City government doesn’t stop to think that perhaps asking people to pay as they go…for anything city-service related…is a bad idea. Hint: They probably won’t pay.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a pretty decent sort. You pay your taxes, put out your trash in a bin with a lid, and don’t make a general nuisance of yourself to your neighbors, regardless of the kind of neighborhood you live in, or your income level. You’re just the kind of person my dad referred to as “good people”. Yay you! And you’re thinking “This is a great idea. Now our trash collection will be more streamlined. More efficient. Less trash in the streets.” My dear reader…”streamlined” and “efficient” + Baltimore City government…do you see where I’m going with this?
BELIEVE can outside a vacant.
Lest you think I’m in the business of slamming the good folks at DPW, think again. I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for 15 years, and I couldn’t ask for better trash collectors. They actually are efficient. And nice. My trash can is always placed back onto my patio after they haul the contents away, and I’ve never lost a lid yet. The only time I lost a trash can in those 15 years was shortly after Martin O’Malley came up with his limp “BELIEVE” campaign and we were all given a trash can with that word emblazoned on the side. Oh I believed, alrighty. And my trash can was promptly stolen the day after it arrived, never to be seen again. I believed, (for a hot minute) and then I had to haul myself to the Home Depot to buy another darn can. It should have been a sign, I tell you.
The simple fact of the matter, however, is that many people –regardless of race, gender, socio-economic blah blah blah — just people from all walks of life, believe me, do not know how to properly dispose of their trash. Or they’re too lazy and/or cheap to do so. I used to watch one of my neighbors (a lawyer, mind you, with a slightly low-rent TV law firm) throw his household trash next to the corner trash can (and not even on trash collection day!), on the ground, and la-di-dah his way to work. For months, years, this went on, until he and his wife moved away. Meanwhile, the Section 8 folks down the street faithfully put out their cans (with lids!) every Tuesday night and didn’t make a mess (I still think half the block blamed them and not Mister Lazy Lawyer.) They still live in the neighborhood, thankfully.
Trash dumped on West Ostend Street in Pigtown, June 22, 2015
The point of this post is to illustrate that my neighborhood, like so many across the city, have long become dumping grounds. And not just by rogue contractors, waste haulers, and homeowners who are doing a rehab and don’t want to pay the dump fees. We’ve long been a dumping ground by the very residents who might live next door. Across the street, and we’re tired of it. Implementing a pay-as-you-go trash collection scheme might work in some neighborhoods that don’t already have a trash problem. And that’s great. But for those of us who do — it’s going to result in more illegal dumping, more trash, more rats, and might just be the incentive for many of us who have stuck it out, to leave.
It’s a bad plan, and will end up being punitive towards those residents who do follow the law and dispose of their trash properly. As with most things in Baltimore, it boils down to a lack of enforcement and punishment that actually acts as a deterrent. I would urge everyone to contact their City Council representative and ask him or her to squash this bad plan, which only amounts to yet another tax on our city’s struggling middle class.