Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has often said his two priorities for Baltimore are “crime and grime.” At a press conference today, he and administration officials unveiled an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to cleaning up the city, with a target goal of clearing out a backlog of 311 requests by April 1.
Under eight initiatives detailed today as part of the plan, called Clean It Up!, the city will crackdown on illegal dumpers, target neighborhoods and major roads for clean up, expand programs to help community clean-ups and fill potholes.
“I’m committed to beautifying Baltimore and providing our residents and visitors with a cleaner city to enjoy,” Young said.
Sheryl Goldstein, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff of operations, said the administration inherited a backlog of 17,000 overdue 311 calls for trash removal or property maintenance when Young took over the city’s top job following Catherine Pugh’s resignation. That number has been cut by more than half since September, shortly after the mayor launched CleanStat, a data-driven approach to tracking municipal trash collection.
John Chalmers, director of the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Solid Waste, said the information from CleanStat will allow trash-collection crews to track their progress in real time and help inform how the agency deploys resources and draws up routes.
On average, DPW sends out 131 crews every day to collect 3,400 tons of trash and recycling, he said. The department also handled more than 318,000 requests from the 311 non-emergency line last fiscal year.
Data has also informed where illegal dumping is most prevalent, Goldstein said. The city has placed cameras at those sites and is now deciding where to reposition them to catch others in the act.
Goldstein said “a small number of individuals and businesses are responsible for a large number of illegal dumping citations, as well as sanitation violations.” The city is going to post a Top 10 list of repeat offenders on the CleanStat website and “double down” on enforcement.
Officials are also targeting 19 major roads, referred to as “gateways,” for clean up, including busy interstates such as I-83 and other well-traveled routes like Boston Street and W. Franklin Street, to name a few. (See a complete list here.) These thoroughfares were selected based on traffic volume and the number of service requests.
“We have a multi-agency approach to getting those gateways clean and keeping them clean, so that as you travel through the city you can see how nice our city is,” Goldstein said.
Next month, the city will roll out efforts to fill potholes and target specific neighborhoods “for focused cleaning and safety efforts.” A spokesperson for the mayor said those neighborhoods have been identified using CitiStat data, but they won’t be announced until the city coordinates plans with the respective community associations.
As speaker after speaker at today’s press conference noted, local government can’t rid the city of its trash problem on its own. Clean It Up! also provides an additional $160,000 in Care-A-Lot grants, offering money to community groups to clean up and maintain vacant lots. And residents can have a city crew bring out a dumpster for a community clean-up event by filing a 311 request.
Additionally, the city is hoping to attract more small trash haulers to a program that lets unlicensed drivers bring their trash to a city facility for a reduced rate instead rather than dumping it on the street.
Derwin Hannah, a resident of Carrollton Ridge, where today’s press event was held, told reporters he didn’t blame DPW workers for the state of his community’s alleys.
“Believe me, I ride through the neighborhood,” he said. “We’re always seeing all types of heavy equipment in the neighborhood.”
A week after the area is cleared, trash is back in the alleys, he said.
Another resident, Cynthia Tinsley, said drug crews will sometimes intentionally clog lots with trash so it’s harder for police to navigate. The neighborhood has won a Car-A-Lot grant the last two years, she said, providing enough money for volunteers to buy breakfast and lunch during an eight-hour shift.
Even with that help, it can be a struggle to keep the area clean.
“We have a lot of problems that we’re trying to address,” she said, “and any help that the city is able to give us is so greatly appreciated.”
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