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Editorial: City must address trash complaints

Editorial: City must address trash complaints

Schenectady can't solve problem until it admits it has one
Editorial: City must address trash complaints
Garbage collects at 709 Crane St. in Schenectady.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

They say the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one.

So until Schenectady officials admit the city has a garbage problem, there’ll be no solutions to it.

And the longer city officials ignore it, the worse it will get —driving down property values, ruining the living experience for city residents, discouraging people from moving in, and holding back the city’s impressive progress in rebuilding its economy, tax base, reputation and quality of life.

In an article in Sunday’s Gazette, residents of several streets and neighborhoods — including Goose Hill, Mont Pleasant and Hamilton Hill — complained of large piles of garbage lying around, of bags piled up outside of properties, of couches and other trash lingering on sidewalks and alleys and vacant lots for weeks at a time.

If you drive around the city with your eyes and your nose open, you’ll agree that despite what some city officials said in the article, Schenectady does indeed have a garbage problem. Some of their comments were dismissive, almost to the point of comical.

The city’s director of solid waste, Floyd Slater, basically seemed to be throwing in the towel before the bell has even rung.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a problem; I would just say that’s city life.”

Hear that, you pesky complainers? Big piles of smelly trash all over the place are just what you get for living in a city. Deal with it. And this coming from the guy in charge of trash!

If we’re just going to give up on the city anyway, then let’s also stop wasting taxpayer money tearing down run-down, abandoned homes. Weren’t zombie properties also part of “city life” until people got sick of them and demanded government do something?

Mayor Gary McCarthy also seemed to think the trash problem was being overstated, noting the obvious that garbage becomes more visible after the snow melts. No kidding. So all we need to do is make it snow 12 months a year and the trash problem will be gone. 

Pretending the problem doesn’t exist isn’t going to solve it. Failing to identify and punish the real culprits won’t, either. Neither will offering up half-baked solutions like sending out flyers to teach kids about recycling.

First, the city needs to admit it’s got a problem. Then the problem areas need to be identified and the real sources targeted.

Sure, some people just don’t care and will throw trash anywhere. But individual property owners, businesses and absentee landlords are probably the biggest culprits. Announce a crackdown, then increase the number of citations and boost the fines.

Maybe try positive incentives as well, like a rewards program for neighborhood trash cleanup, as one person suggested.

Schenectady has just one “nuisance inspector” for the entire city of 66,000 people. Hiring more inspectors might pay for itself in increased revenue from fines and less work for the city sanitation crews.

Maybe the city needs more trash cans and bins so people are less tempted to throw their trash on the ground. Are there grants available for that? What have other cities done to change their practices and the culture to make their cities cleaner? Borrow some of their ideas. 

Yes, Schenectady does indeed have a trash problem. It’s time for city officials to face it and start doing something about it.

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