Friday, June 24, 2011

Livability Court

After Travel + Leisure added "almost trashiest" to Philadelphia's list of accomplishments, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. was so offended that they pulled advertising from the magazine. Well, as unreliable as any newsstand survey may be, you don't fight back by pulling our city's presence from one of the top travel magazines in the world.

I wasn't offended by the results of the survey, I was annoyed. Not because some bias survey put us at the top of another list of broken cities, but because it's absolutely true. The only reason New Orleans bested us in filth is because America's Atlantis is still drying out. 

Philadelphia is a dump. Literally. It might be the nation's most expensive landfill. 

I know people hate to hear that but I refuse to engage in blind pride when I see uniformed police officers throw trash out of patrol car windows. We can fill the city with high tech trash cans, but no amount of technology is going to change why Philadelphia is so littered: Philadelphians. 

Yes. You.

Everything from cigarette butts to refrigerators, you, Philadelphians, seem to think that there is something acceptable about throwing your waste on the sidewalk, in the gutter, or using vacant lots as dumpsters.

Even our nation's least enlightened cities are so far beyond the anti-litter campaign of the 1970s that recycling programs dominate the civic landscape. Yet somehow thousands of our seemingly normal, law abiding - even law enforcing - citizens didn't get the memo...forty years later.

But what are you going to do? 1.5 million people have been trained to throw their hoagie wrappers on the ground. It's been so unacceptably bad for so long that it's become unacceptably acceptable.

We don't see it. I've been here for nearly a decade and I don't see it. That is until I go upstate, down south, or out west. Pick a direction.

It's just us. We're disgusting.

How do you solve an epidemic that is as Philadelphian as the Liberty Bell? I'll tell you what you do. Turn it into a way to make money.

That's right. Remind people that their slovenly behavior is illegal and make a few bucks off of it. Sure, our entire judicial process is so overworked that hundreds of outstanding warrants sit idle while violent criminals kick back and wait to be arrested.

But don't start shopping for excuses. There are none. If Gulf cities and Tornado Alley towns can clean up the trash Mother Nature dumps on them and still keep Faygo cans out of their gutters then we can keep broken toilets out of my backyard.

It's called Livability Court. Started appropriately in Charleston, S.C. in 2002, "America's Most Polite City," like Family Court, Livability Court is solely responsible for tackling one specific problem: Those citizens who are determined to make their city unlivable.

If a city as clean as Charleston, S.C. can justify the need to target litter, graffiti, vandalism, and illegal dumping, then targeting Philadelphia's cretins is well worth the investment. With our internationally renowned trash problem, we have a well stocked pool of turds that could generate more revenue for the city than any real estate tax hike.

It may sound like the pessimistic ramblings of someone who's lived in Philadelphia for a little too long, but don't confuse me with those that say we're buried too deep. Philadelphia isn't the worst place in America, so why should our citizens be allowed to treat it like it is?

Urban tumbleweeds signify a lack of respect for our own property. Clean neighborhoods are safe neighborhoods, and safe neighborhoods make safe cities.

If people aren't willing to take out their own trash, it's the city's duty to take it out for them. Cite them, fine them, and set a precedent that let's the trash know that a lot of us actually like Philadelphia.
Most importantly, lead by example. Philadelphia has developed a reputation of caring very little about Philadelphians, which is evident when you see a police officer drop a Snickers wrapper on the ground three feet from a trash can.

We'll never look like Disney World but we shouldn't want to. We have our own magic in our grit, but grit is in the rusted patina lined with street performers, eclectic architecture, and colorful characters. All of which is almost impossible to see to the unspoiled eyes of our visitors when they're knee deep in our sewage. 


  1. Did you suggest this to a councilman yet?

  2. I hadn't thought about it. I wouldn't know how.

  3. I recently sent an email with a link to the post to Councilman DiCiccio.