Not impossible to keep city, rights of way clean
A Decatur motorist waiting in traffic for the light to turn green at First Avenue Southeast and Moulton Street recently witnessed why City Councilman Ray Metzger took aim this week at people who litter.
The driver in the vehicle immediately ahead rolled down the window and sailed a soft drink cup into the street.
While the light was still red, his passenger rolled down his window and tossed out another cup and a burger wrapper.
The light changed and the pair drove off.
The witness could have gotten the vehicle tag number and maybe a name, then sworn out a warrant and gone to city court with his charge.
He didn't. It's difficult.
That's the major drawback to bringing people who trash the landscape to justice.
Councilman Metzger suggested the city should fine people who litter $500 and 24 hours mandatory jail time. Currently, the city charges first-time offenders up to that amount and $170 court costs. They also could get up to 180 days in jail, but that's not likely. Convictions are rare.
Police officers may make arrests when they see someone littering, but they can't be everywhere to catch these people tossing out trash. If police could be everywhere, people wouldn't roll down windows and throw out fast-food wrappers.
Making arrests and levying fines will help make our city and county cleaner. But the truth is that hiring people, using non-violent jail and prison inmates and organizing community litter patrols to pick up trash will do more to clean up our county.
It's good that Mr. Metzger wants to emphasize cleaning up the city. Having people in government like him who feel strongly about littering is a plus. Ideally, he will be a strong voice at City Hall that insists that we pick up litter weekly, even daily.