“I’m mad as hell and not going to take this any more.” This is the lament of the longtime news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in the classic 1976 movie “Network.”
I have been outspoken in my enthusiasm and optimism regarding this community for the last 15 years in (and out) of my publisher’s letter. Other than a few tirades regarding the demise of Lloyd Pool, I am very proud of the many fine citizens, great local initiatives, and “plain ol’ good things” that have graced this column over the years. So I do feel like I have earned the right to ask the question, “When did we stop giving a damn regarding how we keep our community”?
Take a look at our roadways over the next few days — the piles of litter at intersections, cigarette butts everywhere, and sidewalks in areas growing trees. I go out every single day to pick up the trash and litter thrown in my yard and street, and our city’s common landscaping areas of medians and welcome areas are poor to non-existent.
I will commend Mayor Lloyd Winnecke who organizes a clean up of the streets the first Saturday of every month. This is a good start and a good example. I also believe our City Parks Director Brian Holtz is off to a good start, despite no real budget for the 64 parks and 2,500 acres of land under his auspices. That is a herculean task with minimal employees and resources.
What our city needs is strong enforcement of our existing laws. Indiana statutes list littering on property as a Class B infraction, with fines up to $1,000. Littering bodies of water or from a moving vehicle bumps the infraction to a Class A. Lit cigarette butts thrown from cars can rack up a $10,000 fine according to Indiana State Police.
Folks staying vigilant also help, like Salvage Candy owner T.J. Trem who recently caught those illegally dumping on his property.
I remember well from my board days with Keep Evansville Beautiful the often-espoused “broken window” theory. Once the first window on an abandoned building is broken, soon the rest will follow.
Evansville, I believe we can do better and have every reason we should. I know the answer some would give — “We just don’t have the money to get it done.” But I suggest we examine our priorities and options.
We are building some great new things in the city, but struggling to keep up with maintaining what already exists. Might I suggest a task force to look at our city’s potential aesthetic improvements?
I never knew letter writing could be cheaper than therapy. Perhaps I should write more letters.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Todd A. Tucker