The boasting of the Soulard Restoration Group about its litter abatement program illustrates the bankruptcy of neighborhood leadership. Resolving the litter problem is something we all need to confront and be responsible for. We all need to work to improve Soulard, Madame Chouteau believes. Perversely, the SRG has assigned litter control to Marvin Powell and his crew, which Madame Chouteau assumes to consist of homeless people - hired for a few dollars.
Just as Alderwoman Phyllis Young has done nothing to rein in the curse of the designation of Soulard as an "Entertainment District," so the Soulard Restoration Group displays its impotence by palming off our litter on the homeless, making them responsible for the mess.
Their clueless approach to problem solving is detailed in the June, 2008 issue of the SRG publication Soulard Renaissance (subtitled "Living with History") in the lead article, titled "Krewe of Clean on the Scene."
The article, written by Ann Russell, comments that "yes, for the first time in a few years, Soulard is enjoying a sustained weekly litter clean-up program. Overseen by Marvin Powell of Peter & Paul Community Services (PPCS), the Soulard Clean Krewe has taken to the streets at least once a weekend (weather permitted) since March."
The article continues with SRG President Don Kirby explaining that "then after they go out, our task force members - me included - take a bike ride around the neighborhood and see what’s been done and what needs attention next round. It’s an effort that involves many great organizations who all have one goal in mind - a clean, safe Soulard."
The program is funded by a grant of $5000 from Peter and Paul Housing Corporation (PPHC), a non-profit organization separate from PPCS. This grant was matched by funds from the Soulard Business Association (SBA) and the Soulard Restoration Group, from what Madame Chouteau can understand from the article.
Rather than suggesting that the neighborhood residents, property owners, business owners and visitors to the neighborhood assume responsibility for their actions and for cleaning up the neighborhood, the Renaissance article provides an e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that people report where the litter is thickest. Then the homeless can be dispatched to solve the problem. The homeless can wipe the neighborhood’s bottom, once a week.
In fact, Madame Chouteau eagerly awaited the July issue of the Soulard Renaissance, hopeful that a follow-up editorial would suggest that all who live in the neighborhood, who recreate here or who just pass through join the efforts of the homeless crew and support them by not littering and by picking up after themselves. But the pages are silent on the subject.
Nowhere in the lengthy June article was there mention of individual responsibility or the necessity of community involvement - other than reporting the location of litter. The tone of the article implies that the swells of the SRG consider the problem is solved - by a weekly sweep. If the Soulard Restoration Group abdicates its leadership role by supporting band-aid solutions, at least Alderwoman Phyllis Young could have issued a statement, something like:
"We all need to work together to try to solve the litter problem in Soulard (and throughout St. Louis, for that matter). Whether you are a property owning resident, a tenant, a non-resident landlord or a visitor to one of our many bars, places of business, or a restaurant, we ask your assistance. Please do not litter. Please help make Soulard more user-friendly and attractive by picking up litter that thoughtless people have created. If you are an owner of a business which sells alcoholic beverages, please do not let your patrons exit your premises with open beverage containers. These containers often end up littering the landscape. Please pick up the newspapers and flyers found in the streets and gutters. Please use City of St. Louis trash containers appropriately. Those who are dog owners need to pick up after their animals, too. If we all work together, we can have an impact. Please join Marvin Powell and his crew to help make Soulard a better place to live, to do business and to visit. After all, if they can do it, so can the rest of us. Thank you for your contribution to our neighborhood."