We couldn’t agree more with the Augusta government’s move to embrace the Keep America Beautiful program.
It will now be up to us as citizens to embrace it as well.
The question is, why on Earth haven’t we all along?
Augusta is blessed by geography, climate and natural beauty. Our treescapes are an arborist’s dream, the Savannah River an outdoorsman’s companion, the weather perfect for lush flora and abundant fauna. It’s a crime – both figuratively and literally – that so many folks are too self-absorbed, lazy and thoughtless to take care of what we like to brand as the Garden City.
But the problem of littering, dumping and neglect of the environment is so chronic and commonplace that one career law enforcement officer we talked with said keeping Augusta presentable – not even beautiful – is the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.
A Keep America Beautiful office will help inspire, lead and coordinate communitywide cleanup efforts, as well as the selfless volunteers who make it all happen.
Few of us much care for growing government – and this adds two employees and $150,000 to the city budget. We also question whether the second position created needs to be administrative.
But the truth is, that money and those positions, if done right and with a little verve, could leverage untold hours of volunteerism – saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars – and tap into a burgeoning community spirit to make Augusta the best it can be.
Oh, and it might help clean up the city.
We’ve got some 400 dilapidated structures awaiting razing or repairing; roadside dumping and even impromptu illegal landfills featuring cans or truckloads of refuse; and felonious loads of used tires by the scores.
On that last score, the Richmond County Marshal’s Office, which has authority over littering and illegal dumping, recently arrested an Augusta man for allegedly dumping two tons of tires – nearly 200 of them – in the 2500 block of Lyman Street. Weeks of dogged investigation led to Octavious Mack, 36, who was also reportedly Tased while fleeing a deputy marshal.
The marshal’s office has mounted an intense effort to prevent and punish illegal dumping, but clearly could use some help. While coordination is sometimes circuitous – the marshal’s office, Environmental Services and Code Enforcement are on separate computer systems – we’re told that cooperation is good to excellent among the departments. In particular, a deputy marshal told us that Environmental Services “bends over backward” to help.
The deputy also has been impressed with city Administrator Janice Allen Jackson’s focus and involvement in the Keep America Beautiful start-up.
It was during a December 2016 discussion on cleaning up the Bethlehem area that Jackson realized the problem was big enough that a staff dedicated specifically to coordinating cleanups was needed. She’d had access to Keep America Beautiful programs in other cities where she’d worked.
Some cynics grouse that Augusta only cleans up for one week a year – the Masters Tournament. It’s not true – but even if it were, what’s so wrong with picking up before company comes? Don’t you do that at home?
Besides, it wouldn’t be neccesssary if we cleaned up year-round – for our own benefit.
There’s nothing stopping us.