Letter to the Editor

The only way to avoid red tags is to have a bare lawn

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dear Editor,

I have no doubt that there are many things to be said for keeping trash and debris to a minimum. Not merely does it cut down on the proliferation of certain kinds of pests, it probably contributes, overall, to healthier property values, the boosting of community morale, and even the suppression of some sorts of crime. Along these lines, it makes sense to encourage some appropriate levels of tidiness and responsible action.

Unfortunately, however, the city has jumped into high gear with an approach that stresses shaming and intimidation. On some streets, the single most obvious eyesores are the numerous ugly red markers. Rather than focusing on the actually troubling extreme cases, they have suddenly decided to show many average and responsible citizens that they are falling short of a virtually unattainable standard. In an outburst of tagging, the city has put itself into an antagonistically adversarial relationship to the very people it supposedly wants to serve. This is both political foolishness and, worse, a treatment of the citizenry that falls far short of ethical ideals.

Persons who do interesting and tasteful things with the landscaping of their property will tend to have cycles in which planting and weeding, collecting and burning occur. If they work hard to collect their leaves and branches after a storm, it may be quite a number of days before they can burn them -- and all burning is subject to fire department approval. But it seems that the only way to comply with the high standards of the city council would be to eliminate all plantings, hedges, and trees so that the bare lawns are never cluttered by any so-called "debris" that the city is tagging. Do you really want the interesting gardeners and landscapers of this town to be inhibited by the critical eye of the government?

Worst of all, as I see it, there is -- in the comical exuberance of this tagging performance -- a kind of arrogance and hard-heartedness toward the poor and the disabled. If you tag my yard, I can go out and mow it -- or pick up whatever it is that doesn't measure up to the city's standards. But there are many persons who cannot jump to your command -- and who cannot simply immediately pay someone to take care of whatever problem it is that has developed. Where there truly is a problem, these more vulnerable members of our society should not be treated to extra humiliation.

Kevin Rouintree