Some pictures tell more than one story. The one accompanying this editorial, which shows the outrageous state of the city’s recycling center the Saturday before Easter — tells at least two.
The first goes like this: All the candidates hoping to be elected May 12 to various spots on the City Council said the island needs a good, old-fashion cleaning up. It’s a bread-and-butter sort of campaign issue, partly because it’s so obviously true and partly because it’s so perfectly safe. Who, after all, is pro litter?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as it were, the city through acts of both omission and commission is too often among the main sponsors of general shabbiness. Some of that stuff piled at the recycling center undoubtedly left the scene of the crime and ended up in somebody’s yard, plastered against a fence or flapping in a tree along Broadway, waving “Welcome to Galveston, the home of free-range plastic bags.”
And then there are all the times the city fails to cut high weeds in its own rights of way and all the times the city fails to ensure owners keep their private property up to reasonable standards of cleanliness. And that point is not about issuing a ticket every time a paper cup shows up in somebody’s yard. It’s about policing the known owners of major tracts that become major eyesores.
For example, the lots north of Broadway in front of the County Justice Center that can go for weeks looking as if a festival had just packed up and moved out of there.
And perhaps the most perfect example in this context is the fact that old campaign signs are allowed to loiter along Harborside Drive for months after the candidate’s political ambitions have been trucked off to a landfill.
It’s pretty safe to say that litter control and code enforcement have been among the top five talking points of every candidate in every municipal election in Galveston since at least the late 1990s. Little has improved, however.
The council that will be sworn in after May 12 could begin writing a happy ending for this story if it would just keep the same focus on this problem that the individual candidates now have.
The second story is this: The city is grossly underestimating and failing to respond effectively to the demand among residents for recycling services. People here pretty clearly intend to recycle. Like people everywhere, they do that chore when they have time, which often is on weekends and holidays.
Granted, this photograph was taken on the second day of a long weekend, but the after-hours boxes don’t look much better on a typical weekend. And that’s the point. The city’s efforts to accommodate the demand for recycling services is inadequate and out of sync with demand.
It’s time city staff and the council got that picture.