Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young pledged Wednesday to eliminate the steep backlog of 311 cleaning requests by April 1 as part of a broader campaign to clean up the city.
Residents were waiting on more than 17,000 overdue cleaning and property maintenance work orders in September, according to city data. By Jan. 1, city crews whittled the backlog down to roughly 7,500 — a 56% decrease that city officials say shows how focused they are on eliminating grime.
“We will get to zero," said Sheryl Goldstein, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff for operations.
Young said residents can hold him accountable through the recently launched CleanStat website, a data-driven initiative that analyzes how efficiently the city is dealing with trash, littering and illegal dumping service requests in different neighborhoods.
The city’s response to certain 311 requests depends on what part of town a person lives in, a recent Baltimore Sun analysis showed. People who called the non-emergency help line to report a dirty alley in Southeast Baltimore nearly always got a resolution within seven business days. In the southwestern part of the city, though, work orders were almost never filled within the recommended time frame.
Part of what contributed to that disparity, officials said, was the long backlog of overdue requests in Southwest Baltimore. Once that is cleared, they say, city crews will be laser-focused on providing equitable and efficient service across all neighborhoods.
“We’re going to clean everywhere in the city and make sure we catch up on those overdue 311 orders that were here long before I took office,” Young said Wednesday.
Goldstein called the effort an “all hands on deck initiative." Other city agencies with the capacity to clean streets and alleys are working overtime on weekends along with crews from the Department of Public Works to plow through overdue requests.
“We’re going above what we’ve ever done before by using data analytics to inform our operations to eliminate this backlog,” said John Chalmers, head of the department’s Bureau of Solid Waste. “Getting rid of this backlog is critical to improve consistent and sustainable on-time performance for residents.”
Young kicked off his “Clean It Up!” campaign in Carrollton Ridge, a neighborhood in Southwest Baltimore that’s been struggling to deal with violent crime, vacant housing and drugs.
“Any help the city is able to give us is so greatly appreciated,” said Cyndi Tensley, president of their neighborhood association.
The mayor called on people to pitch in on the city’s efforts by hosting neighborhood cleanups. He announced that his administration would devote $160,000 to expanding the Care-A-Lot program, which provides grants to community organizations who are working to maintain vacant lots.
Young also said his administration plans to crack down on those who repeatedly illegally dump in the city and enhance cleaning efforts on 19 roads with high traffic and significant maintenance problems.
During his announcement, Young stood in front of an alley overflowing with garbage: an abandoned mattress, stuffed trash bags and crumbled cardboard boxes.
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A a city crew got to work as soon as he left his podium, crushing the discarded trash and clearing the alleyway.