5-year-old takes Baltimore to task for continuing street trash problem


The way 5-year-old Nancy McDonald sees it, Oscar the Grouch would feel right at home in her Southwest Baltimore neighborhood.

That's because "he loooooves trash," explains the 3-foot-tall blue-eyed youngster.

Which, of course, Nancy does not.

And although she helps her daddy clear the gutters and alleys of litter, broken glass and debris, Nancy says some of her neighbors in the 1300 block of Glyndon Avenue do not. So she did what any self-respecting, environmentally conscious Baltimorean would do. She wrote to her councilman.

"I am 5 years old and I would like to live in a clean neighborhood," Nancy said in her letter to Councilman Timothy D. Murphy. "My family does a good job, but others do not. Please help them learn."

When she walks down her block, Nancy sees what her neighbors leave behind. "Glass, lots of it, papers which they don't clean up," she says, sitting on the couch in her parents' neat, trim Formstone row house. "Sometimes I think I see cardboard."

And it makes her feel "like the city is a garbage can," says Nancy, as she smoothes her blue-and-white striped dress with the watermelon collar.

She does her part: holding the trash bag when her dad sweeps and clears the gutters, emptying the waste baskets at home, cleaning the litter for cats Chrissie and Gracie. She wishes "parents could teach their kids and themselves not to throw trash."

"Sometimes I have to pick the stuff up, from the gutter," she says, wrinkling her nose.

And while Nancy admits she doesn't really know what a city councilman does -- her mom, a city schoolteacher, suggested she write to Mr. Murphy -- she hopes he can get back the trash can that's missing from the end of her street.

When Nancy's letter arrived in Mr. Murphy's office, he knew it was from someone who cared. The envelope -- like the note inside -- featured a fuzzy bear leaning against a crayon.

He dispatched his own letter to the city's chief of sanitation and asked for his help.

"No one should ignore a request from a 5-year-old constituent," Mr. Murphy wrote. "Clearly this is the type of concern which we want to reinforce and be supportive of."

Yesterday, city officials stopped by Nancy's house -- a day after receiving a copy of her letter -- and dropped off a brochure on city sanitation services and a coloring book on recycling.

The advice was hardly needed. Barry and Heidi McDonald, Nancy's parents, already have a three-tiered recycling bin in their kitchen and are teaching their daughter why recycling is important.

"What we have been trying to do with her is to make her be aware of being responsible for her environment, and she's noticed that people don't always do that," says Mrs. McDonald, an art resource teacher. at two city schools. "She doesn't understand why."

Nancy says she'll do her part to keep the neighborhood clean.

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