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Don't forget grime Public works: Crime isn't Baltimore's only concern; what about a cleaner city?


CRIME AND GRIME. Long before this month's elections, people consistently mentioned those topics when talking about problems they wanted City Hall to address. Although various candidates, from mayor on down, had plenty to say about policing the city better, they said very little about keeping Baltimore clean.

That "grime" never became a big issue in the Democratic primary allowed a victorious Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to reiterate his confidence in Public Works director George Balog, who will keep his job in the next administration. The next four years, however, will be challenging.

The last City Council never did find a better way to take care of "eviction chattel," the discarded items left on the street after an eviction. Community leaders who were noticeably silent during the campaign had earlier protested that the chattel makes neighborhoods look trashy.

Mr. Balog says he knows his department must respond more rapidly to calls about bulk trash being left on the street. He said the headache occurs whenever a landlord makes an illegal eviction by failing to first obtain a court order; that begins a process in which city sanitation crews are notified in advance that old furniture might be left at a specific address.

Mr. Balog believes the city is a lot cleaner than it was eight years ago. He says street sweepers now clean 1,800 miles a week instead of only 600. In March 1994, the city picked up 1,980 tons of bulk trash left on streets and in alleys; in March 1995 it picked up 6,078 tons.

Sixty workers have been added to the 900-person trash pickup and street-cleaning division since last year. Mr. Balog says that force can keep Baltimore clean, if the public helps.

The department is giving the 12 trashiest neighborhoods special "clean sweep" days and follow-ups. It is also trying to get community groups and schools to help prevent littering. If the campaign doesn't work, you can expect people to start talking about "grime" again. They should have insisted the candidates talk about it more during the campaign.

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