Keep it clean
REGINALD BROWN gets the kids started under a shady tree at Broadway and North Avenue. Five on this side of the street, five on the other, he tells them. Wait a minute, he says gently but firmly, as they start to wander off, first listen to the directions.
Keeping up with 10 teen-agers each day takes a lot of humor and a little psychology, says the Department of Public Works crew supervisor. His kids and about 225 other teens across Baltimore comprise the city's "trash attack teams." In a day, some of the 12 teams are picking up 500 to 1,000 pounds of debris around the city.
The goal for Mr. Brown's group is to keep Broadway from North to Monument avenues clean, median strips, side streets, too. Another goal, from the O'Malley administration's perspective, is keeping clean-city spirit alive.
On the south side of North, Kandais, Larry, James, Shirley and Allen press on, picking up bottles, wrappers, crushed cups. There's a certain pattern to it: Kandais goes for one handful at a time; James sweeps; Shirley shovels. Allen opens a yawning paper trash bag over his head and disappears inside as he straightens the sides.
This is bags and brooms, gloves and shovels, 7 to 3, hour for lunch. But it's got good points... money.
Mr. Brown asks his charges how they'll spend their earnings.
Hey, that's private, counters Larry.
Mr. Brown smiles and suggests Larry drop a little non-private cash on a nice card for his mother. Larry wrinkles his nose, says he'll think about it.
Over the rumble of North Avenue traffic, Shirley says she wised up this year (after two years of not landing a city summer job) and stopped picking the jobs all the other girls wanted, like indoors at a recreation center.
So here she is with Kandais and eight boys, East Baltimore high-schoolers, making minimum wage till mid-August. Something to do, Shirley says cheerfully, scooping up a shovelful of James' sweepings.
Best thing for her, says Larry, is she gets to work with me.
Shirley rolls her eyes.
They're kids, says Mr. Brown. They want to squirt each other with the hose on hot days and go to McDonald's up the street.
But lunch isn't for a while yet. Mr. Brown, surveying the clear blue morning, says, the best thing about this day is it isn't too hot.
That's good, because from the look of things, they've got a ways to go today to remind neighbors about clean-city spirit. A lesson quickly learned is that it only takes one night for tidy to turn trashy again.