Plenty of trash to go around in Baltimore

Kimberly Klacik, who posted about trash in Baltimore City on social media, and West Baltimore residents react to President Trump's statements about Baltimore.

I wish I’d known Trump fan John Rourke and his trash truck were coming from out of state to clean up Baltimore on Thursday. I would have given him a list of places to start.

There’s the exit ramp onto East Northern Parkway from southbound MD-41, where fast food wrappers go to die. And that stretch of Greenspring Avenue, where someone should at least rescue the toy ball that, last I checked, had long lived in a pile of waste there. And the median strip along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, near the UM BioPark, where homeless people throw empty water bottles. And pretty much all of the city’s portion of MD-295.


But I suppose Mr. Rourke and his sanitation Samaritans from Florida and New York just needed to drive around a bit. They quickly found areas — and individuals — in need, including two people who had apparently overdosed on opioids. One of the cleanup crew administered medication to reverse the effects, and quite possibly saved a life or two.

I know some people find it controversial to have outsiders come into our city to clean it up — some of them Trumpers, no less! — but I say: Welcome, and if you’re familiar with the overdose antidote naloxone, all the better. We can use all the help we can get.

Joseph Rivieccio, of Jupiter, FL, pulls trash from a storm drain along Monroe Street during a cleanup with a group of volunteers in West Baltimore.
Joseph Rivieccio, of Jupiter, FL, pulls trash from a storm drain along Monroe Street during a cleanup with a group of volunteers in West Baltimore. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

We have a trash problem, and we have a rat problem. The fact that the person who publicly pointed this out — in a pathetic series of tweets attacking U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings — is a pathological liar and despicable human being doesn’t change it.

Heck, Baltimore’s Jack Young, who once worked as a trash collector, announced on the day he became mayor in May that cleaning up the city would be a top priority for him. His predecessor talked about being able to “smell the rats” on a walk through an East Baltimore neighborhood. And her predecessor spent $10 million gifting every city household a 64-gallon, lidded trash can to control the rodent population.

It’s a thing. And there’s no shame in acknowledging the problem, caused by illegal dumping, decades of disinvestment and plain old litterbugs — only in failing to address it. And while it’s true that many people are doing their level best to fix our city’s problems, it’s also true that there is much work left to be done in all sorts of areas, including trash.

We clearly need an intervention. So, to Mr. Rourke and friends: thank you. And to the rest of you: c’mon down (or up or over). I don’t care who you are or why you’re here, as long as the work you do is ultimately good for Baltimore.

Of course, I’d prefer you keep the condescension to a minimum, along with publicity-seeking stunts (I’m looking at you, hate-group-connected Scott Pressler, with the relatively pristine copy of a newspaper you supposedly unearthed touting Barack Obama’s election 11 years ago). But I imagine once you start talking to some actual city residents, you might feel less inclined to demean us.

A group of volunteers revive two men who had apparently overdosed on Thursday Aug. 15, 2019.
A group of volunteers revive two men who had apparently overdosed on Thursday Aug. 15, 2019. (Jerry Jackson)

In fact, you might like us. We’ve been doing a little project here at The Baltimore Sun (baltimoresun.com/ourbaltimore) collecting stories of what readers love best about Baltimore (thanks for the idea, Mr. President), and time and again the answer is: the people. And, in case you’re still not clear on this after Mr. Trump’s social media temper tantrum, we are actual people — real, live human beings, in fact.

And so are you. I know it. So, please, by all means, come clean up, and maybe check out some of our tourist traps while you’re here. We’re quite a foodie town, and the restaurants are fantastic. If you’re staying through the weekend, there’s a crab feast at Oriole Park Saturday worth checking out, and an AfroFashionFusion event on West 29th Street on Sunday afternoon.

We know you probably won’t solve the problem, but you might make enough of a dent in the mess mountain that it becomes manageable for the workers and volunteers who chip away at it weekly.

And to those who add to it: Cut it out. Stop throwing things out your car windows and as you walk along the streets; stop dumping commercial trash in our alleyways and ravines. Even if this isn’t your home, it’s someone’s. Have some respect.

Tricia Bishop is The Sun’s deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Her email is tricia.bishop@baltsun.com; Twitter: @triciabishop.

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