Tuesday, November 15, 2005

We're Number One! We're Number One!

It always feels good to be tops at something. It gives one a sense of pride, of achievement, of satisfaction...of fulfillment, of contentment. Why, residents of Allegheny County PA can bask in the glow of our latest success, touted in a headline from this morning's Tribune-Review:

Allegheny County has most illegal dump sites

Whoops! Maybe I don't feel so proud after all. Especially when there is a distinct possibility that some of these dump sites could very well be in my own neighborhood. Or they would be, if this article were about people's backyards and not about actual repositories. What's so bad about them, anyway?

A dingy refrigerator leans against the hillside, its shelves filled with pools of stagnant water. Old tires protrude from the slope like mutant mushrooms. A rusty green pickup truck's rear panel juts out from beneath a blanket of rotting leaves and empty potato chip bags.

The scene could describe many of the 340 illegal dumps dotting Allegheny County, poisoning streams, hurting property values and providing an ideal breeding ground for vermin and mosquitoes.

If I were the editor of this newspaper, I would spin the article to make these illegal dump sites sound positive. "Allegheny County is home to 340 wildlife habitats", or something similar. No one would complain about them being breeding grounds for wildlife, especially if an endangered species were discovered amongst the bugs and vermin.

Even the environmental busybody group conducting the study makes the outcome sound like a source of pride:

"Allegheny County is leaps and bounds -- and garbage bags-full -- ahead of everyone else," said PA CleanWays President Karen McCalpin.
That should be our new slogan: "Allegheny County: Garbage bags ahead of everyone else". If Pittsburgh ever acquires another sports franchise in, say, Major Indoor Stick Hockey or something, it could be christened the Pittsburgh Vermin. The Vermin would wear black and gold, like all of the other Pittsburgh teams. Black for the bubonic plague, and gold for yellow fever.

Getting back to the article:

There are no official statistics on illegal dumps in Pennsylvania, but PA CleanWays plans to survey several more counties over the next few years to raise awareness about the problem. The organization estimates there are between 30 and 300 illegal dumps in each county, putting Allegheny County 40 dumps ahead of the highest estimate.
"There are no official statistics", so this group has to make estimates in order to "raise awareness about the problem". No one is going to do anything about their illegal dump, and this so-called CleanWays organization doesn't seem to have ways to clean anything either. But at least they can "raise awareness", and that should make everyone feel happy!

Say...if these dumps are not in my neighbor's yards, where exactly are they?

In Allegheny County, half the dumps were in urban areas, 41 percent in the suburbs and 9 percent in rural areas. They contain an estimated 974 tons of garbage, enough to cover the playing surface of Heinz Field to a height of more than 21 feet.
I'd like to see that! In fact, I would like to see the Steelers try to play football on that. A round of free tetanus shots for all the players!

Now, about that awareness raising business...what can CleanWays tell us about the dumps?

The group has several theories about why Allegheny County has so many more illegal dumps than the other counties, said Danielle Crumrine, executive director of PA CleanWays of Allegheny County.

"Population certainly has something to do with it," Crumrine said. "We have a higher population and our topography is conducive to dumping."

That doesn't sound conclusive. It could be just the opposite: We have a lower topography, and our population is conducive to dumping. Run some more lab tests before you make a final conclusion.

Further along in the article, we see that, while Pennsylvania is all about study and speculation, other states are doing something about their dumping problems. Like this example from Charlotte County, Florida:
Enforcement, including fines and jail time, was needed to get the word out that dumping garbage anywhere but in a landfill would not be tolerated. This summer they hired a police deputy to arrest illegal dumpers and a code compliance officer to issue citations. They've used a helicopter to catch dumpers in the act and have arrested 10 people since July.

"If (illegal dumpers) know you're going to get in their wallet and maybe send them to jail, they say, 'Well, that was 500 bucks, it would be cheaper to go to the landfill,'" said Terri Barnett, Charlotte County's illegal dumping code compliance officer. "If they know you're serious about enforcing the law, they'll stop."

It's nice to know that some places are serious about halting the spread of bubonic plague and malaria. There's nothing like the threat of damage to our wallets and our bank accounts to keep us in line.


jipzeecab said...

Not having heard of this esteemed organization before one wonders if it is a "franchised non-profit"...an organization with an important sounding name and a couple of concerned individuals..If they have paid staff, say a President and Executive Director they can soon be doing fundraising and then support themselves with "Government Grants!..just an extension of the thousands of phony charities that only exist across this country to line to pockets of the "staffers".
Ralph Nader has built a network of about 30 such organizations that create a cash stream that ultimately flows to a foundation controlled by his sister and him.

Anonymous said...

Oligarchy is a form of government where most or all political power effectively rests with a small segment of society (typically the most powerful, whether by wealth, family, military strength, ruthlessness, or political influence). The word oligarchy is from the Greek words for "few" (oligo) and "rule" (arkhos). Some political theorists have argued that all governments are inevitably oligarchies no matter the supposed political system.

I ask the blogger, how American IS your blog anyway?

You should see how many businesses appreciate the PA Cleanways volunteers that clean up their business' neighborhood and offer pizza, coffee and other stuff in gratitude. What business would want to operate or invest in an area scattered with trash from uncitizen pigs like yourselves? Also, great job on offering evidence to your conclusions, similar to what you were criticizing PA Cleanways for in your ignorant infantile un-American tirade. Yes, its OK to look up those big words like appreciate and volunteer!

Nicko McDave said...

Thank you for your input. It's always nice to get a comment from someone at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

This blog is called Ohligarchy, not oligarchy. It doesn't mean anything, really, except to me. But I am glad that your ineffective reading comprehension has given you the opportunity to show that you are capable of cutting and pasting a definition from Wikipedia.

My blog is as American as any other blog run from an American citizen's computer. It is a celebration of my privilege to live in a free country, where I can say what I want about whatever I want. In the case of this blog, the emphasis is on humor, as often as not, and it is usually cranky humor. It's not for everyone.

Volunteering to clean up these messes is nice, but the property owners have the primary responsibility for taking care of their property. The volunteers get a nice reward for their efforts, and the property owners have the satisfaction of knowing that someone else has done their work for them. I have found debris on my property on rare occasions. Rather than wait for someone else to come along, I take responsibility and clean it up myself.

Part of being American is accepting responsibility, and not expecting others to come along and do what you can and should do yourself.

Also, if you do not mind me pointing this out, you might want to consider how inconsistent your use of condescending phrases like "uncitizen pigs like yourselves" and "its OK to look up those big words" before your go off and call someone else "ignorant" and "infantile". Have you ever owned property? Or don't property rights matter to someone as mature as you apparently believe yourself to be?

In any event, enjoy your gig at the Art Institute.

dekunstrukt said...

Thanks for your response ohligarch but if I call you a fashist it might still anger you.....

Individual responsibility is a very important concept but without the coordination and action of state bodies (such as law enforcement, courts, public works, etc) illegal dumping is a reality. While, in principle, the individual who dumps the load of appliances, concrete washout from buckets, broken tiles, and other various items associated with a home remodeling over a hillside in Mt. Washington is certainly responsible for the mess, without these state bodies to ensure the public good (one example, preventing disease-spreading mosquitos and rats from breeding and infecting children playing on the lawns of their private property-owning parents) the duties of cleaning-up these sites falls on organized citizens, usually through privately-funded non-profit organization but also through neighborhood associations, who care to ensure public safety for others. And when the state does take responsibility it is us tax-payers who pay public works to clean up someone else's disregard for the rights of other tax-paying citizens. Furthermore, dumping on public space, like parks or greenways which are plentiful in beautiful Pittsburgh, infringes on my rights and liberties as a citizen, limiting my freedom to enjoy a riverfront without running into big junk that blocks my way to a favorite fishing spot. Corporations that externalize costs, such as mercury emissions into the atmosphere, do this as well. I risk my health by eating fish I catch from PA waters. All are under consumption advisory because of mercury and other industrial contamination. Private corporations are not held responsible for limiting or constraining my freedoms. I offer all this only to situate the role of individual responsibility in a much larger context which necessarily includes the social and political environments that shape individual responsibility.