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Dearborn Mayor Guido Leads Tampa Summit on Building Clean, Livable Cities

By Jennifer DeLong and Tony Iallonardo

Mayors and city officials gathered in Tampa, Florida on October 21 and 22 for the first-ever National Summit to address “Building Clean, Livable Cities.” The summit provided a forum for mayors and public officials to discuss their best practices for reducing litter and other forms of urban environmental blight. The summit’s organizers believe that cleaning up litter should be a major urban concern.

The Summit was sponsored by the Urban Litter Partnership, a strategic alliance between The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Keep America Beautiful, Inc. (KAB). More than 160 participants representing approximately 65 cities attended the Summit, including mayors, environmental commissioners, solid waste directors, Keep America Beautiful city and statewide affiliate program directors, and other urban leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Dearborn Mayor Michael A. Guido presided over the meeting, and was assisted by host Tampa Mayor Dick A. Greco. They both expressed the need for cities to develop innovative solutions for addressing urban blight in order maintain a clean environment for residents and businesses residing there. Mayor Greco noted that the Summit addressed the “dramatic impacts that litter, illegal dumping, and other types of environmental blight have upon our inner-city neighborhoods and sharing the most cost-effective ways to preserve the integrity of our cities, making them cleaner and safer for our citizens.”

Mayor Guido echoed those remarks, declaring that “litter and other types of environmental blight attract crime and repel economic development.” He praised the efforts of the Urban Litter Partnership, asserting that by “sharing information on latest research and discussing best practices for effective partnerships, increased enforcement, and program sustainability, mayors can conquer these problems in our cities. The information presented at the Summit empowers cities with successful approaches to enhancing city livability,” Mayor Guido said.

At the Summit, Mayor Guido and Mayor Greco announced the release of a new Best Practices Guide, entitled Urban Partnerships to Prevent Litter and Illegal Dumping, released from The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Best Practices Center. The guide spotlights effective and innovative urban programs that can be adapted for use in cities nationwide. This 60-page “best practices” guide provides a summary of programs under way in 12 American cities [See Best Practices sidebar for more information].

During the Summit, participants also learned about many other strategies and programs designed to effectively address litter and urban blight. Included below are highlights from the two-day Summit:

The first-year results of Houston’s “Clean Neighborhoods” program were presented by Solid Waste Director Everett Bass. Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown agreed to conduct the pilot program in his city. The Houston Clean Neighborhoods Pilot Program report, produced by the Urban Litter Partnership, documents the City’s and Keep Houston Beautiful’s initiatives to develop a neighborhood-based, self-sustaining approach to preventing litter, illegal dumping and graffiti.

Memphis/Shelby County Judge Larry Potter discussed the benefits of the environmental court developed during the 1980s in Memphis, and one of the first of its kind in the country. He moderated a panel discussion on effective approaches to enforcement of environmental crimes. Other panelists participating in that discussion included Dr. George Kelling, developer of the “broken windows” theory, Miami-Dade Police Department Lieutenant Scott Dennis, and Norfolk Environmental Commission Chairman Jim English. Mr. English also presented information on Norfolk’s community-based environmental enforcement program.

Rob Curnow, an international Australian researcher renowned for his study of littering behavior, presented the results of his latest research project. This research focused upon observing what people say about their littering behavior and compared it to what those same people actually do. This research concluded that people’s attitudes about litter often differ from whether they actually litter or not. He recommended that educational programs be developed to make people more aware of various types of litter and the processes for proper disposal. (To obtain a copy of this report, please contact Jennifer DeLong at 202.861.6776.)

John Schert, Executive Director of the Florida Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management presented new research on the real costs of litter to businesses in its state, concluding that they spend an annual average of $2,400 to clean up litter. During this session, William P. Moline, Director of Operations for the Tampa Downtown Partnership discussed how businesses can successfully develop Business Improvement Districts (BID) to partner together on addressing litter and other blight issues in downtown areas.

Alexandra Holt, Deputy Commissioner for the City of Chicago’s Department of Environment, presented its ‘Best Practices’ enforcement program for illegal dumping. Paul Ruesch of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 also introduced a new assessment tool for cities to use in measuring and evaluating the real costs of illegal dumping in their municipalities. This session included a panel discussion with representatives from Chicago, Detroit, and Norfolk, who responded to questions about various aspects of prevention, community outreach and support, prosecution & sustainability of enforcement programs.

KAB President Ray Empson described a potential, new KAB litter measurement tool, called the “KAB Litter Index,” and discussed the preliminary results of tests of the tool that were conducted this past year in Houston and other KAB-affiliated cities.

Other Best Practices presentations were conducted by John Hall, Deputy Mayor of Indianapolis, Amy Kuhn, Special Assistant for the City of Columbus, Robert Berger, Director in Toledo’s Department of Neighborhoods, and Clarena Tolson, Deputy Commissioner of Streets and Sanitation for the City of Philadelphia.

The National Summit and Best Practices Guide are the result of a year-long partnership with Keep America Beautiful, Inc. In the spring of 1998, The U.S. Conference of Mayors established the partnership with Keep America Beautiful (KAB) to analyze the impacts of litter and other types of environmental blight in urban areas and develop new urban strategies for preventing it. KAB is a nonprofit organization with nearly 500 community-based affiliates nationwide that help support local litter prevention programs and educational outreach.

The Urban Litter Partnership’s activities included research about litter prevention programs through surveys and public forums, development of a new litter measurement tool, support for the Houston pilot project headed up by Mayor Lee P. Brown, and the staging of the National Summit to bring attention to the litter issue and its impacts on urban areas.

The Urban Litter Partnership gratefully acknowledges the support of its sponsors: American Plastics Council, Anheuser-Busch Companies, EIA Foundation, Florida Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, Grocery Manufacturers of America, ITW Hi-Cone, McDonalds’ Corporation, National Soft Drink Association, Philip Morris U.S.A., Polystyrene Packaging Council, Procter & Gamble, and Tenneco Packaging.

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