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Sampler of Best Practices
“Urban Partnerships to Prevent Litter and Illegal Dumping”

By Tony Iallonardo

  • Declaring “litter, graffiti, abandoned building and vacant lots are breeding grounds for crime, in 1994, Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced a bold Zero Tolerance Initiative to “take back our neighborhoods.” The results: a 1999 photometric index indicated that the prevalence of litter decreased in all land use categories, and 99 percent of residents reported less litter in their neighborhoods.

  • Columbus Ohio Mayor Lashutka set out to consolidate and coordinate City efforts, forming “Neighborhood Quality Interaction Teams”, and selected the distressed community of Franklinton to test pilot the initiative. A neighborhood office was established to take complaints and act on them. The results: the office received about 75 complaints or inquiries a month, and provided rapid responses, generally within 24 hours, and often within one hour. 445 legal actions were taken a 70 percent compliance rate was achieved. Mayor Lashutka recognized the success by awarding the program the 1999 Mayor’s Excellence Award.

  • A Downtown Denver Business Improvement District (BID) was established in 1982 as a property owner’s organization to fund maintenance and development of the 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver. The results: the group has invested more than $30 million to develop and maintain the area, and 49 vacant buildings have been redeveloped. In 1998 the City of Denver was given the Downtown Outstanding Achievement Award by the International Downtown Association.

  • In 1976, the City of Indianapolis established “Keep Indianapolis Beautiful”, initially as a city agency, and subsequently as a non-profit private group. Among the most impressive results from this community outreach initiative: the group has delivered $6.6 million in benefits to the community and enlisted more than 55,000 volunteers who have donated over 300,000 hours of time. During this time, volunteers have removed 6.3 million pounds of litter from the neighborhoods, over 1,000 properties have been improved, nearly 200 private homes have been repaired or repainted, more than 150 teenagers employed, 3,300 trees planted, and over 30 community gardens have been established on vacant lots.

  • In 1987, the City of Nashville was one of three municipal departments that were given primary responsibility for creating a vacant lot program to revitalize vacant properties. The results: of the thousands of vacant lots the project has tracked, over 90 percent have been cleaned by private owners or the City. In addition, 120 properties, most of which were vacant lots — have been transformed into affordable housing for families and now pay property taxes.

  • After the City of Norfolk spent $50,000 to clean up a petroleum spill into a storm drain in 1994, the city established a task force to enhance agency communication, revise the City code, pursue prosecutions, and educate the public. The results: the City now seeks jail time and/or a fine in all environmental crimes cases. The City generally seeks restitution from the offenders as well, and has recovered over $100,000 per year since 1996. Full remedies are also required from the polluter. Thus, 100 percent of violations are fully charged and remedied. In addition, the City’s team approach to combating urban blight has obtained 91 percent compliance from recipients of the 143 violation charges served in late 1998.

  • For 53 years, the City of Philadelphia has operated its “Clean-Up, Paint-Up, Fix-Up” campaign. In 1998 alone, the City and its 6500 neighborhood block captains cleaned up 10,800 blocks and removed 1,200 tons of litter and trash from residential streets. Their “Tire Bounty” program, which pays community groups 50 cents per tire, resulted in the collection of 116 tons of tires.

  • The case studies of these cities and others may be read in their entirety in the Best Practices Center’s presentation to the National Summit for Building Clean, Livable Cities. Copies may be obtained by contacting the center at The U.S. Conference of Mayors, 202.293.7330


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