Weeks before the trash-can controversy erupted, we wrote an article about how we thought parts of the city had a chronic litter problem ("Cleaning Up Our Act," December 2003). In that article, city officials assured us that cleanliness was a top goal. Then, just days later, news broke that all of the trash cans in Cleveland would be removed. We were confused, so we called the city back.
"Hard times call for dirty streets, explained Cleveland public-service director Mark Ricchiuto. "The city has never dealt with a budget deficit of this magnitude," he said.
So when Ricchiuto previously told us, "Believe me, we are going to look at everything and get as clean as we possibly can," he had no idea that, within the month, the removal of all trash cans would be announced?
"What was three weeks ago has changed significantly through discussion," Ricchiuto replied. "We're having difficulty in people understanding that [balancing the budget] is a work in process. It's a revolving plan. It changes daily."
Then, just as we were about to go to press with this issue, things changed yet again. The city is now sponsoring an Adopt-A-Can plan whereby businesses and community-development groups can arrange to have cans maintained. To do so, they should call the trash hotline at (216) 664-3772.
The best part is, even if sponsors don't line up, the city plans to maintain 1,300 of the original 1,600 cans itself. "People spoke out and said, We don't want our city dirty,' " reports assistant city press secretary Christy Harst. "We heard those concerns."
So, really, we're right back where we started and, to us, the city still looks a little scruffy. But given what's going on, scruffy never looked so good.