Cleanliness Is King

Our communities are failing and it isn't because we lack resources (not always anyway). We are failing at appropriately identifying which projects merit our tax dollars and which ones do not. The result is a series of public relation projects that only provide the illusion of progress. These are projects that do not have the critical sustaining benefits of major infrastructure improvements like a water treatment facility for example. In a time when our dollars are being ripped out of our pockets more and more, we have reached an emergency status in America. We must focus on projects and programs that will allow us to SURVIVE as a city into the next generation.

There are three basic ways we should start to re-look at our cities. In this post we will examine one that is so obvious, it often gets laughed or scoffed at. But cities who choose to ignore it will find they wont be having the last laugh. Keep your city clean! Focusing on the cleanliness of your city is vital to understanding the needs of your community. This is important for two reasons.

1) You cant identify whats wrong if you cant see it! Knowing what is just a mess and what is actually broken is an important first step. For example, if you walked into a neighborhood and your eyes are drawn toward the cracking road, fading road stripes, and the tall grass in the ditches and alleys, would the failing sewer line below the street ever be considered a priority to you? Of course not, because there are always so many other more obvious things to do! Now of course we as citizens dont dictate the projects per se. Sure, some Public Works guy figures all that out. But what about him? He has to look past the mess on the surface and determine what really needs to be done. This makes his job harder than it needs to be. What I am touching on is the simple fact that we humans, by nature, are distracted by disorder. We demand more order in our lives than we give ourselves credit for. Ensuring our city is clean and free of the basic visual and emotional obstacles, creates an opportunity for a freeway of ideas.

Keeping your city clean doesn't have to be expensive. There are a great many churches, civic groups, homeowner associations, etc. that can and SHOULD lend a hand. If you have a problem with getting out and picking up trash or doing a little weed eating, then you probably shouldn't live in a city. It is not the norm for cities to provide perfection in this department without the help of locals the exception being cities that have a huge tax base to work with. You can buy just about anything with money, even clean streets.

2) A clean city is a content city. If you listen to Clark Howard, you may have heard him advise someone with new car fever to go and have it detailed inside and out, and to fix all the little things that are wrong. End result the car owner feels much better about their vehicle and the new car fever goes away. The concept is simple: when we own something for a long time, or more specifically,
when we live within a city for a long time, we grow tired and weary of the little things that bother us. I know for me, it is the silly concrete half-curb I have to drive over when I exit our apartments, left-over from when the city resurfaced and then retrofitted our street for the complex. It is a royal pain! Or what about the street that doesn't look like it has been touched with a tar truck since the Cold War. Neither are going to make me too excited about any ballot initiative to replace the aging water treatment facility. If those small projects were addressed regularly, more citizens would feel proud of their communities.

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most important to pay attention to. If communities are not distracted by the little things they will be more likely to correctly identify the larger issues facing them. I really could have spent a lot longer building upon this point, but I really don't think you need it. I hope you get the basic concepts though. A clean city is easier to fix and the fix is easier to pull off in a clean city.