A personal fight against litter

Small effort, inspiring dividends

By Mary Norwood

At the Buckhead Coalition’s annual luncheon recently, CNN founder and philanthropist Ted Turner regaled us with his wonderful off-the-cuff comments. Always entertaining and poignant, his comment about picking up litter around his building — he lives downtown in the Bona Allen Building above his Ted’s Montana Grill restaurant — struck a chord with many of us in the audience.

Atlanta is a great city. We have much to be proud of. As Mayor Kasim Reed said in his State of the City address earlier this week, Atlanta is the economic engine of the Southeast. We are attracting corporations and residents; we have a vibrant economy, and the future looks bright. But at the same time, we need to take care of our housekeeping. To be a best-in-class city, we need to be clean, everywhere, all the time.

As someone who traverses our city continually, I see it all. And throughout our city, we have an accumulation of litter.

We all need to be mindful a great city needs to be clean and beautiful. Many groups are working to help, but we must do better. We need to deploy individuals all over to keep our roads, interstate ramps, MARTA stops and “abandoned places” clean. With over 17,000 vacant properties in Atlanta, we must make sure they don’t drag down the rest of our city.

All of these places need to be kept clean every day. It won’t cost the billion dollars that Ted Turner has given away. But it will cost something. Still, with our thriving city and our emphasis on tourism, attractions and special events, can we afford not to keep our city clean and make it beautiful?

In Atlanta right now, there’s a program called GA Works. It deploys formerly homeless individuals to keep our streets clean. They are working in Buckhead, along our roadways and downtown. Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal and I participated in their graduation ceremony last fall and watched their transformation from dependency and homelessness to self-sufficiency.

Utilizing this program and expanding it, we could keep our entire city clean and beautiful all the time. GA Works can be reached at www.georgiaworks.net. It works for private and public entities. Supporting this program is just one way we all can pitch in to clean up our city.

Keeping our city clean helps our environment, benefits our tourism industry, encourages in-town living and job creation and, most important, instills in us how proud we are to be in Atlanta, enjoying all she has to offer.

It will take us all to care and put into place a plan to cover the city with trash receptacles and spark the on-street cleanup. If Ted Turner has time to stop and pick up trash every day, can’t we all?

Mary Norwood is an Atlanta City councilwoman and former chairwoman of the Atlanta Clean City Commission.

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