About a month ago I was walking Ulysses down Fullerton Avenue and was fairly disgusted by the city’s trash can at the boulevard corner of Kedzie.
There is only one trash can along Kedzie for more than a few blocks. The boulevard is used by lots of people for picnics and games of all kinds. The trash can gets filled pretty quickly.
It is emptied by city crews only a few days a week. Not often enough to keep it from overflowing. Some suspect local businesses are using it to dump their trash, rather than pay a private contractor. Meanwhile, this is what Ulysses and I came upon on our walk.
Notice the design of the trash can: metal strips about an inch apart with a liner that is old, cracked and open. I describe it to people as Old Country Buffet for the rats that run across my backyard night and day.
Some of my friends and relatives think I have gone bonkers with my obsession with city trash cans. Perhaps they are right. With all that is wrong and crazy with the world, this country, my city and this neighborhood, overflowing trash cans may seem low on the list of priorities.
Yet this seems to be the kind of low-hanging fruit that can be taken care of.
And then there are those rats.
I posted the picture of the disgusting trash can on Facebook and a friend who lives in the neighborhood contacted me. We agreed to meet the following morning to clean up the gross mess ourselves. I found some rubber gloves and pulled together some big black garbage bags.
Instead Scott Waguespack, a local alderman, got there first and cleaned it up.
Three days later a city crew came by and emptied it.
A number of city workers, including Streets and Sanitation workers, contacted me to say that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has cut the number of workers emptying trash cans, reduced the frequency of pickups and reduced the number of trash cans on the street.
Again. Rat-feeding trash cans are not on the scale of closing 50 public schools in African American neighborhoods. Or gun violence. Or sixteen bullets fired into a young Black man’s body by a Chicago police officer.
Yet, I see a common thread. Mayor Rahm is famous for telling people to fuck off. He said, “fuck the UAW,” when he was in the White House. He said the same thing to Karen Lewis the first time they met. I kind of see this trash can thing in that light.
Every time I walk by one of these,
I hear a squeaky little voice that sounds like Rahm saying…
By the way. Not all cities have decided that open trash cans, even ones that get emptied more frequently than Chicago’s, are the way to go.
I was in Brooklyn last week and walked down 7th Avenue in Park Slope. They have enclosed and recycle trash cans that look like this:
I don’t know how often they are picked up, or who paid for them.
But, it seems a new world is possible.
My friend John Kugler sent me a Facebook picture this morning. John works for the Chicago Teachers Union. The garbage can in the photo is in front of a Park District skating rink about a mile from the Mayor’s house.
“Nasty.” wrote John. “Seems Rahm should figure a way to pick up the garbage in our public parks. You on this Fred? It’s your part of town.”
It’s not really my part of town, unless you consider the entire north and north west side of Chicago my side of town. But I was “on it.”
I posted the picture on my Facebook feed.
A half hour later John sent me a second picture of the same trash can.
Low-hanging fruit indeed.
Send me pictures of your overflowing trash cans and their location. I’ll post it. We’ll see if this works.