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Help of all need to clean up Ceres
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The effort to clean up our cities, neighborhoods, parks, and business areas has been an ongoing challenge for many years in Stanislaus County. The problem is a result of public apathy, high disposal fees, the inconvenience of taking discards to proper disposal sites, and because of individuals who not only have no community pride, but who willfully litter the area.

Almost anywhere you travel, there is paper litter. Bottles, cans, appliances, boxes, dirty diapers, furniture, tires, construction materials like pieces of concrete and other non-wood items, and most anything else can be found along roadways, in parking lots, parks, and empty lots. Some of the litter is caused by vehicles with uncovered trash loads. Dumpsters and garbage cans that are overfilled or left open also contribute to the problem. There is also the pervasive problem of graffiti and tagging that ruins the appearance of our communities. I fear this problem has been present for so long, it is now an accepted condition of how and where we live.

Ceres city employees who take care of the streets and parks spend a lot of time picking up trash. There are also two code enforcement officers who use criminal offenders to clean up blighted areas. During 2010, those crews picked up 64.5 tons of trash in Ceres, a sad testimony to the quality of life. And these 64.5 tons do not include all the garbage picked up by city employees!

Blight is basically any condition that detracts from the quality and appearance of the community. Coupled with the litter and illegal dumping, blight sets us up for crime, health threats, and other problems. Blight depresses home values and often result in a place where undesirable tenants end up. Early-release convicts, gangs, and other similar toxic people thrive in neighborhoods where no one "cares." This is not to say that neighborhoods where struggling families live are doomed. There are many places where the people are poor, but they have pride in what they have and it shows in the appearance and cleanliness of those areas. Criminals are not so quick to move into neighborhoods where the people care.

Now, with diminishing funding for local and state government operations, the blight and litter problems stand to become even worse. There are fewer employees to clean up, and as budget problems worsened, so will the litter and blight problems. The litter and discards cleaned up somewhat promptly in the past will remain eyesores for longer periods, or possibly not removed unless the public does it of their own volition.

The real point of this column is to remind people of a practical problem that harms us in many ways. And it is a problem that we can actually curtail through community awareness and participation. We can start small by simply picking up litter that we see as we walk through parks, parking lots, and other areas. Most of the time, there is a garbage can nearby. Some people use devices to pick things up without having to bend over or touch the waste. They are essentially a large set of tongs, costing $12 to $20. I use latex gloves to pick up things that are too dirty to handle bare handed.

A community effort is needed to reverse the litter and blight problem. City crews do all they can to keep our area clean, but the task is overwhelming. The help of each person of this area is needed.