Christmas In Tucson In September

Tucson, Arizona [Photo courtesy City of Tucson]

It’s a mystery as to how the fragile Christmas tree ornament the size of a baseball didn’t break when it was tossed onto the rocky median of Sunrise Rd. near Kolb Rd. over the Labor Day weekend.  But there is no mystery about how it was picked up.

My wife and I picked it up on the Tuesday after Labor Day, on our daily five-mile walk and litter patrol.  We had cleaned the area just four days previously, on the Friday before the three-day holiday weekend.

In addition to the ornament, we picked up the following on just one mile of road, including a section that passes by an elementary school:

– a unopened package of hypodermic needles,

– a cartridge of nitrous oxide (laughing gas),

– an empty bottle of Pino Grigio,

– an empty bottle of cinnamon-flavored whiskey,

– the shards from a broken quart of Bud Light,

– four empty water bottles,

– three empty cigarette packs,

– an empty tin of Copenhagen tobacco,

– leftover takeout food in greasy, ant-covered containers,

– the usual fast-food debris of every description,

– humongous soda cups from a nearby convenience store,

– multiple plastic bags,

– pieces of Styrofoam packing material,

– a broken smartphone in three pieces, and

– other stuff.

The other stuff included a receipt for Barcel Takis Fuego tortilla chips and Masabrosa corn flour from a Food City supermarket 9.1 miles away, and a receipt in the amount of $49.99 for 25 lbs. of Teff flour from Nur Import Market 6.9 miles away.  It’s inexplicable why someone would drive that far to throw litter out of a car window.

It’s inexplicable but not unusual.  Over the holiday weekend, someone had thrown a big bag of trash on the shoulder of Craycroft just north of Sunrise.  Because the bag wasn’t tied at the top, the contents were strewn along the road.  Identifying information showed that it came from across town.

This is not to suggest that there aren’t pigs among the residents of the Foothills.  Slobs in the Tucson metropolis come from all socioeconomic classes.

Weeks earlier, I had picked up a large piece of deteriorated plywood that was on the shoulder of Craycroft north of Sunrise.  It barely fit in my SUV, but apparently wasn’t big enough to be seen by county employees who, no doubt, had driven by the plywood multiple times in their spiffy pickup trucks.

To be fair, county workers did place a blinking barricade six months ago next to an in-ground cable box on the shoulder of Craycroft that had caved in.  At the time, I told my wife that, judging by experience, it would remain there at least two years before the problem would be fixed.  It has since blown over multiple times, thus creating a worse hazard for drivers and cyclists.

The officials who run the county must be from Bayonne, New Jersey, and are trying to recreate their hometown in the Sonoran Desert.

Back to the subject of litter:  Holidays are the most litter-strewn days, especially July 4th.  It’s as if locals think that the way to celebrate the nation’s founding is to throw trash at it.

Some parts of the City of Tucson are cleaner than the unincorporated county, but that’s an easy accomplishment.  Other parts of the city are more littered and shabbier than the county, which should greatly embarrass the residents of the city, given the conditions in much of the county, where, in addition to litter, there is an abundance of weeds, pitiful landscaping, illegal signs and potholed roads.

If you live in a part of the county that doesn’t have these conditions, count your blessings—or make an appointment with an optometrist.

One littered part of the City of Tucson is the stretch of Kino Pkwy. that is undergoing so-called beautification.  Unfortunately, the roadside trash nullifies the value of planting trees and shrubs.  It also leaves a terrible first impression with visitors who fly into the Tucson Airport and take Tucson Blvd. and Kino to the University of Arizona or downtown.

Speaking of the U of A, my wife and I have walked the neighborhoods around the university at least a hundred times over the years.  Although students are steeped in environmentalism and community at the school, we’ve never seen one student pick up one piece of litter.

What’s the solution?  Absent a miraculous blossoming of civic pride and more citizens volunteering to pick up litter, the solution is for the city and county to hire workers to do nothing but pick up litter (and illegal signs), just as there are workers dedicated to painting over graffiti.  A crew of just 50 workers could clean 6,000 miles of road per week.

This is calculated as follows:  My wife and I can clean about three miles of road per hour, even at our age.  At that rate, a full-time county or city employee could clean 120 miles over a 40-hour work week.  Fifty employees, then, could clean 6,000 miles per week, and even more miles if they had motorized carts.  Granted, 6,000 miles may be a stretch given the nature of government, but reducing the estimate by 50% still leaves 3,000 miles that could be cleaned each week.

Fifty employees would be less than one percent of the county’s workforce and about one percent of the city’s workforce—a small price to pay for improving the image of the metropolis.  The city could adopt the advertising slogan, The Cleanest City in America, which would completely befuddle and bewilder the bumbling bozos from Bayonne.

Before ending, let’s return to the Christmas ornament mentioned at the top of this commentary.

Fortunately, the ornament can be reused.  It can be put on the Christmas tree that was discarded a couple of years ago along the Loop bike/walk path near Swan, where it has remained untouched ever since by county workers.

Merry Christmas!

About Craig J. Cantoni 15 Articles
Community Activist Craig Cantoni strategizes on ways to make Tucson a better to live, work and play.