Our recent cover story was titled “Blight Rouge.” It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Some might say there are bigger issues than trash in our parish, but I would argue, if you can’t even clean up your town, what chance do you really have of solving bigger issues? And why are some folks such slobs—and why do we mostly tolerate it? Do we not notice—or is it we just don’t care?
It’s not like this problem is a new one. I looked back and found a column I wrote in the summer of 2009 on trash, including photos of abandoned signs. (Below are recent photos.) I wrote then, “The mayor’s [Kip Holden] ‘war on litter and trash’ must include rusting and abandoned signs in our city. If a business is going to have a sign in front of it, the sign should be maintained. If the business leaves or closes, the landlord should cover the sign or remove it.
“This is about responsibility. It may be on your property, but everyone else has to look at it—and the community must have standards for all to abide by. If you chose to have a sign, use it or lose it. The rest of us don’t want to look at your trash.”
We have a new mayor now and she says she wants to clean up blight and has a task force. How our community looks reflects on our “brand.” It impacts both our pride as well as our quality of life. Well, as you read in our “Blight Rouge” cover story, the mayor and committee could start with removing those same abandoned signs from nine years ago because most are still there. In addition, those plastic temporary signs (as well as vertical flags that become tattered and ugly) are numerous in the right-of-way or median, making them illegal.
I am happy to say something finally has been done in regards to the temporary signs we wrote about. The Metro Council on Feb. 28 unanimously passed an ordinance, co-sponsored by councilmen Matt Watson and Dwight Hudson, raising fines to $200 to $1,000 dollars—or six months in jail. Now, no one has to catch you in the act. If you print it, you’re responsible for it. Councilman Buddy Amoroso said, “This is something that we should’ve done a long time ago.”
Royal Furniture is having its “going out of business sale” for the next two months and has littered the city’s roadsides with signs (see below). If the city would pick-up 50 of these illegal signs at the new $200 per sign fine, they could collect $10,000 for the city-parish budget. That’s real money. Just do it.
City-parish officials say they don’t have the manpower to collect signs. But if you are getting $200 to $1,000 per sign, how many thousands of dollars will be coming in every week? And for those folks who say they didn’t know the new law, beware—ignorance of the law is no excuse. Do these lawbreakers, like Royal Furniture, really think they had permission to litter our public roadside with 50 of their signs on Corporate Boulevard, Lee Drive and Highland Road? Fine them big and make an example.
Our executive editor, JR Ball, made his own case in 2009 with his column “Our dirty little war,” which detailed his disgust at the litter in our streets. He pointed out that Mayor Kip Holden had heard the cries of the people and “responded by declaring trashy streets, overgrown empty lots and garbage-clogged waterways this town’s axis of evil.” But doesn’t that evil still exist nine years later, as revealed in “Blight Rouge”? Yes. (And we are getting requests to bring back our “Ugly Award” to expose “evil” regularly.)
Mayor Broome, can we get rid of the unsightly signs, overgrown lots, illegal billboards, and excessive and unused bus benches and ask Entergy to remove its abandoned utility poles? What a difference that would make. New look. New attitude. Then we will have proved we are ready for even bigger challenges.
So are we finally tired of talking trash—and ready to clean up our act?
No expansion of gambling
I have to stick to my guns on opposing the expansion of “gaming.” It’s here in Louisiana and many folks enjoy the games and entertainment. Some operators are far better than others. But, while I do not see a problem with moving onto land from water (because the riverboat casinos never cruise), I don’t see the need to expand slots at casinos and racetracks, add sports betting and loosen regulations on truck stops for video poker.
We already have a poverty rate in our state of over 20%. Louisiana is ranked 44th in median household income. We can’t afford more gambling. When gamblers lose, their families lose. Proponents will argue the state will get more money from more gambling, but will they tell you of the real costs to the state as we add more dependents in need of more services too? How is that a winning hand for Louisiana’s future? It is not.
I had a frequent gambler at one of the local casinos tell me two weeks ago, “You ought to see the crowds on paydays.” Who will really pay the price if we expand gambling? Enough is enough.