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Friday, October 24, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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In this section of Contraband Bayou off Lake Street,  litter includes a pet carrier, tires, shoes, a chair, a deflated ball and other odds and ends that were tossed thoughtlessly. 

(America Press Archives)
In this section of Contraband Bayou off Lake Street,  litter includes a pet carrier, tires, shoes, a chair, a deflated ball and other odds and ends that were tossed thoughtlessly. 

Litter giving our area bad name

Last Modified: Thursday, January 02, 2014 12:50 PM

By Jim Beam / American Press

Take a drive along Interstate 210 almost any day of the week and the amount of litter you see along the roadway makes you wonder how Lake Charles ever wins a cleanest city contest. I saw more trash Monday than I’ve seen in a long time. Conditions along Interstate 10 are a little better, but not by much.

Litter is one of my major beefs to start 2014. Another delay in getting a veterans health care clinic in Lake Charles is also at the top of my list.

Particularly frustrating for me and my neighbors is the litter and trash we have to look at every time we drive into our Gulfgate Subdivision. The Dollar General Store at the corner of Common and Royal streets always has trash everywhere — front, side and back. I’ve picked up litter from there that blows across Royal Street onto nearby lots a number of times.

I spoke with City Marshal Joey Alcede about the problem Monday, and he said his office did get a lot of complaints about that location. He referred me to the city’s property standards office. A spokesman for the office said the store’s management had been notified it would be given a violation and was told to clean up the property. However, nothing had been done by New Year’s day.

When it comes to litter, don’t expect much help from law enforcement agencies. They don’t like to tackle litter problems, and have never have given it a high priority. They do have more important work to do, but you would think they could devote some time, effort and manpower to police the litter problem. You and I have seen littering, so you know they have witnessed it on a number of occasions.

Look along the roadways near almost any commercial area and you can see litter dumped there either by shoppers or blown there from nearby buildings. Shouldn’t those places of business be responsible for the trash generated at their locations?

Pickup truck drivers will cry foul, but some of them are the biggest offenders. How many times have you seen a driver throw a paper cup into the bed of his truck, knowing it’s probably going to blow out of there once he picks up some speed.

The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury has made litter a No. 1 target, but it doesn’t get a lot of help from other agencies. And those of us who see littering while we’re driving have a difficult time stopping to call the hotline (493-LITR, 493-5487).

“You can’t afford to be trashy,” is the program slogan. And the jury’s website adds, “You’d be right in concluding that we don’t like litter riddling our scenic areas in Calcasieu Parish.”

I have spoken with a number of people about the litter problem, and the general consensus is nothing will change much because it’s a culture thing. Too many parents aren’t teaching their youngsters that littering is wrong. And, unfortunately, they don’t get much guidance from others who help mold their young minds.

Littering says a lot about who we are, and those who see our litter must be thinking this community is just trashy.

On a related subject, why can’t something be done about old buildings and signs in this area that are eyesores? Those who own those properties should be held accountable for the way they look.

When it comes to aesthetics (the appreciation of beauty and good taste), why can’t government agencies set higher standards for those who want to build commercial establishments in our city and parish? The Police Jury got into a lengthy debate recently about a small Walmart being constructed in Moss Bluff. Some want it to look like one in Baton Rouge that is more pleasing to the sight. However, others complain about too much government interference.

Government’s job is to look out for the welfare of the people it represents, and no one else has the broad authority to get those things done. Many of us can remember when homes were constructed in flood areas because building standards were lax. And those homes are still being flooded today. Subdivisions were built without sewer and water lines being required, and that hinders the future possibility of annexation of areas just outside the cities.

Other communities and states are doing a better job of watching out for the best interests of those they represent. Don’t we call government agencies when we have a problem? That’s what we elect those folks to do. Sure, there are times government overreaches. Like telling us what kind of light bulbs to buy and how much water should flush our toilets. But some things it can do better than we can as individuals.

Now, to that veterans clinic. The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved clinics for Lake Charles, Lafayette and 25 other locations. The Senate put off a vote until the new year, because of interference from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. He said he wants to look the deal over a little closer.

Coburn is the ranking minority member of the U. S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He apparently likes to be a watchdog over federal government spending, and we need congressmen like that. However, this veterans clinic thing has been hashed and rehasded for years now, and it’s time to put the controversy behind us and get on with construction. Veterans have waited long enough.

Help ease my stress during 2014. Don’t litter, and don’t put up with those who do. We are better than the litter we have come to tolerate. All of us need to show more pride in the place we call home.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com.

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