Yesterday Jazz wrote about the Baltimore cleanup effort put together by Trump supporter Scott Presler. After the public spat between Trump and Rep. Elijah Cummings, Pressler wanted to genuinely do something positive. So he gathered somewhere between 200-300 people to clean up trash, cut lawns, and make things look better. He posted before and after photos of the effort on Twitter. That led to a snarky editorial for the Baltimore Sun which veered between admitting the cleanup was needed and blaming Pressler for sending the wrong message.
It made for good photos, compelling videos and catchy Twitter hashtags. A group of conservatives rolled their pickup trucks into one of West Baltimore’s most impoverished neighborhoods Monday for a cleanup day. Loaded down with trash bags and shovels, they cleared alleyways of old tires, food containers, paper and other debris. They pulled up weeds and cut away overgrown grass. The group posted before and after pictures on social media showing their progress…
Whatever he says his motives were, Mr. Presler’s presence in Baltimore reinforces the tired image of our failing urban cores. That the poor people in this dilapidated city can’t take care of their own neighborhoods and all the public officials around them have failed as well. The bureaucratic, all-talk Democrats strike again. If a crowd of volunteers could clean up 12 tons of trash in 12 hours, how incompetent and helpless must Baltimoreans be if they can’t manage it in decades, right?
I obviously don’t speak for Scott Pressler, but as an outside observer, I’d say that his effort definitely highlights a failure in Baltimore and does make me wonder why the city, or just a group of local residents, couldn’t have done this cleanup before this week. If the city and the Baltimore Sun are feeling embarrassed by Pressler’s efforts, well, maybe they should be. The editorial then offered a bunch of excuses for the mess:
Amazingly enough, Mr. Presler is not the first one to come up with the bright idea of a neighborhood cleanup. It is not really that remarkable of a concept. In fact, they happen all the time. Sadly, it doesn’t take long for people (frequently from outside the community) to refill the alleyways with illegal dumping and for grass to grow again in front of vacant buildings with no resident available to tend the lawn. Does Mr. Presler know that drug dealers use trash to hide their product and have been known to threaten people who try to clean it up? The solutions are just not that simple.
Let’s just point out that most of these criticisms make no sense. Did Pressler say the cleanup was a remarkable, original concept? I don’t think so. Did anyone say that a one-time cleanup would solve the problem forever and always? Again, no. And if drug dealers are hiding their product in trash, isn’t that another argument for cleaning things up? As for it not being so simple, wasn’t it exactly that simple when the volunteers came in an cleaned up the mess? I’d say it seemed pretty simple, almost like anyone could do it. And begrudgingly, the paper admits it was a good thing for these neighborhoods.
The silver lining in all of this is that the residents of West Baltimore did get a much needed cleaning up. That is something that they deserve. Streets and alleyways free of trash go a long way in improving the psyche of a neighborhood and its residents. Not to mention deterring crime. Mr. Presler says that people around the country are planning similar clean up events in their own communities. A loud round of applause for that as well. Spiffier neighborhoods are good for everyone.
But the paper can’t leave it there. The editorial board dumps 12 tons of unrelated demands on Scott Pressler:
We also hope Mr. Presler keeps his promise to return to Baltimore once a month. It would definitely give his motives more credibility. It might also give him better perspective about the city’s problems than any single visit can provide. Maybe it could even lead him and his followers to advocate for federal housing, health care, transportation, education, criminal justice, civil rights and anti-poverty policies aimed at urban communities.
Did Pressler promise to solve all of Baltimore’s problems by adopting progressive solutions? If so I missed that. I think the point here was to demonstrate that some of the city’s problems can be solved with a little bit of elbow grease and a refusal to ignore the problem. That doesn’t mean Baltimore is suddenly a wonderful place with no problems, but it is slightly better than it was before the volunteers showed up. The last line of the editorial really bothers me:
In the meantime, we’ll see how clean the neighborhood still is when he returns in September.
What the hell is that?! Is the paper threatening a huge mess if Pressler returns? Is that something to brag about? And even if it’s true, wouldn’t cleaning it up again be the right thing to do?
It really sounds like the Baltimore Sun is making excuses for a crummy status quo, one that helps no one (except the rats) and which wouldn’t be all that difficult to change. Maybe instead of daring Scott Pressler to return and clean up the mess once again, the editorial board could ask why the city doesn’t do more to keep the streets clean. Maybe some of the people writing this apologia for garbage could even volunteer a little of their time to help clean it up. After all, if you don’t like the message Pressler’s cleanup is sending, the best alternative is to send a different message by taking care of it yourself.
Update: Well, here’s one reason things don’t get cleaned up in Baltimore. Scott Pressler says he spent a week requesting permission to have dumpsters on the street for the cleanup. The city never approved the request so Pressler went ahead without the permits. Today he received a denial from the city.
We applied for dumpster permits on Wednesday morning of last week for the Baltimore cleanup.
For 3 days, we respectfully called the office asking for an update.
The city of Baltimore never approved the permits, so we did it, anyway.
Received this today. pic.twitter.com/B1Hnd0nvvj
— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) August 7, 2019
Also, it seems not everyone is thrilled with the Baltimore Sun’s editorial.