Attitudes still confound cleanup committee

The Clean Up Henderson Committee has cleaned streets, cleared overgrown lots, removed junk cars, bulldozed abandoned houses, and drawn the attention of federal agencies and Congress.

But Wednesday morning’s regular meeting of the 2-year-old committee revealed that the group still has a long way to go in changing city residents’ attitudes.

The meeting lacked Chairwoman Lynn Harper, who was in Washington on a lobbying trip. Treasurer Jackie Jackson presided in her absence.

The meeting had a light agenda, which allowed the several guests in the police conference room to raise nagging concerns.

Eugene Burton, for example, cited the need to repair some deep potholes.

Dave Stallings complained about leaves in ditches and the refusal of many people to clear the leaves from their own yards. The leaves then blow into neighbors’ yards and into ditches, dumping one person’s mess on everyone.

All people have to do is get the leaves to the side of the road by Jan. 15, where city trucks suck them up.

“Why can’t we get the people to clean up the leaves from their yards?” Stallings said. “I just don’t understand why people won’t do it. … I’m going on 86 years old. If I can get them up, anyone can.”

That lingering bad attitude applies in other areas of cleanup interest.

Warren Hare renewed his suggestion of an adopt-a-lot program to allow people to take responsibility for vacant lots and yards of unoccupied houses, but that led to a simple question: Why don’t people care enough about those yards to go ahead and clean them on their own?

Police Chief Glen Allen said his officers have done a great job of finding time to handle complaints about 1,045 abandoned and junk vehicles in a year and a half, leaving fewer than 100 complaints pending. But because many vehicle owners haven’t changed their attitudes, cars that were brought into compliance once are slipping back.

“Junk vehicles are a renewable resource,” Allen said.

Jackson said the overriding problem is one the committee has battled from the start. “We wanted to change the attitudes,” she said, so that people would clean up their own messes and those around them.

She said a planned community cleanup week in the spring will be a big test of that attitude adjustment.