Political, PBID Rivals Unite Against Common Foe: Litter in The Village

Mayor mulls ordinance to reduce profusion of cigarette butts, seen as nuisance in cleanup.

Ignoring a drizzle and their own political differences, La Mesans broke into groups Saturday morning to pick up trash, clean bus stops and pull weeds in The Village ahead of Tuesday’s centennial celebration.

The effort may have sparked a resolve to deal with the biggest complaint of cleanup volunteers: smokers’ debris.

After two hours of cleaning up cigarette butts, Mayor Art Madrid said he would like to come up with a plan to solve the problem.

“How do we deal with irresponsible smokers?” he asked. “First, I think we need to appeal to their sense of fair play.”

Madrid says he wants to explore what other cities are doing about cigarette litter. He says he’ll look into the possibility of an ordinance that would put a 15 percent surcharge on cigarettes to pay for cleanup.

“Businesses have to step up to the plate” by encouraging their clients not to litter, he said. “I think that we should hold people accountable if people throw trash in the street. If people smoke, they should be responsible.”

“How do we teach responsibility?” he asked. “We have to find a way. Why should the vast majority of people who don’t smoke be responsible to clean all of this up?  Unfortunately, the only time that some people understand is when there’s a financial penalty.”

Several volunteers cleaning the bus stops encouraged the city to install ash trays.

Organized by Jim Wieboldt, the event attracted at least 50 people, including members of several churches such as and They met at 8 a.m. inside the , whose members also took part.

Although Mayor Madrid and Councilwoman Ruth Sterling clash at times, they paired up to sweep the gutters and sidewalks of an area of La Mesa Boulevard between Spring and Fourth streets.

Proponents and opponents of the downtown PBID effort worked together as well.

Lynn McRea, , was out helping along with seven of her colleagues and said the tree planter outside of Cosmos contained hundreds of cigarette butts.

“It was gross,” she said.

Although she said she spent time daily cleaning up in front of her own store, she was shocked to see the number of butts in the planter.

McRea said she had to venture out into the street to retrieve all the cigarette trash.

Tic Long, an executive pastor at Journey Church, said: “People don’t think of cigarette butts as litter, yet they will put paper in a trash can.”

Phil Sluder of Triaxial Design and Analysis on Palm Avenue said he has been regularly cleaning the corner of Palm and Allison on Saturdays for the past six months.

He said he finds mostly cigarette butts, wrappers and ATM receipts from the nearby Chase Bank in his half-hour routine.

“The bad part is we need pressure washing because of all the gum—because we can’t pick that up,” Sluder said.

He said he’s been trying to keep the area clean as a way of discouraging people from leaving trash. If they see trash, they’ll leave more, he figures.

Also helping out was Christina Robertson, who said: “We all know there’s no money for this anymore, so we have to help out.”

Nine-year-old Caitlyn, another Journey Church volunteer, said: “I think this is awesome.”


“Because I love getting dirty.”

One unwelcome discovery by the Journey group was a pair of adult Army pants lined with excrement at the corner of Spring Street and Allison.

Mike Moore of said the cleanup event made a difference.

“You have a feeling of community,” Moore said. “There are people here who don’t get along, and they’re out here together. I think that’s impressive. And there are many ministries out here, and that’s incredible.”

He’d like to see citizen cleanups become a regular thing.

McRea, chairwoman of the PBID Formation Committee, said: “Volunteers help make the community strong. We have a divided community. And what I would like is a community that is not so divisive, and this kind of thing helps.”

Wieboldt, the former Chamber of Commerce president, started his work at 6 a.m. when he and his wife, Kelly, and others painted curbs, yanked weeds and trimmed plants at the intersection of Allison, La Mesa Boulevard and Fourth.

Dave Woodson, McRea’s husband, said he had five co-workers from his real estate office out helping.

“We always try to help improve the downtown,” he said.

As John Vigil of the La Mesa Village Merchants Association put up centennial banners, Councilwoman Sterling said: “We have a big happy birthday [coming up] and we want La Mesa to be in its finest dress.”

Chris Glenn February 12, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Sounds like there may be support here for a "Smoke Free Village", with a few zones to smoke in that merchants who require them also regulate them and the waste they generate?
Heather Fox February 12, 2012 at 06:19 AM
With all of the cigarette butts i picked up today i would say that would be a great idea Chris.
Chris Glenn February 12, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Beach communities have adopted local ordinances to control drinking and smoking in public. Their efforts may suggest something similar could work in La Mesa's village once business owners that cater to drinking and smoking recognize their impact on the public.
Komfort February 12, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Instead of enforcing existing codes from 1961, we adopt a whole new set of rules that do the same thing at greater cost to the citizens. No wonder Heather likes the idea. http://library.municode.com/mobile/document.aspx?_url=http%3a%2f%2flibrary.municode.com%2fshowDocumentFrame.aspx%3fclientID%3d16430%26docID%3d0q
Craig Maxwell February 12, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Oh, I was there alright...
Scott H. Kidwell February 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Let's further regulate, tax or punish business operators that cater to patrons who have virtually no other public place perform a legal act with a legal product outside their business because we have made that act illegal in other public spaces and indoor places. Maybe those business enterprises are actually doing us a favor by providing a place where the butts are concentrated and thus leaving other areas comparatively free of the specific problem. Don't forget to add public transportation traffic signal operators to the list of those to target where their business or regulatory activity leads to a disporportionate illegal disposal of the afrementioned butts!
Things I Learned February 12, 2012 at 04:40 PM
People who don't smoke should not have to pay to clean up after smokers who litter but people who smoke and don't litter should have to pay for smokers who litter and gum chewers shouldn't pay a surcharge at all because because just shut up that's why. On the off chance Things loses to David B. Secor in the Congressional race, he/she/it will ponder a run for Mayor of La Mesa on a platform of imposing surcharges on irresponsible surchargers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0ahJPxfGp4
Deena While February 12, 2012 at 06:35 PM
You'd win!
Things I Learned February 12, 2012 at 06:52 PM
I'd demand a recount.
Craig Maxwell February 12, 2012 at 08:09 PM
How about a "Bum Free Village?" After having to deal with Larry's "waste," I thought I'd go straight to the source. Unfortunately, I didn't have any "Larry-sized" plastic bags.
Heather Fox February 12, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Sorry Craig and I thought cleaning the trash cans was a dirty job. Kuddos to you! I think we all care about this little village.
Things I Learned February 12, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Craig Maxwell February 12, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Thanks, "Things." My sentiments exactly.
Sariously February 13, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Thanks, guys! Does this occur every Saturday? I'd love to help out. Also, a smoking-free La Mesa (even with some areas permitted) would be pretty amazing.
joan sullivan February 13, 2012 at 08:10 AM
"How do we deal with irresponsible smokers?" he (Art Madrid) asked. "First, I think we need to appeal to their sense of fair play." Jeeze, Art. Let's us do have a bit of fair play here. The gum chewing non-smokers are the ones who are trashing the place. FOUR wads of chewing gum for every ONE cigarette butt!! In 2008 and 2006 the cities of San Francisco, CA, and Toronto, Canada, ran sidewalk and street litter surveys. They each found FOUR wads of chewing gum for every ONE cigarette butt! My references: http://www.sfenvironment.org/downloads/library/2008_litter_audit.pdf http://www.toronto.ca/litter/pdf/2006_toronto_litter_report.pdf All you need do with the cigarette butts is just sweep them up. You must power steam clean the sidewalks to get rid of the chewing gum. It also sticks to your shoe on a hot summer day. Think I'll have a bumper sticker made for my truck: "Chew Nicorette chewing gum. The NEW cigarette butt!" How about a 60% surcharge on chewing gum, Art? FOUR times the mess, FOUR times the surcharge.
Deena While February 13, 2012 at 03:26 PM
No way! Really? We were in the presence of that marvel? Dang! I suppose all the patch characters were out Saturday morning - Komfort? Batman? Things I Spurned? I was so happy to finally meet Kevin George, but I didn't think about the others being there too! I wonder if Zach and Harry were there??????
Craig Maxwell February 13, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Sure, butts are ugly and gum is gooey, but for sheer unmitigated wretchedness, nothing touches (literally...) the plentiful heaps of human excrement in our alleys and planters. How 'bout a Feces-Free La Mesa? Or would that interfere with Art's new P/C, miniature-carbon-footprint, eco/green/"sustainable" (blah, blah, blah...) "composting" plan for the city?
joan sullivan February 13, 2012 at 05:15 PM
"Several volunteers cleaning the bus stops encouraged the city to install ash trays." This is the one workable solution I see amongst all this holier-than-thou whining about cigarette butts. WHY does the tree planter outside Cosmos contain hundreds of cigarette butts? WHY are there cigarette butts in every planter in the village? Those butts in the planters illustrate the frustration of smokers who search for an appropriate receptacle because they do not want to litter sidewalk or start a fire in a trash can full of inflammable paper. Provide ash trays and the majority of smokers will use them. As for the YUCK factor of butts in the planters. Don't be so damned delicate, McRea. I've emptied my automobile ashtray in my front flower bed for years. The geraniums bloom profusely and it doesn't even poison the gophers. And in time the butts simply ... disappear. Cigarette butts, unlike chewing gum, are completely biodegradable. http://www.acetateweb.com/pdf/EnvironmentalDegradationOfCigaretteFilters.pdf. Every time the opportunity presents itself, we have those monomaniac anti-smokers who demonstrate an orgiastic glee in kicking an underdog. This underdog bites back.
Kevin George February 13, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Back at ya Deena! What a wonderfully satisfying event. Thanks to all the participants.
Kevin George February 13, 2012 at 06:00 PM
My area was Allison from University to City Hall and the butts were by far the most annoying items to be picked up. I am sure everyone is familiar with the wrought iron sidewalk gratings in the library/ City Hall area. They are nice looking but unfortunately perfectly designed to hold cigarette butts just out of reach of a broom. This necessitates picking them out with a pocket knife. (incidentally the worst area was that directly in front of the library.) I think people should be able to smoke if they want, but why in the World they think it's OK to just throw their refuse on the ground is beyond me. The worst aspect of their bad behavior is that it gives some people the idea that they can tax it away.
Scott H. Kidwell February 13, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Here are unregulated butts that also surely need a tax! http://www.moonamtrak.org/
Craig Maxwell February 13, 2012 at 07:11 PM
The new La Mesa Centennial Anthem? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzLe8R1bL4c Let me tell you how it will be There's one for you, nineteen for me 'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman Should five per cent appear too small Be thankful I don't take it all 'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman If you flash your butt, I'll tax your seat, If you smoke a grit, you'll sweep the street, If you get too cold I'll tax the heat, If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet. Don't ask me what I want it for If you don't want to pay some more 'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman Now my advice for those who die Declare the pennies on your eyes 'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman And you're working for no one but me.
joan sullivan February 13, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Apply social engineering. Those grated holes in the ground look like perfect butt receptacles. Put an ashtray in front of the library, instead, and smokers will gravitate to it. Position the ashtray 15 feet away from the entrance to circumvent complaints about clouds of smoke.
Craig Maxwell February 13, 2012 at 08:54 PM
A simple solution: Those caught flicking cigarette butts into the street shall be forced to follow behind Larry for a week with a pooper-scooper.
Bill Jaynes February 13, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Whoa whoa whoa! That tax has already been proposed. It's called "PBID".
Sariously February 13, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Joan, first of all, people are not supposed to smoke at SDMTS bus or trolley stations. This has been in effect for years now. It doesn't make much sense to install ashtrays where you aren't even supposed to be smoking. Second of all, am I hallucinating or have I not seen ashtrays readily available at the outdoor tables at Cosmos? Unless something has changed since I last sat out there... The main "yuck" factor for me does not come from the butts themselves, but the smoke from the cigarettes. Sometimes I'd like to sit outside a place (e.g. Cosmos) and enjoy the lovely San Diego weather, but the second-hand smoke is awful. Finally, things like paper are biodegradable too, but it's still considered littering if you leave them on the ground. And it's a tad more unhygienic to leave butts on the ground since they have been in people's mouths. It's your business if you want to leave butts in your own planters, but I think that doing that to another's property is disrespectful.
Craig Maxwell February 13, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Already been proposed? Well, okay, but so what? Why not another? Jeez, Bill, you businessmen are so greedy.
Bill Jaynes February 13, 2012 at 10:33 PM
As far as I know, the cleanup was one-time only, but a weekly sprucing is a great idea, Sariously. Mayor Madrid said the other day that volunteers saved the City about $12 Million last year and this was a good example of what can happen when we work together. Plus we all had a great time giving back, and this single event probably did more to build bridges and heal wounds in the community than any amount of talking ever would. Jim Wieboldt deserves credit for putting it together.
Kevin George February 13, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Hear hear Bill........ It was very nice to see both sides coming together for a common cause.
Deena While February 13, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Ha! Ha! I got a hug out of it too!


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