New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell's recent call for an ordinance to fine property owners who fail to keep their grass neat and trim has prompted a response from some residents about the city's commitment to cleaning up litter. Callers to my program argue that it is unfair to target them while trash litters the streets, parks, and other public places. Fair point.

At-Large City Councilor Ian Abreu points out, however, that "the city picks up after itself all the time. All day, every day."

"We are constantly dispatching our DPI crews to clean up our parks and beaches," he said. "There are a lot of people who visit here or are not community invested who discard trash all over the place."

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Former Ward 6 Councilor Tom Kennedy agrees. Kennedy pointed out that we've stopped educating people about not littering, recalling lessons he learned as a young man. I too remember when public service announcements in the media reminded folks to pick up after themselves and not dispose of their trash on the ground. Who can forget the old TV spot with the Native American with a tear running down his cheek that discouraged people from littering and polluting the environment? It was effective.

Councilor Abreu and his colleagues, Ward 2 Councilor Maria Giesta and At-Large Councilor Naomi Carney, have filed a motion that could emerge on tomorrow night's council agenda. The motion calls on the commissioners of the Department of Facilities and Fleet and Department of Infrastructure; Police Chief Paul Oliveira; a representative of the Mayor's Office and the Mayor's Task Force on Neighborhoods; as well as the Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations to appear before the council's Committee on Ordinances to discuss enforcement of the current litter ordinance, possible amendments, and "the responsibility of residents and visitors to keep this city clean."

Abreu and Giesta believe that an effective approach to reducing litter must contain some sort of educational component. I agree. What sense does it make to conduct neighborhood clean-ups and mobilize city departments to pick up trash if people are only going to continue to throw garbage on the ground?

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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