It Takes A Village To Clean the City

This is the golden age of data, right? We're using the internet of things including our phones to run our lives.

So why are L.A.'s streets still so filthy? Why is a city that's now better run than some Fortune 500 companies still failing Governing 101 when it comes to keeping the streets and sidewalks clean?

What if there were an app for requesting some of the most sought-after city services? What if that app were free and easy to use?

There is and it's both.

There is?

There is. Who knew?

MyLA 311 is the subject of a short film I've just made with Joe Shapiro and Cheryl Murfin, two actual filmmakers.

El Basurero 311 - It Takes a Village to Clean a City, our rough cut which screened last week at the New Urbanism Film Festival, is about discovering the 311 app and using it to request everything from street cleaning to graffiti removal to sidewalk repairs.

My favorites: the hauling away of illegally or improperly discarded furniture, appliances and other junk. Even the world's smartest anthropologists would have trouble explaining the tons of stuff that ends up on our streets. Still, most of what I see is furniture and mattresses, old TVs and computers, tires and other car parts and household trash. Tons and tons of trash.

In an ideal world, city residents wouldn't need to remind the sanitation department that the streets need cleaning. But along with my 4 million neighbors, I don't live in Montecito.

I live in Los Angeles, in Koreatown to be precise, where the problem of trash-filled streets, sidewalks and lots is legend.

How bad can it be and why do I care so much about it?

Bad!

And I care about it because the condition of our streets and sidewalks, our lots and parks is an assault to the senses that leaves us disappointed about our city, our municipal employees and our elected officials. Trashed streets kill our love of the place, as bad as seeing drivers blocking and dissing pedestrians, bike riders, buses and even trains.

We live in a beautiful place. A region where when we are not working we can enjoy perfect weather, trees that people in the North East and Rust Belt can only dream about, mountains, the beach and countless examples of architectural styles inspired by the climate, the light and landscape. We live in a city where dozens of cultures live mostly peacefully side-by-side, taking in each other's customs and art and music and savoring each other's foods. It's why I live here and why I care about the state of our streets.

So since we have this magical app and love this place, here's are a few ideas:

  • Download and use the app to restore our communities to clean places we can take pride in and feel good about. Let's take back our neighborhoods, making them places where our children can play safety without fear of being injured by hazardous materials leaking out of improperly discarded appliances.

  • Use the app to empower ourselves and others by seeing how problems get solved when we engage with our community instead of walking by and accepting things as they are.
  • Encourage the hundreds of thousands of kids in our schools to use the app to report problems like discarded TVs, mattresses, couches and auto parts that wouldn't be there but for ignorance, neglect or malice. Let's get our students competing to see who logs the most requests and who finds the most bizarre item discarded in their neighborhood.
  • We made El Basurero 311 because keeping the streets clean is not rocket science and using the app works and gets results.

    While I dream of the day when the city will monitor the condition of the streets without citizen involvement, for now the public has an important role to play.

    Trash collection isn't as much fun as CicLAvia and it's not as impactful as voting Yes on Measure M in November for a raft of long-needed transit projects, but it is a critical piece of making life in L.A. better for all.

    So whether you're a city resident struggling to make ends meet or a charitable foundation or company with the resources to help us publicize this free service, improve the place we live by using MyLA 311.

    Somehow, somewhere along the way, L.A. forgot how to take care of the little stuff. Our film shows you how easy it is to help the City pick up the low hanging fruit of governance.

    Take five minutes to watch our film and once you have, download the app and start logging requests for services.

    It takes a village to clean the City.

    Yours in transit,
    Joel