If you litter, you will pay the price – and a steep one at that. Many students are finding that out the hard way, some of these students undeservingly. While Ann Arbor’s current policy of issuing large fines for trash violations aims to keep our neighborhoods clean, the city’s policy seemingly targets residents whose only crime is their status as college students. But unfair policy or not, if you are piling trash on your yard like you live in a dump, clean up after yourself – that way no one would have anything to complain about.
The city’s policy, the Clean Communities program, was adopted in 2002 as a way to clean up Ann Arbor, especially the red cups that plague the city like locusts on weekends. Tickets start at $100 and work their way up to as much as $1,000 for repeat offenders. However, in order for the city police to issue garbage violations, it must receive a complaint from a resident about trash on a neighbor’s lawn.
While grouchy neighbors love the policy, students are feeling the pain. Some students have complained that a few cups have been enough trash to constitute a penalty. Others have bemoaned that they received second or third offense tickets because previous occupants at their house couldn’t pick up their trash either. Finally, some have just said they would have appreciated a little warning first.
These students are exactly right. With its spotty enforcement, the city looks like it’s just out to make a quick buck at the expense of students. A fair warning and some consideration for the quick turnover of tenants are essential to improving the policy. Further, the policy’s intent is to clean up the city, so Ann Arbor should put its money where its mouth is. Put the money collected from these trash violations into recycling and environmental education programs.
None of this lets students off the hook, though. Students aren’t the victims – the environment is. For every student unfairly issued a trash violation, there is probably another student who should be given one. From house parties to recycling, students are shameless consumption machines and responsible for a lot of Ann Arbor’s litter. We don’t need bitter townies calling the cops on us to coerce us into taking responsibility. We should be sensible enough to clean up our yards after parties before a fine is issued.
While the city’s action towards students can be unfair, there is no excuse for trash to be on front lawns. This is college: Your parents might still buy your groceries but they aren’t here to clean up after your kegger. Once students start cleaning up, the city will have no reason – either real or fabricated – to issue fines brought on by frustrated neighbors.