Applying the Micro Test in the Most Beautiful City in the World

New River Free Press International Presents


Litterland-by-the-Bay Prepares

For United Nations World

Environment Day Conference


By Michael Chacko Daniels

To check on the success of Mayor Gavin Newsom's campaign to reduce litter in San Francisco, a big objective in a city that has become comfortable with litter and human and animal waste, I have been using "the micro test," which is based on the principle that the micro will reflect on the macro, and vice versa.

I perform my micro test regularly in two neighborhoods--the city's world famous Tenderloin and the block down from Grace Cathedral, Taylor Street between California and Pine Streets.

Checking out the Tenderloin on May 21 and 28 on the way to the Asian Art Museum and the Public Library's main branch, I was convinced that the only way I could give the good Mayor a passing grade would be if I walked with my head in the clouds.

I sometimes do that. Got to watch out when I do, though. Don't know what I'll step on or what deal I may be bumping into in the Tenderloin.

On Taylor, between California and Pine, going up the steep hill, it's hard to keep my focus at sidewalk level and prevent it from moving heavenward. The litter on the uphill stairway and the western curb--which has strewn litter composting around the front wheels of the parallel parked cars, week after week--tempts me to block out the ground view and set my sights to where San Francisco meets the stars.

On June 1, 2005, the sidewalks are a bit cleaner as I walk down Hyde Street through the Tenderloin to my favorite market--the Heart of the City Farmer's Market at the United Nations Plaza. Finally, I think, the Mayor is having an impact. He's pulling it together, at least in the Civic Center backyard.

Don't get me wrong. I am rooting for Gavin Newsom's success. After two older mayors, who had the focus on everything else except the heart of San Francisco, its Tenderloin, where many immigrants, elderly, and children live, I wish the young Gavin Newsom all the best in both his housing first and anti-litter campaigns.

His Project Connect is a brilliant strategy to overcome the Culture of Neglect.

It's only when I get to Seventh and Market, loaded with direct-from-the-farmers produce, and discover a clean, quiet corner, about half-a-dozen bike patrol police officers, and the complete absence of the usual folks conducting quick transactions, that I realize that I have been suckered by the sprucing-up that has been taking place for the United Nations World Environmental Day Conference in San Francisco and the world's focus on everyone's favorite city, this most beautiful city in the world--our Litterland-by-the-Bay.

I recommend the "micro test."

Check out your favorite corner,

even your own. Let Newsom know.

June 12, 2005: To find out how Mayor Gavin Newsom's anti-litter campaign is doing, I performed the micro test going up Taylor Street between Pine and California. The stairway up the hill, and the curb to the sidewalk, was worse than ever in its collection of litter. Hey, Jim, there are no businesses on this block, so you can't pass the blame to them.

No poor people.

No homeless.

No beggars.

Just the detritus of average throw-as-you-go folks who assume someone is paid to pick up after them.

The assumption is so deeply imbedded  that in 2004, before Newsom's campaign was initiated, city crews collected 23,000 tons of street trash, which represented a 35 per cent increase over the previous year.

Newsom's campaign had a two-pronged approach to deal with these attitudinal scofflaws:

  1. Citations and Fines

  2. Educational campaigns, including citation walks, visiting businesses, talking to people on the street.

Newsom was reported last week as having said:

"We've got to get more aggressive about enforcement. I'm not particularly satisfied with the success we've had so far."

Jim says Mayor Newsom's candid admissions take the bite out of my criticism. 

Jim, I say, refreshing as his honesty is, we do need to raise the bar on the throw-as-you-go folks in the Most Beautiful City in the World.

June 13, 2005: I walk down Hyde to my favorite farmer's market in the Heart of the City, the United Nations Plaza.  On a bright day, it's a walk in sun and litter. More sun than usual. More litter than usual.

Jim says this is no cityscape for children of the Tenderloin to grow up in.

I recommend the "micro test."

Check out your favorite corner,

even your own. Let Newsom know.




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Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2005 at 09:41AM by Registered CommenterMichael Chacko Daniels | CommentsPost a Comment