9/6/20: Cleaning Up Our Freeway Trash

September 6, 2020

I hope you’re doing well during this Labor Day Weekend heat wave! The cool ocean water is appealing, but please take care of yourself and others by avoiding crowds and wearing a mask.
I’m always looking for ways to improve our quality of life, and this week I’m excited to update you on a new litter-reduction effort for our county’s freeways. 

(Freeway litter photos by Leendert Hering, executive director of I Love a Clean San Diego.) 

For many years, the trash and debris alongside our roads has really bugged me. It’s an issue of pride for our city and county. Pulling off the freeway and looking at piles of garbage while waiting for a light, or driving by stately eucalyptus trees or a hillside of ice plant with trash scattered around chafes me every time I see it. I know I’m not alone in having this feeling. 

Many of us remember a time when public service announcements routinely drove home the message not to litter. I’ll admit that these days I rarely witness anyone blatantly littering, such as throwing bottles or cans out of the window of a moving car. Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that freeway offramps, hillsides and vegetated medians routinely look unacceptably trashy. 

In my time on the SANDAG board, I’ve met with three successive Caltrans district directors about the problem, and other SANDAG board members have reported having similar meetings. I’ve also requested better trash cleanup from the contractors working with Caltrans to widen the freeway through our city.

Unfortunately, these individual meetings and requests might lead to spot cleanups, but haven’t resulted in overall improvement.

In the last few months with driving substantially reduced – our county’s freeways are still at only 85% of previous capacity – I had hoped that the litter backlog would be cleared. However, it turned out that Caltrans has picked up trash less often than before because of the effects of COVID-19 on staffing. 
But there’s hope! This week I chaired our first meeting on the newly created “Litter Abatement” subcommittee at SANDAG. Our goal is a noticeable reduction in trash on freeways and highways. What immediately became clear is that the sources of trash, as much as the cleaning up of trash, are equally at issue.

For example, some trash blows out of the back of inadequately covered pickup trucks. Some apparently escapes from the waste hauler trucks headed for the dump. Sometimes you’ll see a lot of shattered glass, or a bumper on the side of the road. That’s from a car crash that wasn’t fully cleaned up by the CHP or the law enforcement agencies managing the site of the crash.

Some of the trash comes from homeless encampments. Other areas have become dumping zones where people intentionally discard their garbage to avoid going to the dump and paying the fee. 

Our committee will publicly discuss the largest sources of trash, understanding how Caltrans oversees and creates accountability for the Adopt-a-Highway program, public messaging, the amount of Caltrans budget allocated to litter abatement, and the level of service standards that this state agency is required to meet. 

I’m optimistic that with focus we’ll be able to create a path that leads to a cleaner future for our county. I’m particularly happy to have high engagement from other elected officials from across the county, plus the can-do attitude of the Caltrans district director and the strong interest from the environmental advocacy groups who are aware of our efforts. As a team, we’ve formed the foundation from which change can happen. 

This crazy election season

There’s a raw edge to some of the political messaging that’s coming out right now. Outrageous accusations and conspiracy theories are common. The civility and truthfulness that our campaign advocates and strives to embody doesn’t seem to be catching on in some quarters.

I try to keep a steady course in my campaign, communicating about the many positives we’ve accomplished in the four years I’ve been your mayor in Encinitas. I’ve covered over 25 topics in this Where I Stand section on my website, if you’d like to take a look. 

This election, in Encinitas and all the way up to the top of the ballot, we each have crucial decisions to make. I humbly suggest that you choose the candidates who best embody your values by weighing these choices:

  • Hope or fear
  • Unity or division
  • Competence or complaints 
  • Progress or nostalgia
  • Honesty or falsehoods

A new message from your Encinitas neighbors

A few more Encinitans want to tell you about their support of my campaign for re-election as your Encinitas mayor. You can watch the short video here, and if you could share it on social media, we’d very much appreciate it. If you’d like to be part of a similar video, please reply to this email!

Those Santa Fe Dr. mosaics are still amazing!

(Photos and collage by Jim Babwe.)

I know I told you about these last week, but I’d like to re-emphasize how cool the 53 art panels underneath the Santa Fe Drive underpass are, and to encourage you to take a stroll over to this public art display. It’s like an outdoor museum with every mosaic framed. The city’s cost was only $36,000 for the entire project.

The photos above were taken and assembled by Leucadia resident Jim Babwe, who’s also smitten with the mural project. When giving us permission to use his photos, he said, “I think the mosaics are great for the city. They’re wonderful!”

Here’s the Coast News article.

Can you help us distribute door hangers?

We’re doing a touchless “door drop” volunteer event in District 2, which includes downtown Encinitas, to support supervisor candidate Terra Lawson Remer, Deputy Mayor Kellie Hinze and me, starting this Tuesday and happening Saturdays and Tuesdays.

It’s a good way to get some healthy outdoor time in with very little personal risk. Please click here to volunteer – your help is much appreciated! If you don’t walk the whole time, that’s ok. Another volunteer can help complete that segment. 

And, as always, if you’d like a free yard sign, please click here. If you can help out by financially supporting my re-election as Encinitas Mayor, please click here

Also, the other day my fellow Encinitas candidates Tony Kranz, Kellie Hinze and I had a very illuminating Zoom conversation about open spaces and transportation. You can watch it here.

Finally, as we celebrate Labor Day this weekend during a time when too many people are out of work, I recall Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to sanitation workers in Memphis two weeks before he was assassinated: 

“[O]ften we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth.

One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity.”

In service,

You’re invited! You can register for our joint virtual Meet & Greet here.

COVID-19 Resources

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