Does Oxnard Have a Litter Problem?

Posted by R.S. Rodriguez

I vividly recall a TV commercial from my youth, in which a Native American gentleman is standing alongside a freeway. Cars are zooming by and the occupants of one throw a bag of litter out of the window.  The mess lands within a few feet of said gentleman.  The camera zooms in and we see tears well up in his eyes which eventually trickle down his face.

The message?  A simple one, really- don’t litter, it’s bad for mother earth.  Even as a child I understood the thrust of this ad.  This commercial should become a constantly running public service announcement especially, unfortunately, in my hometown of Oxnard.

You see, Oxnard has a litter problem.  The problem seems most prevalent in neighborhoods situated in the southern and eastern portions of the city.  Those communities are predominantly made up of hard working, working class people. Fine people- the majority, indeed.   Yet some, like “Poppy” in Seinfeld, are “a little sloppy.”

I’ll try to be sensitive here, but for some reason, it seems to me as though my Latino brethren (yes, I’m Mexican American) in particular are litter bugs.  And it drives me caterpillar and often causes me to shake my head in disappointment.  Here’s an example:

I live on a relatively busy street in one of the above-mentioned neighborhoods.  The families immediately to my north and south are honest, hard working folk. I enjoy them as neighbors. Yet both households are filled with litter bugs and I’ve tried to get my message across to them subtly and directly. Neither tactic seems to work.

I’ve seem them step out of their cars, drop a soda pop can, an empty bag from McDonald’s, cigarettes buds.  I’ve literally walked to the area where the litter was thrown and picked it up myself, ensuring they see me do so. I’ve gone up and down the street seven houses deep with my broom and big dustpan with the elongated handle on a bright Saturday morning, ensuring my neighbors outside cutting lawns and socializing notice me.  I’ve left notes on car windshields. I’ve sent anonymous, I think, well-written lists on why litter is bad for the neighborhood, affects property values, goes into storm drains and ends up in the grand Pacific Ocean, yet the littering continues. I’ve asked neighbors why on said Saturdays they so meticulously wash their cars, inside and out, yet so willingly take the trash collected in the car and simply toss it in the gutter.

Now, not all of the litter on our street is caused by my beloved neighbors. Cars drive by and toss things out the window (unlike the Native American, I am yet to shed a tear).  But I have yelled at the passing cars, “Pick that up!” after seeing an occupant throw something on my street.  I’ve been the recipient of many birds, indeed.

Our busy little street is also near two elementary schools and a secondary school.  When the kids get out of school, our street becomes a little thoroughfare for these future intellectuals.  Yet they litter, too.  They litter often.  What are they tossing? Wrappers, popsicle sticks from ice cream bars, soda cans, a plethora of junk from their daily stops at ice cream trucks who sell junk to these kids (another issue, another article).

As I drive along various communities in Ventura County, I often notice a striking difference between the streets of Oxnard, Camarillo, Ventura, Thousand Oaks, etc.  The streets of Camarillo and the other cities are clean.  I can go miles and not see litter, which amazes me.  I can’t go two houses in my neighborhood without seeing litter.

I just hope someday my little public relations campaign in my neighborhood will work, and the families will begin to understand how a well maintained home, street and neighborhood might maintain and perhaps, increase property values.  How the hundreds of cars which drive-by my street and their occupants might think, wow! what a nice neighborhood and consider living here.

I also think of some law enforcement and city codes which do not tolerate broken down cars on their lawns, broken windows and make sincere efforts to clean up graffiti (kudos to the City of Oxnard on the latter- there is a consistent effort to paint over graffiti).  I suppose the thinking goes, broken down cars, graffiti, etc, beget problems and decreased property values.  In these difficult economic times I realize cities are financially strapped.  But I hope the City of Oxnard, local school, responsible adults collaborate to make an effort to clean-up and maintain the streets of Oxnard.

Perhaps the City of Oxnard will hire kids to walk the streets to clean up gutters and sidewalks.  Maybe elementary and secondary school can implement a little environmental science into the curriculum.  Perhaps parents will teach their kids not to toss their litter on sidewalks which, with a good dust of wind, will end up on my well-manicured lawn.