Monday, June 09, 2008

Rubbish and the Media

Twice last week I had calls from the Media Wales newsroom from journalists with questions that arose from their reading of this blog. One was concerned with the churchyard public art project, and the other with my last inventory of the rubbish left behind by big match day fans, and the invective I aimed at those who litter our streets and bring such disgrace to our City.

Sadly, the journos at 'Wales on Sunday' personalised the issue by naming the victorious Munster team, as if their supporters alone had been responsible for the mess, as if there had been no French or Welsh fans contributing to the rubbish in the streets and in the churchyard. Nothing that I wrote invited that conclusion. Anybody who can't make the effort to help keep our streets clean, no matter what their loyalty, race or religion, merits censure.

When a reporter from Munster radio station rang up the church today to ask for an interview, I explained that I couldn't be held responsible for the desire of the Media Wales editorial team to pick a fight with the Irish. Also they only published half my 'message to (all) fans', they requested a quote: "Please put your rubbish in the bins provided", omitting the other half of the 'message' "Or, if the bins are too full, take your empties and wrappings back to the place of purchase." Was that all too complex for the average reader to grasp?

Come on news gathers - help us on the front line out there to influence opinion and build consensus, by reflecting the real difficulties of the situation, and what this city is trying hard to achieve but not getting the support it deserves. I speak as one swift to criticise what isn't working for the benefit of all citizens.

Well guys and gals, if you're still reading me this week, here's a few more tid-bits to make you think.

Number one: Putting out giant additional rubbish bins on Big Match days has been deemed a no-no. They're a fire risk. No consideration given here to the frequency of rain on Big Match days. How comforting it would be for the rubbish collection crew to have most of of their material pre-gathered in targeted spots. It's 'health and safety' as an alibi. We have enough local CCTV cameras to be able to site any big rubbish bin in full view. We know from the speed the fire service responded to the O'Neill's pub fire across the road from the church, that an end can soon be put to dangerous incendiary moments. Streets are far more dangerous when people can slip and fall on plastic beaker splinters, turn an ankle on a can or bottle, or if really unlucky, get cut by a smashed glass bottle in the street - imported into the centre by fans from coaches or from outlying suburbs, unaware of danger they are discarding. The solution must lie as much with the rubbish creators (packaged food and drink providers and their clients), as with City services that sweep up after them. A little common sense wouldn't go amiss.

Number two: Half an hour after I was interviewed about rubbish on Friday afternoon, the City Centre night-time ops manager told me that a recent study by Prof John Shepherd of Cardiff University shows a reduction in reported violent crime at night of up to 30% at night, if streets are clean and clear, compared to streets from which neither rubbish had been cleared, nor day time tables and chairs removed. It's simple. A rubbishy environment encourages rubbishy behaviour. It's not just a matter for our valiant Police force or the City Cleansing team to take note of. They know! The dignity and worth of this City - old fashioned civic pride - matters greatly in my view. It marks the difference between civility and barbarism, between a City safe at night for ALL, not just some citizens.

This message is for the pub and club owners and restuaranteurs to take to heart. Don't keep pushing back the boundaries of by-laws intended to guarantee a stable and worthy environment for ALL citizens. In this present climate of 'tolerance' it seems as if the whole world assumes these things don't matter, that anyone who has no respect for the public realm can just do what they like in the City Centre playground and be anonymous, therefore immune from challenge or censure by day or by night.

The real problem is the lack of energy and commitment to enforce by-laws and accepted standards. If only life offered sufficient time to run through the City Centre CCTV camera footage, and pull out all those images of uncivil abuse, and broadcast them, maybe the indulgent would think twice. They wouldn't do those things at home - toss rubbish into their neighbour's or their granny's garden wherever they come from - would they? So why do it in Cardiff? The Capital City deserves better.

Anyway, thanks Media Wales for acknowledging the importance of the issue - even if you declined to report it 'my way'.

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