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City proposes quadrupling fines for littering

The Rochester City Council is going after the litter bugs. City officials have proposed more than quadrupling fines for littering as part of a new effort to clean up city streets.

 A first offense would be fined at $100 instead of $25, and a second offense would jump from $35 to $200. Businesses that violate the law would see fines jump from a $100 for a first offense (plus the cost of cleanup and disposal) to $1,000, with a second offense fined at $2,500 plus cleanup and disposal costs.

 The city’s Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Norman Jones spoke to council members Thursday night as they reviewed the proposed fine schedule in committee. 

 “We really need some teeth behind our anti-littering,” he said.

 Jones described seeing drivers who roll down a window and toss a bag full of fast food wrappers into the street, or empty their car ashtrays out the window. Several council members nodded in agreement as they had seen similar behavior.

 “It’s a really big issue in our city,” he said. “We need to bring this to the light of day.”

 While the fines would be levied by Rochester police, several of the city council members, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, asked to be deputized to enforce the city’s anti-littering rules.

 On a more serious note, Councilor Jacklyn Ortiz asked Jones about the broader enforcement plan.

 Jones said the city just applied to join a national anti-litter campaign, “Keep America Beautiful.” The new fine schedule is based, in part, on their recommendations and is in line with the fines levied in several Rochester suburbs, he said.

 A coordinator with the national program is expected to visit Rochester on April 4, and Jones said he will be soliciting the nonprofit’s expertise in terms of processes and best practices for enforcement. The first step, he said, is to increase the fines.

 He also hopes to engage city children in creating anti-littering posters. The city has 800 litter baskets on city streets, so there’s no excuse for anyone tossing their waste on the streets, he said. 

 Council member Molly Clifford asked if any alternatives to the steep fines had been discussed since some city residents will not be able to pay the fines—can they be enlisted to help cleanup instead?

 Jones was open to discussing alternatives. After the meeting, he said the city has only issued seven violations this year. He did not immediately have figures for what the city collects for littering fines.

 “This is not something we’re doing as a money grab,” he said of the fines.

 The City Council’s Parks and Public Works Committee voted 5-0 to advance the proposed fine schedule to be voted on by the full Council next week.

 Council member Elaine Spaull also asked the city to consider banning Styrofoam as other municipalities have done, including Washington, D.C., and Albany and Suffolk counties.

 Follow Anne Saunders on Twitter: @asaunders_rbj

 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

 

One comment

  1. Thank you to the Rochester City Council and Rochester’s DES commissioner, Norman Jones, for moving forward on an important issue that impacts our image, our environment, and quality of life. My awareness of this problem has increased as I try often do weekend “litter walks” down a historic Park Ave area street, and easily fill trash bags with refuse. We need action on multiple fronts, and, this is a step in the right direction.

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