Last weekend, the Newsdog traveled to Austin, Texas to assist with the Ronald Reagan Great Communicator Debate Series.
While visiting the downtown Austin area, we saw first-hand many of the same transient and trash issues that are currently plaguing Historic Northeast and our city at-large.
In Austin, the Watershed Protection Department (WPD) is specifically designated to deal with the safety in and around waterways that flow through the area.
The WPD recently released a list of 20 hazardous camp areas located in or near waterways slated for cleanup.
After a six month, $250,000 pilot program, over 35 camps were cleaned out, resulting in a whopping 27 tons of trash, debris, and waste carted off to area landfills.
Additionally, revisions to Austin’s vagrancy ordinance makes it illegal to “sit, camp, or lie” in an area that would be hazardous to the public or the camper.
Austin’s ordinance doesn’t specifically ban sitting or lying down, but it does ban blocking a sidewalk or obstructing a public place and makes aggressive panhandling on public property illegal.
Revisions to Kansas City’s panhandling ordinances were attempted a few years back under the guise of pedestrian safety, citing the number of panhandling complaints registered with the city.
Those revisions would have made standing on a street corner asking for money nearly impossible.
The ordinance failed to pass a majority and died on the 26th floor of City Hall.
Last week, we spotlighted the huge cleanup carried out by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) under the I-435/24 Highway overpass.
An eight-yard dumpster was filled to overflowing with trash, bulky material, and potentially hazardous human waste just from that location alone.
That camp specifically was one of the larger problem areas according to MoDOT officials.
As we all know, the scene repeats itself across the metro, especially in the woods that make up Kessler Park.
So to that end, when will the skyrocketing transient issue be classified as the environmental hazard that it is?
At what point does the ecosystem in and around these camps become hazardous?
What chemical and biological hazards are workers, paid or volunteer, being exposed to when cleanup of a camp takes place?
Here’s the bottom line: We’ve all had to negotiate the gateway intersections that border the east and west boundaries of Historic Northeast on Independence Avenue.
The eastern gateway leads to the historic sites in Independence such as the Truman home and Library and the starting point of the Oregon, California and Santa Fe Trails.
The western gateway at Paseo Boulevard leads to the Kansas City Museum, the 18th and Vine District, and the City Market area.
Both are clogged with transients, vagrants, and beggars who leave their trash and waste in the public right of way, creating an unsightly and unsafe mess for the rest of the world to experience.
The Dog thinks its time, with a new Mayor and City Council, to revisit the issue in an attempt to clean things up a little not only for the safety of the general public but for the environment at large.