Apr 8, 2014

The Litter of Allentown

On Monday mornings, from the amount of litter on 6th and 7th Street, you would think that there was a parade over the weekend. Back in the day, Allentown was known for it's cleanliness. Women in babushkas would compulsively hunt out any errant scrap of paper, and remove that offense to their pride. Allentown has changed. In 2006, the SWEEP program was put into place to milk center city property owners, fining them for tenants putting the wrong color container on the porch, at the wrong time. In 2011, the program burped $228,000.00 from the hapless owners. Now, with Allentown's Transformational arena coming, Allentown passed an ordinance quadrupling the littering fine from $25 to $100. "It's really difficult to see someone littering and actually catch them in the act," said Ann Saurman, director of recycling. "You see litter on the street, but you don't often see people littering." Actually, you can see them littering. Park near any center city market, and watch the wrappers drop like leaves off a tree in the fall.

photo:Denise Sanchez/The Morning Call

reprinted from June 2012

UPDATE:  Mayor Ed Pawlowski's 8th Annual Cleanup Day will occur this coming April 26th.  He once again asks that Allentown's conscientious volunteer to clean up after those who could care less.  Bless the eager beavers, but considering the progress in the last eight years, perhaps a better strategy is in order. The Parking Authority should give tickets for littering.  Although it's more confrontational to ticket a person,  than to sneak away after ticketing an empty car,  it would give the city a more positive result than we now achieve from that agency.


  1. The litter just like sneakers hanging from wires are one of the carnivals circus shidshows? There is the claiming of ignorance on the Brown Hole Administration and there federally funded fictisious fight? This is one of there many hostel takover tactics employed to fund there folly?

    Still have the picture of the street sweeping monster that spewwed oil from hamilton to chew from takling the mounds of ice in a poor attempt to carry out there carnage on the public?

    patent pending

  2. Maybe ask the city why they own 9 street sweepers but only employ enough to have 3 out sweeping streets everyday. This is just like the snow plowing in the city, the public is just starting to see the effects of the fabulous water, sewer lease. More exciting things are coming to light.

  3. The other day I was in the drive through line at McDonald's on 15th St. with my son. As we were waiting a young man and a young woman walked out of the restaurant and across the back parking lot of the mall on Allen St.

    they both reached in the bag took out a cheeseburger, unwrapped it, and nonchalantly threw the wrapper to the ground.

    As if it was the most natural thing in the world.

    Next were all the napkins the attendant had so thoughtfully put in the bag.

    Someone should say something to them but who will? No one, because it is not worth a rag of profanity, a beating or at the worse a knifing.

    This is the world of Allentown today. I see this all over the place. Some apparently think littering is an inherent right of their existence. I doubt it will change.

  4. Mike,

    I wrote the following shortly after the new year but just put it with all the other rants I don't bother to share. I thought however since you brought it up...

    Scott Armstrong

    Litter Town

    Today I had some down time and errands to run so I decided to walk instead of drive to my destinations. In short the exercise depressed me. What one doesn’t see while driving neighborhood streets is apparent when these same streets are walked. Litter is ubiquitous: in the streets, on the sidewalks, mixed with un-raked autumn leaves, collected by the untrimmed shrubbery, and mingled with neglected Christmas decorations. In short, it is a dispiriting sight.
    One can’t help but contrast this reality to the happy talk the media delivers us daily. If one wants to understand what is happening in Allentown they won’t find it in the print or broadcast media. However, the city reveals the truth daily, it is out there, right in front of us, and it isn’t pretty. But those charged to report choose not to note it. It is unfortunate that ignoring the truth doesn’t result in remedy. If that were so Allentown would today be a paradise.

  5. Having grown up in A-Town - I left in 1972 - Never to return - thank God.

    I feel for all of you who are stranded there. In some ways Allentown is a mini-Detroit. That's were I can see 'old' Allentown going - from Front St, to 17th St - and from Union St to Tilghman St - one big collapsing ghetto.

    Here's an article from Carribean Business:

    Puerto Rico's historically low 40.6% labor-participation rate (LPR) has drawn much attention of late. That's roughly 60 years with more than half the population not working, creating a virtually permanent albatross on growth in the island's economy.


  6. The sweep program is a joke and I think it needs to be scrapped. The city says the sweep officers are proactively and on a complaint basis addressing the quality of life issues mentioned. According to the city their normal response time to a complaint is within a 24 hour period. According to the city 6000 tickets were issued covering 8000 violations last year. However the mayor gave a different number when asked. According to the mayor over 7500 sweep tickets were issued covering 13,455 violations. So why are the sweep department numbers different from the mayor's numbers? I will leave that answer up to you. The police, health, animal control, and engineering also give out sweep tickets to residents.

    In my opinion the sweep program is not effective enough and is not utilized correctly. There are residents in the city that have gotten sweep tickets for minor issues such as leaving a can of paint outside but there are properties in the city that have piles and piles of trash & debris. I don't understand how the sweep officers are not noticing glaring violations but can notice a can of paint on a sidewalk.

    My opinion is the sweep department needs to be scraped and a quality of life unit within the police department needs to be created. The quality of life unit would be supervised by an Allentown police officer with a rank of sergeant or higher. The unit would have QOL officers that are civilian officers. The QOL unit would patrol the streets and proactively search for quality of life violations in progress and stop those activities from happening. They would also respond to complaints as well. If the QOL officers required any police assistance they could use radios to call in for assistance and would have direct communication with our communications center. The idea is to stop the activity while it's happening and not after it already happened.

    The civilian officers would go through training on how to keep on the look out for violations and how to address the violations. They would also go through self defense training in case they would get attacked while on the streets patrolling. Each section of the city would have at least one officer patrolling at all times keeping a look out for quality of life violations.

    Right now people know they can trash the city and get away with it. The city doesn't enforce the ordinances we have in place strictly enough. To them the city is a joke. It is time to change that attitude towards the city.

  7. My blood boils when I see my elderly mother stoop down to pick up litter left on her West Park-area property. Tickets for littering sound like a great idea. Revenue raised might even pay the cost of enforcement officers.

  8. Getting a sweep violation depends on who you are. When the sweep official checks your address and sees your a home owner ... you know someone with a damn job , probably working 40 to 60 hrs a week . They measure your grass and if its a quarter inch too high you get a ticket. BUT if it's a HUD house with 5 cars , car parts , weeds , cigarette butts , bottles , cans , and 10 bags of rotting trash you and every other home owning neighbor living next to it have called the sweep office, the city , and the cops about no less than a combined 50 times in 3 months about. Well than absolutely nothing is done.

  9. I found this older blog entry while researching Allentown's littering laws.

    One of the biggest and most consistent sources of litter in this city is the delivery of the advertising supplement, Morning Call Weekly. While it is designed for non subscribers, many subscribers like myself still have to go pick that tripe off their front curbs and lawns where it is invariably heaved without regard to the convenience of the homeowner. (The actual daily paper is left right on my doorstep.)

    I'm so sick of seeing that thing out on the south forty on my property. I don't want it to begin with. And there it lays, looking ugly if we're on vacation, telling the world no one's home. If it didn't get dumped in the middle of the night, I'd go tell the driver. The Call's detached customer service department (in what, the Philippines?) robotically empathizes when you call, says they'll pass it along, and the weekly dumping never stops.

    There's laws about leaving stuff on both public and private property whether the litterer is walking or driving. After repeat attempts to get the Call to stop delivering this thing, invoking those laws might be a next move.