Blog Post

Street-level bureaucracy and dog poop

Just work with me on this. It has a point at the end.

Earlier this week, my dad -- former lefty activist, retired Los Angeles Unified School District technocrat -- sent me the following e-mail:
When I take Tucker [his English Setter] for a walk along the dirt path next to the country club, and back down the other side of the street, I see that folks leave their dog poop on the ground.  I made a couple of suggestions to the Tarzana Homeowners Assoc. and, now, have been invited to make a Dog Poop Presentation to the executive board of said organization.
I mention this to make you aware of what could happen to you when you get old.  I've gone from saving the world, to saving LAUSD to saving a few blocks from poop.  I know that all politics are local, but this is ridiculous.

I responded with the following:

Remember that putting out public trash cans often actually increases littering, because people throw stuff away in them when they'd otherwise pack it out...and they continue to put trash in or around cans even when they're full. It blows around, rots, etc.

So what are you going to suggest they do?

Find out what he said after the jump.

And Dad came back with:
Oh, I see.  When I was saving the world, I got advice from various leaders in the political world.  True, that sometimes included family members.  When I was saving LA Unified, advice was given to ensure that I was NOT successful.  But, my family stood behind me.
Now, older and wiser (?) my son is giving me advice about trash cans along the path. 
I have a better solution.
I will not listen to the tired answers to our ongoing problems.  I have a plan to rid the path of poop.  It involves bringing the neighborhood together.  They will agree to work with me, because I am inclusive.  The person who tried to clean up the poop before me thought he could go it alone, using the great, honored resources of our local government.  He miscalculated.  There is poop everywhere. All it takes to solve problems is collective action.
We cannot move, or pull out, or ignore the problem.  My plan will enable us to work together to solve the problem and educate the community of dog walkers.  And, we promise not to use no-bid contracts.
Please note that my sentences were short.  I spoke to the point and the crowd applauded.
(Actually, there are dispensers of plastic bags in many parks.  I thought that we could get a few and I volunteered to keep the dispensers stocked with plastic bags.)

Here's what's interesting about this: First, that for all my Dad's politicking back in the old days, he's having an obvious, concrete effect on his city with one good idea. It's not even a technological idea, really. Citywide WiFi is not going to help Tarzana keep dog poop off walking paths (though I guess it could tell you where to go to get away from dog poop, or connect you to web cams that showed the dog poop).

Second, it's my dad being a justified smart-ass about political rhetoric. That's a worthwhile point, what with the second presidential debate just 40 minutes away as I type. I'm one of those guys from the media conspiracy you're always reading about, and even we make the classic mistake: we mistake rhetoric for information. I have a horse in this race; I honestly care who's going to be the next president, and I honestly think the other guy will make our country a worse place to live. Doesn't matter who I'm talking about. The point is, listen close to both of them.

There's a lot of dog poop on the path to a good government and a just society. Only voters get to demand plastic bags along the route.


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