From my Tumblr page

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Coordinated" service

Oh, Pittsburgh. How I love you so, but then you go and do something stupid like this:

Cancer Patient Fined for Cleaning Up Litter

All Paul McCarthy of the Greenfield area of Pittsburgh wanted to do was help his neighborhood live up to its name. The 62-year-old former city electrician began cleaning up litter and overgrowth along a section of town called ‘The Run’, piling it along the sidewalk for Public Works to pick up. Only they didn’t, and those piles have led to legal troubles for McCarthy, who’s currently being treated for cancer.

McCarthy’s efforts have led to fines because, according to the city, he didn’t do enough. While the ill man toiled over trimming weeds along sidewalks and gathering debris, he wasn’t bagging the waste or coordinating his efforts with Public Works. But McCarthy had repeatedly called the city’s help line when he noticed the trash, and got no response.

From the Post-Gazette:

To Rob Kaczorowski, city Public Works Department’s deputy director of operations, fighting litter is all about communication and coordination — something Mr. McCarthy’s vigilante clean-up push lacked.

“We’re all for volunteer efforts, but it has to be coordinated,” Mr. Kaczorowski said. “Some of the stuff he does, I think he does to aggravate us.”

Bill Smith, executive director of the Greenfield Organization, said his group does mass clean-ups with city help, but added that there’s a place for Mr. McCarthy’s approach.

“From my perspective, this is the kind of thing the city wants people to do,” he said. Public works staff “are put out because this is creating a little more work for them.”

McCarthy got citations twice. The Department of Public Works had concluded that it was the only way to stop him, and it worked: McCarthy is no longer bothering to clean anything up. The Post-Gazette reports that new bags and cups have started to accumulate.

A 62-year-old cancer patient wants to help make the city he lives in more beautiful, and gets fined for it. Awesome. Great job, Pittsburgh Public Works.


Stories like this only discourage those who want to do a little good in this world. Sure, maybe he should've bagged up the garbage, but what's the point when the trash man won't take it because it wasn't 'coordinated'?

This kinda thing upsets me but also gets me motivated. For 'coordinated' volunteer opportunities, visit

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