Top public officials once again are trying to put a dent in a persistent problem plaguing our civic space – litter.
The Fresno County Transportation board last month took an action that could fund a litter-fighting campaign to the tune of $1 million over two years.
This particular campaign’s focus is narrow – state highways and roads within the county. The money would come from three sources: Measure C’s Litter Abatement Program, the California Department of Transportation and matches by local jurisdictions/agencies such as incorporated cities.
The breakdown in funding goes like this:
Year 1: $125,000 from Measure C; $125,000 from local matches; $250,000 from Caltrans.
Year 2: Just like Year 1.
The Transportation Board’s vote on April 18 amended Measure C’s spending plan to include the two-year Litter Abatement Program as a pilot project. The Transportation Authority worked with the Fresno Council of Governments to draft the plan amendment.
In essence, the thinking was: Caltrans has a litter abatement grant program based on local matches; Measure C’s spending rules are flexible enough to include litter abatement; heaven knows state roads through the county have a litter problem; for the sake of our image and good name, let’s get going by putting some skin in the game.
The board’s resolution highlights the dilemma of local officials who have no authority over state roads but get blamed by a public upset by the fouled nature of those roadsides:
1.) “Whereas, litter along the region’s freeways, highways and major arterials has been a perpetual issue for Fresno County and its communities …”
2.) “Whereas, the inventory of State highway miles in Fresno County has increased significantly since the mid-1980s, due in large part to new highway funding at the State and Federal levels as well as the significant contribution Measure C made towards the State highway system …”
3.) “Whereas, State resources for highway maintenance have not kept pace with said growth …”
The staff report from Transportation Authority Executive Director Mike Leonardo says the local matches can come from “the Flexible Subprogram of the Local Transportation Program. Participating agencies may also provide a soft match in the form of time and materials.”
I take that to mean some cities in Fresno County facing litter woes along their state roads may not have the cushion in their general funds to provide matching funds – but where there’s a will, the Transportation Authority and COG will make sure there’s a way.
“Depending on the success of this pilot program, there may be future opportunities to extend it,” Leonardo’s report says. The staffs of the Transportation Authority and COG “are also exploring other long-term strategies for dealing with litter along transportation facilities within the county.”
I chatted briefly with Leonardo last week. He said staff is in the process of drafting rules for applying for Litter Abatement Program funds. Leonardo said he knows the City of Fresno is keen on participating.
“Hopefully, we’ll have something in place after two years for the long-term,” Leonardo told me.
One of the unknowns in two years is whether Caltrans will continue offering litter abatement matching funds.
I suggested to Leonardo that, given the areas of responsibility in this particular public policy challenge, Caltrans needs our local agencies more than our local agencies need Caltrans.
Leonardo couldn’t hold back a chuckle.
“It is their system.”