Adjustment of attitudes is needed

Adjustment of attitudes is needed By David Lias The irony of the present climate in Vermillion is impossible to ignore.

Last week's edition of the Plain Talk included a report of a successful community cleanup effort known as Operation Pride.

Operation Pride is a year-long community improvement movement encompassing a number of programs, from old tire disposal to scheduled free dumping of refuse at the local landfill.

The University of South Dakota football squad took to the streets April 29 and loaded dumpsters and trailers with countless pieces of refuse, including old windows, abandoned couches, and even old wooden house shutters.

The end result � homes and yards located on and between Dakota and Plum streets and Clark and Main streets are now much tidier.

Anyone who viewed Operation Pride had to watch it all with a bit of pride and a bit of amazement. There is no doubt that the crews that loaded dumpsters with junk and fed tree limbs and branches into a chipper to be transformed into mulch were doing a very good thing � something of which anyone would be proud.

The amazing thing is how all of us, in our exceedingly materialistic ways, can find ourselves overrun by stuff we either don't need or we've worn out in a fairly short span of time.

The items that lined Vermillion's streets didn't just appear on curbsides by themselves. At one time they were purchased, used, and perhaps abused or no longer needed. They were transformed into junk.

And sadly, it's that junk that now clutters our lives. Instead of taking the effort to haul the stuff to the landfill ourselves, we keep it � hidden in basements, stacked in the back of the garage, overgrown by brush and weeds in that corner of the yard we hope no one will see.

Now for the irony.

In the same week the Plain Talk reported on Operation Pride, the Volante, the student newspaper of The University of South Dakota, reported on its front page that "Students 'Trash' Main Street."

The story notes that weekend mornings in downtown Vermillion are not pretty.

"From broken beer bottles to the smell of vomit," wrote Volante reporter Trisha Leimkuhl, "traces of the parties held the night before line the sidewalk."

Leimkuhl's report includes comments from two Main Street business owners who are forced to take time out of their busy schedules to clean up the mess they commonly find in front of their stores.

It appears that at the same time much planning and manpower and positive citizen response made a project like Operation Pride a glowing success, another element � mainly irresponsible patrons of Vermillion's downtown drinking establishments � made a mess of Main Street.

Operation Pride was a positive step forward. The practices of some unruly bar patrons, however, take the community two steps back.

It is important for Vermillion to continue Operation Pride, the annual downtown flower planting project, and the hanging of banners on light poles.

These practices, naturally, help beautify the city. They also do significantly more than that.

They are all outward signs that we care about the condition of the city we call home. The value of sending such a message to anyone who visits the community is invaluable.

Anyone who takes a long drive throughout Vermillion knows there is still work to be done. Just like practically every other community in the state, ours is not without its rundown homes, overgrown yards, dead and dying trees and, on top of it, people who act like slobs.

Operation Pride, it appears, was a victorious battle against the tendency of today's society to obtain more and more in material goods without taking a moment to give away things that are still good or throw away items that have worn out.

But it didn't win the war. As the Volante noted, many citizens are the worst enemy of the community's cleanup efforts.

Vermillion needs to keep scrubbing and picking up trash. But to truly win this war, people's attitudes about what constitutes a clean city will have to change.

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