Most neighborhoods, it seems, have at least one resident who has no interest in keeping up appearances. While everyone else mows regularly, picks up loose trash and gets rid of old vehicles instead of abandoning them on the street, there's that one neighbor who simply doesn't care. They are the ones who can be -- and more than 7,400 times last year were -- cited for violating the Cape Girardeau's nuisance ordinances. Other towns have similar laws and procedures.
In a few cases, property owners are cited for messes made by others. For example, if someone throws out all the trash from a fast-food meal in your yard, it's your responsibility to pick it up. And failure to do so could result in a citation.
In a few others cases, property owners may be physically unable to tend to such nuisances or may not be able to afford to hire someone to mow the lawn. They, too, can be cited for violations.
As organizers of the local anti-litter campaign of a few years ago quickly learned, a major part of solving the problem of a trashy city is to educate the public about the issue and build up pride in the city. This is hard to do in some areas, and some individuals are unlikely to ever buy into the notion that a city's beauty is just as important an asset as good streets, schools and businesses.
But here's the good news: There are far more residents of this area who take pride in their surroundings than there are trashy neighbors. Cleaning up and fixing up can be contagious, and the more we strive to keep our cities attractive, the more likely others are to become more conscious of their civic duty to pitch in.