Where Do We Go From Here? Toward a Sustainable Solution.

Posted on July 7, 2012

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I’ve noticed a definite improvement in the way residents in my neighborhood are putting their trash out since we first called attention to the rat problem 2 weeks ago. Most bags are being placed on top of trash cans instead of on the sidewalk.

At 68 Essex, there have been no signs of life. There is no trash on the premises whatsoever and no one has placed any trash out on the curb on collection day for the past 2 weeks. The owners have resurfaced their driveway, though, and just this morning, I saw someone sitting on the front porch.

Ward 3 Councilor Darren Cyr tells me that Inspectional Services has been going out at 6AM every day and issuing an average of 90 fines a day. So even if the mayor didn’t allocate any money for rat control, the city is cracking down short-term in the most obvious way. Some are accusing health inspectors of trespassing. I see no merit in this charge; health inspectors have the lawful authority to enter private property where they see a health violation.

Just down Essex St. from me, in a pilot program, the Lynn Housing Authority has provided residents of a new housing development on Fayette Street with special recycling totes to reduce the amount of trash produced per household. Coupled with education on proper trash disposal, the program seems to be a success.

LHAND Planning and Development Director Norm Cole says that “doing the right thing with trash is just one part of the solution. You’ve got to have a plan to educate people, but you also need to exterminate the varmints.”

I agree. One approach by itself isn’t going to solve the rat problem. Changing people’s behavior has always been a challenge. Fines are a direct form of punishment, but unless the city issues them consistently and unmercifully, their effects will wear off and we’ll return to the old behaviors. I’d rather see positive rewards for doing the right thing. I’d rather see a sustainable solution.

So short-term, OK, the city is responding to the situation. Long-term, we need more than just fines or just education or just extermination. What I hope to focus on in the near future are those solutions.

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