Tuesday, December 12, 2006
[New York week, continued …]
What’s the most troublesome aspect of the pedestrian-oriented lifestyle of a Manhattanite, now that crime has plummeted and public transportation has been cleaned up (two achievements that seemed impossible as recently as the ‘70s, by the way)? It might well be dog poop. In my recent peregrinations around midtown Manhattan, it seemed that one couldn’t risk more than a few steps without scanning the sidewalk ahead for the unwanted brown smears. Why is there so much dog poop, while the rest of Manhattan has gotten cleaner? It may be that the replacement of young singles for families has led to a sharp rise in the number of companion dogs.
What should we do about the dog poop epidemic? Just grin and wipe it off (your shoes)? In the old stereotype of Paris, every shopkeeper finished his workday by washing down the sidewalk. A similar effort in today's American cities would fit with the model of private landowners as partial stewards of the public land and thoroughfares that facilitate their private ownership. The biggest lesson in governing over the past 30 years is that government cannot do everything; we need private participation in improving worthwhile public endeavors –- land use included.