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Syracuse wages war on litter

Ellen Abbott

Central New York is waging war on litter. A wide ranging coalition of Democrats and Republicans, and state and local officials, want to get the word out that tossing trash on local roads is bad form.

To start their campaign, officials gathered Monday at the Syracuse Department of Public Works facility off Midler Avenue.  There was the usual roadside litter in the big bin -- cups, cans and cardboard.  But there were a couple of items that really galled Republican State Senator John Defransisco.

"There were two couches, for crying out loud, that were picked up." Defransisco said.

The three tons of trash was collected along a stretch of I-690 between Teal Ave and Thompson Road in Syracuse last week.  Democrat Dave Valesky says if that's typical of Syracuse interstates, the community is using these roads as a garbage can.

"The city of Syracuse has about 17 miles of interstate.  So if you do the math, three tons in two miles, we're looking at over 25 tons of garbage or 50-thousand pounds, so that's absolutely unacceptable," said Valesky.

The event marked the start of a public awareness campaign sponsored by the bipartisan coalition of state and local officials.  One thing you'll be hearing about is enforcement of litter laws.  Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says they will follow up on anyone ticketed for littering.

"For a first offense, you're facing a potential $350 fine or ten hours of community service.  What we do instead of a conviction is give you the opportunity to work on the community court van and spend the day cleaning up trash in the city of Syracuse," said Fitzpatrick.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the city will schedule ongoing coordinated cleanups of sections of the 17 miles of interstate through the city, as well.  Up to now, the city has only cleaned up the on and off ramps to the interstates.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.