Readers React: Rwanda can teach Angelenos a lot about cleaning up our filthy city


To the editor: Having just returned from my second trip to Rwanda for a one-month stay, I have a suggestion to add to Charles Fleming’s do-it-yourself strategy for cleaning up the streets of Los Angeles.

On the last Saturday of every month, citizens of the country are mandated to participate in “Umuganda,” which means “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.” Police, politicians, doctors, potato growers, men, women and children — everyone is required to do something for the community, and they enjoy doing it together.

When I was there at the end of June, the day started with no driving, no taxis and few shops open anywhere — nothing except sweeping, planting, repairing, painting, washing and other work for the common good. Around noon that Saturday, all returned to normal.


There is a pride Rwandans take in caring for their communities, especially with the memory of their genocide 24 short years ago. The citizens know what was almost completely lost. I can tell you this: You will never see a cleaner city than Kigali, the capital.

Lise F. Spiegel, Encino


To the editor: Finally, someone has put a voice to my neighborhood trash frustration.

Together with a small group of like-minded persons who are obsessive by nature about keeping our sidewalks, gutters and common spaces clear of trash, I head out weekly to pick up trash in my community. One friend blames it on birds who pick out food containers from open trash cans then drop them along the way. But I say it’s people who produce the trash by tossing everything and anything out their car windows.

The problem is not only litter, but also the litterers. We need to hear from them too, as to why they do it.

— Peter Yates, Culver City

Sometimes it’s just a matter of not having a trash can nearby, so a simple solution that has worked is to get one and zip-tie it to a pole in an area where you keep finding litter. You just have to remember to take it upon yourself to empty it on a regular basis because no one else will.

Cindy Simon, Pacific Palisades


To the editor: I applaud Fleming’s condemnation of littering. We live in a dump.

Like him, I can be seen around the neighborhood, stooping to snap up dropped items. Though the task never stays done, in minutes, it makes a profound impact. It is one of the most instantly productive acts one can perform.

I disagree that police have more important things to do than enforcing litter laws. Trash abatement is a realm where government can make an important difference, and the problem is not only litter, but also the litterers. We need to hear from them too, as to why they do it.

Volunteerism is essential. Also, hire homeless people to help beautify the streets. Deputize citizens to catch offenders on camera. Educate. We are the trash we toss.

Peter Yates, Culver City

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