Sunday, March 11, 2007

Northern Louisiana didn't get a Toyota plant

I've been to 26 American states, and I couldn't help but notice that most of them don't spend as much on infrastructure as Ontario. This is the downside of having lower taxes, I suppose. You see it in the state of the roads. You see it in the trash on the roads. The northern states are usually in better shape (frost upheaval, you know), though the scariest city I've ever been in was Gary, Indiana. When it comes to infrastructure spending, Louisiana is one of the worst.

That lack of "attention to detail" was partially responsible for Northern Louisiana losing a new Toyota plant. State Sen. Robert Barham was part of group who took Japanese business people from Monroe to Franklin Parish, where they have an industrial site. One of the things they talked about was the amount of trash on I-20 along the route. The other big negative was the lack of skill in the local workforce.

The local media have been making a big deal about the trash part. In spite of the laws already on the books, you see an unsightly amount of garbage beside the road throughout Monroe. It's not like there are mounds of garbage bags and fly-covered garbage throughout the city. It's more like paper, cans, and Styrofoam cups in empty lots. Our street is bad because the apartments have dumpsters that aren't emptied enough. Every Monday the parking lot where I park downtown is littered with a couple of glass bottles (often broken). The head of our company, and several others, are forever picking up the litter near us. The city doesn't do it (but, then again, I'm not sure the city could afford more workers...) The roads are bad for rocks and gravel, too (which I noticed while cycling), indicating that the street cleaners aren't used very often.

Too many people drive around with garbage thrown into the backs of their pickup trucks. They seem to think that just because it sits in the truck bed when there's no wind and the truck's parked it won't fly out at 60 mph on the highway, or when the wind picks up. It's illegal to have trash flip out of the car, but until now that didn't stop anyone. We have neighbours who put their trash bags outside their apartment until they have enough to make the trip to the dumpster (maybe a 30 yard walk) worth their while, at which point they pile the bags onto the hood of their car and drive it over.

The city has started a big clean up drive. The horse now several furlongs down the road, it's time to lock the barn. Apparently there was a big clean up blitz this weekend. We weren't in town, so I didn't notice anything. I did notice a lot of trash along US 165 down to Alexandria; it's not just a Northern Louisiana problem, it extends to the entire state.

I noticed that no one wants to talk about the other reason this part of the state lost the Toyota plant: the unskilled workforce. Barham, the state senator, said that it's important that Delta Community College get a permanent campus. Apparently the only thing keeping the poor folk in the area ignorant is a roving campus. It doesn't, apparently, have anything to do with a large poor population without access to higher education.

The trash problem is, by comparison, easy to fix. Especially if you just use the low-risk offenders in the local jails to pick the stuff up as some have suggested. (Since a fine and eight hours community service is the penalty for littering, it could be a self-correcting problem.)


Alana said...

we...have street cleaners? are you sure that's not the zamboni left over from our short-lived hockey team?

Allan Goodall said...

Well, at the very least you think they could wire a street cleaner together from the shopping carts abandoned south of Desiard, and in the drainage canal beside Wal-Mart.

Michael said...

Proof positive that socialism works! [g]. It's not just Louisiana; in fact, I don't recall LA being any worse in the trash department than, say, western NY. Most of the US that I've visited has looked more run-down and cluttered than, oh, France.

Aside: the first time I ventured on French highways I was sure I was in for a terrifying experience. Instead, I was left slack-jawed at how good the roads are there. Even Canada could learn something about highways from the French. (Of course, we have a lot more country to cover, and the French don't have to worry about frost-heaving the way we do.)

The "socialism" crack referred to a story from the Conrad Black trial currently under way in Chicago. The judge asked one potential juror if she knew much about Canada. "Hardly know anything about it," she replied. "I do know that it's a socialist country, though."

Canuckistan lives, apparently.

Allan Goodall said...

The judge asked one potential juror if she knew much about Canada. "Hardly know anything about it," she replied. "I do know that it's a socialist country, though."

Wish I had seen that. That would have made a great blog entry in its own right!

Besides the fact that left-of centre does not equal socialist, and even a socialist party in control of Canada would not make Canada socialist, the party in power right now would love to be the Republican Party North if they could only figure out how to scrap health care.

I think the problem is that down here, when they talk about Canada, they talk about "socialized medicine", which gets corrupted to mean "socialism". It's one of the dirty little tricks the political right do in the U.S.