Last week, Mayor Sylvester Turner launched a new initiative, “One Clean Houston,” a $17 million program funded by the American Rescue Plan Act. The program is aimed at combating illegal dumping through rapid cleanup, better enforcement, and prevention and education.
“When we’re dealing with illegal dumping we need a holistic approach,” Turner said at the press conference announcing the program, “it needs to be very integrated and very robust working with our stakeholders.”
Constable Alan Rosen (Precinct 1) and Council Members Tarsha Jackson (District B) and Karla Cisneros (District H), all of whom have seen their jurisdictions plagued with illegal dumping, joined Turner to roll out the program.
“Illegal dumping is a citywide problem that has been a challenge for years,” Turner said, “there are too many examples and offenders that are destroying quality of life in some communities and breaking the law at the same time.” In the last 12 months, solid waste received over 5,000 complaints for illegal dumping according to the mayor.
The first part of the initiative, rapid cleanup, is aimed at getting trash off the streets as quickly as possible because “the presence of dumping often leads to more dumping,” the mayor said.
The $17 million for the initiative includes $11.5 million to increase heavy trash pickups and dumping and litter abatement. It also includes $3 million to purchase single-operator grappler trucks to improve collection efficiency and attract and retain solid waste workers with $200k in hiring incentives.
The program adds $419k for more cameras to catch illegal dumpers, $1.9 million for Harris County Precinct One’s Environmental Crimes Unit, $620k for a dedicated team of inspectors to enforce violations, and $100k to launch an environmental overtime program for Houston Police Department to aid in investigations.
The mayor is also encouraging people to “rat on a rat” by reporting violations to Crimestoppers where they could receive a reward up to $5,000. For cases where the District Attorney’s Office declines to accept, the city will move them to municipal courts.
The city has launched an online “Dumping Tracker” which can be found at HoustonTX.gov
Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and the Urban Reform Institute, both of which focus on researching and promoting free-market policies to foster upward mobility for those living in major metro areas. Blain has been published in the Wall Street Journal, City Journal, Forbes, the Houston Chronicle, the Hill, Wired, and HuffPost. He serves on the governing board of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program and the boards of Texas Families First, Good Policy Society, and Entre Capital, a commercial lender for businesses started by ex-offenders. In September 2021, Blain was appointed to a four-year term to the Texas Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights.