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Cleanup shows potential and problems

Walking along the banks of the Ohio River in Ironton, all it takes is a little vision to see the proverbial diamond inside the piece of coal.

Granted it does take an open mind and a little imagination.

In your head, you have to replace the litter with playground equipment. Substitute weeds for finely-manicured greenspace. Visualize a nice restaurant in place of vacant earth.

But underneath all that lies great potential.

It just takes events like Saturday’s countywide cleanup — hopefully to be sustained all year long — for this potential to really standout.

The event was an overwhelming success, with hundreds of volunteers coming out across the county to make our communities shine.

Dan Palmer and the rest of the team at the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District should be commended for their hard work.

The community spirit and civic pride that erupts from this event are absolutely priceless.

But the cleanup also brought to light a number of other less positive facets of our community when it comes to cleanliness.

First, there still must be a significant part of the population that doesn’t know not to litter or simply doesn’t care. Our communities must find better ways to educate the former and punish the latter.

Secondly, some businesses and property owners simply don’t do their part to keep their property and area around their business looking good and trash free. This is the case across the county but especially an issue in downtown Ironton.

Many businesses do a great job but there are some who do not. I won’t name them but a quick drive through downtown will prove all the answers you need.

We need businesses to take responsibility and rise to the challenge. I plan to work harder to do our part here at The Tribune.

Third, there seems to be a lack of actual leadership by many of our elected officials.

At the start of the Ironton portion of the cleanup, not one city councilman or woman was there. Did they show up later? Were they part of some other cleanup efforts elsewhere? I don’t know, but I didn’t see a single member of the seven-person board the entire time I was there.

Leading the city is about more than showing up for a meeting every week or two.

Say what you want about his administration but Mayor Rich Blankenship had his hands dirty and was leading the way on this project. County commissioners Jason Stephens and Doug Malone were there. Were other county officials working elsewhere? Maybe. Did any of our state leaders decide to pitch in? Doubtful.

(Any elected official who volunteered but feels like they didn’t get credit is welcome to write a letter to the editor explaining to citizens where they were and how they contributed.)

This lack of participation has to change. We need our leaders to do so by example.

Every person who volunteered has other commitments and busy lives. We could have found other ways to spend our Saturday.

But we chose to spend it trying to make a difference.

Another positive is that a number of township trustees and clerks organized efforts in their own areas.

With this type of effort, teamwork and vision, all of Lawrence County can one day shine.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.