Many years ago, the Keep America Beautiful national campaign included a television advertisement that featured an Indian chief, played by Iron Eyes Cody, shedding a tear as he looked across a garbage-strewn landscape. The campaign tugged the heartstrings of many Americans, and for a while community after community adopted the slogan "You've got to pitch in to clean up America" as their rallying cry.
But the novelty of the campaign soon wore off, and thus today keeping America beautiful is no longer a priority for many people.
A recent three-part Vindicator series, "Eyesores In Our Neighborhoods -- Beyond the Blight," about the deterioration of many neighborhoods and commercial areas in the Mahoning Valley revealed this bitter truth: Too many residents in our region just don't care enough to keep their own properties clean, let alone take care of their communities.
Hundreds of readers responded when we asked for information about eyesores that they wanted to see cleaned up. The responses were the basis for the series written by Staff Writer Roger G. Smith.
Plea for help: The front page of the May 20 edition displayed three photographs that aptly illustrated the comment from Charles Felton of Austintown: "PLEASE!!!!! Can't you do something?" The photographs showed a rundown house with an unkempt yard in Youngstown, an abandoned gas station in Boardman and a trash heap in Youngstown.
Felton's cry for help was one of many heard by The Vindicator. Those residents of the Mahoning Valley who take care of their properties and even pitch in to keep their communities clean wonder how others can live their lives with such disregard for their neighbors.
We share their displeasure and believe that strong medicine, such as arrests of those who use vacant lots as dumping grounds, is needed to modify the behavior of these irresponsible citizens.
We are well aware that there are people who are physically unable to take care of their homes or are in such dire financial straits that they can't afford to pay for repairs. Government should step in to help them.
On the other hand, the able-bodied have no excuse for living in squalor.
Local governments say they're spending more money than ever to address the problem of blight, but that individual responsibility is what will make the difference in the neighborhoods. They're right.
Each of us must do our part to clean up the Mahoning Valley.