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Push for tidier city starting to pay off But more work to do, mayor says. 'If the streets look clean today, it's because of the rain we had Tuesday,' merchant maintains JAMES MENNIE, The Gazette Published: 4 hours ago As far as Raffi Kotchounian is concerned, if the streets aren't paved with cigarette butts it isn't so much because of an act of city council as an act of God. "I was walking down Ste. Catherine St. the Wednesday before the Grand Prix. The street was a mess - papers everywhere, garbage everywhere. ... It was filthy," Kotchounian said. "If the streets look clean today, it's because of the rain we had on Tuesday," he added. Kotchounian is the owner of the Vasco cigar store on Ste. Catherine east of Crescent St. He has been doing business on the street for 30 years. When it comes to assessing how clean - or not - the neighbourhood has become since Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and Ville Marie borough mayor Benoit Labonté declared separate wars on downtown litter, he gives credit where credit is due. "I have to tell you, the cigarette butts weren't as bad as the flyers," he said, referring to the handbills handed out by various nightclubs and businesses to downtown pedestrians. "They were a real problem. But with the police cracking down, it made a big difference." But Kotchounian's take on the big picture of downtown cleanliness is one that perceives the trash can as half empty rather than half full, presuming, of course, the trash can was even there to begin with. "There was a trash can at the corner of Ste. Catherine and Crescent that was taken away during the riot after the Canadiens-Bruins game (on April 21). "It still hasn't been replaced." Last Tuesday, the city of Mont-real kicked off its annual cleanliness campaign with Marcel Tremblay, the executive committee member in charge of the operation, meeting members of the media on a street cleaning vehicle as he explained how 200 cleaning crew members would be deployed in the city's 19 boroughs. That announcement was made a week after the downtown Ville Marie borough announced its own cleanliness crackdown, noting that more than $1 million in tickets were handed out last year. They were issued for infractions ranging from improperly recycling garbage to the lack of an ashtray outside a commercial establishment. The cleanliness campaigns have been going on for three years. While their effectiveness remains a matter of dispute, a stroll through the quadrilateral formed by Ste. Catherine St., de Maisonneuve Blvd., Atwater Ave. and St. Laurent Blvd. suggests that something has changed. Cigarette butts that could once be found by the score, piled at street corners or along sidewalks, were noticeable by their scarcity, popping up in ones or twos at the sidewalk's edge. City trash cans, once overflowing, had been cleaned and emptied, while the drifting paper, plastic bags and other lunchtime junk that seemed to be part of every summer breeze were absent. Tremblay, who once berated a passerby who was littering while the mayor was in the middle of a cleanliness photo op, acknowledged yesterday there was still work to be done. "Sometimes when I go up St. Laurent or St. Urbain, I'll see trash cans that are full. Perhaps we have to improve the logistics of emptying them," he said. "And when I drive around the city, I have these portable ashtrays in my car, and when I see a citizen throw their cigarette butt out of their car window or on the sidewalk, I'll stop, and I hand them an ashtray. "We're calling upon the civic duty of citizens, and it's starting to have a major impact. Mont-realers are proud. And they weren't proud to see that the city wasn't up to their standard. "But we still have a lot of improvement to do," the mayor said. [email protected] http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=fade8e50-eebb-4878-a41a-eecc8d1c4181
New broom sweeping Montreal clean INGRID PERITZ June 8, 2007 MONTREAL -- In Montreal this spring, a new army of enforcers is taking command of the streets and spreading fear in back alleys. They're tough, eagle-eyed - and armed with big brooms. The city in Canada best known for its insouciance and laissez-faire ways is suddenly aspiring to be Singapore on the St. Lawrence. This year, Montreal has declared war on trash. Besieged by criticism that downtown had become an open-air dump of litter and bulging trash bins, city hall made a clean sweep of it by adopting a bylaw on "civility, respect and cleanliness." Since last Friday, property owners downtown have become responsible for cleaning up in front of their homes and businesses. Fines start at $125 and reach $4,000 for repeat offenders. "This is probably the toughest bylaw of its kind in Canada, if not North America," said Benoît Labonté, mayor of Montreal's downtown borough. "There are no warnings, just tickets for violations. We mean business." Mr. Labonté has scheduled a news conference this morning to reveal the fruits of the new crackdown: In just seven days, the city's "trash troopers" issued about $70,000 in fines. Montreal was inspired by cities like New York and Paris, which turned around their notoriously unkempt appearance in a few years, Mr. Labonté said in an interview yesterday. "If it's good enough for New York and Paris, it's good enough for Montreal." Montreal has always had anti-trash rules on the books, but it put muscle this year into applying them: Ten more trash inspectors downtown, 189 young "cleanliness brigadiers," as well as 1,400 new garbage bins, 700 ashtrays and four solar-powered trash compactors valued at $4,700 apiece. Some people worry Montreal will get so clean it will be antiseptic. And the more cynical wonder if Mayor Gérald Tremblay isn't picking an easy target because it's a lot tougher to solve intractable problems like his woeful revenue sources. Still, many agree the city had let cleanliness slide in recent years, and civic pride with it. Complaints mounted about overflowing garbage cans, oozing back-alley dumpsters, and cigarette butts outside office buildings after no-smoking rules went into effect. "We'd let things go in the last few years, and it was visible," said Claude Rainville, head of a business development group in Montreal's Latin Quarter. "The industrial quantities of butts. The trash containers. It just wasn't welcoming." And the tough anti-litter talk isn't the only effort aimed at making Montrealers less unruly. Montreal police last year added 133 officers to its traffic squad to curb the notoriously bad habits of city drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. In the first four months of this year, police issued nearly 3,500 tickets for jaywalking, and plan to crack down on the habit through the summer, said Chief Inspector Réjean Toutant. "I understand that this is part of Montreal's culture. But that's no reason to let things go," he said. No smoking, no jaywalking, no littering - is Montreal losing its joie de vivre? Éric Montpetit, a political scientist at the University of Montreal, studied the city's litter problems and said the new efforts are long overdue. But the trash crackdown does appear to fit into a larger pattern. "Montrealers have long been the exception in Canada. We've been less disciplined and maybe a little less polite. But that wild side is also part of the city's charm," said Prof. Montpetit, who has lived in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Now, the efforts at behaviour reform may signal a shift. "Maybe," he said, "we're starting to Canadianize Montrealers."