OK, Richmond, time to get clean. It's been a long, dark winter — and frankly, things have gotten filthy. We could spend a long weekend with dusters, scrubbers and squeegees, but that kind of light housework never lasts. So, here are a half-dozen radical ideas for reducing litter, clutter and chaos, leaving us with a gleaming and glorious city of the future.
- urban doodle do-over Yes, we know that graffiti is considered an art form. But that doesn't mean that just any moron with a can of Krylon is an artist. If you weren't talented to begin with, dangling upside down from a bridge in the middle of the night won't make you Banksy. Instead of chasing taggers like criminals, we should make graffiti legal, as long as the artist can pass tests in spelling and artistic merit.
- smoke the weeds instead. Nobody likes pulling weeds, but everybody loves flamethrowers. If you want to see an entire metropolis of immaculately defoliated sidewalks and medians, sign up ordinary citizens for "fire patrol." Let them strap on a backpack fuel tank and use a miniature fire-spewing cannon to vaporize crabgrass, dandelions and ragweed. What could possibly go wrong?
- clear the air. As the warm air works its smelly magic on stagnant water, full dumpsters and ripe alleyways, it's clear that radical olfactory action is necessary. Repurpose mosquito-spraying trucks so that they generate clouds of odor-eliminating Febreze. Neighborhoods will be free to choose their own scent (mmm, sandalwood around VCU?) and, of course, Shockoe Bottom has dibs on Axe Body Spray.
- panhandler makeover It's clear that you can make a living by soliciting change at intersections. But if you want to consider it a career, you should at least have to dress like a professional. Tuck in your shirt. Use crisp white poster board instead of cardboard for your sign. And when traffic is slow, grab a broom. If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.
- deep cleaning To get Richmond truly clean and keep it that way, we'll need to make sure not to skip the small things. What's on the to-do list of little stuff? Install plastic runners in all Fan alleys; routine skimming of the James River for stray leaves, beer cans and Confederate submarines; mandatory diapers for dogs; strict city dress code (no tank tops or cut-offs) and reintroduction of the Saggy Drawers Bill (AG Cuccinelli, we're looking to you for support). And a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for every man, woman and child.
- clean our butts. Every year, smokers flick millions of tiny white filters onto roads and into gutters. Those filters are made of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that can take years to biodegrade. So instead of spending forever picking up filters, why not just change how filters are made? How many filters do you think would get tossed if they were made of cotton candy? My guess is zero. Altria, get on it!