Pittsburgh’s relationship with garbage has been complicated and colorful as far as slogans go. But only a few times it reached a point deserving of Shel Silverstein’s verses from “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out.”
Mostly, Pittsburgh did take the garbage out, and it kept appearing in the wrong places.
Mayors of Pittsburgh throughout the years used all means to clean up the city, launching all sorts of anti-littering campaigns, organizing volunteer groups and even resorting to family friendly trash talk.
Former Mayor Pete Flaherty called on residents to clean up the city “For Pete’s Sake.” City trash cans bore that slogan.
Sophie Masloff launched an anti-garbage campaign under a catch phrase: “Sophie’s Choice — A Clean City.” She was criticized for the slogan that seemed to be an inappropriate takeoff on the name of a famous movie and book depicting the plight of a Polish woman forced by the Nazis to choose which of her two children should die and which one should live. Some thought it was “good public relations,” others said it was in bad taste. Mrs. Masloff said, “It’s just a catch phrase. That’s why I chose it, not for any significance at all.” It was just a slogan, for Pete’s sake.
Tom Murphy wanted to “de-bug Pittsburgh” and make Pittsburghers aware of the effects of scattering paper cups, plastic bottles and cigarette butts.
“Do you know what the biggest complaint I get about the city?” he asked the Pittsburgh crowd in 2001.
“Taxes!” shouted one man.
“People say the city is dirty,” Murphy continued. “I ask you to pledge not to litter. Don’t throw that candy wrapper or potato chip bag into the street. Pledge not to be a litterbug.”
There were more catchy slogans: Mayor Bob O’Connor, for example, was for “Redding up the ‘Burgh.’”
Although Luke Ravenstahl was not the first Pittsburgh mayor to put his name on city garbage cans for publicity, his “Taking Care of Business” program stirred a controversy. Mayor Ravenstahl was criticized for spending $252,000 of state grant money for 252 trash steel bins adorned with his name.
William Peduto will not put his name on trash cans in any form — William or Bill — last week he issued an executive order banning elected officials’ names from city property. Mr. Ravenstahl’s name on the steel garbage bins will be no more.
But litter cannot be banned with an executive order. Pittsburgh is waiting for Peduto’s slogan, in line with the city’s traditions.
When is Kenny Chesney visiting the ‘Burgh again?