From cigarette butts and empty soda cans to batteries and pesticides, litter not only harms quality of life, economic development and the environment, but costs Louisiana taxpayers an estimated $40 million dollars per year.
Fortunately for local residents, Keep St. Tammany Beautiful Executive Director Rick Moore has been working hard to combat litter in the parish by launching initiatives to improve clean-up efforts and streamline enforcement of litter laws. Moore received national attention for his local efforts earlier this year when he was honored with the 2017 Law Enforcement Award at Keep America Beautiful’s annual conference.
The anti-litter organization’s state affiliate, Keep Louisiana Beautiful, also recognized Moore for his achievements, presenting him with a 2017 Every Day Hero Award last fall.
“I’m passionate about litter enforcement and litter abatement,” Moore said. “I can’t stand St. Tammany being dirty. I enjoy getting it clean.”
Moore is no stranger to dealing with litter. As constable for Ward 3 in since 2001, he has been issuing summons and subpoenas for litter violations since St. Tammany Parish launched its litter court in 2002. However, in 2014, when he was appointed executive director of the newly formed anti-litter affiliate Keep St. Tammany Beautiful, Moore’s efforts expanded to a new level.
Originally, litter abatement was administered through a court-ordered community service program. With one van transporting only a handful of community service workers throughout the parish to collect litter, Moore said the program was much too small to make a visible impact.
“We just couldn’t keep up. It was impossible,” he said.
However, last March, with the support of Parish President Pat Brister, Moore expanded the abatement program by hiring inmate labor from the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office. Equipped with two more vans and trailers, and as many as a dozen pairs of additional hands, Moore said for the first time, the litter abatement program was able to adequately cover the parish.
The results, he added, were transformational.
“It was like flipping a switch in St. Tammany Parish,” Moore said. “You could see the difference within 30 days.”
Last year, the three vans traveled 1,048 miles throughout the parish. Workers collected 20,950 bags of litter, 2,004 tires and 147,760 pounds of dumpsite debris. All totaled, Moore said the abatement program collected a whopping 474,740 pounds of litter in 2017.
“In all my dreams, I never thought we’d pick up that much,” Moore said.
Abatement expanded to previously overlooked areas such as on-ramps, off-ramps and rural highways. Though such areas are not pedestrian, Moore said cleaning them also is important because it leaves a positive impression on motorists who are driving through or entering the parish.
“When people come into our parish, they know the parish government is taking responsibility to keep our parish litter-free,” Moore said.
Moore also streamlined enforcement in 2014 by consolidating litter court under one roof. Previously, litter violations were heard in court venues throughout the parish, depending upon where the designated justice of the peace was located. Now, litter court is held on the first Wednesday of each month at the St. Tammany Parish Council Chambers on Koop Drive in Mandeville.
Justices of the peace and constables serve on a rotating basis and process about 400 tickets per year. Moore said consolidation has streamlined prosecution, enforcement and collection of fines, and established a sense of cohesiveness to the Litter Court.
“It’s really working well. Before, the JPs were on their own. Bringing it to the parish council chambers makes it a little more professional,” he said.
Moore emphasized that the changes implemented in abatement and enforcement were not something he did alone, and he expressed appreciation for officials within the parish government, law enforcement and legal communities for stepping up to cooperate.
“Without the other people involved, this would never work,” he said, “I’m just so glad to be a part of it.”
Keep Covington Beautiful Director Priscilla Floca said before the launch of Keep St. Tammany Beautiful, Moore was an active board member of the Covington affiliate, and he worked closely with them on all projects. She is not surprised to see him making an impact at the parish level.
“I think it’s wonderful and much needed,” Floca said.
With St. Tammany Parish Litter Court now considered a model for the rest of the state, Moore has traveled to cities and towns throughout Louisiana to advise communities that wish to set up their own litter courts. He has collaborated with Keep Louisiana Beautiful and other state and federal agencies to present seven litter law enforcement workshops throughout the state.
In addition to Moore’s law enforcement award, Keep Louisiana Beautiful received two other recognitions at the national conference: the State Innovative Achievement Award for its “Leaders Against Litter” program, and the Diamond Level State Affiliate Recognition Award for outstanding programming and leadership.
KLB Executive Director Susan Russell, who once was director of Keep Mandeville Beautiful, traveled to the conference in Dallas last month to accept the three awards on behalf of KLB and Moore.
“It is a true honor to be recognized at the national level for the success of this organization and a testament to the dedication of our board of directors, staff, partnering organizations and the 27,6021 volunteers that make our vision for a cleaner, greener Louisiana a reality,” Russell said.
For Moore, the true reward appears to be a job well done.
“I enjoy keeping St. Tammany pretty,” Moore said. “I enjoy seeing progress. I think our citizens deserve a clean parish.”