Open letter to Mayor Menino
re: Boston's Rodent Problem
by Stephen Puibello
(Steve Puibello writes freelance for Digital City Boston-AOL)
In reading the August 3rd 1998 Globe article, "Rats! Foiled by Back Bay Sanitation Squad" I'm happy that our Director of Rodent Control is taking a serious approach this time around. After reading, "this is unacceptable" in regards to the dumpster problem, and knowing that Sterling Saunders, a former inspector himself said it, I feel better already. Dumpsters are a major problem as they aren't permitted nor maintained by their owners. By not having a permit on the dumpster, makes Code Enforcement Police job of enforcing all the State Sanitation (trash) codes impossible.
Dumpsters aren't the only problem that the "15-member Community Sanitation Department" have to contend with. This years budget of $877,500 simply isn't enough money to handle this problem. In 1995 Rodent Control's budget was $245,515, in 1996 it was $320,131, in 1997 it almost tripled to $900,541. How could anyone decrease this budget, when "each night they are out there, killing dozens, but the rat population is bigger than the rodent control division.'' These figures taken from the city budget, that our City Council vote on each year, requires an emergency session. Our public health should be on all their minds when they vote, as rats carry diseases.
Why hasn't our Rodent Control Department tried any new ideas in dealing with the rodent problem? Ideas like "it is essential that rubbish not be placed out until the morning of collection, and that strict enforcement is important," from a letter mailed to me dated March 16, 1998 from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health-Sanitation Division. In addition "central to reducing the rat problems is sanitation, changing sanitation regulations, getting stronger enforcement, achieving better containment of trash are all necessary." This sentence was received via email from Dr.Bruce Colvin of the Central Artery Tunnel Project Rodent Control, leading expert on rodents. These recommendations are good ones and should be implemented as they come from two excellent sources, both working for the State of Massachusetts. By increasing the budget for the two departments that combat "the war on rats", those being Rodent Control-ISD and Code Enforcement. By amending or writing new city ordinances that are tough on trash, by making permits necessary on all dumpsters, by enforcing no over-night storage of trash all over the city and by posting metal signs on polls in each neighborhood that inform residents about the trash collection schedules will provide our 15 soldiers of ISD Rodent Control and the 8-10 Code Enforcement Police with better ammunition, so that together they can win this "war on rats."
ABC News Magazine primetime spotlighted the rat problem in Boston. They mentioned that the discontinuance of funding for a national rodent control program that existed in the 1980's led to a proportionate increase in rodent population in the 90's. Always nice to know our graduate mathematicians are out there producing for us!
Fenway Rat postcards have been popping up around the neighborhood. Guess the old saying is true - "If ya can't beat'em, join 'em." Seems some of the kids have decided to make our commonest critter the neighborhood mascot. Fitting. Although I'm not sure Mom and Pop are gonna appreciate the humor of it when their kids mail 'em home. Oh well. Wanna send your Mom a Fenway Rat postcard? Check Tower or Newbury comix, they might have 'em for ya.
There's been rumors about City Hall making a big announcement regarding the escalating rat war. Are the bigwigs in town actually going to move on the issue? Well it IS election year, so ya never know. But don't hold your breath. Unless of course you're crossing the Muddy River! :-)