Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thank you

Friday was an amazing day. Thank you. Thousands of people came together for a single cause: a more beautiful Saipan. Young and old, citizen and non-citizen, local and non-local, government workers and business owners volunteered a few hours of their time to pick up the trash littering our beautiful island. Later this week the islands of Tinian and Rota will do the same. Again, Thank you.

Our results were staggering. The final numbers are still being tallied, but our preliminary count shows 4040 volunteers, 55 volunteer groups and 48 adopted sites on Saipan, and 12,960 lbs of trash removed from our streets, beaches, and parks.

The collaboration between groups to make this island wide cleanup a success was enormous. Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Rotary Club of Saipan handled most of the pre-cleanup coordination and sign-ups. Marianas Visitors Authority, Marianas Tourism Education Council, McDonald’s, and the Kramis Family provided funds for supplies and prizes. On the day of the cleanup DEQ, Bureau of Environmental Health, and Division of Parks and Recreation coordinated all of the trash pickup. Additionally there were 55 volunteer group coordinators, who ensured that their adopted site had rubber gloves, trash bags, and most importantly, volunteers.

In every way, from the total number of volunteers, to the number of participating groups, to the amount of litter removed, this year’s cleanup was bigger than anything the Beautify CNMI coalition has ever accomplished.

Furthermore, if the success of this cleanup has anything to teach us, it is that the government does not have the sole responsibility of solving our social problems, nor do they hold a monopoly on having the ability to fix them. We just showed that with a slight change in ethic and a small amount of effort on everyone’s part we can move mountains, in this case a 6.5 ton mountain of cans, bottles, and cigarette butts.

Unfortunately, Saipan’s streets and beaches will be covered in litter by the end of the week. Over the weekend hundreds of people went to the beach and left their trash, cigarette butts and cans are still being thrown out of cars, and homestead residents continue to dump their trash in the jungle.

Instead of being discouraged by this realization, I ask all of you to become reenergized. Change happens. The success of Beautify CNMI over the last three years and this latest cleanup are proof of that. Let us redouble our efforts to turn the Marianas into the cleanest, safest islands in the Pacific.

I encourage the volunteer groups that participated in this cleanup to adopt their spot for the next 12 months. Become the steward of that road, beach, or park for the next year.

I also encourage the eight government agencies charged with enforcing our litter laws to start making examples of some of the worst litter offenders. Hand out a few of those $500 tickets to businesses not properly storing their garbage or to residents dumping their trash illegally.

Finally, I encourage our donors to continue supporting our cleanup efforts. We cannot paint over graffiti if we do not have paint and we cannot pick up litter if we do not have garbage bags.

Volunteers, government policy, and business support are the three legs on which Beautify CNMI stands. The continued involvement of all three will improve the quality of life for the people that live here and make us a more desirable tourism destination.

Again, thank you to all who have supported the concept of Beautify CNMI over the last three years and to everyone who participated in this historic island wide cleanup. I look forward to many more years of collaboration and hard work as we move towards a more perfect Commonwealth.

Angelo Villagomez
Beautify CNMI

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