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The country needs a corrector-general

This czar would force us to fix things in the neighborhood, such as leaky oil pans, broken sprinkler heads that spritz pedestrians, and left-open garage doors.

By / March 13, 2009



In a recent statement dealing with the ongoing economic malaise, President Obama put forward this idea: “Out of crisis arises opportunity.” When I read those words, I saw my rendezvous with destiny.

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It’s all about uncovering basic household mistakes that are being made in every American city, and then encouraging corrective measures block by block. I’m therefore urging Congress and the president to insert special funding in the next stimulus package to create a new national service organization – an updated version of the Depression-era CCC.
But this time around the initials will stand for Civilian Correction Corps and it will be overseen by a new cabinet-level position, the corrector-general.

The first order of business on my street will be to end the sloppy, incorrect placement of garbage, green waste, and recycling cans on pick-up day. We’ve been informed repeatedly by the collection company that the large, wheeled bins must be at least five feet apart. This allows room for the mechanical arms on the truck to lift each container.
Yet many residents insist on placing the bins side by side. It looks very tidy, but the truck driver is forced to get out and separate them. With my CCC authority, such inefficiency would be quickly eliminated.

The power of the pen is a great persuader, and brightly colored chalk would bring that power to all paved surfaces. Simple, memorable slogans like, “Be Smart – Keep Bins Apart!” scripted on the sidewalk would provide cheerful information without intimidation.

In the fall, I’d zero in on dead leaves that pile up along curbs and cover catch basins, leaving rainwater with nowhere to go. A boldly drawn arrow pointing to the blockage would be accompanied by the suggestion, “Give Drains a Break – Get Out the Rake!”

Drops of oil in the street? I’d put red circles around each shiny smear and proclaim “Engine leaking, no good! Time to check under the hood!”

I knew all those years of reading Dr. Seuss would pay off someday. “Pick up litter before you Twitter!” “Look at That – Your Front Tire’s Flat!” “Bikes Left on Law – Might Soon Be Gone!”

There’s no end to the minor everyday mistakes that could be swiftly corrected by alert CCC patrol teams: broken lawn sprinklers spraying water into the street instead of on the grass, homework assignments dropped on the way to school, and garage doors accidentally left open after midnight (this one is tricky; best to get permission ahead of time for such wake-up calls).

If I’m tapped to be the first corrector -general so be it. And I would not discount the idea of eventually giving the CCC authority over indoor activities. I know for a fact that many Americans are all wrong when it comes to the proper method of loading a dishwasher (“plates jammed together, won’t last forever”).

The president hasn’t called yet. But I’m sure he has my number.

Jeffrey Shaffer writes humor from Portland, Ore.

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