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Clean, but not to the extreme

Tampa Mayor Dick Greco wants the city to clean up its act, starting with those incessant signs.

Greco recently launched a campaign to rid the streets and public rights-of-way of illegally posted signs and ads. Violators could be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for six months. "I just got tired of looking at it. I hope people understand we can't have a city that looks like this," Greco said, standing ankle-deep in a pile of 5,000 illegal signs.

Now the mayor wants to hire 53 additional city workers for a task force to spruce up the city. The $2.1-million tab would be paid for through increased garbage, sewer and parking fees. "He wants to focus on one area at a time and give it a thorough scrubbing," his neighborhood liaison Judy Breuggeman told the Times. "We've had lots of neighborhoods lining up to say, "Me first.' "

Though Tampa certainly faces more pressing concerns than its clutter, Greco is right to highlight the need for city sheen. A clean city improves residents' lives and leaves a lasting impression on visitors and tourists. It also builds civic pride. "Mayor Greco believes a greener and cleaner city can lead to lower crime, more civic responsibility, and a city more willing to help out its neighbors," Breuggeman said.

At the same time, Greco should not throw out all reason with the signs and the trash. Neighborhood groups, which support the initiative, use signs as a means of unifying and communicating with their neighbors. Also, some neighbors, especially those without sidewalks, might have little choice but to use public rights-of-way adjacent to their homes for "For Sale" signs. Surely, most of these internal needs can be accommodated without doing harm to Greco's grand design.

Some design details remain to be ironed out. For instance, City Council member Bob Buckhorn has raised a legitimate issue about the fiscal wisdom of cleaning up vacant lots and other private property. Though such cleaning might be necessary, Greco should make sure that the city is reimbursed for its efforts where possible.

A cleaner Tampa is an idea residents can support as long as it is not taken to the extreme.