- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - Alexandrians are being urged to take pride in their community by not littering and not loitering - and to report such behavior when they see it.

Not only would a reduction in such activities make for nicer neighborhoods, community leaders say, it would boost economic development potential by making areas more attractive to businesses.

City Councilman Roosevelt Johnson recently organized a gathering of other city officials and more than a dozen neighborhood leaders at the corner of Lee Street and Texas Avenue, where they implored citizens to help keep their neighborhoods clean and to help stop behavior that degrades the quality of life.

“This is about taking pride in our community, taking pride in our neighborhood, taking pride in our city,” Johnson said.

“We want to make sure that the community is safe, the community is sound. There’s no littering; there’s no loitering, no prostitution; there’s nothing taking place that we don’t want to see.”

As he spoke, Johnson was among those holding signs that said: “Be Proud of Our Community. No Littering, No Loitering.”

Johnson said the problems of littering, loitering and other transgressions, including prostitution, are not limited to his District 2.

The Rev. Stanley Mathis, pastor at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, is a leader in the South Alexandria Revitalization Committee, which conducts cleanups and other improvement projects.

The committee has been successful in getting businesses to join in cleanups, Mathis said, “and we want the people to take ownership in not only their property, but take ownership in the community.”

“Lives can be changed if we apply ourselves and do more for ourselves and the community,” Mathis said.

Jewel Johnson, president of the Martin Park Airview Terrace Homeowners Association, encouraged citizens to pitch in to keep their neighborhoods clean and to “request whatever assistance that we need from the city” to address littering, loitering and other such problems.

“Citizens have to do what we’re called to do to stand up for our neighborhoods,” Johnson said.

Tommy Milo, also with the Martin Park Airview Terrace group, said, “It’s a ‘we’ thing. It’s an ‘us’ thing in terms of all of us trying to work together.”

At-large Councilman Lee Rubin and District 4 Councilman Harry Silver were among those on hand.

Silver said city workers can’t keep the entire city clean by themselves; they need help from the citizenry.

“Everyone has to have the responsibility of chipping in and taking pride,” Silver said.

The city is called the heart of Louisiana, he said, so “let’s have a heart and let’s make Alexandria shine.”

“Let’s not litter to begin with,” Rubin said. “If we don’t litter to begin with, we don’t have litter to pick up. Let’s show a little pride in our community.”

He urged citizens to report instances of drug dealing, prostitution and other crimes to the Police Department so officers can “get those folks off the streets.”

Helen Johnson, who has lived in South Alexandria since she was married 69 years ago, said residents need to come together to improve that area of town.

Councilman Johnson said he picked the intersection of Lee and Texas as the site to gather for two reasons.

First, the city bus stop near that intersection has been plagued with littering and loitering problems. The bus stop was recently moved a little farther away on Texas Avenue from that intersection to get those problems away from the heavily trafficked Lee Street corridor, he said.

Second, Greyhound has a bus stop there, and seeing litter, loiterers and prostitutes in that area gives people on the bus, as well as passersby, a negative impression of Alexandria, he said.

Ernest Nelson, who is with the probation/pre-trial division of Alexandria City Court, said residents who see trash can report it to probation department so it can be picked up by persons sentenced in “litter court” to a trash-pickup detail.

Louis Marshall, a former city councilman and a member of the South Alexandria Revitalization Committee, said the Bolton Avenue area also has its share of litter and other problems.

“It’s a citywide thing. It’s not just the South Alexandria area or the Bolton Avenue area. It’s all over the city,” Marshall said.

People visiting or even driving through Alexandria “don’t want to see a lot of littering, prostitution and drug dealing. You don’t need that. It makes Alexandria look bad, and we’re not that bad,” he said.

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