Boston is a city of neighborhoods. There's the city proper, but Boston also encompasses Roxbury, Dorchester, the South End, South Boston, Allston Brighton, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Charlestown, Back Bay, Bay Village, West Roxbury, Roslindale, the North End, Mattapan, Beacon Hill, East Boston and a handful of others whose residents will chide me for leaving them off the list. There are 23 neighborhoods in all, and each has its own personality.
But one constant in each of the neighborhoods is a plethora of signs and placards on trees, telephone poles, and occasionally a fence or two. The signs advertise everything from dog-sitting services and neighborhood yard sales to area concerts and political candidates.
Technically, the city frowns on the signs. One section of the city's official website dealing with "common code enforcement issues," there's this: "You can't post signs of any form in the City, including on city buildings, poles or traffic light posts, private property, or trees."
Nevertheless, the signs persist.
Often the signs persist long after the items featured on them have come and gone. That they linger irks one reader who lives in one of Boston's many neighborhoods.
"We've had an annual yard sale every fall in our neighborhood for at least the past 20 years," writes A.W. Responsibility for organizing the sale and getting signs up, maps made and social media notifications out has shifted frequently over the years.
For the past couple of years, A.W. writes that the organizers don't take down the dozens of signs they've posted on telephone poles and trees after the sale is over.
"Even three months later, I'm still seeing some posters for the sale."
At first, A.W. was reluctant to take a sign down that someone else had posted. But as the weeks wore on, the fading signs struck her as a bit of a blight and she began to take one down every time she ran into one.
"But I don't know where they were all put up," she writes.
"Shouldn't the organizers be responsible for making sure any signs they put up are taken down after the event?" asks A.W.
Yes, of course they should, and not just because they were likely violating city code by posting them in the first place. Leaving the signs up after the event concludes and allowing them to turn into neighborhood litter might suggest a lack of respect for the neighborhood.
The right thing is for the volunteer organizers to make plans to take the signs down. But because the signs concern A.W., there is a way for her to increase the likelihood that the problem is addressed at next year's sale.
A.W. indicates she looks forward to the neighborhood yard sale every year. She enjoys selling and buying stuff and schmoozing with neighbors and visitors who descend upon the neighborhood to shop. She's involved in the sale, but she has never been part of the team that organizes the event. Because she ends up removing some of the signs as she happens upon them after the event anyway, A.W. might want to volunteer to assist next year by being the person who removes the signs after the event.
Sometimes getting more involved yields desired results.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2020 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
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