George Bush the First was the king of exploiting volunteerism. He encouraged volunteerism to supplement government services while shifting a lion's share of the annual federal budget to the Pentagon. Sure, get the plebs to sweep their own streets while we give big bucks to the military contractor mafia. White-collar and khaki-collar welfare.
Today, Boston sees the annual Boston Shines event, devised by late Mayor Menino, who promoted this method of annual parks and street cleanup. This seems like a great idea until a wise person looks up the Department of Public Works budget and compares it with his experience. Do we see DPW trucks buzzing around like bees? No. Do we see DPW crews doing regular maintenance in all parks and neighborhoods? No. Do all neighborhoods get equal treatment by the DPW? No. Do we see DPW trucks parked with workers lounging in the cab. Yes. Do we see DPW trucks parked at Dunkin Donuts? Frequently.
Two years ago I volunteered for Boston Shines on a humid sunny day. Most of us were over 40. Several of us were over 55. There were no children or grandchildren of civic association members there. After two solid hours of strenuous gutter cleaning along a long stretch of a major thoroughfare, my team of three were exhausted. We were all over 60. One was in her eighties.
Several months later the civic association voted not to back a measure for weekly street cleaning in our neighborhood. The measure was largely defeated by older landlords who complained that they and their tenants would have to move their cars to the designated side of the street one day a week for 4 hours. The real reason, I suspect, is that many of these landlords rent to tenants who do not register their cars in Boston to avoid high insurance, even though this is illegal. Street cleaning and permit parking are enforced equally with towing on street cleaning days.
If we had weekly street cleaning in concert with property owners cleaning up in front of their properties, there would be no need for Boston Shines. Routinely cleaned streets encourage cleanliness. This has been proven over and over in city after city. The successful exploitation of volunteerism by governments does not keep taxes down. It simply leaves more money available for corruption. Citizens would do better to use their civic-engagement time to file complaints about poor city services, submitted with videos and photos from mobile phones.