Must Madison Terraces Be Ruined During Leaf Pick-Up?

The topic of leaf pick-up by the City of Madison during the fall season is not a new one on this blog.  Every year it seems I have cause to bring to the attention of my readers the reckless way that the city goes about its business when collecting leaves.

This year I am going to turn this annual debate over to the Point/Counter-Point of Neil Heinen, and Solly who is one of my long-time readers and commenters.

While I rake the leaves out of the street and understand the need not to help pollute the lakes, I also very much understand the anger and resentment as expressed by Solly when he speaks for what I think is an ever-growing segment of Madison.  The city would be wise to heed the concerns of folks like Solly so the larger reasoning of Heinen can be better implemented.

Now to the debate……

First the editorial comment from Neil Heinen on Channel 3000.

It never ceases to amaze –
driving around town and seeing mountains of leaves freshly raked and neatly
piled – in the street. Folks? Hello? For years now the unambiguous message from
those who care about our precious lakes and watershed – second only to reducing
the levels of phosphorus we send into our lakes – is keep your leaves out of
the gutters and storms sewers. Really. It’s bad. That’s why municipalities come
and pick them up.

Just leave them on the terrace, or better yet, mulch them, or compost them. But
if you want to get rid of them pile them on the terrace and let the sanitation
folks pick them up. But keep them out of the street. Even rainwater that washes
over them and then into the sewers picks up junk that’s not good for our lakes.
Do your part. Love the lakes. Curb your leaves and keep ’em out of the street.

Now the words from Solly, and his view that more and more residents of the city share based on how the terraces are mis-treated when leaves are collected.

It never ceases to amaze,
another condescending N.H. editorial with advice for what the great unwashed
can do. This campaign about no leaves in the streets started about the same
time the city changed its leaf pickup policy to get rid of overtime. (God forbid
the street department spend $ on overtime for anything in the rest of the city,
like leaf collection or plowing streets so that people can get to work, that’s
reserved for when the students change apartments and leave the lawns and
streets like pig styes with trash all over, and the streets department is
making collections practically 24/7). It used to be that the city could tell
you that if you had trash pickup on Monday, your leaf collection would be week
X in Oct., and Y in Nov, and you could rake them the weekend before the pickup.
No more, because they don’t want to commit to a particular week. Fine, the
first year we dutifully raked our leaves to the edge of the lawn, and they sat,
week after week. Finally the city came through with a garbage truck and a
bobcat, and instead of raking the leaves into the street so that the smaller
machine could push them into the truck lid, the bobcat went up onto the lawn,
and created a ten foot long gouge in the lawn (and didn’t do a very good job
picking up the leaves either). I waited a week or so, I thought surely I’d hear
from the city with an apology for wrecking the lawn, but nothing. When I called
the Streets Dept. and talked to a supervisor, he said “oh yeah, you’re on
a list for reseeding.” Gee thanks for sharing, do you think you could have
put a notice on the door to let the taxpayer/property owner know after you
slash the lawn?! It was that way all fall, winter and spring, bare soil washing
into the street. Much better. After that, my leaves went into a pile into the
street. It was very amusing to watch the same scene, fall after fall, as
neighbor after neighbor tried to do what they were told, and had the same
effect, vehicles rutting up their lawn. Next year, they put the leaves in the
street. And beyond that, as I saw taking walks on lunch on the west side, after
leaves have been piled on the terrace for 2, 3 or 4 weeks, they kill the grass,
and again bare soil washes into the street, and lakes. So, I say HELLO Neil
Heinen, why don’t you go back to endorsing various spending boondoggles, public
and charitable, to a viewing public that’s suffering from hard times, layoffs
and 8% Walker cuts. And leaf us alone!

One thought on “Must Madison Terraces Be Ruined During Leaf Pick-Up?

  1. As the city spends tens of thousands of dollars to implore people to keep their leaves out of the gutter, the failure to enforce polluted runoff laws on local construction sites (e.g. Willy street, Francis street, etc.) allows thousands of pounds of pollutants to enter the lakes every time it rains. Moreover, these are not pollutants that come from leaves or grass clippings (although some pesticides may be on grass clippings), these are neurotoxic, carcinogenic and otherwise toxic heavy metals, organic chemicals, salts, viruses, and bacteria.

    If the city, and by extension, Neil “Big Hiney” Heinen, were really serious about restoring and protecting our lakes, they would do a much better job of street sweeping and they would be spending money retrofitting storm sewers with pollution control technology so runoff is cleaned up before it reaches the lakes. But, alas, the weak-kneed weenies that come up with the city’s programs spend money on glossy nuzepaper inserts, lake celebrations, and other minimally – effective efforts that won’t offend anyone.

    So, Deke, you’re right on the leaves issue. The best thing to do is mulch them on site. Particularly oak leaves since they help to suppress weeds.

    For great local documentation of Madison’s failures when it comes to dealing with polluted runoff, check out the blog “Contractors Report” at
    and you’ll see the evidence for yourself.

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