The dirty truth: what it takes to keep downtown clean

I smell like garbage. But that’s okay. I had the best day of the year this past week when I helped clean up downtown with the Downtown BIZ’s clean team.
Every now and then, I take to the streets with our front-line staff. It’s important to get your hands dirty, to see firsthand how your staff and the incredible work they perform impact our downtown. To get a better sense of what they do and how they do it. To understand and appreciate their challenges. To hear their ideas on how we can make their jobs more exciting, meaningful, and easier. So, I traded in my suit for a forest green uniform, work boots, a safety vest, and got an opportunity to get to know the people and the lives of my crew who serve as incredible ambassadors for our downtown.

I wanted to help clean up downtown with my team to show them how proud I am of them. I wanted my clean team to know that I appreciate the work that they do. And no doubt this week’s engagement with my team proved to deliver on this and more. Now that I have seen them in action, I can speak with confidence and integrity when I talk to the media or to our 1,300 members about how clean downtown truly is.

Hanging out with the team also reaffirmed my belief that they truly believe that they can transform the downtown daily. It’s obvious that our downtown-cleaning program is managed well and it shows. Picking litter, power washing sidewalks, cleaning bus shelters, removing graffiti and more – these are just a few of the daily tasks undertaken. I fear the day we stop. Because the trash, litter, and grime will not stop. It’s a daily war on downtown trash and litter. A war that we’re winning.

But it’s going to take the commitment of our entire community to keep downtown looking clean and great. Many of our business and property owners go the extra mile to keep areas around their buildings clean and tidy. They wash their windows, sweep the sidewalks. Thank you for caring when many others still don’t! And thank you to the many downtowners who move out of the way so we can do our job, and who smile and thank us when we keep sidewalks free of debris and garbage.

What I also learned was how businesses are creating jobs for people to improve the cleanliness of the downtown. Through their funding, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ has been able to employ nearly 22 full-time and part-time clean team employees. When I took a break during lunch to hang with the team, I was touched by a moment between Brendan, a clean-team employee, and his wife – they were chatting over Skype. She was incredibly proud of Brendan for working hard to put food on their table. It’s a tough job.
But it’s incredibly rewarding and steady. I’m proud of the people who work for us. They are the definition of family.

My brief experience with my clean team was rewarding for many reasons. Deep down, I am envious of the daily sense of accomplishment they are able to feel at the end of every day. I certainly felt it. Working in a suit behind a desk can create change, too, but it often takes much longer to achieve.

When I came home to my kids to kiss them good night, they asked why I was limping, aching and sore. All I told them was that I had a hard day at work.

Thanks team.

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