In 1916, the appearance of Detroit’s streets, alleys, and public places was “disgraceful”. People regularly dropped paper and other waste wherever they were, rubbish was thrown into alleys with merely the hope of hitting the receptacle intended to hold that waste, and a fine filmy dust was constantly settling on the roads creating a “nuisance”.
At the same time the population of the city was growing extremely rapid, with new territories annexed to the outskirts of what then constituted the city.
In 1917, a fledgling organization called the Detroit Bureau of Governmental Research (which later was renamed the Citizens Research Council of Michigan) issued a report to help the city deal with these problems. The Report on Street Cleaning and Refuse Collection recommended a number of changes based on good government ideas and best practices from other cities. Recommendations dealt with organization for the Bureau of Sanitation; civil service practices to avoid patronage; and appropriation, payroll and record reform to provide better accountability. Operational reforms were offered for street cleaning, including: the street flushing, machine sweepers, pavement sprinkling, hand sweeping (“white wing” patrol), and snow removal. Other operations reforms dealt with collection of refuse, including: providing better definitions of rubbish to allow separation, rerouting collectors, and greater incorporation of the new automobile trucks into trash collection and removal.
The report implored Detroiters to take greater care to clean up after themselves or the work of the city sanitation forces could never keep up.
At the request of a website visitor, the report has been scanned and is now available on the CRC website.