The Dirtier South

I spent the weekend in North Carolina with my college girlfriends. We get together every 6 months or so to drink wine and stuff our faces in what my brother-in-law refers to as “Girls Gone Mild.” I drove up to Charlotte to spend Thursday night with one of the girls who lives there, and then she, another friend, and I headed over to near Asheville.

Whenever I spend time in another city, I find myself comparing that city to Atlanta, and this was no different, except that I was really bothered by the comparison. I have been to Charlotte quite a few times, since my friend works there, and since a software company that I worked for was bought out by a Charlotte outfit. I am always struck by how similar Charlotte and Atlanta are in so many ways; both of them seem to be very cosmopolitan, to have a young, affluent, well-educated workforce, and to thrive on dining and shopping and driving SUVs.

There were differences, too, in my superficial gaze at the Queen City: Charlotte’s business crowd seems a little more clean-cut than Atlanta’s. I suppose that might be due to the banking influence there versus our Turner creative types. There may be one there, but I didn’t see any Piedmont Park-like greenspace in Charlotte. The most obvious difference between the two, though, was that Charlotte seemed so much cleaner than Atlanta. Sure, there were some rougher, more industrial areas on the way into the city, but for the most part, Charlotte was almost antiseptic. Much of Charlotte’s skyline seems made up of new architecture, while Atlanta’s seems a little time-worn. I often think that Atlanta is almost soul-less – that it hasn’t quite found itself. Charlotte seemed even more without a particular “feel” to it. I guess part of that is the nature of both cities – both seem to have been built up most recently with the transfers of so many people who are not from the city. Rarely in Atlanta does one find an Atlanta native; My friend said the same of Charlotte.

I am curious, though, what accounts for the comparative cleanliness of Charlotte when compared to Atlanta? I can sit at any intersection in intown Atlanta, look out of my window, and see an appalling amount of litter on the roadside. I didn’t see this kind of trash anywhere that I drove in downtown Charlotte, or in the “gentrifying” area in which my friend lives.

How does Charlotte seem so clean, while Atlanta seems to me to be so dirty? What can we do to improve Atlanta’s curb appeal? Is it the city and county governments at fault for not cleaning up the trash? Is it the citizens themselves that are so different? Or maybe it is just the sheer size difference between the two. Is it just easier to keep a Charlotte-sized city clean than it is to keep Atlanta clean?

12 Comments so far

  1. Cletus McNirtny (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Charlotte on business, and the downtown area is much more well kept than our downtown. It wasn’t always this way, though, and the downtown Charlotte you see now is only 20 or so years old. “The Banks” have done a good job of revitalizing that area. However, Charlotte seems to die after dark with the exception of a few areas. They also have their share of neighborhoods you don’t want to be caught in after dark.

  2. Annie (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 4:16 pm

    Interesting. You are right – Charlotte REALLY dies after dark. Atlanta’s downtown could be a little more vibrant after dark, though, in my opinion, too.

  3. Mike (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

    Atlanta is a filfthy city. I’m always amazed at the amount of litter around this city. There is no excuse for it. Atlanta has an entitlement attitude and that includes being entitled to throw your trash out of your car window while sitting in traffic. People are more concerened about the cleanliness of their cars than they are about the city and the environment as a whole.

    Instead of a branding campaign, Atlanta needs a “No Littering Campaign”. Part of the problem is we have made “community service” of that type a lowly thing that only criminals and inmates do. Fact is we should all be proud of doing community service of any type and that includes picking up trash. How any one can rationalize littering is beyond me!

  4. Annie (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 4:43 pm

    It had not occurred to me that maybe people think they are above picking up trash. I’ve always just thought of it as “ignorant people throw trash, smart people clean up after themselves.”

    Either way, I agree: There is no excuse. We could use a Keep Atlanta Clean initiative.

  5. bti (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 5:55 pm

    Saying that you can’t find a native in Atlanta is a bit superficial. However, I can see how a stay-at-home mom who probably has all white friends could come to this conclusion (I’m not trying to be an a-hole, but I’m sick of this native-less, soul-less atlanta talk from white people).

  6. whitey whitey white white (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 8:47 pm

    white guy, atlanta native, Grady graduate.

  7. sure (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 9:28 pm

    i bet you still claim some other city like boston or chicago cause you think it makes you cool

  8. CaptainObvious (unregistered) on November 14th, 2006 @ 9:28 am

    Almost 40s White Guy, Atlanta native

  9. Annie (unregistered) on November 14th, 2006 @ 10:11 am

    BTI: Assuming the SAHM has no black friends and is not a native is just a bit of a superficial assumption itself, is it not? For the record, I am also a native. You can see another post about my thoughts on our fair city here:

    Sure: Again with the assumptions. For what it’s worth, not even coming from Boston or Chicago (or Seattle, LA, or NYC!) could make me look cool. I am hopelessly uncool. Just see what BTI had to say about me! I’m nothing but a sheltered stay-at-home mom with no diversity in my life.

  10. Mike (unregistered) on November 14th, 2006 @ 3:30 pm

    BTI, what does any of that have to do with the litter all over Atlanta? How does your idea of “superficial” address the subject at hand? You must be one of the “entitled” people who litter and expect someone else to pick it up. Your idea of fun must be to make inflammatory remarks on blogs and see what kind of response you get. Grow up!

  11. Smoove D (unregistered) on November 14th, 2006 @ 10:09 pm

    The identity of Atlanta is there is no identity. Of course, it is also possible that you don’t recognize the identity, although I think you do, since if memory serves, you once posted about some all city writers and mentioned noticing their pieces while out and about.

  12. Heidi (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 9:14 pm

    Other cities (even neighboring tri-cities College PArk, East Point and Hapeville) care more about keeping the place clean — even new york has trash pickup running 24/7. In the city of ATlanta, we allow folks to do pretty much whatever they want – dump tires and mattresses in the streets, throw old stumps and computers in back alleys. The stuff piles up and the city doesn’t deal with it. They still can’t get the urine smell out of Woodruff park. They don’t enforce the laws (APD) nor the code (Code Enforcement), and until they do, Atlanta will continue to stink.

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