Government is a word that sparks many emotions from wonder, to confusion, from worry to anger, and everything in between. When government works well, nothing may be said, while when government seems dysfunctional, that can be the topic of conversations in many walks of life for days and even months. The same can be said about governmental programs. When a program seems to run seamlessly, we are sometimes none the wiser; however, if the lines at the DMV are a bit too long when waiting for registration renewal, watch out!
Many years ago, CVAG was charged with helping to improve the air quality in the Coachella Valley by running a regional street sweeping program. The Coachella Valley had not been in compliance with the federal PM 10 air quality standard. PM 10 are small particles that are measured as 1/10 the diameter of a human hair. They are produced by natural and man-made sources. We are concerned with man-made sources from direct emissions such as dirt or sand that is ground up by vehicles' tires which creates dust. Part of the measures taken by the jurisdictions through CVAG, was to sweep sand off of the regional streets throughout the Coachella Valley. Regional streets...many may wonder what those are exactly. Regional streets are those roads that act as main thoroughfares from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Highway 111 serves a major thoroughfare from one end of the Valley to the other. Others that serve a similar purpose, but are not as busy, are Gerald Ford Drive, Vista Chino Drive, Fred Waring Drive, and several others.
For the past several years, CleanStreet has been the company charged with street sweeping for the CVAG Regional Street Sweeping Program. CleanStreet, based out of Gardena, has a local base here in the Coachella Valley. They also operate in other areas throughout Southern California. Street sweeping of our regional roads takes place between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. During the day, CleanStreet has been contracted by different cities in the Coachella Valley to also sweep the roads within their city boundaries.
When you live in the desert, you quickly become acquainted with the "windy season" which occurs during the spring. You also quickly learn that there are other days when the wind blows and blows, when the visibility is altered at best, and when the sand often drifts onto the roadway, creating havoc for the daily commuters. On these special days, we all grin and bear it and then, once the wind event is over, out come our CleanStreet sweepers and their operators as if they were warriors of clean roads.
I was fortunate to meet one of these unsung heroes of the roads, Mr. Carlos Sepulveda. Carlos is an almost 12-year employee of CleanStreet. He had been sweeping the regional roads for nearly eight of his more than 11 years of service and now enjoys his daytime routes of Cathedral City, Indian Wells, and Rancho Mirage. Due to his substantial experience and expertise, Carlos is also called upon to tend to the regional roads on occasion, especially after an extreme wind event.
While riding in the street sweeper with Carlos, this newly inducted street sweeper and attentive observer, was privy to stories that outline Carlos' career of keeping our roads clear of sand and other debris that makes its way onto the roadway. I saw that there is a science in maintaining the distance from the brush to the curb, there is an optimal position and angle of the brush, there are reasons for the use of water while sweeping and a time when water is not necessary.
In the close to five hours of sweeping, we managed to sweep nearly 40 curb miles. We swept a good portion of residential roads in the City of Rancho Mirage. In doing so, 5.45 tons of sand, palm fronds, trash and just plain dirt was collected. Once the street sweeper was ready to be dumped, we made our way to the disposal site used by the Valley's street sweepers. I watched as Carlos assisted the sand and muck slide out of the back of his unit. I could not miss the not so subtle aromas of the wet materials that were no longer on the roads. We dropped a rather impressive pile to be tended to by the employees of the site.
On an average day, Carlos may trek to the disposal site upwards of three or more times, depending on the jurisdiction and the weather conditions. In watching the care Carlos expressed while tending to his route, I silently thought of the tireless workers that make sure, to the best of their ability, that our roadways are clean and safe for the users of the roads. I understood how Carlos is a prime example of how aspects of governmental programs are often times structured in such a way as to work seamlessly, while we are blissfully unaware of the inner workings of those programs and how successful they truly are.
So the next time you are out and about on the roads, be it regional or local, and you come upon a street sweeper in action, or a member of the local public works department working on road improvements, give them a nod showing your appreciation.