Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee

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The Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee was an organization dedicated to making the city of Green Bay cleaner and more beautiful through partnership with local schools, businesses, and interested citizens.

Origins of the Committee

The origins of the Green Bay Mayor’s Beautification Committee can be traced back to the League of Women Voters (LWV), a U.S.-based nonpartisan activist organization “whose leaders believe that voters should play a critical role in democracy”. The organization works to “encourage informed and active participation in government”, particularly among women. [1] In 1945, the Greater Green Bay branch of LWV, concerned by the state of the city and the lack of concern for its cleanliness, took up a project advocating for the implementation of an Air Pollution Ordinance, forming the Air Pollution Control Advisory and Appeal Board. The board enlisted the help of various qualified chemists and engineers, experienced in the area of air pollution, who assisted in setting up the program and conducting research. The ordinance was passed after five years of work.

In 1956, the Air Pollution Control Advisory and Appeal Board became the Mayor’s Committee for a Cleaner and More Beautiful Green Bay, an early name for what would later be called the Mayor’s Beautification Committee. The new committee had a broader environmental focus, concentrating on all issues that contributed to making Green Bay “cleaner and more beautiful”. Much of the committee’s early work involved publicity urging individuals and organizations to contribute to the maintenance and cleanliness of the city. These efforts were funded entirely by voluntary donations. [2]

Relationship with Green Bay's Mayor

Since its inception, the Green Bay Mayor’s Beautification Committee has a relatively strange working relationship with the Green Bay Mayor’s office. From the name of the group, one would assume that it is an approved committee within the city government with an approved budget like the Green Bay Public Arts Commission or the Police and Fire Commission. That assumption, however, is incorrect. After a number of persistent community activists set up a campaign to establish a committee to prevent and control air pollution in the 1960s, the issue was brought to the attention of Green Bay’s Mayor, Roman P. Denissen.

In an application that Green Bay submitted for the All-American City Award in 1965, a member of the Mayor’s Committee for a Cleaner Green Bay states, “we asked our present and very progressive Mayor, Roman P. Denissen, for a committee to be composed of voluntary, interested representatives from all of the civic organizations in the city; 102 organizations were contacted – of this number 29 became tremendously active… Related, city department heads attend when they can and give us information and help.”[3] This statement is one of only a few written statements as to how the committee was created. According to this source, the Green Bay Mayor’s Beautification Committee was created by volunteers and brought to the Mayor’s attention. Mayor Denissen was apparently very supportive on a volunteer basis and would provide the experience and expertise of himself and several staff members throughout the city.

According to a progress report of the Mayor’s Committee for a Cleaner and More Beautiful Green Bay in 1966, “the Mayor’s Committee for a Cleaner and More Beautiful Green Bay is made up of the Mayor, department heads, members of service, related organizations and interested citizens.”[4] This theme seems to be uniform throughout the nearly fifty years that the committee is active. The committee is allowed to use letterhead from the Mayor’s Office during their tenure. The mayor or a representative from the Green Bay city government is present at many of the committee’s meetings. They seem to rely on the Mayor’s Office for many advocacy and representative actions. One thing they do not rely on the Mayor for is its funding.

Funding and Budget

The Green Bay Mayor’s Beautification Committee was never promised by the committee any sort of funding from the city. From all of the information provided, it seems like when it was created, there was an agreement that the Mayor would provide time and effort, but would not provide a budget for the activists. According to the 1966 Progress Report on the committee, “the Mayor’s Committee for a Cleaner and More Beautiful Green Bay has no city budget." Funds are donated on a volunteer basis.”[5] Because of this, the committee relied heavily on private donations. Since the 1960s, the committee would hold annual awards ceremonies to bring attention to businesses, individuals, schools, and students who have been strong environmental advocates in Green Bay. They often wrote to businesses and philanthropists asking to donate to their cause and saw some success in their efforts.

Keep America Beautiful Campaign (KAB)

Origin

Keep America Beautiful was created in 1953 by the National Advisory Council. The initial mission of the group was to develop a relationship with the general public and privately-owned businesses, such as Pepsico, the Coca-Cola Company, and Lowe's, in an effort to encourage cleanliness in the many thriving communities throughout the country. The first public service announcement that was given by the group was in 1956 and it was focused on spreading awareness of their anti-littering campaign.

Relationship with Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee

When the League of Women Voters decided to focus their organization on air pollution and pollution from local factories, they looked to the Keep America Beautiful Campaign to see how they were handling their programs. The Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee (then known as the Mayor’s Committee for a Cleaner and More Beautiful Green Bay) became a smaller division of the KAB program. Many of the nationwide programs that KAB planned were then established in the local level by the Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee.

Accomplishments and Programs

Keep America Beautiful has had many popular public service announcements and public figures that have helped to spread the message of keeping the environment clean and aesthetically pleasing for those that live in it. A 1967 anti-littering campaign gained success with the help of the popular television show character Lassie as its mascot. In a collaboration with the Ad Council, the campaign which later became known as “The Crying Indian” featured a Native American man becoming emotional upon seeing trash strewn about on the streets and in nature within a community. This advertisement became a symbol of environmentalism and was “one of the most successful PSA campaigns in history.” [6]

In 1998, The Great American Cleanup began as a Keep America Beautiful program to improve local communities across the nation and continues to be the United States’ largest community improvement program to date. As well as keeping cities beautiful and free of litter, the program prides itself on educating the many communities that it helps every year on how to prevent littering in the first place.

Litterbug Campaign

Origin

In the 1950s, the Keep America Beautiful organization were the first to start a campaign called the Litterbug Campaign. During the 1950s, Keep America Beautiful coined the term “litterbug” when referring to term people who littered in their anti-trash in public places campaigns. They also created an ugly looking insect that told people to not litter.
Litterbug.jpg

Large amounts of littering happened after the end of World War II because the need for consumer good increased. To meet the needs of people, manufacturers started creating “non-renewable” packaging. Additionally, as more Americans began to drive their cars for work/pleasure, there became more trash along roadways and highways, affecting wildlife and humans alike. When the Litterbug Campaign first started, 32 states either had the campaign running, or it was in the works. States would create anti-littering ordinances with the help of Keep America Beautiful.

The anti-littering campaigns are still around today, because of heavy lobbying by the packaging industry, however, only twelve states have deposit laws, even though the laws demonstrably save energy and reduce consumption by promoting the use of reusing and recycling.

Keep America Beautiful had many ways of getting the word out about their anti-litter campaign. As a way to reach out to kids, they used TV commercials and shows to explain how littering affects us all, young and old. During 1967, in Season 13 of “Lassie”, there was an episode titled “Lassie's Litter Bits”, in which Lassie teaches that camper not to litter again after seeing a raccoon gets its head caught in a can discarded by a camper. [1]

In 1961, KAB put out a PSA on the TV titled “Susan Spotless”, which showed a little girl picking up some trash and saying “every litter-bit hurts”. The advertisement goes on to talk about ways to keep your community clean because it is a “family effort”. At the end of the PSA, Susan Spotless says “Keep America Beautiful a family project” [2]

In 1971, KAB, in partnership with the Ad Council, released a commercial featuring an “Indian” canoeing down a river lined with factories. In the river there are pieces of litter that he must move through in order to get to the bank, however the bank of the river is also covered in trash. At the end, the man is seen with one tear rolling down his face as he witnesses people polluting the roads. The commercial, known as the “Crying Indian”, became an iconic symbol of environmental responsibility and one of the most successful PSA campaigns in history. [3]

The main way KAB got their word out about anti-littering was their use of the Litterbug and their "Don’t Be a Litterbug" Signs. They used the insect in newspaper clippings and newsletters to educate people on how bad littering is to the world around them.

Green Bay's Anti-littering Campaigns

In Green Bay, KAB's anti-littering campaign was a large part of educating children in schools. In the 1960s, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee launched a "Litterbug Contest"[7] to convince citizens to help clean up the city. They stated that they were hoping children and young people would be the greatest help in promoting clean-up in the city by creating posters and slogans for the anti-littering project. With the incentive of having their poster displayed, children focused on problems that they might have been causing, such as throwing candy wrappers on the playground, lawn, or sidewalks. Children were also tasked with signing an “Anti-littering Pledge”[8] which tasked the children with being aware of their surrounding and their impacts on the world. It states how children should go about being clean, by keeping places clean by not throwing gum wrappers, candy wrappers, fruit peelings, etc. Other organizations besides schools, such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, also participated in clean-up days sponsored by the Mayor's Beautification Committee. While KAB started their campaigns within the schools systems because children are easily taught new things and are very willing to help, but the organization did reach out to adults as well.

To reach out to the adult population in Green Bay, the main way was through newspaper articles. Within the Press-Gazette, Green Bay’s primary newspaper, the Committee would ask for large spreads and articles to be placed in the newspaper. Some of the main titles included “Green Up, Clean Up, Fix Up”[9], “Keep Green Bay Clean”[10], and “Waste Recycling - Good Start”[11]. In each of the articles they explain the sorts of problems are effecting the Green Bay Area at that time, and then give helpful tips for citizens to use our in the world. Other ways the Beautification Committee reached out to adults was through the incentive of rewards and acknowledgment from the organization.

Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Awards

Since the beginning of the organization, the Green Bay Mayor’s Beautification Committee has distributed awards among various groups of people, organizations, and businesses to recognize their efforts to keep Green Bay looking clean and presentable to the public. The Green Bay Mayor’s committee distributed recognition awards to people who were nominated for various categories such as landscaping, school clean-up projects, roadway clean-up, street improvising, and building reconstruction. [12] The Green Bay Beautification committee even impacted institutions such as juvenile detention centers. The adolescences who were in these detention centers would be required to complete public service acts, which included participating in the beautification of Green Bay. The children would then have awards given to them recognizing their efforts to keep the city clean, thus instilling good behavior and helping them complete their public service hours.

Any person, organization, or company could be nominated for any of these categories by any person. These nominations would then be submitted to the committee where a subcommittee meeting would be held to go over the nominations all the nominations that were received. After careful consideration among the members of the committee, they would come to consensus on which nominee deserved the recognition award for their given category in which they were nominated for. After members of the committee had chosen the candidate of that category for the award, the candidate would receive a letter inviting them to a luncheon to receive the award.[13] Although the awards weren’t the sole purpose for participating in keeping Green Bay clean, they were a positive reinforcement that helped instill the idea of maintaining cleanliness and tidiness in the citizens of Green Bay. The awards helped recognize the hard work that the people and the organizations of Green Bay put into these projects to help achieve the Beautification Committee’s goal. Furthermore, because these awards had different categories, it evidently made citizens focus on different aspects of the city that of which could be improved. This also evoked some friendly competition among the people of Green Bay which helped further the committee’s goal of keeping the city well maintained.[14]

Some of these categories started to disappear though due to the expansion of Green Bay; specifically in the downtown area. Categories that started to disappear were mainly nature focused. As Green Bay became more urban, there was less natural scenery to focus on, therefore, eliminating the purpose of some nature focused categories.The categories and awards then started to focus more on organizations, businesses, and buildings that made Green Bay a beautiful city.[15] Although nominees could still be individual people, the awards started leaning more towards the buildings and organizations of the city, which somewhat took away the purpose in which the organization began. The Mayor’s Beautification Committee of Green Bay is not actively receiving nominees for awards of recognition. These awards and luncheons are no longer held by the Committee and discontinued in 2017.

End of the Committee

June of 2017 brought questions to the Green Bay Mayor’s Beautification Committee that were difficult to answer. Per the minutes of the committee's meetings, an attending guest wondered aloud why this group would take on the task of historical research, regarding previously mentioned issue of preserving the history of cities, when it seems to be out of their realm of interest. Present members stated that the group is committed to “protect[ing] historic shrines and monuments and sites”[16], which would include research as well. Following this interaction, more of the business that the group concerned itself with began to make more sense for other already existing committees to take on. During the same June sixth meeting, it was suggested that a project of interest to the Beautification Committee could gain some support from committees in the city's neighborhoods. When speaking of transferring a historical house that was located on Maple Avenue back to its original site at Fort Howard, it was inquired if the job might be better suited for the Green Bay Historic Preservation Commission rather than the Beautification Committee.

The Green Bay Mayor’s Beautification Committee held its last recorded meeting on the first of August in 2017. During this meeting, a member of the committee mentioned that they were beginning to collect information and articles that reference the group, likely because the realization that they were starting to dwindle to its last days was becoming present. In the minutes of this last meeting, there is a scheduled September meeting that there isn’t a record of having happened.

References

  1. ["History." League of Women Voters. Accessed 22 April 2019. https://www.lwv.org/about-us/history.]
  2. [UWGB Archives, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Records, Box 1, Folder 1, "History of the Mayor's Committee for a Cleaner and More Beautiful Green Bay"]
  3. ["All American City Award Application", Box 8, Folder 2, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin.]
  4. ["History of the Mayor's Committee for a Cleaner and More Beautiful Green Bay", Box 1 Folder 1, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin.]
  5. ["History of the Mayor's Committee for a Cleaner and More Beautiful Green Bay", Box 1 Folder 1, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin.]
  6. ["Mission & History." Keep America Beautiful. Accessed 22 April 2019.]
  7. [Letter from Mrs. Ralph Curtis Smith to a Principal. Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Records. 10 March 1960]
  8. ["Antilittering Pledge", Box 7, Folder 3, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin.]
  9. ["Green Up, Clean Up, Fix Up", 23 April 1978, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Box 7, Folder 3, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin.]
  10. "["Keep Green Bay Clean", 27 April 1962, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Box 7, Folder 3, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin.]
  11. [“Waste Recycling - Good Start”, Green-Bay Press-Gazette, Box 7, Folder 3, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin.]
  12. ["Recognition Award", 14 September 1970, Box 4, Folder 4, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin.]
  13. [Letter from Mrs. Laura Schauer to Mr. Richard Griese, 1 July 1977, Box 4, Folder 11, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin]
  14. ["Minutes Mayor's Beautification Committee" 2 August 2000, Box 6, Folder 1, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin]
  15. [Establishment and Buildings, 1974, Box 4, Folder 8, Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Collection, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin]
  16. [Austin, Muriel. Mayor's Beautification Committee 06/06/2017. June 06, 2017. Accessed May 04, 2019.]


Additional Published Resources

Keep America Beautiful

Archival Resources for Further Research

Green Bay Mayor's Beautification Committee Records, UWGB University Archives and Area Research Center

Article History