Cathy Meyer submits letter regarding Joe Davis to Bloomington Board of Public Works

Cathy Meyer, who was a naturalist with the Monroe County Parks Department, submitted the following letter to the Bloomingtonian:

Board of Public Works

RE: Joe Davis Issue

September 22. 2023

To Whom it May Concern:

I am puzzled by the charges against Joe Davis, a well-known sustainable builder and respected citizen of this city who I have known for many years. I have visited his property, and while it may not meet the aesthetic or cultural standards of his neighbors, it is not a hazard to public health.

I have looked for information in the city code about the alleged violations and I do not see how his property could be in violation. Section 6 lists the following definitions:

“Garbage” means all putrescible animal solid, vegetable solid and semisolid wastes resulting from processing, handling, preparation, cooking, serving or consumption of food or food materials.

“Putrescible waste” means waste that is subject to organic decomposition.

“Yard waste” means all vegetative matter including grass, weeds, leaves, brush, tree trimmings, hedge clippings and garden waste.

I have also looked at commonly accepted definitions of these terms.

Garbage, the technical term for putrescent organic matter such as kitchen or food scraps, was fed to pigs and other livestock or boiled down in a process known as “rendering,” to extract fats, oils, and greases for manufacturing lubricants, or allowed to dry to become commercial fertilizer.

And putrescible waste is defined as:

Putrescible wastes include matter that rots or decays rapidly. It can be characterized as soft organic material which usually have high moisture content, are readily degradable, generate odor and attracts vermin. These are produced by domestic and commercial premises.

Mr. Davis does not have any garbage or putrescible waste on his property. I observed some dead leaves and a few decaying tree limbs. These materials decompose slowly and would not be odorous or attract vermin.

According to Section 6.06.020 – Deposit of garbage.

It is unlawful for any person to throw, place, or scatter any garbage, recyclable materials or yard waste over or upon any premises, street, alley, either public or private, or to suffer or permit any garbage, recyclable materials or yard waste to be placed or deposited on the premises owned, occupied or controlled by such person either with or without the intent to later remove, cover, or burn it.

Anyone with trees upon their lot permits such materials to be deposited on their premises, whether or not they intend to remove it. In fact, the city itself encourages residents to allow leaves to accumulate on their lot by offering classes, videos, and informational materials promoting the composting and mulching of these organic materials.

The following is copied from the city’s website announcing that curbside collection has ended:


2023 is the first year the City of Bloomington will no longer offer curbside vacuum leaf collection. This decision was made after two years of study and interaction with thousands of residents indicating that the combination of mulching and composting as much as possible in one’s yard, and bagging the rest for collection by the City’s yard waste program is both do-able and preferable. Vacuum leaf collection is inefficient, environmentally wasteful, expensive, and difficult to staff. 

The NEW ways that the City will support the management of your leaves are included below.


Recycling your leaves by mow mulching and/or composting in your own yard is the greenest way to manage your leaves and create useful fertilizer for your yard. It’s natural, and less work than raking. Not sure how to mulch or compost? No problem – we can help!

I, myself, participated in the pilot program leading up to the decision to cease curbside leaf vacuuming and have been, apparently illegally, composting leaves on my city lot and using leaves as mulch in my landscaping for many years. As the city website notes,  

Q: Will composting leaves attract bugs & rodents?

A: Composting leaves creates a nice home for pollinators like bees & beetles and supplies larvae for birds to eat. Composting leaves will not attract rodents, but if you have them in your area, it is best to use a bin that has a lid so that you are not creating a comfy bed for them! Mowing or clearing the area around the bin and not putting it up against a house or a barn wall can also help.

Source: 1,000 Households Who Mulch Training and Education Subcommittee

Bloomington, rightly, takes pride in its conservation practices and efforts to promote sustainability. I was involved in efforts to attain Wildlife Habitat Community certification for the city from the National Wildlife Federation and Bird City recognition from Indiana Audubon Society a few years ago. Bloomington is also a Tree City and has several boards and commissions that promote sustainability such as Canopy Bloomington, the Environmental Commission, etc.

My own property is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, and I serve on the city parks Environmental Resource Advisory Committee, the Monroe County – Identify and Reduce Invasive Species group, Indiana Native Plant Society, Friends of Lake Monroe, and many other environmental groups.

In summary, it seems that Mr. Davis is being selectively targeted by the city for the very same activities that other citizens are being encouraged to practice, activities that align with the city’s environmental aspirations and goals. If he is in violation, we all are!


Cathy Meyer

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