A tacky attack on an anti-litter group

Published 10:27 pm Monday, April 19, 2021

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Letter to the editor

I’m no genius, but I think I would have known better than to kick over the irony board the way Columbus Councilman Mark Phillips Jr. did.

Phillips single-handedly ordered the removal of a clever message designed to show people driving or walking past Stearns Park in downtown Columbus how much of a difference they can make by not littering and picking up litter tossed by uncaring people. Why?

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“I thought it was a tacky and ugly display and called county commissioners and asked for it to be removed,” Phillips told The Tryon Daily Bulletin.

And therein lies the irony over which Phillips tripped. He ordered the removal of a message saying please don’t trash our area while litter covers the roads and street sides in and around all of Polk and Rutherford counties and Upstate South Carolina.

Phillips is a salesman who, when he ran for the town council, said he “would love to see the town become more aesthetically pleasing.” He apparently failed to add that he alone would be the judge of what pleases everyone.

The unique sign was placed in the park by Conserving Carolina, a group that made a noticeable difference in a recent Litter Sweep. The group partnered with towns and counties to help get litter picked up. They made and placed the signs in different locations.

In Forest City along the beautiful Thermal Belt Rail Trail, a sign identical to the one Phillips ordered yanked out of sight in Columbus was put up and continues to be a beacon of sanity in Rutherford County.

The sign makers used wire basket-like letters filled with litter to spell “RETHINK.”

Neither Phillips, whose aesthetic senses were inexplicably offended, nor Polk County Commissioner Tommy Melton, who rushed to get the sign out of the public view after Phillips called him to complain, covered themselves in glory by cancelling the message.

There doesn’t appear to have been either thinking or rethinking going on there. Of course, the sign is ugly because it shows how much litter is out there. That’s the whole idea, to show us how ugly litter is.

Conserving Carolina serves Polk, Rutherford, Henderson and Transylvania counties and part of Upstate South Carolina, including Landrum. It was formed four years ago as the result of a merger of two local land trusts.

Looks like the group plans to conduct another litter sweep with volunteers in Columbus on Saturday, April 24.


Phillips could really help make his town aesthetically pleasing by being at the front of the pack of volunteers picking up litter. It could be his way to “RETHINK” his actions.


Larry McDermott 

Mill Spring