Philly 2021 Integrity Icon: Name and Fame of a Street Hero


To hear the former town sanitation worker Terrill “Ya Fav Trashman” Haigler says it, Geraldine Harris is the best of the best.

Known as “Coco”, Harris is a sanitation worker who does it all: she “throws” – that is, throws garbage in the truck; she is one of the best drivers, always knowing her route and how to maneuver the crowded streets of Philly, never scratching herself; he’s a leader. And she is always ready to help.

“She’s funny, caring, always ready to teach,” says Haigler. “When I got there, she taught me the ropes, who to listen to, who says shit all the time. She’s a darling.

In other words: Coco Harris is exactly the kind of municipal worker we are looking for as part of our 2021 Integrity Icon Contest—In partnership with DC-based Accountability lab, Better citizenship and Puertorriqueños en Marcha Association (APM) – to nominate and promote the best paid employees of the State of the City of Philadelphia. This week, which we have named Streets Week, we are seeking applications from Department of streets, which encompasses sanitation, roads, lighting, beautification and many other services essential to the way people do business in Philly. (See a full list here.)

Haigler, one of our high integrity Integrity Icon judges, spent 14 months working in a garbage truck in Philly, much of it during the pandemic when he become famous to draw attention to the plight of sanitation workers. He asked the City to provide more and better personal protective equipment, and then, when that failed, launched a fundraising campaign to help workers pay for themselves.

Haigler, named Billy Penn’s “The Most Valuable Philadelphian of 2021”, Has since become a strong public advocate for clean streets, espousing both personal responsibility and government action to make Philadelphia a city that collects its waste. It is also a partner of Shine, an app that tackles the city’s waste problem by paying Philly residents a living wage to keep their streets clean.

Haigler saw the good and the bad of the city workers. Here’s what he’s looking for to find people worth celebrating:

Work ethic: Haigler saw lazy sanitation workers. He has also seen others who are anything but. “They arrive on time, are always prepared, do the job carefully and know their routes,” he says. “The way they approach work makes all the difference. “

How they treat each other: Attitude matters at work, Haigler notes. “Some people have very good attitudes,” like Harris, he says. “Others do the job, but are mean to people. So many things annoy them. You transport waste; getting the job done is hard enough, you don’t need to add a bad attitude.

How they interact with the public: When Haigler was at work, he says, he had an older woman on his route; instead of throwing away his trash and putting the cans back on the sidewalk, he would put them on his porch to save him some effort. Many of his colleagues did the same or similar things: helping people pick up extra litter, taking very large items with them, whatever they needed to make sure the streets were litter-free when they were. were turning around the corner. “Some workers, their blocs love them,” says Haigler. “And some want a new crew.”

How they communicate: Dispatchers are the invisible workers who make the street service work – and the way they do it matters. From a worker’s perspective, Haigler praises those who know how to assign routes, which trucks work, and how best to make the heavy work of hauling waste the most efficient. From the point of view of the public, it refers to those who answer the phone in call centers: are they polite? Do they say yes more than no? Do they solve problems?

“She’s funny, caring, always ready to teach,” Haigler says of Coco Harris. “When I got there, she taught me the ropes. She’s a darling.

All of this – attitude, communication, work ethic – is what, for Haigler, constitutes high integrity in city-funded work. Who do you know who embodies all of these characteristics? We would love to hear about it for our second Integrity Icon Contest– which we launched last month. We accept applications here for any person – with the exception of elected officials – whose salary is paid by municipal taxes.

The criteria we seek are simple, yet powerful, as Haigler explained: a public service employee with high integrity is respectful and caring; knows that their work makes a difference in people’s lives; acts in a reliable and transparent manner to resolve problems to the best of their ability; treats everyone equally, regardless of politics or influence; and go above and beyond to provide good service to Philadelphians.

Once we close the nominations at the end of December, we’ll spend a few weeks reviewing the candidates and narrowing the list down to eight or ten. In early January, five finalists will be selected by our panel of esteemed judges: Haigler; Michael o’byan, founder of the strategic design firm Humanature and member of the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation; Nilda Ruiz, Executive Director of the APM; Jen devor, co-founder of Better citizenship; and Amy Kurland, former Inspector General of the city of Philadelphia. Next, we’ll shoot short video bios of each finalist and again ask for your help in selecting the Audience Choice icon.

Their price? Glory. That’s it, because that’s all integrity requires.

Who are Philly’s next integrity icons?

The solution: “Idol of integrity”

2020 Integrity Icon: Meet Richard Gordon IV

Terrill Haigler, aka @yafavtrashman

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