Baker News March 20, 2019

Policy Challenge Finalist Spotlight: Rat0

by Jose Altamirano

An Audacious, Yet Simple Plan To Fight D.C.’s Rat Infestation


Any Georgetown student – any D.C. resident, really – can attest to seeing the four-legged vermin scurry across their path when walking home in the evening. The problem has appeared to worsen in recent years, and D.C. was recently ranked the fourth “Rattiest City” in 2018. To combat this infestation, Fangwen Zhang (MPP ’19), Gaoqi Zhang (MPP ’20), Shanlin Huang (MPP ’19), Shiying Wang (MPP ’20), and Ruilian Xie (MPP ’19) are proposing Rat0, an audacious, simple way to target the rat population. By replacing all trash cans in the city with closed models fitted with lids and foot pedals, they hope to starve the rat population out by depriving the critters of a main source of food – trash. Read more about Rat0 below:

Describe your proposal in 140 characters or less.
To fight D.C.’s rat infestation, our plan replaces open trash cans with sealed metal trash cans with lids and foot pedals, starting in Dupont Circle.

How has your proposal changed between the start of the Challenge to now?
In the beginning of the Challenge, we had two topics we liked and had a hard time deciding which one to pursue. It was very helpful to consult with professors. We talked about our two topics with them and received suggestions. It actually took us a long time to finalize our topic. After deciding to develop the rat control program, we conducted more research, continued to talk with more professors, and started writing our proposal. We haven’t seen any major change in our proposal after targeting the issue of trash management. We did incorporate more information regarding coalition building based on advice and knowledge received from professors and experts we consulted.

What is the biggest challenge you face in addressing the problem you seek to solve?
Rodent control is not a simple task. It requires close coordination between a series of actions including sanitation, baiting and trapping, structural maintenance, monitoring, and biological control. Due to constraints on our time and resources available, we had to focus on only one of those components. To narrow our scope, we conducted research and found out that sanitation is the most important part with regards to rodent control. Hence, our proposal emphasizes sanitation improvements to reduce the rat population.

Is there anything new you have learned about crafting policy through participating in the Challenge?
The Policy Challenge has taught us that a good proposal must be a feasible one. Your topic can be broad in scope but the exact implementation needs to be specific and practical. Our program is rodent control, which at first glance sounds very broad and impossible to solve. However, imagining a solution to our problem became easier after we started focusing on sanitation and targeting trash can improvement. Also, an important component in a good policy proposal is that you need to think about coalition building, stakeholders’ responsibilities, and the program budget and founding. These are real considerations when implementing a program and must be included in a good policy proposal.

What inspired your proposal?
It is not surprising to hear classmates complain about seeing scary rats in their apartments and on campus. D.C. has experienced a rapid increase in the population of rats and become the fourth “Rattiest City” in the U.S. in 2018. We were surprised that D.C’s rodent problem was so serious that we started doing research on the rodent issue. After learning about the pilot trash bin plan conducted by the D.C mayor, we started to think of ways of more cost-effective solutions to address the rat problem.

Say your solution is implemented/funded/approved. How would you define success after 5 years?
Our evaluation plan will focus on measuring the overall program performance and effectiveness, stakeholders’ satisfaction, and whether the process has improved quality of services. The key method of evaluation is the number of 311 rat complaint calls and public health reports citing any incidents caused by rodents. Also, after our pilot program in Dupont Circle concludes, we hope that it will inspire other cities to adopt our solution to address their rodent problems.

Let’s say your solution starts to work. What other sustainable methods are out there to handle DC’s rat infestation problem?
DC is an international city filled with international organizations. D.C. can work to better cooperate with international counterparts on issues like rodent control, as well as share sanitation strategies. Rodent control should be seen as an issue that is just as important as other high priority public health and sustainable development issues, such as electricity resilience, and responsible consumption and production. D.C. has an opportunity to share their experiences as well as learn about best practices from other international peers.