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Daley Wants to Charge for Anti-Graffiti Efforts

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jun 13, 2007 1:50PM

2007_6_real_art.jpgIn typical short-sighted manner, Mayor Daley lashed out at graffiti artists and their parents yesterday. "Who should be responsible, the building owner?" Daley asked the press. "The building owner should sue them." While Hizzoner has had some success battling graffiti as a quality-of-life issue here in the city, Chicago is gearing up for a projected increase in vandalism, anticipating some 170,000 incidents of graffiti vandalism this year.

In response, Daley has proposed an ordinance, at which aldermen balked yesterday, that would have required fines up to $3,000 in restitution or $750, whichever is greater. Additionally, administrative hearing officers would have no authority to lower the fine, or order community service in lieu of the fines. Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) said she's "worried about the grandmother taking care of seven grandchildren because dad is in the penitentiary and mom is someplace — they don't know where she is. ... Is someone from municipal prosecutions going to be standing there saying, 'This young person has never been in trouble before. We recommend to the hearing officer that they get community service as opposed to making this lady over here pay $500 that she doesn't have and she's not going to pay.' Or are we just going to say, 'Everybody who comes in the door [must pay] $500?'"

Of course, like most Daley measures, this isn't really about solving any sort of issue that matters to the people that actually live here and pay his fucking salary. In fact, we think that ordinances like this one are just more window dressing for the white middle class who find the poverty and ethnic culture of the city so edgy until it comes crashing up against their own values and ideals. And families and homeowners in neighborhoods that are plagued by gang violence won't find answers in an ordinance like this either, as most of the social conditions that create gang graffiti won't be solved by forcing parents that often times aren't around, let alone financially solvent, to pony up for these costs.

Just like banning spray paint and wide-tipped markers hasn't stopped vandalism, charging parents, especially parents and guardians who most likely can't afford restitution, won't prevent this sort of thing from going on. Say what you will about graffiti — some people call it art, others call it crime — the bottom line is that crackdowns like this one serve not to prevent or to solve a social ill in a society, they serve to punish those most vulnerable to those ills. Give kids a reason to be in school, give kids a creative outlet, and they won't be as compelled to try to turn your piece of property (still the most sacrosanct concept in our democracy) into a work of art. And they won't have as compelling a reason to join a gang and mark their territory.

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