Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rob Ford's War on Tagging:: Will His "Graffiti Tax" Policy Backfire?

Eryn Hill, Torontoist
I'm sure my true colours as part of the downtown elite will shine through here. This Toronto Star article is showing how Rob Ford's war on grafitti is "victimizing the victim." Wanting to scrub the city clean, ten municipal standards officers scour the city for unsightly scars on the urban landscape. They issue clean-up orders that require compliance within 30 days—or else the city does it and adds the cost to the property owner's tax bill. The policy before Ford was to only act on complaints. This year, 3,381 orders have been issued to date, compared with about 2,400 in all of 2010. Between 1,400 and 1,500 owners have complied and there are 10 city cleanups in the works.

In my book, this is what I call an idiosyncratic tax on property owners and one that targets the downtown areas that didn't vote for Rob Ford. It also affects non-profits that cannot afford getting hit with cleanup costs, although there should be a hardship appeal. I'm assuming that provincial and federal buildings are exempt or are subject to different "rules". Living around Church/Wellesley, as well as Berkeley/Oakland in California, graffiti is just part of the urban landscape. Rob Ford would have a coronary in NYC.

Why this strikes me as asinine policy is that it fails on fairness and imposes a suburban æsthetic on the entire city. Moreover, hello, it also literally paints a huge bullseye on the city. Tagging is often a combination of rebellion and expression, so publicity of a "war on graffiti" serves to stir up a hornet's nest that didn't exist before. I would strongly encourage those involved in graffiti policy or an interest in urbanism check out Graffiti Lives, which debunks the myth that graffiti serves as a magnet for crime {the "broken window theory"} and explores tagging culture.

What's to stop taggers from targeting municipal buildings, adding to city expenditures and starting a new gravy train? The gang of 10 standards officers? Blair's PD given carte blanche to go all G20 on taggers' asses? Please.

I thought I had a suggestion to property owners...Well, a few years back, Sony was using graffiti as advertising to sell PSPs::

So, I thought...slap a logo on the graffiti and turn it into first party advertising signs...until I saw the regulations.

Twitterversion:: [blog] Rob Ford's "graffiti tax" punishes the victim & needlessly makes city at risk to costly vandalism. @Prof_K

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