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Friday, April 22, 2011

Toronto Mayor Ford's personal war on graffiti

Misplaced priorities damage City Hall

Toronto architect Phillip Carter says he's been ordered to remove the giant tagging on his Queen West office - not an easy task given the location and delicate state of the aged brick.

Businesses, Non-profits paying for Ford's dull vision

Over the years Rob Ford has been involved in his share of bluster and buffoonery, however now that he's Mayor of Toronto, I had hoped the Office itself would help to dignify the man. It was disappointing to read this morning in the Toronto Star that ten municipal officers are dispatched daily to look for unauthorized murals and graffiti, whereas under previous administrations the City only responded when there was a complaint. The result of this "hunt them down" approach has seen the number of removal orders jump to 3,381 so far this year, compared with about 2,400 in all of 2010."

Victimizing the victims is Ford's answer to modern urban artistry

This insanity is hurting Toronto homeowners, small businesses and charities, and benefiting nobody. This time and money waster is also about to tie up a LOT more of Toronto City Hall's staff and legal resources, as the article by Urban Affairs Bureau Chief David Rider clearly illustrates:

“You’re victimizing the victim,” says Robert Sysak, administrator of the West Queen West Business Improvement Area. More than 100 orders have been issued in his funky, scrawl-filled district.

“We don’t like graffiti either, but we want to work with the city to get a solution. It’s a complicated problem and we need a comprehensive and integrated plan.”

One of his group’s proposals would be to train “at risk” youth to make digital artwork that could, temporarily, be projected onto buildings.

Gus Michaels, head of the graffiti enforcement team, said a comprehensive plan is being developed and will go to city council for approval in June.

Between 1,400 and 1,500 building owners have voluntarily complied with notices this year, and 10 city-conducted cleanups are in the works, “so from our perspective, working with the property owners is going well,” he said. The remainder have either not responded or filed appeals.

Phillip Carter, a heritage architect with a three-storey building near Queen St. W. and Bathurst W., begs to differ. He has been ordered to remove 5-metre-high letters spelling “SPUD” from a top-floor brick wall.

“I just think this crackdown needs to be thought out more,” said Carter, adding he will have to get access to a neighbour’s roof, and is worried about his building’s delicate brick. “Mr. Ford shot from the lip.”

St. Christopher House, a non-profit neighbourhood support centre, has received two cleanup orders, one for graffiti in a high, hard-to-reach spot.

“If we have to continually pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to get rid of it, we’ll have to close a program or lay people off,” said interim executive director Lidia Monaco. “We don’t have disposable cash.”

Ford's retro-suburban politics may play well in certain cookie cutter neighbourhoods, yet methinks he may soon find that declaring war on urban culture and hurting innocent people are intertwined, indicating a retreat of sorts may be coming. If not, the summer of 2011 may be hotter for Ford than he is used to, further deflecting his attention from real issues, and that would be just sad.

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