Strutting And Fretting

August 28, 2011

I was visiting a friend, Crazy Stanley, who was recuperating from a line drive to the back of the noggin a couple weeks ago. He handed me a rather official looking piece of paper and asked if he was crazy or still suffering some post-concussion ill-effects. “I mean, read it,” Stanley said as if I might not know what to do with a page full of printed words. “It kind of seems crazy to me.”

Yes, Crazy Stanley, it does seem a little crazy.

NOTICE OF VIOLATION

You are hereby required to correct the following violations(s):

 The item(s) listed herein are in violation of the Toronto Municipal Code Chaper 485 – Graffiti

 Item a. REAR LANE GARAGE – The property is not maintained free of graffiti.

Please be advised that, in order to bring this matter into compliance all graffiti is required to be eradicated

“I got it in the mail yesterday,” Stanley told me. “A registered letter I had to sign for. You know how much it cost the city to send it? $8.69. How many of those do you think they’re sending out? Talk about your gravy.”

I continued reading the notice.

Be advised that, in accordance with the Municipal Code Chapter 441 – Fees and Charges.  Appendix C – Schedule 12, if compliance to this Notice is not achieved a specified inspection fees will be charged for each inspection at a minimum rate of $94.00 for the first hour and 55.00 per hour (or part thereof) thereafter. Chargeable inspections will be involved every 30 days

“Crazy, eh?”

Now I know that the mayor has got this War on Graffiti thing going on. At least, in the abstract I do. Going after visible public spaces to take them back from the ‘gang art’ that has brought the city to its knees. Restore a sense of order and cleanliness that can only come from pristine brick and mortar and shiny aluminum.

But they’re really trolling our back alleys and driveways on the lookout for messy garage doors? Garage doors hardly anyone ever sees, tucked away as they are in back alleys and driveways? Is that really good value for the scarce resources Mayor Ford claims the city has?

I understand (but wholly disagree with) the simplistic notion held by some that a squeaky clean city scape gives the impression of a squeaky clean, well run city. Not so much, cleanliness being next to godliness but more of, in the movies and television ‘nice’ neighbourhoods are free of graffiti. Only gang ridden, hell holes put up the defacement of public spaces. Stop the small crimes and the big ones will surely follow.

The thing is, as has been pointed out regularly since Mayor Ford threw down the gauntlet on these spray paint vandals, crime isn’t really a problem these days in most parts of the city. I can ride down my alley, much of which has been tagged and spray painted, any time of the day or night, without any fear of being accosted. There seems to be no relationship between the amount or even quality of graffiti and crime rates.

I’ve kind of taken to whatever design it is that adorns my garage door. It doesn’t change very often and when it does it is so subtle I don’t tend to immediately notice. Besides, it’s not like I spend much time, hanging out in my back alley, and that has less to do with being put off by the graffiti and more to do with it being, well, a back alley.

So I wonder what would happen if I’m served a notice of graffiti violation and I appeal it on the grounds that I graffitied by own property? How is that any different than, say, adorning my front lawn with oppressive religious iconography? Or building a front yard edifice out of only wine corks and bottle caps? Putting a two storey high mural on my side wall of my all time favourite Maple Leaf, Darryl Sittler? Or just simply painting my brick a hideous colour like key lime green?

Aren’t we getting to awfully slippery slope territory once we start prowling neighbourhood alleys for graffiti? How does that square with the libertarian leanings of our mayor and his pledge to get government off our backs? Moreover, how can he claim to have Respect for the Taxpayers when he’s unleashing his bureaucracy on us, demanding that we pay for a crime we didn’t commit?

As we gear up for the fall’s budget battles, Mayor Ford’s whole War on Graffiti schtick smacks of mere theatre. Giving the appearance of doing something that, ultimately, has zero effect on the problems we’re facing, the fiscal tsunami that’s apparently nearly upon us. Nero fiddles while the city burns and all that. Political cowardice masking as toughness. Look at me, ma. I’m taking on the punk kids.

Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The legacy, it seems, that Mayor Ford is aiming to leave behind.

scottishly submitted by Urban Sophisticat


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