Graffiti Budget Blasted

Clean-up crews to be cut

Virtually every city program is facing budget cuts, and as the Reader'sMick Dumkereports on Clout City, that includes Mayor Richard M. Daley's beloved Graffiti Blasters.

"Unless something changes before the city council votes Wednesday on the 2009 budget, the program will have to carry on with less funding next year - $5.6 million, down 28 percent from the $7.8 million allocated for 2008," Dumke writes. "Most of the savings comes from slicing 14 staff positions."

The program's page on the city's website states: "Started by Mayor Daley in 1993, Graffiti Blasters stepped up the battle against graffiti by offering a free removal service to private property owners. The Department of Streets & Sanitation's crews remove this vandalism with 'blast' trucks or paint crews . . . No community in Chicago has to tolerate graffiti. Please join us in eliminating graffiti and making this an even more beautiful city."

Of course, the program isn't going away. But Dumke writes that he's already seeing more unchecked graffiti around town, though a city spokesman denies that.

"[Streets and San's Matt] Smith insists that the program won’t have to reduce its workload because many of the cut jobs were either vacant or held by employees on leave who aren’t returning. 'The effect should be negligible,' he said. 'We’re not losing someone who’s out there on the street'."

The idea that cuts in government budgets won't result in reductions of service, though, are always suspicious.

"According to the 2009 budget proposal," Dumke writes, "the cuts include seven laborers. And if Smith's overall assessment is right, it raises the question of why we we've been paying millions more for the program than needed."

Not everyone will be sad to see less graffiti enforcement. According to the program's Wikipedia page, Graffiti Blasters "has won much disdain from taggers [and] fiscal conservatives."

And looking at the work like that of this Flickr photographer, it's hard not to appreciate the aesthetic quality of at least some graffiti. Maybe they'll just leave the good stuff alone now.

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