Southwest Chicago Post
If Mayor Rahm Emanuel looked out his limousine's window and saw this scrawled on a wall across from City Hall...
...how long do you think it would take the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation to dispatch a graffiti blaster team to remove it?
Ten minutes? Perhaps 30? An hour at most?
But when gangbangers and other taggers spray their slop on buildings on the Southwest Side, City Hall flips us the bird---and the graffiti stays up longer than ever these days.
Everyone who lives on the Southwest Side knows it. The city used to remove graffiti in just a few days. Now it is taking literally weeks.
Gangbangers and taggers know this, too, of course; and they have unleashed an orgy of scrawlings on buildings, street signs, mail boxes, sidewalks, everywhere. Rest assured, gangbangers must love Rahm on this one.
The Emanuel Administration denies all this, of course. Streets and San, under orders from Emanuel to abolish the traditional ward-based service delivery system and switch to a citywide "grid" system, insists that things are improving. Check out this press release:
When asked for an on-record response from the Southwest Chicago Post, Streets and San Commissioner Thomas G. Byrne offered this:
"By working in a grid, we are able to respond to more 311 requests in a day because we are making the best use of our time. Since implementing this program, our daily crew productivity is up on average of 16 percent each day."
And just yesterday, mayoral spokesman Tom Alexander made this preposterous claim to a Sun-Times reporter:
“The new ‘blitz’ system for combating graffiti is doing a great job of getting rid of graffiti from our streets, saving taxpayer resources and keeping our communities clean and safe. We believe that the system is working well and has resulted in graffiti requests being handled promptly and efficiently."
I feel bad for everyone at Streets and San, from the Commissioner on down to the laborers on the front lines----because generally speaking, Streets and San is staffed with good people who know how to get the job done, quickly and effectively. And all of them know what the rest of us know; yet they are chronically understaffed, programmatically handcuffed and prohibited from speaking candidly by the Mayor's people on the fifth floor of City Hall.
So let's take them out of this and instead direct our criticism where it belongs---squarely at Mayor Rahm Emanuel---who has the power and resources to add enough graffiti removal teams to eradicate graffiti so quickly that gangbangers and other taggers will be frustrated to the point of just about giving up.
But Emanuel won't do it, and instead hides behind paid spokesmen trotted out to deliver cooked statistics, twisted rationalizations and even outright lies.
And why do our aldermen---for the most part---look the other way while our neighborhoods deteriorate?
Twenty-third Ward Alderman Michael R. Zalewski, quoted today in a Sun-Times article on the subject, just announced some sort of "get-tough" legislative package that proposes to increase penalties on those convicted of graffiti-related crimes and boost fines for parents/guardians of juveniles who commit such crimes.
I have a number of criticisms of plans like that. Here are just a few:
** How many gangs in Chicago would stop marking turf because city fines were increased? Answer: zero or near zero.
** How many parents/guardians of gangbangers and taggers, who currently have no control over their teenagers, would magically grow backbones and take control because city fines were increased? Answer: zero or near zero.
** Even if Alderman Zalewski's proposal sails through City Council (which it probably won't) and passes quickly, when would it take effect---and how would that help us right now, in the summer of 2012, with gang graffiti escalating each and every day? Answer: it most likely won't.
Don't get me wrong. I'll all for the criminal justice system giving a good, hard whack to those who mar our great city with graffiti--especially gangbangers. And let's credit Zalewski for at least attempting to do something about it, when our other aldermen...well, you be the judge.
But really, folks, what needs to be done now---this week---is for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to knock off the nonsense and do what he was elected to do.
If you agree that Mayor Emanuel should lead, do three things now, today:
** Call his office at 312-744-3300 and---politely, please (the exec secretaries who answer that line work very hard and earn every penny of their salaries)---say that you as a voting, tax-paying Chicagoan want the Mayor to know that you want him to immediately increase---even double---the number of Streets and San graffiti removal crews on active duty. (And rest assured that, despite what the secretary may tell you, she is noting what you say. Emanuel's mayoral staff, like that of Mayor Daley before, keeps close tabs every day on how many calls are coming in, and in relation to what issues. And the numbers can definitely influence mayoral decisions.)
** Go to Mayor Emanuel's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/rahmemanuel and politely but firmly insist that the Mayor get serious about graffiti removal.
** Call your alderman's ward office and demand that he/she pressure the Mayor to get serious about graffiti removal.
If you don't speak up now, don't complain later when you see graffiti everywhere in the neighborhood. Remember, folks, we get what we put up with. If we put up with a mayor who can stop graffiti but won't, well...
Rahm Emanuel is a smart, capable man with a will of iron, nerves of steel and friends in high places---to say the least. There is absolutely no doubt he can get this graffiti problem fixed within days.
And if the Mayor gets on this and at long last gives Streets and San the tools they need to frustrate gangbangers and taggers, he will look like a hero---especially to the law-abiding, tax-paying, registered-to-vote majority in Chicago. And he'll be hated by the gangbangers.
So what about it, Mr. Mayor?
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