Friday, July 6, 2012

The Writing on the Wall Gets Erased

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Most Southwest Siders have noticed that in the past two weeks in our neighborhoods, this:

...has turned into this:

The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation clearly unleashed a massive graffiti removal operation on the Southwest Side---turning failure into triumph.

In my opinion, it was outstanding---the most thorough, community-wide graffiti removal I've seen in the city in years.

Congratulations to everyone at Streets and San---from Commissioner Thomas G. Byrne to the troops on the front lines.

But more than anyone, congratulations and thanks to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

As Southwest Chicago Post readers may recall from the "The Writing's on the Wall" editorial I wrote on June 19,

...I directed criticism for the graffiti clean-up failure squarely at Emanuel. So it's only fair that he gets the applause, squarely. Well done, Mr. Mayor.

The obvious question is, why did this massive graffiti removal occur when it did? Was it a response to Southwest Siders raising our voices in complaint and kicking City Hall in the arse, or was it a coincidence---a sign the Emanuel Administration's switch from a ward-based to a grid-based delivery of Streets and San services (including graffiti removal) is working the way Emanuel predicted it would?

Who knows? Who cares? Most Southwest Siders don't. For the most part, we're meat-and-potatoes pragmatists. Our motto tends to be: we don't care how you get the job done; just get it done.

That said, I hasten to add another thing all Southwest Siders know: the struggle against graffiti is ongoing. It is not a battle. It is a war. It absolutely requires a smart mix of both short- and long-term strategies.

And we're skeptics here in Garfield Ridge, Clearing, West Lawn, Archer Heights, West Elsdon, Scottsdale and other Southwest Side neighborhoods---especially when it comes to promises from government.

So for the rest of the summer and even into the fall, we'll be watching city government closely, to see if they get the job done. We'll see if they thwart graffiti by being every bit as quick, nimble and relentless as gangbangers and taggers are. Really, that's the best way to stop graffiti---to remove it so quickly and consistently that punks give up in frustration.

Which way will it go? Time will tell. And the Mayor and his staff know we're watching...

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