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Try Scrubbing This Off

Schenectady lawmaker proposes new regulations to curb graffiti


‘Everybody who talks to me hates graffiti, of course,” said Schenectady Councilwoman Democrat Barbara Blanchard. “They really are glad that the topic has been brought up. It’s against the law, so we should work on different ways of preventing it, as well as making arrests.” The topic in question is Blanchard’s proposal for an ordinance that would bar the sale of spray paint and permanent markers to anyone under the age of 18 in an effort to stop the tagging of local property.

“Every neighborhood has been affected,” she said. “It’s an upsetting thing for all residents to see. Except maybe the kids who do it, which is a pretty small minority. I think it’s going to take a few different approaches. I would like the police to do more enforcement. We have new wireless cameras that we can move around, and we could aim some of them at common graffiti sites. Also, decreasing the availability of the materials.”

If the ordinance is passed, Schenectady will be the second government in the Capital Region behind Albany to impose the law. The Albany ordinance was passed in 1989, restricting the sale of broad-tipped indelible markers and aerosol spray paint cans to children under the age of 18; it was amended in 2005, with the addition of etching acid as a prohibited item for underage purchase. Albany Common Councilman Richard Conti (Ward 6), who has been a local resident since 1986 and has served as a council member since 1997, weighed in on the matter.

“It’s hard to enforce this,” he said. “It comes and goes in spurts, but I would not accept it as the norm because it is defacing property. And when we don’t address it, it erodes the quality of life in the neighborhood.”

To insure that stores aren’t selling these products to children, Blanchard said that code-enforcement officers would be used along with regular police to impose the ordinance. Stores with smaller stock quantities of the prohibited items would store materials behind the counter, while larger chains, such as Lowe’s, would be advised to lock up spray paints in the back of the store and have them removed upon request.

“I don’t think it’s too onerous a burden to place on storekeepers,” said Blanchard. “It is slightly more of a burden for an adult wanting to buy spray paint, but consider that most adults are offended by graffiti.” It’s a double-edged sword.

Ideal Office Supplies is located down the street from Schenectady’s City Hall. Owner David D’Amato said his building has even become a recent victim to tagging in the last two weeks. He said that he would be willing to comply with the ordinance if put in effect, but is a little skeptical about it achieving any real results.

“Kids don’t buy the markers for that purpose,” D’Amato said.

Tony Gaddy, the Public Relations coordinator for the Hamilton Hill Arts Center in Schenectady, sees both sides of the issue.

“It’s definitely a good thing if it leads to a reduction of vandalism and graffiti,” he said. “At the same time, there are people considered graffiti artists. We’re an art center, so we always have artists in mind. We actually had some artists come in and do some art on the exterior of our building; our building has been blessed with commissioning artists, and unexpected ones as well.”

“There are certain products you regulate, prohibit minors from purchasing—alcohol, cigarettes,” Conti said. “It’s reasonable. It doesn’t prohibit [minors] from using it, just from purchasing it.”

Blanchard stated that the proposal would be a focus on the agenda for the committee meeting Monday night. The code-enforcement department will be present as their role is outlined in the upcoming agenda, and the chief of police will give a report on the current regulatory status of graffiti in Schenectady.

Blanchard hopes to have the proposal up for voting by the June 25 council meeting.

“Nobody has told me that they oppose it; everybody understands that it won’t solve the problem completely but maybe it will lessen it,” she said. She suggests planting greenery around specific tagging zones and painting murals on walls commonly targeted as a means for the local community to decrease the appeal of tagging. “I really think calling attention to the problem is in the benefit of this whole action. Sometimes it’s synergistic.”

—Meagan Murray

What a Week

Justice For Ali

The Bush administration’s march toward unrestricted executive power was halted Wednesday when a court ordered that the United States must either release or charge a man it has been holding in solitary confinement for nearly four years. Qatar native Ali al-Marri is a legal resident of the United States and was studying for his master’s degree in December 2003 when he was picked up on suspicion of operating as an al-Qaida sleeper agent. The court ruled that al-Marri, whom the administration refers to as an “enemy combatant,” was not, however, stripped of his habeas corpus rights by the notorious 2006 Military Commissions Act and has the legal right to his day in court. The government has yet to announce whether it will comply or appeal.

I Heart Bombs

One-time Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) thinks that the war in Iraq is such a smashing success that the lines of engagement ought to be drawn out further—over the Iranian border. Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, Lieberman said that, although he supports continuing talks with the government in Tehran, he also supports the use of force if Iran doesn’t comply with U.S. demands. What are those demands? Put an end to its alleged support for anti-Iraqi forces—smuggling weapons and training soldiers—even though top U.S. officials have been so far unable to prove that the Iranian government is actively engaged in those activities.

Fuck, Yeah!

Cover your ears, send the kids to bed, or turn off that TV, because an appeals court ruled this week that the zealous enforcement of decency regulations by the federal government over the past few years has been “arbitrary and capricious.” According to the court, the Federal Communications Commission has overstepped its legal authority multiple times in fining networks for incidents in which celebrities let expletives fly live on national television. Further sending chills down the spines of FCC bureaucrats, the court went on to suggest that in this filth-laden era of cable and Internet, the necessity for a regulatory body overseeing the public’s airwaves might be obsolete.

The Other Flag Day Parade

PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle

Last year, the Saratoga Peace Alliance brought their message of nonviolence and dissent to the streets of Saratoga for the annual Flag Day Parade. This year, they weren’t invited back. The alliance was told by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the organizers of the parade, that Flag Day is a day for honoring the flag. Since standing up for your freedom of speech is as American as apple pie or the Elks Club, the alliance decided to host its own parade, carrying signs that read, “It’s Our Flag, Too.”



Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-

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