Thursday, March 22, 2007

Spring Update

Hello to all of you interested in cleaning up Burlington!

The first day of spring came and went, so that means it's time for us to step it up! The Graffiti Removal Steering Committee has made great progress drafting an ordinance that will give police officers better tools to catch vandals. The specific details have been agreed upon, and you can read them in the attachment below. City Attorney Gene Bergman has received this and will be putting our ideas into legal format from now. Hopefully by the summer it can be voted on by City Council.

Just because we've put our ideas on paper, though, doesn't mean that this ordinance's passage is guaranteed! We still have a lot of work to do to ensure that it will pass. We need to gather some data about the state of the city right now and plan a PR campaign and event or two around Green-Up Day. That's where you come in!

Our next meeting for the "Outreach Committee" will be next week on Thursday, March 29th, from 5:30-7:00, at the Center for Community and Neighborhoods at 125 College St., 2nd floor. (Same time, same place, new day of the week this time.) There is a tentative plan for the Saturday after (Saturday, March 31st) to be a data-gathering day when we will go out and count the number of tags there are right now in a specific area of town. We'll use this number to come up with a dollar amount of damage and to keep track of how effective our campaign ends up being. More details about the data-gathering event to come.

If you can't come to the meeting, there are other things you can do to start getting the issue of tagging on people's minds. Write a letter to the editor of the Free Press. Go to your NPA ward meeting and bring up the issue. (If you don't know when and where your local NPA meeting is, check out Talk to your neighbors and friends about the harm that tagging is doing to our niehgborhoods-- hurting our sense of community pride, making us feel unsafe, creating an atmosphere that invites crime, etc.
Other exciting things going on: Church Street Marketplace has asked local businesses to donate gift certificates to give to witnesses of vandalism (we're going to go that route first rather than through Crimestoppers to see how effective it is so that witnesses call Burlington Police Department directly.) Also, the "Community Art Space," the fence on North and North Union Street, will feature panels painted by the Boys and Girls Club and other community youth groups and individuals and is scheduled to be fully installed and anti-graffiti coated on Green-Up Day (May 5th). If you're an artist who could coach some mural panelist kids once a week for 3-4 weeks, contact me!

That's a long enough update for now, but to reiterate, I hope to see you at our next meeting on Thursday, March 29th, at 125 College St., from 5:30-7:00!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Next meeting tomorrow

Hi folks,
Hope you received your newsletter in the mail this weekend. I'm also posting the list of ideas proposed at our last meeting below. And remember, we'll be meeting TOMORROW (Tuesday, February 13th) from 5:45-7 at the Center for Community and Neighborhoods to do more planning-- I'd love to have you there! Our new address is: 125 College St., 2nd floor (next to Bennington Pottery). C-CAN's "Open House" will be taking place right before, from 4 until 5:30. Feel free to stop in early to enjoy some snacks, check out our new space, and learn more about the programs we run.

Here are the ideas-- please let me know what you think the Action Committee's priorities should be (your top 5):

1. We need more Adopt-A-Block volunteers. We should find a way to reach out to more individuals and businesses. Prompt clean up is still the best way to keep tags from coming back, according to research that Cpl. Radford brought for us to see.
2. Graffiti vandals need to be held accountable. The laws could to be changed so that it is easier to prosecute graffiti vandals. The group discussed the creation of a Civil Ticket for Graffiti (Vandalism).
3. We need more communication between the people, organizations and City Departments that are working on this issue. It is important to document the graffiti and the efforts to combat it.
4. It is important to document the cost of graffiti to the City. We should put together facts and figures that show how much it costs to clean graffiti from different surfaces.
5. We could ask a college class to help us get specific stats on Burlington’s graffiti problem.
6. We need a way to transport our graffiti removal materials. A van for GRT would be a huge help. Acquiring a van seemed plausible. Finding sustaining funds for a van may present some challenges.
7. We could get an enclosed and locked trailer to transport a power washer in that could easily be hooked up to a city vehicle when needed, and that would be much less expensive than maintaining a van.
8. We should ask the local paint supply stores to document who buys spray paint and paint pens.
9. We need to find a way to reach out to graffiti vandals to help them understand the negative impacts of their behavior.
10. We need more connections in the schools—doing presentations about how graffiti hurts a community. We could ask school resource officers to help us identify kids who have a lot of tags drawn in their notebooks, since this seems to be an indication that they may be putting the same tag up elsewhere.
11. Graffiti vandals are motivated by public recognition. We should not bring them any increased attention through the media. Also, we should ask the media to avoid interviewing police officers in relation to our programs, but show community members as the driving force behind them instead.
12. We should use the media to reach out to new volunteers and to get the community more involved—i.e. use the media to emphasize positive things going on.
13. It is important to let graffiti vandals know that the community is watching for them. We need to send the message that we know who they are & their behavior is not ok.
14. What if a person who was convicted of graffiti (vandalism) received points on their driver’s license? Much like they did for underage smoking?
15. We need a city ordinance—not one that punishes businesses by forcing them to clean up their graffiti in 30 days, but one that targets the taggers.
16. We could have a special citywide “Graffiti Clean-Up Day” where everyone cleans whatever they see on their property. It could be in conjunction with Green-Up Day, but not just a part of it. We’d have a huge PR campaign leading up to it.
17. Utilizing neighborhood forums more could be helpful.
18. We need specific point people attending each NPA.
19. We need more positive outlets, like the “Community Art Space” on North Union and North Ave. where a fence was donated for youth to hang pre-approved art. We could have an exhibition at the Firehouse Gallery, even.
20. We could expand our compilation of tag photographs and put more emphasis on taking pictures when we see one.
21. We should write letters to the City Attorney once we have greater numbers to convince him to make the penalties for vandalism more than a slap on the wrist.

ALSO, we are definitely going to be partnering with Champlain Valley Crime Stoppers to reward witnesses! More to come on that. I'll probably also be looking for people in the future who wouldn't mind putting up posters to help us get the word out.

That's all for now, but I'll be posting more later,