Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Calling the '3-1-1' on Official Graffiti in Ottawa

Thanks to a local writer who sent me this informative article from the CBC. It's about the City of Ottawa's 311 Service.

Established in 2001 , it has been used by citizens in town to call and complain about mostly noise, pets and 'property standards' in town.
We complain a LOT about other people's pets.

Perhaps the city should consider adopting a zero tolerance approach to pets. We could call it something trendy (acronym suggestions, please!). The focus of course would be the eradication of all pets in the city.

OK, fair enough, parking is the BIGGEST problem, but we don't need pets to get to work, do we? Tax payers need to get to work to pay taxes...they don't "need" pets (or art) do they?

This example illustrates what is wrong with the logic of assuming that an increase usage in the City's 311 complaint service since its creation is an indicator that social problems - such as graffiti- are increasing OR that they deserve eradicating efforts and attention.

It is of course absurd to create policy that would ever promise or attempt to 'eradicate' pets.

I recently stumbled upon this article written by Ottawa Citizen columnist, Charles Gordon in 2001. While I am much more appreciative of graffiti than he appears to be, at least he sees the absurdity in such wars. Here is an excerpt:

We have laws against vandalism, which can be enforced when appropriate. We have paint to cover over offensive graffiti. In other cases, we can just live with it, not necessarily encouraging it, but not ordering a massive police operation against it, and praying that the continued existence of graffiti will not, as the editorial warns, cause people to barricade themselves in their homes.
Neither massive police action nor an officially-sanctioned graffiti wall are going to stop it. It will stop when it stops, no thanks to us. Then something else will replace it, and we can hope it will not be worse. That may sound defeatist. But there are far bigger problems in our city than graffiti. Let's work on them.(Surviving the graffiti plague: Let us spray:[Final Edition] The Ottawa Citizen.  Ottawa, Ont.:Aug 21, 2001.  p. D4)

Great title! 

And how interesting that 10 years later, the War on Graffiti in the City of Ottawa continues...

Then I got to thinking about the absurdity in using the 311 service as a way to - at least in part - justify a moral crusade on graffiti in the City of Ottawa, a thought came to me:

What would happen if more of us citizens (that includes you local writers too) would call and complain when the city paints gray or beige over graffiti?
Hermer and Hunt  call these kinds of 'signs' of prohibition as "official graffiti"... Who are they to tell me what colours of paint is offensive under that bridge? I say we start formally reporting buffing as graffiti!

Lets fight the absurd with the absurd!

FYI: Graffiti calls only make up about 2% (1500) of the 75,000 311 complaints (2010, City of Ottawa) but the Sun reported it as much much more. I would trust the City of Ottawa numbers. 


  1. awesome. you know i think people get pets because of peer pressure, those young hooligans! early intervention is the answer for eradicating all pets.

  2. Love your site man keep up the good work