By Adam Meltzer

The Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) has proposed cutting the Graffiti Abatement Program for the 2018-2019 City budget stating that the program does not align with its core mission to “Promote a culture of civic engagement by connecting and supporting all Portlanders working together and with government to build inclusive, safe and livable neighborhoods and communities.”

However, the fact is that the Graffiti Abatement program is actually in complete alignment with ONI’s core values of promoting civic engagement and enhancing livability.

In a city with various criminal elements, graffiti, tagging and the visual degradation of our neighborhoods seem to be a low budget priority for the coming fiscal year. Richmond Tag Busters, a volunteer group of dedicated neighbors that formed as a committee of the Richmond Neighborhood Association, have been working with the City’s Graffiti Abatement Program to help keep the Richmond neighborhood clean  and it’s working.

“We have seen a noticeable decrease in graffiti and tagging in our neighborhood over the last year due to our efforts,” says Adam Meltzer, the chair and founder of the committee, “but we rely heavily on the City Graffiti Abatement Program for help.” The Graffiti Office is what fuels our civic involvement to fight and clean up graffiti.

The Graffiti Abatement Program has been an indispensable ally in efforts to tackle the growing problem of graffiti. It has provided all of our supplies for monthly graffiti cleanups and provides ongoing guidance. We are partnering with the Graffiti Abatement Program, KINK Radio, Metro and the Hawthorne and Division-Clinton Business Associations to put on a Richmond Graffiti and Litter Cleanup Day on June 16, 2018, with the hope that other neighborhoods will organize similar Graffiti Cleanup days. (Look for details in later editions of SE Examiner.)

The Graffiti Abatement Program holds regular monthly meetings, bringing together business representatives and citizens from all over the city to discuss and strategize tactics to address graffiti.

Graffiti has long been a problem in Portland, but in the last 3-5 years, there has been an explosive growth in graffiti, which has been not only been a huge eyesore for residents and business owners, but has considerably affected what we call “livability.”

The growing presence of graffiti affects us all; it adds to the increasing sense of loss of control and feeling of safety in our environment and our neighborhood. You can see it everywhere: on industrial buildings in inner SE, stop signs, electrical boxes, utility poles, retail establishments on Hawthorne and Division, schools and even apartments buildings and single-family houses. These vandals with total disregard for property and homes and quality of life put slap tags and spray paint their street names everywhere.

The Graffiti Abatement Program fits squarely into ONI’s core mission of civic engagement and livability and eliminating it is a mistake. There is no other program or resource volunteer neighbors and businesses can look to for guidance and supplies to clean up graffiti.

It fuels civic engagement throughout the city in efforts that directly relate to improving livability. Cutting the program will destroy morale and set us back in our efforts to fight and clean up graffiti. Now is not the time to cut the Graffiti Abatement Program but to provide it with more funding.

Some of Richmond’s volunteer graffiti and clean up crew

If you are concerned about the safety, cleanliness and livability of Portland neighborhoods, attend the next Budget Advisory Committee meeting and speak out against the cuts to the Graffiti Abatement Program. Let Council hear your voice if you want the city to keep the program:

Email or write letters to Council  a sample letter can be found here at bit.ly/2EVLMwI. Attend the March 12, 5:30 pm, ONI Budget Advisory Committee meeting at City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave. Portland, OR 97204 (Lovejoy Room and open to the public)

The additional dates are critical to the timeline: • ONI Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) meetings: portlandoregon.gov/oni/29021 • April – date not posted for public hearing • April 30 – Mayor announces proposed budget

ONI and the BAC are saying that the program does not align with their mission, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. By working together we can influence policy and prevent further budget cuts.