Thursday, April 24, 2008

One More Week In The Graffiti Challenge

Seven more days in April, so there's still time to make a difference in how Uptown looks. When you're out walking the dog, or grabbing a coffee or a bite to eat, bring your cell phone. Call 311 to report any graffiti you see. Takes a minute. You don't even have to leave your name. And Graffiti Blasters is one of the most responsive city services.

This is our home, not gang turf. Not a backdrop for taggers or a coloring book for kids. Making a quick call is an effective way to send a message: "NOT HERE."


  1. Our alley got tagged in two places Sunday night. I called on Monday and by Tuesday it was removed. I got a tracking number when I called because sometimes it is not removed as quickly but this time the City was right on top of it.

  2. I know an actual graffiti artist, not a tagger.

    Somehow, I don't mind at all if it's artfully done - I feel like that's part of a city. But tagging, gang symbols, etc. I'm not really happy with.

  3. um, defacing someone else's property, no matter how "artful" is a crime and should be punished

  4. Anyone report the side wall of the TCF bank on Wilson? It is a not so welcoming site to look at when looking east from the Wilson El stop. Its a surprise Shiller hasn't had it removed since it is so close to her office.

  5. Call it in again. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say. I've been calling in about two a day, and they seem to get out to remove it in a few days.

    The one thing this year in Uptown has shown me is that it's not up to "someone" to do something, it's the community that gets things done. The alderman is useless, as per her spokesman's attitude toward crime: "The only place without crime is heaven. We don't address it."

    I've decided, when I look at something and wonder when "someone" will fix it, to be that "someone" as much as I can.

  6. How would Alderman Helen Shiller know about heaven? We know she has an enormous ego but does she think she has a direct pipeline to God too?

  7. A few things to chew on

    First, Schiller is a politician. As a high school political science and history teacher, one of the enduring understandings we really try to impress uopn our students, specifically those in the Model UN, is of the basic structure of Machievellian politics. For those of you who are not familiar, Machievelli set the ground rules for all politics. Despite whatever Democratic and Human Rights issues are played up in the media, and that we may consider as a people to be most valuable, even the UN is based upon the rules of Machievelli. And that is, that the politicians main priority is to protect his or her chair. It is under this assumption, that if everyones primary concern is their own chair, there will be a strategic balance of power, and the true capatalists will rise to the top. This does not make Schiller callous, negligent or anything like that. She is a politician; self interested, self promoting. Even having a hand in the corruption in this fair city that we all love is in her job description.

    Therefore, Schiller will protect her own chair. She is not concerned with your property values, gang violence or anything you might have Democratic delusions that it is her job to do, unless it is a threat to her chair. She knows who is responsible for keeping her in that seat and she answers to them. If we want to get her ear, then we need to think about this carefully before preceding. The police, as is described below, have some sort of conflict of interests with Schiller's office. I do not know the details, or claim to be a know-it-all in the neighborhood. Badmouthing her office consistently is not the means to the end we seek.

    Second, Though there are many aspects to the economic and political realities of our neighborhood, there are two that we are currently discussing. It is important to highlight such topics, and to seperate issues from bleading into eachother so much that we lose clarity. One issue is the Target/Target Affiliate and our property values. I do not teach economics, and am not trying to pretend that I understand the complex world of the rise and fall of property values in Chicago. But we can confidently conclude that whether a Target or a Dollar Store goes in there, and whether low income apartments that cost more than my own condo does get built across the street from me, is a complex equation, with many variables some of which have something to do with questions of gentrification, corruption and people lining their pockets. We do not know who those players are, but to point the finger at Schiller is wrong. She no doubt coordinates all those interests and puts her stamp on the dotted line. But that is Chicago politics, and she is a very intelligent player. If she was a stupid player, she would let herself get drawn into discussions about gang activity with cops, that clearly have an undisclosed agenda of their own. They are asking her for something, that she does not have to give. Back to the point, the way to get her ear is to open communication. We are in the dark about too many variables to pass judgement. We should be asking more questions and trying to understand why and who these decisions effect besides ourselves.

    Another is the issue of the gang activity. This is the reality of gentrification. We are trying to say, 'We live here too.' Well, open your eyes, they are saying the exact same thing. In fact there was an older African American lady screaming these exact words last night right outside my door, while an officer was telling her to get off the street. We live there too, but they have lived there for generations upon generations. So the question becomes how do we want to live together; in peace or in conflict. To live in peace, we need to make positive steps, inclusive and consistent steps. Exclusive steps, such as 'Reclaiming the mall' however good the intention is behind the action, is an exclusive action. It builds more conflict over who lives here; it builds upon the false notion there there is a turf war between us and them, that we are a threat to them. This is not where we want to be on this, I am sure of that.

    Gang activity. This we also need to seperate into two different approaches being considered. One is cameras and surveillance, calling 911 when something obviously wrong is happening outside your door. Good Idea. Lets do it, and keep doing it consistently. It is necessary to be clear that we are not going to accept illegal activities.

    The other is what is being called the 'Meet and Greet.' The organizer of this event (with all respect for his time and sincerity) has been led in numerous ways(schooled on who his friends and enemies are by his own admission, the flier to this event, etc) by the police and Caps. Of course, we respect the work of the police, and we need to be on their side, as they are the ones who will respond to our calls, etc. However, we must be aware that we very possibly may be being used in a political game here between the cops and the Alderman's office.

    I, for one, am not going to this meet and greet, because of the inflamatory language used on the flier. It is not about getting to know your neighbors, communicating with the other side. Again, regardless of our intentions, the flier directly communicates a 'claiming' territory, and then needing the police to moderate our efforts. The intentions that this flier indicates to ALL our neighbors, about why we are meeting, is not one I share. Nor do I think it is the umbrella that most of us want to meet to hold up together.

    The flier should have said something short and sweet, and inclusive like, 'Come and Meet your Neighbors'

    We love the police, We need there help, but we have to be careful to represent our own interests, and to remember that the police have interests of their own.

  8. Ah... Got to love those academics... So what do we do? Allow the drug dealers and gang bangers to hang out there and shoot at eachother in the middle of the afternoon when our kids - and ourselves - are walking home from work? Barracade in our houses, peer out the windows and put the entire burden on the 911 operators and police? That is what we have been doing and its not working. So lets keep trying new things until we find something that works. Just because criminals lived here first does not mean they have some intrinsic right to be criminals. That is why there are laws against it. And just because hundreds of years ago the political system was set up in such away that the ruler's only duty was to protect himself, does not make it right. I like to think we should be moving away from that system and we should be living in a system where the people voted into office to represent the people actually do represent the people. Maybe you should come forward a few hundred years in history and actually read how a representative government should work. It is by the people, for the people. Not by Shiller, for Shiller. Whether or not that is how it has been in the past, that is not how it should be for the benefit of all. It is not appropriate to be teaching kids these days that "that is how it was and that is how it is." We need to be teaching them "this is how it should be" because they are the ones who are going to be developing our politics and legislature in the future. Teaching children that the way politics is best run is to do everything you can just to keep you seat is irresponsible and just plain wrong.

  9. 5:54 ... no offense, but .. what?!

    Just because Shiller may be in lock step with Machiavellian theory does not excuse her from being callous and/or negligent.

    Furthermore, since she is in lock step, we should just accept her for what she is and dismiss the fact that she is protecting her chair at the expense of the ward?

    Machiavelli said:

    "Whoever conquers a free town and does not demolish it commits a great error and may expect to be ruined himself. "

    Chew on that one for a few.

    Also - your argument stating that to point the finger at Shiller is wrong, even though she may coordinate and put her stamp on the dotted line is flatly absurd.

    You seem more than willing to give her a lot of leeway simply based on what Niccolo scribbled down some 400+ years ago, don'tcha' think?

    How 'bout we get into Malthusian theories on population growth and apply his theories to Uptown, while we're at it?

    Regarding your idea on not wanting to create a turf war with gang bangers ... c'mon. It wasn't the renters nor condo owners who started popping off their bang-bang toys. If there is a turf war to be fought, it was precipitated by the gang bangers.

    Here's some Machiavelli for ya':

    "When you disarm the people, you commence to offend them and show that you distrust them either through cowardice or lack of confidence, and both of these opinions generate hatred. "

    The meet and greet is a civilized version of the local people, inclusive to anyone from the flier I read, to arm themselves via numbers, not weapons.

    To stand idly by is to be disarmed, and that's exactly the strategy that Shiller has propagated for decades.

    If I didn't know better (and I certainly can't tell from here), I would think that you're a Shiller hack.

    You're certainly making a wonderful, yet wholly disjointed, poorly constructed and grammatically haphazard argument on her behalf.

    Personally, I will be attending the meet and greet if only as a show of solidarity; since to follow your mentality of doing little more than what has historically failed seems like a fool's endeavor.

  10. Maybe since teachers only work half of the year this teacher who likes to write long gripes, online most likely because it is a forum that allows him to finish his rant in real life he is probably laughed at or ignored and gets no respect.

    Could organize a summer school on the Sunnyside Mall and set up a Model UN with the P-Stones, and The Vice Lords.

    Then after they complete the Model UN, cut a new music video to "WE ARE THE WORLD".

    Most likely however he will probably take the summer off do nothing productive for his neighborhood other than to complain about the verbage on various flyers for groups that he thought he was going to join until, one of the thoughts in the flyer reminded him of somthing that he read in Shakespeare years ago and unfortunately that author once wrote a play that involved some nefarious characters, involved in a tale that to him might give the wrong impression of what he thought the intention should be.

  11. If he gets that model UN off the ground and is able to shoot the We are the world video I want a copy.

    That would be a great moment in Uptown history.

    The guy must have inhaled too much chalk dust at school today.

  12. Maybe the fliers would better suit the teacher if the top half used the Helvetica font promoting the Meet and Greet.

    and the bottom half was done in graffiti font and said Get Yo ass out da crib and meet yo peeps.

  13. I just found out one of my coworkers is a tagger, and I tore him a new one. His justification for tagging public places was that he doesn't tag people's houses, just corporate buildings like Starbucks or McDonalds.

    While that's a romantic idea (the concept of defacing "The Man"), these are our neighborhoods. These are buildings and places we walk by every single day. I don't care what anyone says. Tagging public buildings is selfish and criminal. Not to mention that a lot of the graffiti in the area is not formal "tagging" but a method for gangs to communicate and mark their turf. I personally will be calling everything I see this week.

  14. I personally will try to make it to the 'meet and greet'. I've just put a note up in my foyer, as gently disagree with the terminology on the flier...I do have concerns it could give people the idea that 'we' ('the yuppies') just want 'them' (lower-income people) out of the neighborhood. We can all work together to prevent crime, without having it appear to be such an 'us vs. them' thing that the Alderman has successfully exploited and exaggerated for years.

    That being said, I don't think there's much of a point in being divisive since I think many of us have similar motivations and would just like a safe and peaceful neighborhood. I would love to meet more of my neighbors of whatever color and income, and hope that this is an opportunity for us to get together in a friendly manner.

    And since this is about graffiti after all...I'm too much of a philistine to appreciate 'graffiti art' since I can't read those funny-looking letters. I just think it makes the whole place look trashy, and causing building owners trouble and expense is simply rude.