Monday, June 18, 2007

City-sanctioned Graffiti

So Commissioner Randy Leonard is on a graffiti eradication toot. Hurray for him!

Strangely, I’ve had a few of my students come to the defense of graffiti. Eradication is censorship etc. After all, this is art, free expression. Besides, those blank spaces are just going to waste.

Private property? Not if can be used to communicate "art" to the public.

Ok, I ask, how about your forehead? Blank space. In full public view. What say I spray-paint over your brow “Bonehead”? All in the spirit of free expression, of course.

End of argument.

Now then, I’d like Commissioner Leonard to consider two other forms of graffiti, both sanctioned by our city officials, including Commissioner Leonard.

The first are overhead wires on well-traveled by-ways. They are certainly as blighting and intrusive as graffiti. Obviously city officials agree, which is why they insist that the Pearl District, South Waterfront and the Lloyd District have underground utilities as part of their municipal tax deferred financing.

Officials should require the same burying of wires and transformers whenever new commercial construction is built on well-traveled transit lines.

You know, places like the new Watershed complex in Hillsdale.

The second city-sanctioned graffiti are the “sponsored” stop announcements on the Portland streetcars. Yes, auditory graffiti. Intrusive, offensive, embarrassing, deceitful and absurd.

Intrusive because they can’t be avoided.

Offensive because in order to use public transit, well, we can’t avoid them.

Embarrassing because out-of-town visitors and tourists, drawn to the trolleys, must find the voice-activated commercials tacky. Unworthy of the City of Roses.

Absurd and deceitful because the actual messages claim that public, taxpayer-built and maintained intersections are “sponsored by” this or that business or institution.

Come on.

I rode the trolley today and concluded that, frankly, some of these “sponsors” should be ashamed of themselves. I’m thinking in particular of the Portland Art Museum, the “Portland State Vikings” (who, pray tell, are they? The student body? The administration? The football team?) and the Portland State Bookstore.

There’s no way these institutions “sponsor” the stop intersections, and they know it.

So Commissioner Leonard, AKA duct-tap Randy, should look up at the wires and listen up to the trolley plugs. There is plenty of graffiti that he and his colleagues could clean up with a simple roll-call vote.

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