New Portland graffiti ordinance
removes fines for property owners
But 'taggers' can be fined $500 and be required to do community service.
By Dennis Hoey email@example.com
PORTLAND — People who get caught vandalizing property with graffiti will be punished, and their victims won't, under a new ordinance adopted Monday night by the City Council.
The ordinance, which was developed over the course of about six months, passed unanimously.
The minority bloc of councilors opposed an amendment, offered by Councilor David Marshall, that removed an escalating system of fines for property owners who fail to remove graffiti after their buildings get "tagged" by vandals.
Without those fines, which would have ranged from $100 for the first offense to $500 for three or more violations, those councilors said the ordinance would be too weak to compel property owners to comply.
Coyne said it would be like having a spayed pit bull – threatening, but ineffective.
Their arguments failed to persuade the majority of councilors, who supported Marshall's amendment.
"We don't need fines in order to have an effective ordinance," Marshall said.
He noted that the ordinance will require property owners to file plans with the city for removing graffiti within 10 days.
The ordinance also contains penalties.
Anyone who puts graffiti on public or private property can be fined $500 and be required to do at least 25 hours of community service.
Possession or furnishing of graffiti instruments could subject an offender to a fine of as much as $250.
If the city removes the graffiti, the property owner will be charged the cost of removal, plus a 10 percent administrative fee.
Doug Fuss, a bar and restaurant owner in the Old Port, lobbied for passage of the ordinance with fines for property owners who don't remove graffiti. Fuss said the war on graffiti can't be won unless the graffiti is removed quickly.
James Harmon, who owns 130 rental units in Portland, said he supports the ordinance, but not the fines.
"I think the fines are unfair," he said.
"Don't victimize the victims all over again," said Charles Bragdon, a Portland resident.
Suslovic, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, said there is widespread consensus in the community that graffiti is a problem. "It seems to be everywhere," he said.
Along with Marshall, the councilors who voted to pass the ordinance were Jill Duson, John Anton, Dory Waxman and Mayor Nicholas Mavodones.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org