Last night, Asheville City Council approved a new graffiti ordinance. It was modeled after ordinances in other cities that had seriously reduced their graffiti problems. The program is three-phased. The first step is to fine graffitists with stiffer penalties, beginning at $200 for the first offense. The second is to have a ninety-day blitz to remove all graffiti. Property owners who cannot afford to remove their own may apply for public assistance. Right before the meeting, an extra-nice, super-duper, upstanding citizen of an anonymous donor offered to pay all 10% charges that would have been billed to the property owners. That made the project a lot more palatable.

Business owners seemed happy with the third step that requires them to remove it from their buildings within seven days of receipt of a notice from the city. Persons objecting to the program argued it did not reach out enough to the children whose voices would be suppressed. Leadership struggled to define the difference between graffiti and art because it would have been political suicide to mention “property rights.” Try it: Graffiti is wrong because instead of buying your own canvas, you use your own wall that some curmudgeon thinks he owns just because he paid for it, maintains it, and pays taxes on it. What’s wrong with that? One regular at the meetings commented he was not certain all the gray paint spots, created because the contractors would only carry one shade of gray, was going to look any better.