Minneapolis approves stricter graffiti ordinance

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The Minneapolis City Council on Friday approved a new graffiti ordinance that would expand the city’s latitude to order graffiti clean up and gives property owners whose buildings have been tagged half as much time to clean it up before city workers step in and a fee is assessed.

The city has been focusing on graffiti abatement for the past 18 months without a way to recover any of its costs. Levying a fee or assessment had been left to the discretion of the Regulatory Services Department. The new ordinance flatly states that the city will charge property owners a fee for cleaning up the graffiti—if the property owner doesn’t do it within 10 days of receiving a notice from the city.

The former ordinance gave property owners 20 days to do the clean up and exempted all residential structures. The new ordinance applies to all properties in the city.

“This will make a tremendous difference” in the ability of the city to clean up graffiti, said Council Member Paul Ostrow.

But Council Member Elizabeth Glidden voiced concerns about the new ordinance would affect the poor and elderly, who may not have the wherewithal to clean up graffiti quickly enough to avoid a hefty fee from the city or the information necessary to even understand that the law has changed. “We need to think about how we are communicating this to the public,” she said.

Council Member Cam Gordon agreed. “We have to move ahead delicately and thoughtfully,” he cautioned, noting that there are issues of property rights and freedom of expression involved.

The council agreed to direct staff to work to educate the public about the new law and communicate what options are available to help property owners clean up the graffiti themselves. The amended ordinance passed on a unanimous vote.

In other action, the council:
* Approved a proposal to continue its contract with Redflex at the cost of $1 a month during court challenges to the controversial “stoplight cop” system.
* Repealed an ordinance prohibiting dancing in city streets.
* Postponed a zoning decision to allow a Porky’s drive-thru restaurant on Central Avenue.

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