Op-Ed | Sault Ste. Marie By-law Office on Graffiti: Bad for Business, Bad for Young People

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On the heels of a nine-month police investigation that led to the arrest of an 18 year old for applying 41 acts of graffiti, the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s announced a “recommendation from city staff to examine the possibility of hiring a second by-law office. The second office would work with the Committee of Council on Graffiti to create a new anti-graffiti by-law.”  (Source Sault Star)

How much will it cost to employ a second by-law office in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario?

That is certainly the question I am wondering. We should all reflect to think, “Could this money be better spent?” Perhaps, creating a new by-law will add a few more city jobs to our market but where is the long term solution or investment into our citizens?  In fact, similar by-laws enforced in Ontario leave the onus on business owners to remove unwanted graffiti art. This logic has no benefit; for business owners (our current economy) or for youth (our future economy).

Dr.Gayle Broad was quoted, “What about the money spent on a police investigation to find this young person? And add to that the cost of his charges, court time, access to legal aid, any incarceration time. Plus, what about his lost options when it comes to having had criminal charges against him? There is a real economic cost to excluding youth from feeling that they are a part of the community. And that’s what this is all about.” (Source Northern Hoot)

I am not an economist or a socialist but I have to agree we are excluding youth from the community and it is costing tax payers large.

On the Facebook page boredyouthsault, I recently read, “The by-law that is being discussed is a way for Sault Ste. Marie’s City Council to ignore relevant issues in our community. I believe the best way to address issues are to have youth involved in decision making and to have vulnerable voices heard in community matters. The best way to create successful change is to provide youth and young adults with a chance to feel like they can make a positive difference in this world, even if that positive difference is sharing their message through graffiti. 180 Projects Art on Gore Street is a network that engages youth in expressing themselves through art. City council should network beyond their own 2013 formed committee and find different avenues that save money and improve the quality of lives; rather than creating more by-laws and spending more tax payers money.“ (Amanda Jabbour, Algoma University Student.)

Our tax money or the civic budget is already being spent reactively dealing with graffiti. Our approach should proactively examine solutions to youth disengagement, under-employment, crime rates and poverty. It’s not okay to vandalize private property, but it is far more unjust to spend tens of thousands more annually, to create a second by-law office. The funds could and should be better invested directly into the social growth and economic progression and retention of citizens residing in the City of Sault Ste. Marie.

Author, Kimberly Miskimins

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