At council’s direction, Planning and Zoning has ramped up efforts in recent years to get property owners to repair or tear down unsafe structures, clean up property and remove weeds.
We now have one full-time and one part-time compliance officer who follow up on citizen complaints, identify problem properties, and work with owners to get properties cleaned up. As a result, a number of unsafe buildings have been torn down, and dozens of properties have been cleaned up, improving the overall curb appeal of the community. As compliance officers travel around town, they also recognize individual property owners for “being an outstanding citizen.” The brainchild of compliance officer Keith Cramer, the blue Thank You notices share kudos identified by staff. While compliance with city code is the primary responsibility of the compliance officers, staff also want to recognize citizens for “doing something right.”
Over the years, the incidences of graffiti has waxed and waned in Cortez. Graffiti is defined as “writing, drawing or symbols applied to any surface without the consent of the property owner, authorized agent or designate.” While it is true that some graffiti artists, such as Keith Haring, Lady Pink and Blek le Rat, have gone on to become widely recognized for their contributions to the world of art, the majority of those who “tag” are simply vandals who detract from the beauty of the community. Currently, we have no examples of a budding Haring working in Cortez, and staff is now making graffiti removal a priority.
Graffiti contributes to depressed property values, stigmatizes neighborhoods and can be a deterrent to tourists stopping and spending time in our community. According to the Bureau of Justice, “graffiti is the most common type of property vandalism,” and it is estimated that the annual price tag for removing and repairing the damage done is $7 to $8 billion nationally.
According to city code, “graffiti ... which appears on property or structures (public or private) is deemed to be a public nuisance and shall be subject to abatement ...” There are currently more than 60 different instances of tags that city staff is aware of in the central business district alone – Maple to Washington, between First and North streets – so the decision has been made to get these areas cleaned up as soon as possible not only because they are eyesores but to discourage additional instances. Some believe that graffiti removal within 24-48 hours is critical to preventing additional tags, and removal is easier and less costly the sooner it is done. While the city is sympathetic that graffiti is not the fault of the property owner, the homeowner is nevertheless responsible for removing graffiti from his or her property.
If your property has been tagged, there are products designed specifically for graffiti removal. According to Franki at Slavens, Goo Gone is one of the best. A Google search: “Anti-graffiti,” also yields lots of helpful tips for removing graffiti. If painting over graffiti is the best solution, paint stores can match your paint if you will take in a sample.
What can you do if you’ve been tagged or to help prevent tagging activity?
Report all graffiti to the police (970-565-8441)Plant trees or shrubs that make access to surfaces more difficult.Install lighting. Taggers work at night to avoid being caught, so well-lit areas are less appealing.Though expensive, consider the installation of cameras or mock cameras if your property has been tagged more than once.Consider treating graffiti-prone areas with graffiti-resistant surface treatments.Visit with the young people in your life and emphasize that tagging is a crime. Not only does it harm the community, but if you are caught, there are serious consequences.Let’s all work to make Cortez graffiti-free!
Karen Sheek is the mayor of Cortez, a position elected by council members. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or during her office hours from 12:30-1:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.