Proposed graffiti ordinance coming to the Council: where’s the HPC and STF input?

graffiti on building in downtown Northfield graffiti on building in downtown Northfield graffiti on building in downtown Northfield graffiti on building in downtown Northfield
I blogged about the problem of graffiti on downtown buildings back in 2008 and again in 2009 so I was glad to see this item on the tentative agenda for the April 6 City Council meeting: First reading of Ordinance No. 909 – Graffiti ordinance.

As you can see from the photos above that I took this week, graffiti from the 2008 incident is still visible on some buildings. (I’ve removed the password protection on the post with the photo slideshow.)

graffiti ordinance I could find nothing on the City’s web site about the proposed ordinance (sigh) but a building owner emailed it to me and I’ve converted it to a PDF here.

90% of the proposed ordinance language is oriented towards dealing with the property owners (victims) who don’t remove the graffiti. There’s nothing about prevention or surveillance, nothing about the restrictions for buildings in the historic district, nothing about funds to help building owners with the costs of graffiti removal, etc.

This draft needs reworking, IMHO, so I’m curious how it got this far without the involvement of the Streetscape Task Force (STF) and the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC). I don’t see anything in recent STF agendas on this issue, even though their mission includes this:

2. Explore the development of a program that may assist downtown property owners with vandalism/graffiti prevention.

Page 71 of the Streetscape Task Force plan says “HPC should develop grant program for removing graffiti from historic buildings – an expensive process.” I don’t see anything in recent HPC agendas on this issue either.

53 thoughts on “Proposed graffiti ordinance coming to the Council: where’s the HPC and STF input?”

  1. I contacted the city on Monday about graffiti on the play structure at Heritage Park. I used the “Tell the city about…graffiti” feature on the website.

    There are personal attack and rants targeting Somalis, as well as the usual anatomically exaggerated stick figures doing what you’d expect.

    I offered to do some cleanup if they would tell me what product was safe for the structure, but I haven’t had any response. The graffiti was still there yesterday.

    I’d be interested to hear what folks are seeing in the other parks. (The inside of the tube slide appears to be their favorite target.)

  2. No one is arguing against the swift removal of graffiti no matter its message or artistic feel. But this ordinance punishes the victim.

    It starts out with brief mention of the undesirable impact of graffiti on our (precious) youth and on our neighborhoods, and ends that such perpetrators are guilty of a…wait for it (drum roll please)…misdemeanor.

    But the rest of the four pages treats the building owner as the problem – if the graffiti is not removed swiftly then the building owner will pay the police to photograph it, pay the city to remove it, face liens on their building if they fail to so pay ending with being paraded through the town at noon with a placard hanging from their necks and an afternoon in the soon to-be-erected stocks on Bridge Square.

    A classic example of community development Best Practice – up there with the Rental Ordinance and the bloated Land-Use Ordinance.

  3. *** AM I ANGRY ABOUT THIS? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT! ***

    1. I find It obvious from the ordinance, which I have read several times, that the attorney who worked on this for the city did not understand the rigors of graffiti removal in a Historic District.

    2. I challenge anyone to find another “crime” where all the burden, fiscal, corrective, etc. is on the victim, i.e. the building owner.

    3. This began with the good intentions of the America in Bloom committee and has escalated into an absolutely insanely perverse situation which has to be corrected immediately , before it goes to any sort of Council process.

    4. I must compliment Joel Walinski for meeting for an hour and a half the other night , with three building owners, and getting some facts from them, besides a whole lot of totally frustrated input.

    5. The Sentence to Service group came on my private property once, and spray painted over some recent graffiti, creating a much worse situation than was originally there, plus violating the rules of the Historic District.
    They (StoS) are allowed to spray paint on my building… having never asked my permission… to ‘correct’ someone else’s vandalism?
    I don’t think so.

    ***6. Anyone who thinks the building owners are not frustrated to H— and back by this whole situation, frustrated to angry tears by the damage to their buildings, and infuriated by this ordinance which makes them the victims TWICE… does not understand the concept of blaming women for Rape! ***

  4. I believe that most would agree that swomething has to be done about the graffiti – what I don’t understand is if “Explore the development of a program that may assist downtown property owners with vandalism/graffiti prevention” is part of the STF, and the HPC has real concern about the preservation of historic buildings, there has been nothing to this point coming forth from them? Perhaps this will be a catalyst to discussion and action both against those who create the graffiti and help for those who suffer damages because of it. Surely it is not conducive to Northfield being seen as an idealic place to live, raise children and do business when the first thing seen when entering the town is graffiti, a horrible northern gateway to the city, and nothing being done. The city has done a pretty good job of removing graffiti from public areas, and there are methods to removal that won’t damage historic buildings. Come on, folks – let’s not kill the messenger, let’s get together and find a solution that all can be proud of.

  5. This draft of the Graffiti Ordinance is a good start for a community conversation about the destructive nature of graffiti vandalism. The Northfield in Bloom committee (NIB) has been encouraging city government, property owners, and interested individuals to come together to address this problem in our city for the last 2 years. Some private property owners in the historic downtown and city crews have done an excellent job in removing graffiti within a reasonable timeframe after the graffiti is identified. They are to be commended. All of the rest of us can help fight this vandalism by letting the city know the location of existing and new graffiti. Our support for discussion of the ordinance can help address the problem as well.

  6. A good source of information about the costs of graffiti, as well as information about prevention efforts, clean up procedures and products is http://www.graffitihurts.org This website offers a great deal of information and links to sites with additional examples of community responses to graffiti. The Northfield in Bloom committee has found it very helpful as we have worked to educate the community. One of the issues that the site explores is the cost of graffiti to a local community. Several significant costs are sited by the U.S. Department of Justice in the area of declining property values and retail sales, perception of safety of patrons, as well as clean-up costs.

    We can have a positive impact on our community through graffiti prevention and control by educating ourselves about the problem and designing solutions to fix it. That will take all of us accepting our contributions to graffiti vandalism. Whether we are actively vandalizing properties that do not belong to us, have knowledge of others who vandalize and do nothing to stop them, remain bystanders when we see graffiti and do not report it, ignore graffiti on buildings we own, or consider this someone else’s problem, we must work together to find solutions to this problem that hurts our community. Please check out graffitihurts.org

  7. Lynn, a few reactions to some of your comments

    IMHO: You put too much credence in the Street Task Force (STF) mission and enforcement ploys. You wrote this from their mission statement

    “Explore the development of a program that may assist downtown property owners with vandalism/graffiti prevention”

    Having met for a variety of input sessions, this advisory otherwise powerless ah hoc task force (STF) made a pronouncement (see your quote above).

    Who is to implement said direction?

    Griff provided this: Page 71 of the Streetscape Task Force plan says “HPC should develop grant program for removing graffiti from historic buildings

    Well, was that then moved to the top of the HPC list? Indeed, is there a list, or merely a set of tasks that come to HPC via staff and applicants needs? Has staff brought the STF concept to the HPC?

    When you say: “Come on, folks – let’s not kill the messenger” Lynn, whom do you refer to as the messenger and what was the message? I’m totally puzzled on that point.

    FACT: This issue was untimely advanced to the level of First Reading of an Ordinance. You must know that such an action implies some (enough of) defining deliberation by the Council to advise the staff in the preparation of an ordinance and some rather defining tenets to that text … and then, later a discussion with draft language in hand.

    Such a process, would have re-engaged the principle players in this drama: Property owners, NDDC, enforcement officials (with their theories) and presentations from experts on graffiti removal and effective action steps to control.

    None of that has transpired. There were brief non-defining and limited participation discussions, two years ago and a far distant attorney was hired to tackle the words.

    As to removal and effective action steps to control the graffiti problem, you might ask Kiffi to comment about marble columns, walls, etc. in Rome’s centuries old monumental structures.

    Finally Lynn you commented that the city has done a pretty good job of removing graffiti from public areas, …[and] there are methods to removal that won’t damage historic buildings.

    Yes, they paint out the problems on the bridges .. using tax payers money on surfaces that are not protected by federal preservation rules. If painting on brick or stone buildings was allowed, the results would be entire buildings would have to sport a coat of paint … one that could be matched from time to time after the taggers hit it. The removal techniques don’t work on porous surfaces … the STS force already tried something on our building … as did the America (Northfield) In Bloom team … and, there’s no empiric proof that removal, stems the tide of repeated vandalism.

    When this issue surfaced in the Administrator’s Friday Report, (3/19) my concerns were addressed with a hastily called meeting between Joel and three property owners – carraled from local bars at 6:PM for a 7PM meeting on 3/22. This was an eye opening experience for receptive Mr. Walinski and it is my hope and thought, he heard the message and will take steps to alter the previously intended flow of events.

    We’ll see what comes forward for the April 6 Council meeting. I’m expecting a renewed discussion with more citizen involvement.

    See you then, at the Open Mic?

    SPECIAL to Tracy Davis. TD, don’t parce words. NORMAN! WHAT bloated Land-Use Ordinance are you referring to?!!

    Indeed … I believe that reference is as accurate as any that might be applied to the LDC process … and certainly falls in line with your oft used “Crap” to describe the long belabored discussion points of the LDC process. My, how our flags go up when a word or phrase hits close to home. Pray tell Ms D for this thread, what do you think of the Graffiti Ordinance language?

  8. Sorry… Monumental BS, in my opinion, from most commenters…

    1. If removal ASAP works,why does the City have to keep repainting the footbridge every couple of weeks all summer long as the “challenge” continues?

    2. When we first got graffiti on our building 6 or so years ago, I checked with various firms who do historic restoration; cost is completely prohibitive… i.e. something like 1K for a 6 ft. square area on a historic building. So expensive that I threw all my info sheets away…

    3. An attorney advised me I should have filed damages against the Sentence to Serve team that came in and ‘vandalized’ my building a second time in a totally uninformed effort to ‘clean up’.

    4. I DO want to shoot the messenger when the message is not only so misinformed, but so punitive to the Victim.

    5. I DO believe that the downtown is our ‘core’, and concerns us all.. but I own the building, and I pay the bills, and I feel the pain when my building gets damaged. and I don’t intend to allow for that ‘pain’ to be fiscally increased when it is almost impossible to cash flow a downtown property anyhow!

    6.I appreciate the heck out of the America in Bloom committee, and I have told Judy Code that many, many times.

    7. I’d like a perfect world , also. So, catch the criminals, and make the parents responsible if the vandals are under age; don’t even suggest making the Victim of the crime responsible. Most of the tags are over the misdemeanor level of $$; some rise to the felony level.

    8. Sorry… just too many uninformed, theoretical statements on this issue.

  9. Lynn:

    There was more than one question. But the puzzling one came from your statement about messages and killing the messenger.

    Can you explain that remark? Whom do you refer to as the messenger and what was the message?

    If the message is the ordinance text, then yes, decimate it!

  10. Pat, your message (Graffiti # 7) places more value on the Graffiti Hurts’ website than I care to accept. It’s a bundle of declarative statements with poorly supported demographics … largely pulled from California and Illinois … and I’d bet, big cities. Too much to read for so little real information .. and I think, generally irrelevant to Northfield.

    You say, the Northfield in Bloom committee “has found it helpful as you work to educate the community”. When it came to graffiti, how effective has your educational process been? What methods do you use to measure results? Granted you’ve had the ear of the staff and the Police Chief. They aren’t taggers. With no malice .. I sincerely ask: have either of those entities stopped the problem? Spring weather may attest to the success or failure. We’ll see if the taggers come out again.

    Meanwhile, the harangue here on LG is in the text brought forward by staff. Kiffi’s point about the number of times the bridge abutments are tagged – painted out, only to get tagged again is IMHO better proof positive, that at least in those incidents, the “rapid removal” didn’t seem to work. Who knows, maybe the taggers were caught doing some other hurt to the community and were laying low till the smoke clears.

    I’ll grant you this, if you’re conducting “feel good” seminars on “solving the problem” the Web Site’s boilerplate remarks, facts and instructions, seem to fill an evening of information. I doubt that any attendees to such meetings are the vandals or even their parents.

    Northfield is a special place … especially when you try to invoke studies from major metropolitan communities, saying: this is what worked in NYC, DC or the Twin C’s.

    We’re “special” in the ways we’re different.

    Look at the resources of those areas; compare those to Northfield’s. Measure the geography of those areas … urban centers, blighted neighborhoods, industrial locations, sprawling commercial districts … all compared to three blocks on Division street, where the retail business is already fragile. Apples and Oranges!

    Forget about: the significant costs sited by the U.S. Department of Justice in declining property values, retail sales, perception of safety, as well as clean-up costs. That’s big city talk. Small town question: Do you want to paint the Depot? Will the HPC allow you to paint it … sandblast it or chemically wash it? does it bare the scars of graffiti?

    My opinion: all the talk about “pulling together … sharing the burden, etc. is North-speak … nothing more. The solution is not in a can of solvent or an STS abatement force … it is in an Ordinance that has the tooth to bite the kids and their parents in the pocketbook. But you’ve got to catch them first!

  11. Is there a difference between graffiti on bridge abutments and underpasses vs. graffiti on buildings? Seems like there’s a range of destructiveness that’s worth considering.

    And related to this: the downtown graffiti storm from 2008 has not been repeated, has it? The buildings with painted exteriors that were hit (Oolala, Perman’s, etc) were able to paint over it. If there’ve been no repeated occurrence in two years on those buildings, that seems significant. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen again, just that there’s a range of severity of Northfield’s problem.

  12. Here are photos of graffiti on the new retaining wall under the Hwy 3 bridge from last October.

    IMG_2131 IMG_2130

    Here are two photos of the same graffiti (now with “Jesus saves” on top of it) taken last week.

    IMG_6579 IMG_6578

  13. Griff,
    Graffiti on bridges and underpasses are on public property and the city cleans those up. They are using a paint that allows for easy cleanup if the wall is marked up again. Most of the buildings are privately owned and are the responsibility of the owners to keep them clean. There is also a difference in the technique and cleaner choice used on older buildings versus the newer construction. Northfield in Bloom worked very closely with the Police Department in increasing serveilance of vandalism-targeted areas of Northfield. We had discussed creating possible resources for private citizens, such as a clean fund, that those unable to afford the cleanup costs, or writing in to an ordinance a restorative justice piece as part of the sentencing.

    Vandalism, to me, is a form of bullying, and all of us can be impacted by the actions of vandals. We are either the vandal bully, the victim or the bystander. As long as the bystanders don’t get involved vandalism will continue.

  14. Lynn, agreed on the public/private differentiation.

    But my point was that graffiti has a range of destructiveness depending on where it’s done and the degree. Tagging a bridge abutment is very different than tagging the brick on the library… both public property.

    Victor wrote above:

    Kiffi’s point about the number of times the bridge abutments are tagged – painted out, only to get tagged again is IMHO better proof positive, that at least in those incidents, the “rapid removal” didn’t seem to work.

    Rapid removal on a bridge abutment might be considered an ongoing expense for the city, with the expectation that it’s likely to be an ongoing problem no matter what’s done.

    But rapid removal on private buildings might actually be an effective strategy.  Am I right that it’s been two years since the owners of painted buildings (Oolala, Perman’s, etc) repainted their buildings and those buildings have remain graffiti-free, while nearby bridge abutments have been repeatedly tagged?

  15. Remember the kid’s game, last tag? The issue this week – oddly enough – is NOT about whose building got tagged last – but instead, what is the rationale behind a law which punishes building owners who’s building have been tagged. Keep on track.

    So, are we going to tax citizens who live of Woodley Street or St Olaf Avenue for police patrols that sometimes ticket speeders. Or to be more accurate, set up a surveillance camera so every time a speeding car whizzes past, Ding, (cash register ring) another five bucks from each house it passes.

    How about an anti Shoplifting law – Target gets hit I’m sure . So does Menanrds, not to mention many smaller retailers the banks and other private property sites, including cars. We’ll stop that crime spree by making the retailer’s responsible. Every time they lose 20 dollars worth of merchandise, lets tack on an additional $250 to cover the police costs of – whatever?

    My sidewalk Oh, I forgot, C Pokjorney says its the city’s so we should pay to use it as in the Outside Dinning Ordinance. Anyway my sidewalk puddles. Big puddles in a couple of places. Are we working on a Puddle-Tax .. every time it rains, if I don’t get out there and blow the water into the gutter (oh, the gutter doesn’t drain either) What’s a fella to do? I guess Pay for the Puddle Problem.

    Ya know .. in another time when things were not so financially depressed, perhaps a Vandalism Prevention Tax on all structures city wide, would build up a fund the city would monitor and that fund would pay for the remediation of vandalism city wide.

    My problem with the ordinance language and the logic used by its framers is it is boiler plate bull shit. Who pays someone for this crap? Crap, Tracy. Sound familiar? As in the Land Development Code. If the police can’t patrol successfully and the City can’t provide appropriate security measures, at least I hope the City Councilors will follow the logic … take a long and serious look at what was originally billed as a First Reading .. and has now been termed-back to a “discussion” and dump the language and come up with some new ideas.

    I’m sure the do-gooders will be there, at the Open Mic to support law and order. I’ll try to speak last so as to refute all they say. I wonder if the HPC will speak?

    Oh, by the way Griff, your assumption that Oolala’s a painted building is in error. In Fact it is tinted stucco. The difference between tinted stucco and painted stucco is painting needs to be done again and again as in a frame building. Tinted stucco, while it may darken (get dingy or dirty) through the years, can be carefully washed and restored to its original state. So, now Oolala’s lost the original intent of the tint. The finish where they painted out the graffiti is no longer permanent tinted stucco.

    On Quick Removal: To my knowledge the taggers who hit them two or three springs ago, have not comeback … in fact, not to any of the downtown buildings. So the empiric evidence on the value of quick removal is limited to the public spaces by the foot bridge, where as we know, they do comeback after it has be removed.

    So the answer to your question, Am I right …

    ” it’s been two years since … Oolala, Perman’s, etc., repainted their buildings and those buildings have remain graffiti-free,

    Not relevant.

    Frankly there are no absolutes here. Taggers come and go. Some go to jail. Some become elected officials Some grow up to run blogs; arguably another form of tag when fake names are allowed. Others might burn crosses on the front lawns of black churches.

  16. Just a question on the whole graffiti ordinance, what was the original intent behind writing it? I don’t think we need it to make graffiti illegal in Northfield. There are state laws in place covering this. Does the city need it to enforce some standard of removal? It seems that building owners would have an incentive to clean their buildings without big brother breathing over there shoulder. Perhaps I missed this little detail somewhere above, but I’m still a little mistified that city staff and council time is being devoted to producing it. Have there been scofflaw building owners who have been lax in removing graffiti from their buildings? If not, why get everyone’s undies in a bunch by raising the issue? Sorry, that was four questions.

  17. I haven’t been keeping a calendar of when graffiti appears and when it is removed, but there do seem to be a few tags downtown (more on the riverwalk side than the street side) that have been up for a fair while.

    I don’t know whether the particulars of this proposed ordinance are the best way to accomplish it, but there should be some mechanism to make it likely that graffiti eventually gets removed.

    Perhaps a more palatable solution would include a small serving of carrots to be mixed in along with the proposed sticks. Lynn Vincent mentioned above discussions of developing a fund for graffiti removal. This might be a good way of spreading the risk/cost around a bit, and aid in compliance with the goal of prompt graffiti removal.

  18. Northfield could just look for a better class of graffiti artists and turn the art into a tourist attraction , see link http://www.berlin101.com/?p=421 Big spending city folk might flock down and spend lots of money at local establishments while viewing the graffiti art. We need to accept the fact that we have a history of attracting outlaws.

  19. David: Along the lines of your thinking, I suggested to Joel Walinski that the city have a graffiti wall, which is an acceptable , ongoing, “can-you-top-this’ challenge wall, and he appeared to be horrified at the idea.
    But creating a challenge space, which can also be an artistic expression space, is a GOOD idea… a productive idea for kids to use not only as an expression space but to allow challenges between groups.

    If you provide a LEGAL space, you can be tougher on the non-legal violations of someone else’s property.

    And as to that, what happened to the 4 kids the Police say they caught doing graffiti last year?
    Were charges brought?
    What did the Court do?
    Did parents pay?

    I don’t see much use in the courts saying they are too busy for juvenile offenses, if they take the same attitude as they do in curfew violations, etc. I understand the lack of people and $$ to run the courts (shame on the Governor) but what’s the use of court actions that can only be enforced on the victims of this crime?

  20. Indeed Ms Summa, what makes any of us confident that the courts will hold the building owners responsible if they violate the “Clean up” ordinance … any more than the court’s willingness to enforce the law against the juvenile perpetrators?

    Perhaps its because the building owners are adult victims and the perpetrators are merely teenage vandals.

    Clearly this is a vandalism ordinance enforcement issue, and the responsibility is on the police (city) to catch the perpetrators. Where’s the roving camera? Where’s the night foot patrols? WHAT IS the police department’s role? Taking pictures of the vandalism as evidence against the property owners … to enforce the penalty against the victims. Or, to “serve and protect”.

    Incidentally, Ms Kiffi … what DO you know about the “four kids they caught last year. Hadn’t heard that.

    Maybe. tomorrow night, intensive Open mic questions and opinions might reveal some of the reality of all this BS. Can we expect a judge to come to comment? Perhaps, before incurring fees for attorney wrought verbiage, the Council and staff should have talked to the judges, and the building owners.

  21. Sat. Nfld News: Graffiti ordinance sparks concern.

    Instead of passing an ordinance that he says punishes property owners who are unable or can’t afford to remove graffiti, [Joe] Grundhoefer [owner of the Rueb ‘n’ Stein] believes police should step up graffiti enforcement downtown and provide extra resources to property owners victimized by graffiti.

    [Northfield Police Chief Mark] Taylor says he understands the concerns voiced by property owners. Police have added more foot patrols in the downtown area, where the majority of graffiti occurs, he said, and the department also purchased a camera to monitor graffiti “hot spots” in town. Even with the extra equipment and patrols, Taylor added, the vandals are difficult to catch.

  22. Oh, MR Summa… the Open Mic… what a failed method of communication that is… Might as well throw a bottle in the Cannon and expect a endangered Blandings Turtle to slowly, deliberately, deliver it to City Hall… and then with whom would it leave its message?

    Unless you are dealing with the ‘foundations of city hall’ , the many women staff who cheerfully, graciously help the citizens with all sorts of things, it’s hard to find a person ‘in charge’ who has the citizens first in their minds.

    Oh well, and when I was a city employee in Lake Forest Illinois, the first requirement was the recognition that it was Public Service job… I guess times have changed.
    Maybe that’s why the Tea Partiers are so against government; its not the ‘intrusion’ into their private lives… it’s the absence of public service in their private lives…
    Could that be it?

  23. For those of you interested in checking out what other cities are doing regarding graffiti prevention and control, additional information and examples of ordinances written for cities of all sizes are available at http://www.Municode.com and http://www.graffitihurts.org. Just some of the samples ordinances for small towns/cities on Municode.com include Willmar, MN; Marshall, MN; and Stillwater, MN. Rochester, MN has theirs on their city website. http://www.Graffitihurts.org offers samples from Live Oak, CA; Lackawanna, NY; and Pueblo, CO.

    1. Pat- I tried finding an example of a grafitti ordinance on the two sites above, and I could not find anything. Perhaps I just don’t understand how to negotiate the sites. On the grafitti hurts site, it is interesting that quick removal of grafitti is proposed as a means of prevention. Makes me wonder what is more important to the tagger- the thrill of not being caught or the thrill of seeing his handiwork remain for a long period of time. I’m always interested in what is being proposed for further education for greater prevention. Is anyone actually getting at what drives these individuals? Seems grafitti in itself is just a symptom of some deeper social problem.

  24. Anonymous commenter ‘wxmanvet’ over on the Nfld News asked a good question:

    I do wonder one thing: Can building owners buy grafitti protection as part of their property insurance?

    From a bit of googling, it seems that graffiti removal may well be covered under standard property insurance policies:

    http://www.ehow.com/how_2154542_file-vandalism-insurance-claim.html
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090606133311AAellf7

    Perhaps a property owner who has had to deal with graffiti removal could clarify this?

    Thanks.

    1. Patrick: Several years ago, 5-6. when my building first was vandalized, I did a lot of investigation as to removal, costs, insurance coverage etc… i.e. all directed at cleaning it up, obviously.

      1. From the three firms in the cities that I contacted, the costs were completely prohibitive, usually about 1K to clean a 8-9 sq. ft area in a approved historic district process, and then , at that cot, NOT guaranteed to be completely effective or Not to DAMAGE the brick!

      *** 1a. Consider the above, and if one made the investment, and then the very next weekend the same vandalism re-appeared.

      2. When I spoke with my insurance agent, and this is an agent and company that insures a lot of DT buildings, I was told that certainly my first claim would be honored… less my deductible… and POSSIBLY a second claim… but after that my company would drop me as the actuarial tables control all!

      ***2a. Considering that a commercial building with the value of ours would carry at least a 1K deductible (that’s what mine is) what would you think would be the possibility of endangering your entire insurance coverage in that way.
      ***please also understand that it is very costly to switch companies for commercial insurance, often entailing costs not felt by residential owners.

      3. Consider the cash flow of the DT buildings, especially those with the elevated costs of the Historic District. There is simply no money to pay for these unpreventable accidents of modern life, and they are not covered like hail storms are!

      I do not want to have graffiti on my building. It both infuriates and sickens me. There is not a monetary solution, or else I would do it.

      P.S. many people think there are bags of money, chests of gold, in the basement of those who own buildings… I can assure you it is not so.

  25. The Council voted 4-3 tonight to continue the process on a graffiti ordinance.

    Opposed: Betsey Buckheit, Mary Rossing, Erica Zweifel

    I only heard some of the discussion. I’m watching/listening via KYMN’s live video streaming of the meeting, blogged at:
    http://kymnradio.net/2010/04/06/live-video-broadcast-northfield-city-council-meeting-2/

    There was some reluctance on the part of councilors to have more staff time devoted to this issue right now.

  26. Blogaffiti

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  27. More bloga “feeti”

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  28. N News writes:

    WHAT’S NEXT?

    “The City Council voted 4-3 to solicit more input from the community about the proposed graffiti ordinance. Once city staff have made revisions to the ordinance, it will come back before the council for final approval.”

    “MORE INPUT”! I see this as the opening salvo of the battle for a reasonable ordinance. There’s nothing wrong with the city of Northfield having a policy discussion about the problem. Who thinks the building owners want this crap on their buildings. Invite them to the table. Give them the time at the Open Mic that you gave to Northfield in Bloom.

    The problem is the fix is not easy.

    The Problem was some over- reaching Northfield in Bloom ladies bullied the Chief of Police into taking action that to this point has excluded the principle players – the NDDC and the building owners.

    A year ago the NDDC held a Blockhead meeting – a good discussion with Mark Taylor and others. Read the minutes … and then you’ll realize there’s been no follow-up by the city except to hammer out the text that doesn’t fix the problem.

    I believe the NDDC is the organization that has this on their plate and … can facilitate a full discussion, netting more than: ” we’re in favor of getting rid of the graffiti.” The entities involved are the City, the HPC, the STS folk, and the DT Councilors.

    Please bloomers, stay out of this discussion. Let the real players on the field.

    NDDC?

  29. In order to access the two websites I suggested in number 26 above, here are suggested pathways. For Municode.com I am using Willmar, MN as an example; other cities and states can also be accessed.

    Google Municode.com / Municode Library / select MN / select Willmar / select Willmar Code of Ordinances / enter graffiti in search window / select 1. Article V1. Graffiti

    To access examples of additional city ordinances, google Graffitihurts.org / Enforce Local Laws / Establish an Anti-Graffiti Law / in text select National Council to Prevent Juvenile Delinquency / select from the examples in the list.

    – Pat Allen, Co-Chair of Northfield in Bloom

  30. Victor, I welcome the participation of the Northfield in Bloom folks in this discussion, here and anywhere else. They care just as much about downtown as you do and have put their time and talent and money into making it a better place.

    Why in hell you insist on treating them with disdain is beyond me.

    1. Kiffi here… No disdain , Griff, we all appreciate America in Bloom; one of the most effective volunteer efforts in recent years.
      But IMO,
      1.they seem to refuse to address the problems of removal, either related to cost or historic bldgs., in an actuality mode
      2. they seem to ignore ignore the fact that solution websites qualify their remedies with “it may not work” and it may damage the masonry”
      3. they do not insist on any prevention; and what happened to the police dept’s efforts of two summers ago, when the property owners met with Chief Taylor and agreed we would all sign letters of “permission to trespass” so the police could be all over our private property at night… which is what Chief Taylor asked for, … and then the entire process was dropped when we all agreed to sign such letters.
      4. They seem not to recognize the ‘uncollectable/cancellation of
      insurance’ issues
      5. they seem not to recognize that these buildings do not cash flow WITHOUT such huge additional burdens
      6. They seem not to recognize that although “the downtown belongs to all of us” the bills , taxes, do not belong to all of us
      7. they seem not to even care to address the private property rights issues

      Well, I could go on but I’ll just say, it is extra offensive when they say they would like to “have a tidy town”.
      So would I… but I wouldn’t expect the victims of a crime… which by the way should be classified in different levels up through felony (not just as a misdemeanor) to pay for their own victimization!

  31. Pat, here’s the text of the Wilmar ordinance:

    Sec. 9-111.  Purpose and findings.

    (a)   The city council finds that graffiti is a public nuisance and is destructive of the rights of property owners and the community as a whole. The existence of graffiti is detrimental to the whole city.

    (b)   The purpose of this article is to curb the spread of graffiti and to establish a program for the removal of graffiti from structures within the City of Willmar.

    (c)   It is the intent of the city council that this article be in addition to existing laws regulating criminal damage to property.

    (Ord. No. 1277, § 1, 7-21-08)

    Sec. 9-112.  Definitions.

    For the purpose of this article, the following words will have the meaning provided to them, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

    Aerosol paint container.  Any aerosol container that is adapted or made for the purpose of applying spray paint or other substances capable of defacing property.

    Broad-tipped marker.  Any felt tip indelible marker or similar implement with a flat or angled writing surface that, at its broadest width, is greater than one-fourth ( 1/4) of an inch, containing ink or other pigmented liquid that is not water soluble.

    Etching equipment.  Any tool, device or substance that can be used to make permanent marks on any natural or manmade surface.

    Graffiti.  Any inscription, word, figure, painting, symbol or other defacement that is written, marked, etched, scratched, sprayed, drawn, painted or engraved on, or otherwise affixed to, any surface of public or private property by any graffiti implement.

    Graffiti implement.  An aerosol paint container, a broad-tipped marker, gum label, paint stick or graffiti stick, etching equipment, brush or any other device capable of scarring or leaving a visible mark on any natural or manmade surface.

    Paint stick  or  graffiti stick.  Any device containing a solid form of paint, chalk, wax, epoxy or other similar substance capable of being applied to a surface by pressure and leaving a mark of at least one-fourth ( 1/4) of an inch in width.

    (Ord. No. 1277, § 2, 7-21-08)

    Sec. 9-113.  Prohibited acts.

    (a)   Defacement.  It is unlawful for any person to apply graffiti to any natural or manmade surface of any publicly-owned property or, without the permission of the owner or occupant, on any privately-owned property.

    (b)   Possession of graffiti implements.  It is unlawful for any person under the age of eighteen (18) years to possess any graffiti implements, unless in the presence of his/her parent or custodial guardian, or unless said person has in his/her possession a written statement from his/her parent or custodial guardian specifically authorizing the possession of the particular graffiti implement in his/her possession.

    (Ord. No. 1277, § 3, 7-21-08)

    Sec. 9-114.  Nuisance declared.

    (a)   Declaration.  The existence of graffiti on public or private property in violation of this article is expressly declared to be a public nuisance and, therefore, is subject to the removal and abatement provisions specified in this article.

    (b)   Duty of property owner.  It is the duty of both the owner of private property to which graffiti has been applied and any person who may be in possession or who has the right to possess such property to, at all times, keep the property clear of graffiti.

    (Ord. No. 1277, § 4, 7-21-08)

    Sec. 9-115.  Removal of graffiti.

    (a)   By perpetrator.  The city may require any person applying graffiti on public or private property to either remove or pay for all costs of removal of the graffiti within twenty-four (24) hours after notice by the city. The removal must be performed in a manner prescribed by the city; with materials and colors compatible with existing surfaces and to a comparable or improved condition before the graffiti application as determined by the city. Where graffiti is applied by a person under eighteen (18) years old, the parents or legal guardian shall also be responsible for such removal or for payment for the costs of removal. Failure of any person to remove graffiti or pay for the removal will constitute an additional violation of this article.

    (b)   By property owner or city.  In lieu of the procedure set forth in subsection (a), the city may order that graffiti be removed from private property by the property owner or any person who may be in possession or who has the right to possess such property, pursuant to the nuisance abatement procedure herein. Graffiti removal and corrections must be performed with materials and colors compatible with existing surfaces as determined by the city. If the property owner or responsible party fails to remove offending graffiti within the time specified by the city, the city may commence abatement and cost-recovery proceedings for the graffiti removal in accordance with this article.

    (Ord. No. 1277, § 5, 7-21-08)

    Sec. 9-116.  Abatement by the city.

    (a)   Upon discovering a public nuisance under the provisions of this article, the city administrator or designee shall serve a notice through mail, by posting a notice on the property or by personal delivery to the owner of the property upon which the nuisance exists. When the property is occupied, service upon the occupant is deemed service upon the owner. Where the property is unoccupied or abandoned, service may be by mail to the last known address as shown on the property tax records of the county or by posting on the property.

    Such notice shall state a description of the public nuisance, that the public nuisance must be corrected within seventy-two (72) hours of the service of the notice, that if the public nuisance is not properly removed or corrected as ordered, the public nuisance will be abated by the city and the costs of abatement will be specially assessed to the property taxes.

    Such notice shall also advise the property owner of the right to request a hearing before the city administrator or designee to contest the contents of the notice.

    (b)   If requested by the person upon whom the notice is served under subsection (a) of this section, a hearing before the city administrator or designee shall be held at which the person may contest the contents of the notice. The request for such a hearing must be made in writing within seventy-two (72) hours after receipt of the notice provided for in subsection (a) of this section. After such hearing, the city administrator or designee may cancel the notice to remove or correct the public nuisance, modify the notice or affirm the notice to remove or correct the public nuisance. If the notice is modified or affirmed, the public nuisance must be disposed of in accordance with the city’s written order.

    (c)   If the property owner does not abate the nuisance as required by subsection (a) or request a hearing under subsection (b) of this section, authorized agents of the city may abate the nuisance. If not paid within thirty (30) days of invoicing, the cost of such abatement shall be collected as a special assessment against the property upon which the nuisance was located.

    (d)   Nothing in this section prevents abatement by the city of a public nuisance without notice and hearing in the case of an emergency in which there is an immediate and direct threat to the public health or safety. The expense of such an emergency abatement shall be collected as a special assessment against the property upon which the nuisance was located.

    (Ord. No. 1277, § 6, 7-21-08)

    Sec. 9-117.  Penalties.

    (a)   Any violation of this section is a misdemeanor, punishable in accordance with state law.

    (b)   Any violation of this article may be subject to civil penalties.

    (c)   This article is not intended to prohibit a private property owner from seeking additional penalties or remedies.

    (Ord. No. 1277, § 7, 7-21-08)

  32. Pat and Lynn,

    Have you found anything that describes a program in which the costs of removal of graffiti from private property are handled in an innovative way?

    The Wilmar ordinance doesn’t mention it.

  33. Pat mentioned the National Council to Prevent Delinquency (NCPD) and their Anti-Graffiti Project.

    I went to their page: Drafting an Anti-Graffiti Ordinance — Some Essential Provisions which has section XI. Trust Fund that says:

    In order to fund the rewards for graffiti information providers and to help cover the costs of graffiti abatement, many local governments seek private contributions from the community, including paint supply companies, to an anti-graffiti trust fund. The trust funds also include any fines collected for violation of the ordinance.

    ======

    The City Council hereby creates the City of __________________ Anti-Graffiti Trust Fund. Penalties assessed against violators of this Ordinance shall be placed in the fund, along with any monetary donations received from persons wishing to contribute to the fund. The Council shall direct the expenditures of monies in the fund. Such expenditures shall be limited to the payment of the cost of graffiti removal, the payment, at the discretion of the City Manager, of rewards for information leading to the conviction of violation of the Ordinance, the costs of administering the Ordinance, and such other public purposes as may be approved by the Council by resolution.

    Seems like a good provision to me.

  34. Sorry, Victor. I assert my right as a citizen and business owner of this community to voice my opinion and offer solutions to issues affecting Northfield. I brought the issue of removing graffiti from historic buildings and brick to the attention of Bob Will and Steve Edwins of the Historic Preservation Committee and I think they will be discussing and imnplementing the preparation of a document with workable solutions to graffiti removal. There are clear coats that can be painted on birck that make the removal of a second tag easier to remove. I’ll be checking with the HPC to see if that would be acceptable. And I highly doubt that anyone can “bully” Chief Taylor into anything. The purpose of the ordinance is getting lost in all the rhetoric – the prevention of tagging. With the help of citizens watching out for other citizens we may be able to identify the taggers, and with the ordinance hold them accountable for their actions. I would even suggest that along with the fine and jail time the perpetrator be held responsible for the cost of removing the graffiti. And I like the provision you highlighted, Griff. Northfield in Bloom has even pledged $300 to be a challenge to community members to create such a fund. Lynn Vincent, Co-chair of Northfield in Bloom

    1. Victor,

      I happen to be one of those ‘over-reaching’ Northfield In Bloom ladies that you referred to. I know and respect Mark Taylor and I don’t think anyone could bully him into doing anything.
      We live in a country where free speech is encouraged and allowed and your comments will not keep me out of the discussions or bullied off the playing field.

      It’s time to set the rhetoric aside and start working on solutions to the Northfield graffiti problem.

  35. A Trust Fund type provision was suggested in remarks from Northfield in Bloom at the Council meeting last night. I am sending along the full text of my comments from that meeting. The statement comes from the NIB group which includes myself and Lynn Vincent, Co-Chairs; Judy Code; Donna Maus; and Cynthia Child.

    Graffiti Ordinance Discussion
    Northfield City Council
    April 6, 2010

    The Northfield in Bloom (NIB) group appreciates the opportunity to speak in support of a graffiti ordinance in the city. Our interest in graffiti vandalism began two years ago when we were working on tidiness issues in preparation for our entry into the America in Bloom competition. At that time many buildings in the downtown, bridges, and utility boxes had graffiti on them. The Northfield depot was covered with graffiti.

    Our interest in community beautification led us to research graffiti and to work with the city, downtown business owners and other property owners to clean it up. Our research has been extensive over the last two years and we would like to share some of that with you. Expert sources include the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Park Service, American Painting Contractor Journal, Graffitihurts.org sponsored by Sherwin Williams Paint Company and America the Beautiful, Inc. as well as many others.

    We have found that graffiti hurts all of us in many ways.

    1. Public safety concerns include: customers of businesses may feel that if graffiti is tolerated, other more serious crimes, such as theft and assault may go unchallenged; people, especially youth may feel intimidated by the graffiti particularly if it is gang related.
    2. Costs of graffiti include: declines in property values in the area, loss of business development, loss of retail sales, loss of renters and patrons. In addition, clean up costs are estimated to be about $20,000 annually for a city the size of Northfield including city/county staff time for clean up and law enforcement, in addition to costs for private property owners and renters.

    In an effort to address these and other concerns, we formed a committee two years ago called the Clean Team. Representatives from NIB, the City Council, the Chief of Police, and other community representatives have worked to eliminate most of the graffiti in the community.

    Some of the steps we have taken include:

    Step 1. Educated the community on the problem and offered research-based solutions:

    a. We have learned that graffiti is vandalism and must be addressed immediately — the most effective deterrence is immediate removal.

    b. We have learned that graffiti is everyone’s problem and responsibility whether you are a young person with a spray can, a bystander seeing graffiti, or a property owner whose building has been tagged. If you see graffiti, report it. If it is on your building, remove it.

    c. We have consulted with the Chair of the Heritage Preservation Commission and have received his support for developing an ordinance; he has offered to develop a list of suitable materials and practices to remove graffiti from historic buildings.

    d. We have developed a packet of educational materials that I will leave with Joel that he can share with all of you as well.

    Step 2. Developed strategies to address the problem:

    a. Police Department has upgraded police responses through increased foot patrols, bike patrols, camera surveillance, city website for reporting, and mining the database looking for patterns and signatures of known taggers and gang members. The Chief of Police has enrolled the help of county agencies to help with no cost or low cost removal.

    b. City Crews handle graffiti reports quickly notifying the Police Department and when on city property they clean it up using appropriate methods depending on the surface and the materials involved.

    c. The Clean Team is promoting the adoption of this ordinance to provide the city with the needed mechanism for enforcement of community norms of public safety, economic development, fiscal responsibility, and beautification.

    NIB would like to help. We are offering a challenge grant of $300 to any city organization to begin a fund to help offset the costs to property owners of clean up. We invite all of you to contribute to that fund. We hope that this challenge grant will help to eradicate graffiti in Northfield. Thank you for your attention.

  36. The graffiti removal approaches suggested by the Clean Team are innovative and very appropriate for our community. The Chief of Police has arranged for a removal service with the cooperation of the County. There is no cost for the removal labor and for many of the materials used. If special removal methods and/or materials are required that would incur costs to the property owner, we are suggesting a fund be established that would help offset costs for owners who do not have the financial means to do so themselves.

    In addition, we have talked with the HPC Chair, and he has suggested that they will provide a list of appropriate removal products and procedures for historic building surfaces. See National Park Service website at http://www.nps.gov and google graffiti abatement. Look for Preservation Brief 38 — Removing Graffiti from Historic Masonry.

    This site is extensive and offers a thorough treatment of the topic of graffiti removal in general as well.

  37. I truly think you ladies are being very difficult in that you will not answer any actual concerns re; methods, insurance, cash flow of buildings, etc.

    You just keep repeating the party line, without responding to the building owners concerns.

    Almost every paragraph re: cleaning historic masonry in Brief #38, carries a caution of it may not work , and/or it may damage the masonry…

    The threat of cancellation of commercial insurance is huge; it generally requires a survey (another 2-3 thousand dollars) to start with a new company if cancelled.

    If the Downtown belongs to all of us, then why am I paying 16 Thousand dollars of commercial taxes (just reduced from 19 Thousand by shifting more to the second floor residential which then reduces my income from those apartments) and why aren’t you sharing the costs of what you ‘own’?

    *New energy efficient windows for the second floor= 15 thousand $$.
    *New roof 15-25 Thousand $$(can’t remember exactly) before the hail and then again three years later after hail (paid for by insurance but with large deductible).
    *New Steam boiler = 6 thousand$$
    * Loss of rent, prevented from re-rent by IRS because of Bagel Bros. bankruptcy, and removal of all their left behind giant equipment =
    ?? thousands$$
    * Continual upgrade to Apts and building mechanics, averaging 10-20 Thousand $$ a year.
    *** and that’s just a partial list…

    If you are all ‘owners’ of the downtown buildings, I would ask why you don’t pay your share?

    You simply do not have any realistic idea of what it takes to try to manage these buildings, and it would seem you don’t care to find out…
    But you do care to penalize the people who do pay for the upkeep… and not just minimal upkeep… by seriously suggesting that they should pay the cost of the crimes committed against them… crimes that really make them angry and sick feeling.

    What are you thinking? How can you justify this just by saying, as you did at Tuesday’s Council meeting that YOU “want a tidy town”?

    Would I be spending all the money I have in the world to keep this building up, if I did not want a great downtown also?

    For the 16 years we have owned this building we have poured all our money into it, kept our rents down while keeping the apartment quality up,kept the build in top-notch operating and structural condition, given our commercial tenants great rent deals, including the first years of Carleton’s occupancy, given new tenants months of free rent, and ongoing rent breaks if their business was slow… all of which reduce our income but make a better downtown…

    And then when we get hit with a graffiti barrage, and struggle with how to possibly get it cleaned up.. you “want a tidy town”.

    I am appalled at the lack of realistic economic understanding…

  38. Just to answer the insurance question(s)…as far as I can tell graffiti would be considered “vandalism” and a covered form of loss on any Property Policy with what is called a “Special Form”…this form covers anything unless it is excluded (flood, war, nuclear, etc… would be excluded). The deductible would be applied to these types of losses and I’d imagine most “graffiti-claims” wouldn’t eclipse the deductible amount and thus the money would come out of pocket from the building owner.

    As for claims effecting premium and/or cancellation of the policy, it depends on the dollar amount of the claim and the frequency, doesn’t seem like a few small vandalism claims a year is going to do that to our downtown building owners, but I don’t know the severity or frequency of this.

    As for the point of insurance surveys costing $2,000-$3,000, that would be the first I have ever heard of that, if you are forking over $2,000-$3,000 just for the ability to buy insurance then you are getting screwed. The only time I have ever seen survey (or inspection) fees is with Excess & Surplus policies. A lessors risk building downtown shouldn’t require this, we have a lot of carriers that would be hungry for that type of business, no such fees attached.

  39. “Step 1.b. We have learned that graffiti is everyone’s problem and responsibility…” (from 39 above).

    Indeed, it is everyone’s problem; but the responsibility lies solely with the perpetrator.

    If we agree that youth perpetrates this particular form of defacement, then perhaps we could set aside a portion of those funds which are targeted to youth programs for abating graffiti.

    This annual budget for abatement could then be added to or subtracted from depending on the previous years graffiti activity.

    This may encourage those youth who benefit from ‘positive’ youth programs to police their ‘group’ and be encouraged to be vigilant and report those youth who vandalize property…?

  40. Here’s a situation I just don’t understand: A couple of summers ago a bunch of ‘stakeholders’ met in the lower level office of Gary VanErp’s building. The group included a group of property owners from along the Riverwalk, Police Chief Mark Taylor, Judy Code from Am.inBloom, a representative from the Key, a rep from the NDDC… maybe some others.

    There were two big concerns, 1. drug sales along the Riverwalk and 2. graffiti.

    There was a long discussion, actually I think we met two or three times, and the endgame on the graffiti issue was that Cief Taylor wanted all the property owners along the Riverwalk to give the Police Dept. ‘letters of access’.
    Since the spaces between the buildings and the river is all private property, NOT owned by the City, even though the Police do occasionally patrol behind the buildings, they wanted to have the cooperation of a unified group , all signing the same letter . Presumably that number of letters requesting more patrols would have allowed the Chief to shift some priorities and maybe catch some of the graffiti vandals by spending more time on those private properties.

    We all agreed … BUT … that was the last we heard of it!. The standard letter was never provided to the building owners, there were no more meetings, there did not appear to be any raised levels of surveillance (we’re not down there to watch at 2 AM); maybe there was more, but if so, the vandals eluded the Police.

    So.. now, in comment # 39, we hear “the Clean Team” was created two years ago, working with Chief Taylor!

    But where, on the Clean Team, were all the building owners who had been so eager to raise the level of Policing?

    Oh, I get it… since we can’t catch the vandals… We’ll TAG the property owners!

  41. While I don’t agree with everything Norm said, I do think he has a valid point in asking YOUTH as well as adults to be vigilant and report to the police anything they know about the vandalism. I spoke again with HPC members who assure me there are many effective methods of removing graffiti from Brick and historic buildings that won’t cause damage. Pat has given many internet locations about removal methods as well. This proposed ordinance is a tool that the Chief of Police has asked the city to provide him in his efforts to prevent the vandalism. And I would suggest increasing the penalty part by adding that the vandal or his or her parents be responsible for paying for the removal of the graffiti. NIB was very instrumental in providing the Police with resources for serveilence. Would the building owners be interested in partnering with each other and the police by placing security cameras on their buildings? Have any of the building owners asked the Police Chief for the standard letter so they could sign it? Or why it has not been sent to them yet?

  42. Let sleeping dogs …..

    Griff, your bulleted list is all in the works, although the fast track has been avoided. Too much other stuff on the plates of the leadership team[s]. While I don’t know just what Lynn/Pat and the rest of the flower team might add, that group, while interested peripheral spectators to the event, are not principle players, so I doubt they have too much to offer as an “update”. I’m probably wrong … but:

    Camera’s a mess. Clean up Fund’s not been discussed as far as I know by anyone in authority … and the Ordinance is on the sidetrack

    The NDDC was leading the discussion, (emphasis on WAS) but that one also jumped off the main line. I intend to probe that group to host a variety of explorations bringing forward a variety of meaningful options. I can’t say it’s on the front edge of the NDDC plate either.

    Perhaps it will take more dialogue from those most precisely involved, the victims. To that end, look for the property owners to prod the NDDC into some formalized discussions that WILL lead to solutions, and I think … all of your bullets and maybe more, will be addressed.

    I have had at least three very informal talks, on site with Deputy Chief Walerius. I believe we’re on the same track, so it is reasonable to expect a solution of sorts.

    Frankly, I think the white concrete patch, part of the fourth Street reconstruction, lying in the Division Street intersection adjacent to the existing older sections of exposed aggregate, is far more visually distressing than the existing graffiti. What’s with the bright white concrete in the historic DT?

    Look for that to be Jack-hammered out and replaced, again? Maybe Lynn and Pat would comment on that aesthetic? How about you? Pictures?

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