Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Request for a public hearing

What follows is the email sent 26 May 2009, with copies to the Mayor, Council Members and all candidates:

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Council Member Don Samuels, Chair
Committee on Public Safety and Regulatory Services

Please consider this a request for a public hearing to explore ways to eradicate graffiti in Minneapolis.

City policy now requires ALL graffiti offenses to be prosecuted as a crime. Such a policy ensures that graffiti remains a game of Hide-n-Seek, for which the City Attorney is ill equipped. Not surprising, according to the City Attorney, prosecution for graffiti "crimes" is rare. Hence, most graffiti vandals are free to operate outside the reach of the law.

Both the U.S. Supreme Court (1979) and the Minnesota Supreme Court (1993) allow rules of evidence to be simplified if graffiti tags are treated not as a "crime" but as a civil offense. In such a case, hearings may be less formal, much like resolving a parking ticket or deciding a civil matter in conciliation court. Think in terms of a civil proceeding, respect for liberty, high standard of proof, simplified procedure and due regard for legitimate concerns of the state.

Solving the graffiti menace requires a change in City policy. The end result would involve a transfer of enforcement for SOME graffiti offenses from the City Attorney to the Chief of Police. Such a change in policy merits a public discussion before your committee. Residents need a forum to discuss current graffiti policies openly, in public testimony, and to offer lawful alternatives.

I would like to meet with you to explain in greater detail why an open dialogue on how to solve the graffiti problem would serve the best interests of the City.

The Graffiti Task Force,
Ward 10, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

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