Chamber, city seek input on dealing with graffiti

MARYSVILLE City Council and the local chamber of commerce are asking business owners for input on the sale of markers, spray paint and other items vandals can use to produce graffiti.
When the city began facing a growing graffiti problem last year, City Council passed new ordinances aimed at reigning in, or at least responding quickly, to some of the vandalism.
First, with input from the chamber of commerce, they required property owners to remove graffiti within three days of its appearance.
Other proposals would have banned the sale of markers and similar items to minors. Council also considered requiring retailers to keep items related to graffiti under lock and key. When the chamber objected that such moves are a hardship, especially on smaller businesses, Council decided to make the lockup rules voluntary.
We had faith that the businesses would do that, at least some of them, said City Councilman Jeffrey Vaughan. He has no doubt some stores did, in fact, take action to limit access to markers and similar items.
Still, Vaughan said city officials dont have a lot of information about the number of stores that have taken steps or how much of a problem the changes have created for those business operators. During the initial discussions in 2007, Council also promised to revisit the issue within the next year.
With all that in mind, at Councils request, the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce has sent a survey to its members, asking them about voluntary restrictions on the sale of graffiti related items.
We need to find out whats working, said Marysville Chief Administrative Officer Mary Swenson. She said to her knowledge there has been no appreciable decrease in graffiti attacks in the last year.
As the weather starts to heat up, its not unusual for some of this activity to increase, Swenson added.
What were trying to do is balance their (Councils) needs with business needs, said chamber president Caldie Rogers.
She said chamber members already have proven their willingness to work with the city on the graffiti issue. Initially, Council wanted to require property owners to remove graffiti from their property within five days of its appearance. Chamber officials argued three days was a more desirable, and still practical, time limit.
Among other issues, in the course of the brief written survey, chamber members are being asked about banning sales of spray paint and markers to minors. There is a question about placing such items under lock and key and about relocating those items to the front of stores in order to make them more visible to store operators. The questions all require simple yes or no answers. The survey also provides space for any comments or feedback.
Rogers said she hopes to have responses back by early next month. Chamber officials may contact any business owners who dont respond, especially retailers.
It would be very easy for a dentist to just say yes, yes, yes, Rogers said.
Vaughan said the next step obviously would be to take a look at the responses.
Among Council members, Vaughan has been one of the more outspoken in terms of reigning in the graffiti problem and is a member of the citys graffiti task force. Nevertheless, he feels Council likely will listen to any comments coming from the chamber.
The impression I get from Council is that they are very focused on businesses and retail, that they are sensitive to things that make it tough for local retailers, Vaughan said.
Vaughan said he is aware of some retailers who absolutely would refuse, for example, to sell a couple of dozen eggs and a case of toilet paper to a group of rowdy teenagers.
Thats all were asking for, is for retailers to use some of their discretion, he said.

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