In an editorial Wednesday we addressed two major quality-of-life issues in Schenectady: derelict houses and wretched roads. In stressing the importance of repairing the city’s fast-deteriorating road system, we did not mean to denigrate Mayor Brian Stratton’s new initiative to tear down the 50 worst houses, which is an excellent idea — and not just for aesthetic reasons, but practical ones. In addition to being eyesores, these unsafe, unoccupied houses lower the property values of those around them, demoralize the neighborhood, attract vandals and other crimes, and discourage economic development.
At the same time, though, the city must maintain its recent commitment to keeping its roads safe and passable, for bicyclists as well as motorists, overcoming the damage caused by years of deferred maintenance. It is admittedly a tough balancing act in a city as strapped for resources as Schenectady, and Stratton deserves credit for trying to tackle both issues.
Today we’d like to talk about a third big quality-of-life issue, and one that, fortunately, can be dealt with at little or no city expense: graffiti. Like potholes, this stuff is sprouting up all over town, and like derelict houses, it is ugly and has a demoralizing effect. Last year the city passed a spray-paint-can sales law that has not helped. It has also talked about allowing murals on the most graffiti-prone sites — which is only a partial answer at best, and raises questions about who approves, designs and draws the murals, and what quality standards will apply.
Our suggestion: a communitywide anti-graffiti day, or days, in the spring and perhaps again in the fall. The city might pay for the paint, or perhaps find a corporate sponsor or grant (costs could be kept down by using recycled). Better yet, start a paint exchange, like Fulton County has had since 2001, where homeowners can get rid of their leftover paint, rather than dispose of it in a landfill or down the drain. What better way to use unwanted paint than to cover up unwanted graffiti?
To help city officials keep track of where the graffiti is, the Gazette would be willing to set up a “Graffiti Wall” on its Web site where readers can identify the scrawled-over spots.