by Jim Nintzel
Mary DeCamp, the Green Party candidate in Ward 3, asked us to post some of her thoughts on the problems facing Tucson. This one is about grafitti.
Walking my dog this morning, I saw graffiti behind the AZ Opera Company building ("Merk" is said). A little further, and I saw the Casa de Los Ninos collection site. Emblazoned on the side, in hand-written style lettering, was their name, notification about donation details, and a cute child-like drawing in blue ink.
Guadalajara Grill has a beautiful scripted lettering, and other offices & businesses go with more conventional fonts. The streets are all clearly labeled and automotive information is certainly visible.
A little further along, in a utility walk-way backing an apartment complex, I saw a graphic depiction of male ejaculation and some initials next to it. My neighbor refers to this stretch of the neighborhood as "penis alley."
I thought of what these visual representations had in common. I wanted to connect the dots.
All want to communicate. All want to convey a message, they all use written form to do it, and they put their message in locations that are meaningful to them. But some are more legitimate messages than others. Tagging gets you fined & thrown in jail.
Our society condones commerce & government, but doesn't support communication by the masses. Newspapers & blogs have limited space and represent a small portion of the population. Nobody speaks for the dispossessed. I'd like to suggest a novel (and cheap) approach to our graffiti, gang, & crime problem.
Living libraries. Places where radically different people can go to check each other out. A safe environment (like our schools during evening hours? or unused office space downtown after the work day is over?) where honest questions about "us & them" can be answered.
Or we could use bookmobiles (I'd use "folkswagons" if I got to choose a name) to visit different locations. There would need to be acceptable safeguards in place, but a very workable plan could be developed to shuttle a diverse set of "books" (dentist, tagger, waitress, government adminstrator, socialite/debutante, retiree, for instance) from location to location. This would give voice to members of our growing underclass and allow our frieghtened citizens a safe environment to ask questions of those who scare them.
Just as there are candidate panels and forums, we could arrange living library forums where representatives from groups could respond to audience questions. It's a great way to engage democracy, and break down the isolating effects of large-screen TVs with some fun, free, and forward-thinking entertainment options.