"Everyone takes pride in a clean city," Mayor Ford stated Wednesday.
Today Toronto launched their new 311 app for smartphones that allows citizens to report pot holes and graffiti vandalism in a back alley near St. Clair and Lansdowne Avenues. Along with City Councillor Cesar Palacio Mayor Ford spoke about how the new App will help in keeping the city clean stating that "the war on graffiti has just begun."
It's fitting that the City of Toronto build an App for citizens to be able to report vandalism and pot hole. Toronto is considered to be one of the top cities when it comes to the information and communications technology sector. Eight percent of the city's jobs are in the ICT market.
According to the city press release, these mobile apps connect directly to 311 Toronto through the Open311 API (Application Programming Interface), so no involvement from 311 Customer Service Representatives is required, making this a highly efficient way to have issues reported to 311 and to get service requests to the appropriate service division for action (e.g. Solid Waste, Transportation Services or Municipal Licensing and Standards). The "See, Click, Fix" app is available for download on Blackberry, iPhone and Android. The "TDOT 311" app is available for iPhones only. Information about the two mobile apps and links to connect to both are available on the City of Toronto website .
The 311 App
is just one of the steps that Toronto is using to combat graffiti. Currently young vandals who are arrested are being placed in a program that lets them become community builders by beautifying the city instead of vandalizing it.
In reality, though, Mayor Ford has been fighting graffiti since he entered office. That fight has placed a huge financial burden on small business owners who are footing the cost of removing graffiti from their property, often repeatedly. Critics of Ford have raised questions about how his 'war on graffiti' is also a war on small businesses.
Ford also has critics in the graffiti art world. Those who are involved with beautification efforts using graffiti have felt that the mayor too often gives them the cold shoulder. One source who asked not to be identified said, "The city has it right when it comes to fighting graffiti but Ford has it all wrong."
One of the graffiti artists at today's event lamented that all Ford would have to do is to shake his hand for his work in positive graffiti but he was ignored once again by the mayor.
Ford can't have it both ways. He can't ask for the local graffiti art community's support in beautifying the city and then ignore their good works.
The new Graffiti Management Programs
are working. By getting permission by building and home owners the talents of young graffiti artists are being used in a positive manner to bring art to blank walls that once housed various graffiti vandalism tags.
Graffiti art is a way to build a bridge with youth and the police but it's not an easy task. Generally the youth that get caught as graffiti vandalism are already considered 'at-risk.'
At risk youth often have a sour taste when it comes to the police. Many in the police force do look at them as potential criminals when they are patrolling the city.
To bridge that wide gap takes time, patience and the right players on both sides. If the youth don't trust the officers working with them then that bridge already has a barricade far too high. Luckily in Toronto several police officers have broken down that hurdle. With ProAction's Cops and Kids programs the likes of Dale Corra, Scott Mills and Jennifer Sidhu are establishing positive relationships with kids that are at risk.
Using these officers and others who are determined to bridge that gap has worked, not only in graffiti vandalism but in curbing other criminal activities.
The new 311 App is a positive move for the Ford Administration but it's just a small step. The city needs leadership at City Hall starting with Ford himself praising the good work that is being done. The youth that turn their lives around and become community builders have to be given that handshake, pat on the back and spotlight. Then and only then will Toronto truly be able to be the clean and beautiful city that we all want with an arty twist to boot.
* special thank you to Scott Mills who provided the photography from today's event
*event was viewed by livestream