CHICAGO — The 2013 Chicago budget submitted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel includes an increase in resources for the Graffiti Blasters program.
The added emphasis on the program came to light during a City Council hearing Tuesday with staff from the mayor's office, including Alex Holt, the budget director, Amer Ahman, comptroller, and Lois Scott, chief financial officer.
According to the Mayor's Office, this year the Department of Streets and Sanitation took a "blitz" approach to graffiti removal. Working from a new grid system — much like garbage pickup — the city calculates that the Graffiti Blasters program increased productivity 30 percent. The 2013 budget calls for additional painters, thus increasing the number of crews by 25 percent.
All told, the program was allotted 40 positions and $3.3 million in 2012. That will be boosted to 44 employees and $3.8 million if the City Council passes Emanuel's proposal.
Graffiti removal is popular with aldermen and businesses. Emanuel issued a statement explaining the budget increase.
"Graffiti vandalism does not just deface property, it can impact residents' perception of safety, hurt businesses and diminish a community's quality of life," Emanuel said. "By adding additional crews, we can deploy extra resources to the communities that are plagued with graffiti, as we work to keep neighborhoods clean and safe."
As of the end of September, graffiti crews had executed 82,000 removal jobs this year — more than double the number requested by residents and business people through 311 calls. The crews are expected to handle another 40,000 above that pace over the next year.
Thomas Byrne, streets and sanitation commissioner, said, "By adding resources, we can continue to build on our achievements and substantially increase our response to graffiti throughout the city."