After I moved in, I had many trips to Home Depot and Menards – picture hooks, curtain rods, screws, plug plates, non-skid step pad, rock salt, etc. My wrought iron patio furniture needed painting, so off I went to buy black Rustoleum spray paint and many other things on my list. It was late at night and as I walked up and down the paint section I could not find the spray paint and there was no salesmen in sight. I bought everything else on my list, again looked all over and decided I had enough shopping and went home. The next week, I went to Menard’s ready to start my painting project. I went straight to the paint section and again walked round and round – where’s the spray paint?
I asked a young salesman and he said, “You got to go to a Menard’s not in the city.”
I responded, “What? Are you out of all your spray paint?”
“Lady – we don’t sell no spray paint in the city. To many taggers.”
“Do I need to go to a hobby store, like Micheal’s?”
“Lady – it’s against the law to sell spray paint at any store in the city!”
I had no idea what a tagger was and decided to just leave and figure this out with a Google search. Sure enough, in 1992, Chicago passed a law prohibiting the sale of spray paint within city limits to curb graffiti. It was then challenged in multiple courts by spray paint manufacturers before being upheld in 1995 by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. I also learned that tagging is different from graffiti – tagging is usually signing a name which can be a real name, gang symbol, or nick-name, and usually done in one color whereas graffiti usually takes more time and more colors.
Does this law make sense? Not IMO – Anyone can drive, or take a train, outside the city limits and buy whatever spray paint they want. Has it reduced the graffiti in the city? Not based on my daily commute and all the tags I see on my short trip to the loop. Also, just ask the thousands of rush hour drivers on the Kennedy this past December. This is when Graffiti – or a tag – you decide – was plastered overnight on a highway sign and the city had clean-up crews blocking major portions of the highway. A 30-minute commute turned into more than 2 hours for many. Also, if this law did have an impact, why after more than a decade does the City of Chicago have an entire webpage about their Graffiti Removal Program where anyone can call 311 and get unwanted graffiti removed. Here’s an excerpt… the program employs “blast” trucks that use baking soda under high water pressure to remove painted graffiti from brick, stone and other mineral surfaces. The program also deploys paint trucks to cover graffiti on surfaces such as metal or wood.
My high Chicago taxes at work…