City Hall Turns Public Property At LB's MacArthur Park Into West Coast Version of 70's Graffiti Marked NY Subway Train; What Giuliani Stopped, O'Neill's Council Allows, Inflicting Double-Standard On Central LB Neighborhood
(January 11, 2003) -- George Orwell said that sometimes it is the first duty of intelligent people to restate the obvious. We think this applies to the stupefying event (first reported by LBReport.com), sponsored by LB's Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Marine, touted in a press release as bringing to MacArthur Park (Anaheim St. @ Gundry Ave.) a "mural collaboration and exhibit" with "the top 14 women graffiti artists of Southern California." (To view this story, click Dec. 26 LBReport.com.)
LBReport.com followed-up by posting numerous color photos of large portions city buildings in MacArthur Park covered with multi-color images drawn on the property with the permisson and encouragement of LB's Dept. of Parks & Rec. (To view these images, click Dec. 27 LBReport.com.)
On January 3, the Press-Telegram carried an editorial titled "Two kinds of graffiti," acknowledging the subject matter we'd previously reported (without crediting us) and defending City Hall's policy. "The wall paintings at MacArthur Park are colorful expressions of street art. They are murals, not crude gang signs, although their graphics show an undeniable affinity for their cruder counterparts," the PT opined.
Later that day, LBReport.com created a digital editorial cartoon applying the Press-Telegram's words to its own property (right).
Our dispute is not with an old newspaper. It is with old attitudes at City Hall that are discredited and deserve to be confronted and collapsed. In our view, the issue is not "two kinds of graffiti." In our opinion, the issue is two standards applied to different parts of this city.
How else can one explain letting "colorful expressions of street art" mark up city property in MacArthur Park -- where some apparently think it's fit for hard working, taxpaying, law abiding families and businesses in central LB -- while city officials have not and would not allow any of this to grace their own City Hall, LB Airport (a nice welcome for visitors) or Councilmembers' field offices in well-heeled parts of East Long Beach.
Can anyone seriously imagine advocating what you've seen in MacArthur Park as a crime fighting tool for Bixby Knolls or Belmont Shore? The PT opined:
Do city-sanctioned murals encourage vandalism by teenage boys? Our guess is that they do the opposite, by gracing public buildings with the work of street artists. The message of the mural program is that neighborhoods deserve beautification, not desecration.
Pardon us, but when Rudolph Giuliani became NYC's Mayor, subway trains were also marked with similarly detailed multicolor graffiti. At the time, some tried to portray this as art too...but Mayor Giuliani restored standards and civic self-respect and demanded its removal. For this and other not coincidental reasons, NYC is now safer.
Contrast this with LB City Hall which has turned public property in part of CA's fifth largest city into the west coast equivalent of a 1970's NY subway train.
Big surprise, as reported by LBReport.com, LB is now statistically less safe than NYC in six serious crime categories. (To view this story, click here.)
On New Year's Day, the PT ran a good story we initially missed, describing an alley off 14th St. just west of Gardenia Ave. that has been turned into a latrine filled with gang graffiti, understandably leaving nearby residents too terrorized and demoralized to report it. Two days later, the PT's "two kinds of graffiti" editorial acknowledged a factoid we also subsequently reported: the Gardenia graffiti alley is within walking distance (1 block north, 4.5 blocks north) of MacArthur Park. And when we went by on Jan. 1, we observed and LBReport.com reported that other alleys from Gardenia Ave. to Walnut Ave., a path from MacArthur Park, were also marred by graffiti.
We are not angry at those marking up the buildings at MacArthur Park. We do not hold them responsible. We hold the City Council responsible for allowing this to continue. We regret that while Mayor Giuliani solved supposedly unsolvable urban problems by knowing how to deal with hard truths, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill is leaving a legacy as a cheerleader, not a leader, in a city where serious problems are persisting and worsening.
In our opinion, the officially invited defacement (which is what we think it is) of city property at MacArthur Park is a citywide embarrassment. We consider it an injustice to the good and decent people of the central LB neighborhood who are forced by their City Hall to endure it. We believe removing it will be cheered by quietly-suffering residents and crime-weary businesses of central LB whose voices are now chilled by graffiti vandals (the "other" kind of graffiti) and counter-productive policies of their own City Hall.
We expect this will be resisted by some. Fine, bring them on. They're revealing themselves as part of the problem and not the solution.
We know where the Press-Telegram stands. Let's see who else defends attitudes that safer cities -- like NYC under Mayor Giuliani -- have sent to the wastebasket of history.