It has long been a problem throughout Halton Hills, and town council has had enough.
During Monday night's meeting, the local politicians passed a motion for Town staff to "declare war on graffiti," in consultation with the Halton Hills Chamber of Commerce, and Acton and Georgetown BIAs.
“Halton Hills has had a proliferation of graffiti on both Town-owned and privately-held buildings, utility boxes and other infrastructure,” says the motion from Councillors Mike Albano and Clark Somerville. “The Acton and Georgetown Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) spend considerable time and resources on beautification and clean-up of our downtown business areas."
Graffiti is, to put it simply, divisive. Those who don’t care for it say it's property damage and, depending on the content of the design, offensive. Those who love it can find beauty in the more creative graffiti.
Albano said he has seen an increase of “tags” over the pandemic in his ward.
“Particularly last summer I noticed graffiti throughout town,” Albano recalled. He has found examples of it near the Scotiabank branch in downtown Acton, some at the Acton GO station and a little at Sobeys as well.
The motion orders staff to come back with a report with options, such as ways for residents to report graffiti and methods for the Town to foot companies with the cleaning bill if graffiti isn't removed from a utility box by a certain time.
Somerville said the latter aspect stems from a Bell box that has been covered in graffiti for four years.
"They keep saying they will take care of it. But I don’t think that’s right.”
Freshman Councillor Chantal Garneau supported the motion, but also raised the ongoing art versus vandalism issue in council.
She asked that staff, in consultation with local BIAs, “consider graffiti through two lenses - one as vandalism and property damage, and the other through public art.”
The motion passed by council recognizes that the Town has been actively promoting public art across the community and working to beautify utility boxes and other areas.
Garneau proposed examining the possibility of a legal graffiti wall in Halton Hills to “encourage and support artists while also seeing that sometimes there is a line.” Toronto’s famed Graffiti Alley, Montreal’s Centre Récréatif Saint-Charles and Berlin’s East Gallery (consisting of the old Berlin Wall) are such examples.
Albano said he's open to that, but cautioned that a clear line between vandalism and art must be drawn.
“If it is art, then I would suspect that [the artists] would need to gain permission to paint, [rather] than just go ahead and do it.”
“Maybe Banksy will come,” Mayor Ann Lawlor joked.