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Top Official In Graffiti War At Risk Of Being Fired
The man who oversees Buffalo's war on graffiti could be fired if efforts don't improve, members of Mayor Byron W. Brown's accountability panel have warned.
Brown said he has become so frustrated that he took matters into his own hands and spent several hours Thursday touring the city to see the toll that graffiti vandals have taken on neighborhoods.
The mayor today is trading his customary suit for work clothes and commanding the first of numerous graffiti blitzes. Crews are converging on some streets in the Masten District today, with plans to move to neighborhoods in the North and University districts over the next month.
Earlier this summer, Brown and his CitiStat accountability panel ordered the city's director of support services, James E. Pavel, to step up anti-graffiti efforts in August. That didn't happen, and CitiStat members chastised Pavel for "not getting the job done."
"Either you're not getting it or your directors aren't," said the city's director of strategic planning, Timothy E. Wanamaker, adding that it was unfortunate that the mayor felt obligated to personally initiate the first graffiti blitz.
First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey warned Pavel that if he wants to stay as the city's "quarterback" for graffiti removal, he must become more responsive.
"There are a lot of other quarterbacks out there who want to do it," Casey said.
Pavel later told a reporter that he did not want to fuel the fires by giving an extensive rebuttal. Instead, he simply noted that he got married in late July. "I took some vacation time and some personal time and couldn't get the job done," he said.
Pavel will mark his 30th year in City Hall next month. His past work on cleanups and other projects has won widespread praise from Common Council members and some department heads.
As a civil service employee, Pavel could be dismissed only after a lengthy process that includes a hearing.
No one wants to see anyone fired, Brown emphasized.
"It would pain me to do that," the mayor said.
But the mayor stood by a promise he made when he launched CitiStat, saying that any administrator who does not perform will be terminated.
The fallout from graffiti goes beyond creating eyesores. Statistics show that it can lower property values, undermine businesses, encourage gangs and fuel other problems.
Oswaldo Mestre Jr., the city's director of citizen services, said data will be released this week showing the extent of graffiti problems in all nine Council districts.
Meanwhile, the city's top attorney disclosed that officials are reviewing graffiti laws. One provision gives property owners 10 days to remove graffiti. After that, the city has the right to hire contractors to do the work, then bill the property owner.
Corporation Counsel Alisa M. Lukasiewicz said some people think the time period for coming into compliance should be shortened. "We're taking a second look at the 10-day provision," she said.
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Photos by Angel Art LTP, compliments of the Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additional photos by Adrian Roselli, compliments of Algonquin Studios