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City Bails, Donors Quit on Graffiti Cleanup

Bailie, who for years worked on removing graffiti in the county, says he got the idea for the campaign in the city while driving down Interstate 95 one day with his grandchildren. They had a contest to see who could count the most graffiti tags. From Bryan Park to the James River they spotted 56, he says, "And I was appalled."

That goaded Bailie to organize a committee to tackle the problem in Richmond. Members worked for 14 months, he says. They determined that the city's graffiti problem would take $1 million over two years to clean up, and that a private contractor could do the job more efficiently than the city's department of public works. Public works officials agreed, he says; resources were spread too thin dealing with more pressing issues.

Bailie met with Wilder before he was elected, he says, and discussed the possibility of raising money for graffiti removal from private businesses and getting the city to match donations. "And he was very enthused about it," Bailie says, "and encouraged me very strongly."

The committee set about raising money from city businesses to launch the fight. "I can say with authority that we had our $500,000 in hand," Bailie says — "or where we could get our hands on it." At one meeting, he says, Wilder mentioned he could use the money saved from not funding Richmond Renaissance to produce the $250,000 needed for the first-year installment of the city's share of the graffiti-removal funds. "He just told me that he had it in his budget," Bailie says.

Then City Council made its changes to the city budget, and Bailie was told that the city didn't have the $250,000 for graffiti. Faced with another year of rounding up funds and recommitments, he says, "we've just given up."

Councilmen Bill Pantele and Manoli Loupassi have said they'll try to obtain the necessary funds from the city, Bailie says. But for now, "I'm back to cleaning up Hanover again." — Melissa Scott Sinclair

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