Assemblywoman Fiona Ma: Improving Students' Lives

The number one complaint that I have heard from neighbors in the 12th Assembly District concerns the prevalence of graffiti on our schools, businesses, public property, and sometimes even our homes. Graffiti is an all too common crime that damages private property and threatens the beauty of our neighborhoods.

The city of San Francisco spends more than $2 million per year to clean up graffiti. This is money that could be used for other more important things, like improving police and fire services, healthcare programs or our parks. Due to the amount of blight that graffiti creates in our neighborhoods - action must be taken. This is why, together with Sen. Leland Yee, I have introduced legislation to ensure that those who commit this act of vandalism actually have to perform community service.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 1767, adds an act of vandalism by graffiti to the list of misdemeanors that an offender would not be able to engage in a civil compromise. This means that a tagger can no longer get off scot-free without having to face a judge or perform any community service.

What happens now is that many taggers settle the case outside of court by agreeing to pay the property owner for the costs of removing the graffiti. A civil compromise allows the tagger to escape a misdemeanor vandalism charge and does little to punish or deter an individual from committing a future act of graffiti vandalism. I am proud to announce that Yee and I are working together, which will help ensure the bill's success when it moves to the Senate.

Other graffiti tips - The city's 3-1-1 Customer Service Center acts as a clearing house to report all graffiti. I encourage all of you to use this service to report graffiti in your neighborhood so it can get cleaned up.

The city's Department of Public Works also administers Graffiti Watch, a citywide volunteer effort to prevent and remove graffiti from public property, such as utility and light poles, mailboxes, traffic signal boxes, trash receptacles and other street furniture that taggers deface. This new program empowers citizens to take ownership of their neighborhood by painting out graffiti in a heavily tagged four-block area.

DPW supplies the training and the tools and the volunteer takes charge from there. For more information, call 311 or e-mail [email protected].

Cal Grants - California's Cal Grant program offers graduating seniors and recent graduates up to $9,700 a year in free money for college expenses, at both private and public colleges. For more information, contact the SF College Access Center at (415) 202-7944. The Cal Grant application deadline is March 2.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma is the majority whip at the California Assembly.