Code Enforcement plan would step up homeless-camp cleanups

       A Code Enforcement (CE) pilot program that could increase grafitti removal, litter pickup and homeless-camp cleanups was recently set out before Colorado Springs City Council.
       Ken Lewis, CE head, predicted in a presentation Sept. 10 that if the proposal took effect, the result would be “twice the work for half the cost.”
       Grafitti and litter are problems citywide, while Fountain Creek through the Westside has required routine camp cleanups over the years. Lewis said that when budget cuts loomed for 2008, he had to start looking for options other than paying private non-profit groups to perform these tasks (as is now the case).
       His new, cheaper solution is to have the work done by a maintenance crew consisting of people sentenced to community service, plus a temporary, hourly city employee who would be their supervisor.
       One council member (Margaret Radford) had doubts. She did not see an obvious connection between grafitti, litter and camp cleanups and questioned why a city employee had to be involved.
       The proposal, from City Police (of which CE is a part), will be reviewed by the City Manager's Office during the 2008 budget process.
       During the same discussion, there was no council objection to an idea from council member Scott Hente to allow certain grafitti “taggers” - not those who use gang symbols - spray-paint murals in selected public areas. He said this would be preferrable to continuing what he called an “arms race,” in which the taggers keep putting up grafitti as fast as the city can cover it up.
       According to Hente, whose District 1 includes the northerly Westside and Pleasant Valley, the city of Philadelphia has had good success with such a program that discourages “spurious grafitti.” He elaborated after the meeting that he had no specific public locations in mind, either in his district or anywhere else in the city.
       Acting City Manager Mike Anderson said his office could provide a list of sites - one he suggested off the top of his head was the Shook's Run trestle by Cache la Poudre Street.
       A public process on the tagger/mural idea would have to happen before any public spray-paint murals would occur, Hente noted.
       Regarding the police/CE plan, the community service team would work five days a week in the summer and three days a week in the winter. “It would probably give us more camp cleanups,” Lewis elaborated after the meeting.
       Before this summer, such cleanups had generally occurred on a monthly basis, with the non-profit Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful picking up the debris (including occasional drug paraphernalia) and police providing security. But in the wake of a police reorg this year aimed at putting more cops on the streets, the camp cleanups have not followed a regular schedule since last spring. A reminder of the issue was a shooting at a camp behind the Sonic off West Colorado Avenue in July.
       The Police Department is facing a general-fund budget reduction of $65,000 in the areas of camp cleanup, grafitti removal and litter pickup, Police Chief Richard Myers wrote in a report to council that was part of the Sept. 10 meeting packet. The police/ CE pilot program would cost $30,000. Grafitti removal has been handled on a city contract with the non-profit Workout Ltd. While police are not displeased with Workout's efforts - and would like to see it continue in some form - there have been recent issues with how timely its response has been, Lewis told council.

Westside Pioneer article