Well, at least someone's listening to our new president.
Since he launched his bid for the White House, President Barack Obama has been hammering away at the idea of service. He hit it hard in his inaugural address, reminding people they were in charge of stepping up and remaking America.
Here in Hartford, there's a school full of kids ready to help remake their city.
Only problem is they seem to be the only ones.
After reading a recent column about graffiti, students at Hartford Public had an idea: Why not create a graffiti-free zone around their campus?
And then another group wanted in; why not take it a step further — jump in after the others clean up and put up murals?
So, on behalf of the students, Benjamin Cruse reached out to Jack Hale over at the Knox Parks Foundation. Good move; if anyone knows how things work — or don't — in the city, it's Hale.
Hale thought it was a fine idea, but cautioned it wasn't as easy as it sounded. He gave Cruse, the director of youth services for Leadership Greater Hartford, a list of folks to contact for "support."
Translation: Get ready to jump through some hoops.
Cruse e-mailed a few council members, but only heard from one, who suggested he contact someone else. Clearly, these kids are not high on anyone's priority list.
Hale filled me in on what it would take: Depending on where they want to paint the murals, property owners would have to be involved. Fair enough. There'd also have to be some general agreement that the project would be a good idea.
The issue, he said, is whether murals prevent graffiti, or promote it.
I called Virginia Iacobucci, the new owner of La Paloma Sabanera coffee house and asked if the mural on the side of her Capitol Avenue shop has ever been defaced.
Never, she said.
There. Debate over. And even if someone does end up vandalizing the murals the kids put up, that's no reason not to give them an opportunity to try.Let me tell you how this should work: Any kid in this city steps up wanting to do something to improve Hartford, adults should snap into action.
When I talked to a few of the teens, it was clear they have high hopes for themselves and the city. Andres Reyes and his sister Maria were itching to get started. Sherona Whilby said it'd be great to walk around the school and see their art on display.
These kids already have organized peace marches, cleaned up city parks. And now they want to do more.
So, why are we making it hard for them?
The dopes who scrawl graffiti all over this city have no problem making their mark — but try to do things the right way and you get caught up in red tape. Or worse, snared by a bunch of people who don't really know the answer, so they pass it along to someone else.
Obama's call to service is a great idea — but it's not going to go anywhere unless everyone answers.
The kids in this city have. Now, it's time for the adults.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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