Don’t City of Toronto graffiti inspection agents have bigger fish to fry than those swimming on Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon’s back fence?
A mural of giant fish, small fish, a whale, and a bug-eyed crab and lobster — all depicted against a blue background — have grabbed the attention of the City of Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards branch. It sent two registered letters Tuesday to the Ward 32 — Beaches-East York — councillor and her husband, Jim McMahon, advising that they have objectionable graffiti on the alley-facing fence behind their house, in the area of Woodbine and Danforth Avenues. It’s in violation of the Toronto Municipal Code, chapter 485, graffiti.
They were told in the letters that they could appeal the ruling to the city’s Graffiti Panel, which was set up last year and makes decisions on whether something is allowable “art” or prohibited graffiti. If the McMahons don’t appeal, or get rid of the mural — which was crafted five or six years ago by the McMahons’ children, along with a family friend who’s an artist — it will be removed by the city and the costs added to the family’s municipal tax bill.
They have until April 9 to comply or appeal.
McMahon said the notice “irks” her. She said she’s been trying to get the city to crack down on people who may be failing to abide by various city regulations that protect trees. “We don’t seem to have people for that, but we have resources for a mural in a back alleyway.”
McMahon intends to appeal the notice of violation to the city’s Graffiti Panel. “We’re not taking it down,” she said.
McMahon’s daughter, Becca, now 13, says she doesn’t understand why anyone’s objecting to the mural. She was eight years old when she and her brother, Liam, who’s now 15, painted it, along with the family friend.
Art or vandalism?
According to a 2011 report to council, the city spends more than $1 million per year to clean up graffiti and enforce rules.
The city defines graffiti art as markings made to a property that are approved by the owner and which esthetically enhance the surface and the general surroundings, with regard to the character and standards of the community. Graffiti vandalism, on the other hand, includes markings made without a property owner’s permission or which are not exempted or regularized by the city, or anything that incites hatred or violence or contains offensive language.