Bill takes aim at skateboarding vandals

Posted: September 27, 2012

TAXPAYERS have had to dish out thousands of dollars over the years because of damage that negligent skateboarders, rollerbladers and bicyclists have caused to public artwork. But the city hopes that proposed tough penalties will make the bums think twice about the damage they cause.

A City Council committee gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill that would add public artwork and memorials to the city ban on skateboarding on public property and would raise fines from $300 to $2,000. Violators could also face up to 90 days in jail.

"Philadelphia is known throughout the world for the high-quality, extensive variety and sheer number of pieces of public art on view throughout the city," said Gary Steuer, the city's chief cultural officer. "When those works are defaced or damaged, it presents a negative image to residents and visitors alike."

Two skateboarders were arrested and charged with causing more than $3,000 in damage to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial over the summer. Margot Berg, the city's public-art director, said taxpayers forked over $80,000 in repairs after skateboarders and vandals damaged the "Your Move" game pieces on the Municipal Services Building plaza in 1999.

A $50,000 fund that had been earmarked for cleaning and maintaining public art was cut when the financial crisis hit in 2008, and it hasn't been restored.

The Nutter administration couldn't provide data on how much money the city has collected from the fines or say how often the current law is enforced.

"The way it seems is that not enforcing the current law," Councilman Jim Kenney said, asking city officials why $2,000 would scare anybody. He also noted that police are often tied up, and he wondered whether the Philadelphia Parking Authority could get involved.

Josh Nims, founder of Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund, said he supported the bill but was concerned about the costly fine and noted that the current law has not been heavily enforced.

Steuer said the measure "introduces a fear factor. That's the intended impact."

Contact Jan Ransom at or 215-854-5218.

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