Mayor Mike Duggan personally apologized to the head of the Grand River Creative Corridor on Wednesday after he and other property owners were fined for having exteriors adorned with professionally painted murals.
Just hours after we broke the story this morning, Mayor Duggan lifted the fines, blaming “a misunderstanding” in the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) for issuing blight tickets. While the mayor is cracking down on illegal graffiti, he does not want to discipline business owners for adorning their walls with murals, his spokesman John Roach told me.
“We are pulling back any tickets improperly issued involving murals,” Roach said. “BSEED has been given direction not to cite the owner-approved mural art.”
That is good news for hundreds of business owners whose buildings are painted with murals. Think the Eastern Market, the Heidelberg Project, the Russell Industrial Center and some of billionaire Dan Gilbert’s buildings.
The city still has the authority to fine property owners for not getting permits for their murals.
Derek Weaver, who founded the Grand River Creative Corridor in July 2012, said he was relieved when Mayor Duggan called him and pledged to lift the fines Wednesday afternoon.
“He apologized and was very nice,” Weaver said. “I just wanted the city to know that there is a difference between murals and graffiti. We’re trying to improve the community.”
Detroit police still won’t comment on their role. Four officers last week detained Weaver, a muralist and several others for about an hour over a mural that was being painted with permission. The cops temporarily seized cameras from a PBS film crew that was documenting the muralist.
The Mayor’s Office also apologized to Motor City Muckraker after a secretary told callers Wednesday that our story about the fines was “full of inaccuracies.” Roach said there were no errors in the story and that the secretary had no authority to claim that there were.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.