Graffiti on Barn Bluff to become illegal

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No more painting the bluff.

On Monday, Sept. 10, the Red Wing City Council unanimously voted to end all graffiti on Barn Bluff. Before making a decision, the Council read eight emails sent by citizens and listened to 13 residents speak during a public forum.

Of the eight emails, half of the authors favored of continuing to allow graffiti on the bluff. The other four emailers wanted the practice to end.

Those speaking at the forum were not as equally divided as those who sent in emails.

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Bill Hanisch described the bluff as a "canvas" and defined a canvas as "the background, setting or scope of a historical or fictional account, or narrative." Hanisch went on to say, "Now, to me, that is a perfect description of what this area of the bluff means to Red Wing. It is the background, the setting and scope of accounts of history."

Hanisch is one of the five Red Wing citizens who created a petition to make graffiti on the bluff legal.

On the other side of the argument, Nicole Buck of the Prairie Island Indian Community stated that Barn Bluff, called "He Mni Can" in the Dakota language, is sacred.

"For something that is so sacred to our people, the graffiti has been disgusting, and very disrespectful. Not only just to our people, but to the other people who reside in Red Wing, who cherish that bluff just as much as we do," Buck said.

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Todd Avery, who grew up in Red Wing, was torn on the issue. In his address to the council, Avery stated, "I grew up with the number on the bluff, the painting the years is part of my history in this town. But I understand there's deeper issues. But I hope we can take some time to weight it out, to not be quick to decisions, to find out what the people of Red Wing truly want, and to follow those wishes."

After 40 minutes of an open forum, council members discussed what they would do.

City Attorney Amy Mace explained that any decision would not impact residents' right to create a petition for making graffiti on the bluff legal. If the petition receives the required number of signatured from Red Wing residents, the topic will be put on a ballot.

Until a petition with enough signatures is presented to the council, however, painting will be made illegal.

City Council members all agreed that since their vote would not impact the ability for citizens to bring a petition to the government, they would support the wishes of the Prairie Island Indian Community. They also noted the Heritage Preservation Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Advisory Planning Commission all recommended closing the forum and making graffiti on the bluff illegal. These commission spent a combined eight hours on the subject and the 22 individuals in the three commissions all voted to make graffiti illegal.

Enforcement of the graffiti law on Barn Bluff will begin on Nov. 15, 2018. At that time, bluff-colored paint will be used to cover any remaining graffiti.