City Hall

Just Don't Call John Barr the "Graffiti Czar"

Sam's at City Hall for the council's Love Field briefing, but he got there in time for the 1:30 announcement of the city's new "graffiti czar," attorney John Barr. Only, Barr told Sam in their post-announcement chat, "Don't write that I'm a czar." Whoops. My bad.

Anyway. You remember Barr, right? He was profiled in The News two years back for having his staff paint over graffiti in his neck of North Oak Cliff, despite city officials insisting he too was breaking the law. Says Barr, who used to be Don Hill's campaign treasurer and who reps former FBI Agent Danny Defenbaugh in matters related to the Dallas County constables investigation, the city got off his back for a while but still wasn't entirely pleased with his do-gooding. Delia Jasso calls Barr "the rogue anti-graffiti guy" with good reason. Barr returns the compliment: "I've never seen a politician give a damn like she does."

Finally the city decided instead of fighting Barr, they'd ask him to lead the latest anti-graffiti initiative. He told Sam that 10 days ago, he got an out-of-nowhere call from Mayor Tom Leppert's chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, who asked if he'd take the gig. The attorney said sure. Said Leppert today, he wants newcomers to Dallas "to see a Dallas they've never seen before." Meaning, presumably, the one currently covered with graffiti?

But Barr told Sam: He's not sure how he'll spend Mark Cuban's $100,000. Sam reports back that Barr's big thing is getting citizens to drive around with their own cans and buckets of paint to cover up graffiti wherever they see it (after they take pictures of the offending graffiti, of course). Because right now, Barr says, the city's not doing a terribly good job of going after scofflaws. Or, as he told Sam: "I don't think my mom or your mom needs to drive by and read 'Fuck you.' It's insulting." Rogue!

He says he'll likely ask other businesses to do what he's been doing since moving from downtown to Oak Cliff in '03 -- a so-called bucket brigade. As he told Sam, he wants people to take responsibility "and put a log on the campfire." Barr also wants to establish an area where graffiti is permitted, so taggers have a place to do their thing. Because, he said, truth is he's not sure eradicating graffiti is "an attainable goal." Which won't stop him from doing his damned best.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky