Updated at the bottom with reaction from the ACLU, which says this might not survive a constitutional challenge (what with freedom of speech and all). First posted at 2:35 p.m.

Dennis Zine is the L.A. City Councilman who successfully got Aaron Brothers to back off its graffiti-themed back-to-school promotion in L.A.

And even after the rousing success of the Museum of Contemporary Art's “Art in the Streets” exhibition, Zine don't stop.

He's now targeting people who buy aerosol paint:

Zine has introduced a motion that would require stores to get and keep your name and address if you buy spray cans and “graffiti paraphernalia” such as “spray paint nozzles, paint pens, glass cutting, and etching tools,” according to a statement from the councilman's office.

Stores would ask for your ID and copy down the info.

[Added]: According to Zine's statement:

Portland requires that every store which sells graffiti materials must also create a record of each sale for each transaction of these materials. They are required to obtain identification about the individual who makes each purchase and maintain a secure record of these sales for two years. Councilman Zine has asked the Chief Legislative Analyst, the City Attorney, and the Los Angeles Police Department to review the graffiti point of purchase recorded identification program as conducted in Portland and to report to the Public Safety Committee on its merits and potential adoption by the City of Los Angeles.

Now, call us stupid (and many of you have), but this seems like an utter invasion of privacy and free speech. The number of times we're told our ID needs to be recorded these days (buying cold medicine, at the club) is getting out-of-hand.

Now a City Councilman wants your home address because you're buying paint? And let's just bring up free speech here: If you buy a marking pen, which you could use to create signs to express your opinion about, oh, say, a certain city leader, that leader gets to see your address?

Tell you what, Dennis. Show us your address first. Let's just keep that on record too.

This is patently un-American and it comes from, strangely, quite the flag-waving, gun-toting councilman.

He wants city officials, including the City Attorney and the LAPD, to review Portland's own, similar program and report back on whether its feasible here. We'll save you some time, D: No.

He also wants the City Council to vote in a law that would require paint and art-supply stores to post signs warning buyers that graffiti vandalism is “a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment … “

Fine, Zine. We've been warned. (And for sure this will stop the local tag-banger in his tracks).

Zine also wants an update on the city's “graffiti tracker” program, which uses cellphone shots and security video to document taggers on-the-loose.

The councilman:

My goal is to create laws that will assist law enforcement and ultimately reduce the number of incidents of graffiti vandalism. In my role as a City Councilman and a LAPD Reserve Officer, I want to explore all avenues that will help eradicate graffiti from the streets of Los Angeles.

He says L.A. taxpayers spent $7.1 million on graffiti abatement last year.

Even though L.A. is shaping up to be a global capital of graffiti art, we're going to guess that Zine isn't going to be collecting the work by Shepard Fairey, Revok and Futura any time soon.

Update: ACLU staff attorney Peter Bibring tells the Weekly he doesn't think requiring IDs and addresses for paint would be constitutional and that, if enacted, such an ordinance would have a hard time surviving court challenges:

They're potentially making a suspect out of everyone who buys a certain kind of paint. You're syaing anybody who buys a particular kind of art material is singled out as a potential criminal suspect. Singling out a First Amendment activity is potentially a prob under the constitution.

Bibring also says that while certain crime-attracting businesses, such as car-part sales or pawn shops, require similar information tracking, this particular array of products is affiliated so strongly with freedom of expression that singling it out for IDs would attract court challenges.

“The problem is where you start that inquiry with peole who produce a particular kind of art that may very well be lawful,” he said.

Finally, California also has strong privacy laws that might challenge enforcement of such an ordiance, Bibring said:

… A privacy amendment of the California constitution was put in place specifically to prevent businesses and governments from collecting vast amounts of info about peoples lawful actions.

In other words, good luck with that, councilman.


LA Weekly