Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Support Busking Tonight at City Council

2. May 2005 • Ari Paul
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Hot off the wire, local musicians Shaun Williams and Susan Fawcett are calling for supporters of street musicians (buskers) to come to tonight’s [May 2nd] city council meeting at 7pm, where they will speak (and perform?) on this issue:

As you may know, I’ll be addressing the Ann Arbor City Council at tonight’s [May 2nd] 7pm meeting in hopes of amending the City Charter to allow buskers to collect monetary donations.

This practice is currently considered panhandling, which I feel discourages public performance and thwarts creative spontaneity. If you’ve got some free time tonight, please join me at the City Hall Council Chamber, 2nd floor of the Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building, 100 N. Fifth Ave at 7pm. Please forward this message to other interested parties.

Thanks,
Shaun

More info on busking:
http://communityartsadvocates.org/

Example Ordinance: East Lansing, MI
http://communityartsadvocates.org/images/SAARegs/EastLansing.gif

Model Street Performing Regulation for a medium-sized city
http://communityartsadvocates.org/saaregulations.html

1st Amendment Case Study: GOLDSTEIN v. TOWN OF NANTUCKET
http://communityartsadvocates.org/saalegalCtGoldstein.html



  1. I am thrilled beyond words to see the East Lansing street music policy (which I proposed and successfully advocated back in 1981) cited here as a good example.

    Indeed, at the time, we pointed to Ann Arbor as a place where busking was welcomed. I am appalled to read that Ann Arbor has regressed to where East Lansing was before that policy was adopted by City Council.

    But why would it take amending the City Charter—the city’s founding document? The East Lansing resolution wasn’t even an ordinance. All the City Council needs to do is to distinguish busking from panhandling, and direct the police not to confuse them. That would solve the problem, without the elaborate process of adopting an ordinance, let alone the citywide vote required to amend the Charter.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    May. 2 '05 - 04:07PM    #
  2. Larry (or anyone else),
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the city pass an ordinance a year or two back that allows police to make arrests of ‘panhandlers’ without a corroborating witness? In other words, all people have to do is claim that they felt ‘threatened’ by said person sitting on the sidewalk, make a phone call, and not be present at the scene of the ‘crime’ and said ‘criminal’ can be arrested. This might be why Susan and Co. are asking for a charter amendment, if not only for the public impact. Another ordinance would probably be sufficient, legally, but then we leave quite a bit for the AAPD to interpret on site.
       —Marc R.    May. 2 '05 - 04:40PM    #
  3. I haven’t been following it that closely, but I’d be very surprised if it’s true that City Council passed such an ordinance.

    Again, a charter amendment requires a long timeline and a citywide vote, and it seems like tremendous overkill to me.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    May. 2 '05 - 05:10PM    #
  4. Marc. About the city panhandling ordinance. First, the ordinance was passed to raise the bar on the behavior of aggressive panhandling and whats acceptable behavior in our community. The Mayors taskforce worked on this for 3 years before it became an ordinance. The idea of the ordinance was to help the person who feels threaten by aggressive panhandling, after all, they have the right to walk down the side walk and not be threatened or hassled by anyone. The threatened person could then call the police if they chose to. The police would come and take a report from the person at the scene of the panhandling. The police would observe the person making the report-to see if they were upset, shaken, any bumps, bang, physically attacked, etc. Then the police would observe the panhandler to see if indeed the panhandler was being aggressive as the person claimed. If so, then the police could arrest the panhandler and then become the witness for the person filing the complaint. The judge always has the option to call the complainant in and interview them before going forward with the case.

    After this ordinance was passed, the police were trained in how to observe, take the report and follow through with the process Then, after the training took place the police posted a notice at the shelter of the ordinance, and then went out on the streets to explain what was tolerated from the panhandlers. This process took a couple of months after the ordinance took effect.
    If a person was arrested, then the court would do the usual work up on the panhandler and place them in treatment/detox, or mental health, etc. The court would do much to help the panhandler. To this date, May 2nd, to the best of my knowledge there have been no arrests made, because the panhandlers know not to aggressive panhandle. I was on that taskforce that worked on this ordinance for 2 of the 3 years. The taskforce worked very hard on making this happen because there were many people that were afraid to come downtown and shop especially women with small children.

    This ordinance is about what behavior is acceptable in our community.It’s important for all to understand that many hours and meetings took place by many members of our community to arrive at what we have today. The group that the Mayor formed came from many places in our community, shelter association, mental health, merchant association directors, police dept. the Mayor himself, many members of City Council, Dawn Farms, etc. If you have any questions about what I’ve written, please ask and if I don’t know the answer I’ll find out for you. Thanks.
       —Bob Dascola    May. 3 '05 - 12:05AM    #
  5. Hi Marc,

    Of course it’s crazy to outlaw busking.

    Busking is part of the cultural life of any downtown, from the Paris and New York subways, to Cambridge to Ann Arbor.

    Tracy Chapman started out by busking.

    You’re right about the “agressive” panhandler ordinance.

    In fact, it’s even worse than you remember.

    The new 2003 ordinance (Councilmember Lowenstein’s “agressive” panhandler ordinance) does not even require anyone to complain.

    It gives the police wide discretion about who to arrest, complaint or no complaint.

    Here are 2 references to that “aggressive” panhandler ordinance:

    http://www.michigandaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/07/07/3f08f5d85b0c2?template=pda

    and

    http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/2308713/detail.html
    ————————————-

    While exerting major sweat to fight an enemy which does not exist (“aggressive” panhandlers supposedly beyond the long arm of the law)——City Council was doing everything in its power to deep-six any Palestine Human Rights resolution.

    Two years later, Council is the same as it ever was.

    And Palestine is still utterly friendless on the whole City Council—as it has been since 1983.
    —While City Council hunts buskers and panhandlers to the four corners of the Earth.
       —Blaine. Palestine resolution buried. Panhandler resolution pushed, though, real hard.    May. 3 '05 - 12:05AM    #
  6. Thanks, Blaine. I remember that now (summer of 2003 I was so deeply buried in national Green politics that I barely saw the sun…)

    Has there been any serious study on the effects of the ordinance? For that matter, any anecdotes or opinions from some of the homeless?

    Meanwhile, Shaun spoke well at the council meeting last night and you could see the general approbation from both audience and council for the idea of protecting the ability of buskers to be on the street. There will likely be something official coming before council soon.
       —Marc R.    May. 3 '05 - 04:11PM    #
  7. Hi Marc,

    Bob has written a long, thoughtful e-mail on the subject.

    He may have raw data to say that the cops have only used their panhandler powers for the public good.

    I’m perfectly ready to believe that the cops have not abused their power in enforcing the new panhandler ordinance; I just don’t like the idea of giving cops the power to dispense with complaints.

    The Bill of Rights is based on the truth that government’s coercive power has to be kept on the tightest leash. Anybody with a license to arrest and kill has to be bound in with the tightest of procedural rules.

    Otherwise cops, soldiers, and their superiors will use their power to grab more power, more loot, more oil, from the most helpless people, in Ann Arbor, in Baghdad, in Palestine.

    I’m also perfectly willing to believe that panhandlers are being given increased services, etc.—but I’d rather have those kinds of social services dispensed from a big fat office on Liberty Street, equipped with licensed and salaried public health officers, as easy to find as the police are.

    To have social services only available after you’re in the slammer seems like a hard way to get services.

    It says something about the City Council’s priorities:

    * Police, empowered to use guns, are a higher priority;

    *Public health workers, empowered to fix health and homelessness problems, are a much lower priority.
    ————————
    I personally haven’t seen the local police treat the homeless discourteously (I’ve heard of it happening). My experience is obviously limited.

    You and I have never been stopped for “Driving While Black” in this town, for example.

    So there are things we don’t see, but which have absolutely happened. You remember that cover of “Agenda” magazine, about DWB, a few years ago.

    I hope the buskers end up protected.

    I also hope that the disappearance of panhandlers that I’ve noticed is only due to the increased social services that Bob has discussed.
       —Blaine    May. 3 '05 - 04:56PM    #
  8. All, Some more comments about the issue of panhandling. The Panhandling Taskforce has changed it’s name to the Outreach Taskforce because that is what the taskforce has been doing all along. Within the taskforce are many members of the Shelter Association because the bottom line here is to help the homeless-drug/alcohol people out.The new shelter has it all under one roof. Nobody is told to go over here or over there to get help, because they don’t have to. The taskforce broke the panhandlers into three groups. One-substance abuse people looking for money to feed there alcohol/drug habit, two-mental illness or down on luck and three-people that would take advantage of shoppers and students feeling sorry for them. It was found that the last group had nice apartments and had plenty of food,etc, but choose the easy way of making a living. I work in the State Street Area for many years, and I see the same panhandlers year in and year out. Most of these are in the first group I mentioned. When the students leave for winter break, the panhandlers disappear until the students come back to town. The University was also involved in the taskforce and were a big help to shape the direction of the taskforce.

    The chief of police was asked the night the ordinance was passed about police abuse of the street people. The chief told the council that the ordinance was to raise the bar on acceptable behavior. The street people/panhandlers know the rules. They go right to the edge of breaking the rules, but don’t usually cross the boundary. By rising the bar we have chanced the behavior of the panhandlers, and by doing this, it has help the community as a whole. This has been very successful that it’s not a problem any longer. So, by getting people together from many different agency’s and working very hard for three years, our community has improved much, and many people that really needed and wanted help did indeed get help, that’s why they seem to disappear from the streets. They were from the second group.

    That is all that I have to say on the subject of panhandlers. Thanks for reading what I have had to say and I hope that you all have learned something from it.
       —Bob Dascola    May. 3 '05 - 09:55PM    #
  9. I think that the city of Ann Arbor should me make a differentiation between panhandlers buskers. It is unfair to lump them together.


       —Bob    Apr. 18 '06 - 08:41PM    #
  10. buskers are not panhandlers or beggers. they are intellectuals. if you can’t tell the difference between a busker and a begger u may be a moron. morons are incapable of perceiving intellectual concepts. it is unconstitutional to outlaw free speech. the making of music is considered free speech. look up busking on wikipedia.org do you want your city to be included on a a list of places for tourists to boycott? not only is unfair to lump buskers in with beggers it is huaghty criminal arrogance.


       —a busker    Aug. 15 '06 - 10:17PM    #
  11. (Would it be “huaghty” of me to make snarky comments about the writing errors made by a self-declared intellectual?)


       —Murph.    Aug. 16 '06 - 03:02AM    #
  12. haughty?

    no.

    snarky?

    well … maybe.


       —peter honeyman    Aug. 16 '06 - 04:48AM    #
  13. Wow! Back in May of 2005 Blaine could sorta, kinda, for a minute talk like a real human being.

    The disease progresses so rapidly….


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 16 '06 - 02:42PM    #
  14. REGARDLESS OF WRITING ERRORS ( I’M A MUSICIAN NOT A WRITER) OUR FREE SPEECH GUARANTEES IN THE FIRST AND FOUTEENTH AMENDMENT WERE WRITTEN AT A TIME WHEN THE ONLY PRACTICAL SOURCE OF ENTERTAINMENT WAS LIVE ENTERTAINMENT. SHOW ME WHERE ANY OF THAT HAS BEEN RESCINDED AND I’LL TALK BACK MY COMMENTS ABOUT THE APPARENT CRIMINAL, CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS OF THE ANN MARBOR GOVERNMENT. SO THE DISRESPECTFUL MAY HECKLE ALL THEY WANT, BUT THE FACT REMAINS THIS IS STILL THE USA AND FREE SPEECH IS A RIGHT GRANTED TO ALL.
    PS I’D LOVE TO SEE MURPH PERFORM SOME BEETHOVEN OR PERHAPS SOMETHING MORE CONTEMPORARY LIKE THE BEATLES, U2, JIMMY BUFFET OR MAYBE SOME JAZZ , DIXIELAND OR OTHER TUNES, FLAWLESSLY LIKE I CAN FREQUENTLY DO. THERE HAVE BEEN DAYS I’VE GIVEN MUSIC AND BROUGHT SMILES INTO THE LIVES OF HUNDREDS AND POSSIBLY EVEN THOUSANDS OF OF PEOPLE. WHATS MURPH EVER GIVEN TO ANYBODY?
    IT IS LUDICROUS THAT MEN WITH GUNS SHOULD BE DICTATING WHAT FREE SPEECH IS ALLOWED AND WHAT IS NOT. THAT IS EXACTLY THE REASON WHY FREE SPEECH IS PROTECTED IN OUR CONSTITUTUIION. SPEND YOUR TIME AND RESOURCES GOING AFTER REAL CRIMINALS INSTEAD OF SUCH PANSY-ASSED, HAUGHTY, BEHAVIOR. NOBODY HAS EVER BEEN HURT BECAUSE A MUSICIAN MISSED A RIFF OR HIT THE WRONG NOTE. GROW UP AND ACT LIKE AMERICANS AND NOT FASCISTS.


       —a busker    Aug. 16 '06 - 09:36PM    #
  15. PPS IF I WAS BLAINE I’D SUE YOUR ASS OFF PARKING STRUCTURE DUDE. THE INFERENCE OF DISEASE IS ONE OF THE ESSENCES OF THE TORTE OF DEFAMATION. YOUR COMMENTS PROVES MY POINT ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF ANN ARBORS WRECKLESSLY HAUGHTY, CRIMINAL ATTITUDES.


       —a busker    Aug. 16 '06 - 09:46PM    #
  16. STOP SCREAMING!!!!!


       —annarbor1us    Aug. 17 '06 - 03:03AM    #
  17. Yes, no need to scream. You’ve had my support ever since the mid-80s, when Büsker Dü was a great band coming off the streets of Minneapolis.


       —hale    Aug. 17 '06 - 03:39AM    #
  18. Chill out, dude. I’m not anti-busking – in fact, I’m quite in support of it. I’m simply pointing out that, if you’re going to call yourself an intellectual, you may want to avoid phrases like, “u may be a moron”. (You also may want to brush up on your constitutional law; the 1st and 14th Amendments do not eliminate the possibility of regulation. Your own reference to defamation law indicates that you have some understanding of this fact.)

    Meanwhile, I played piano for several years, cello for about 8 years, and taught myself bass/guitar after that. I prefer Shostakovich and Rimsky-Korsakov to Bach for my classical composers; can play crappy cello arrangements of various Beatles songs, though don’t know why I’d want to, and know the bass lines to most and guitar to some U2 songs. Sorry, I don’t know any Buffet or dixieland. While I’d disagree with your apparent assertion that music is the only thing of value I might possibly offer the world, it’s probably easier for me to point out that I can, in fact, play some tunes.

    p.s. I don’t own a gun – don’t know where you pulled that assumption out of.

    p.p.s. Oh, maybe it was metaphorical? Sorry, when I see somebody typing with caps lock, I tend to assume they wouldn’t understand metaphor.

    (tweak tweak tweak…)


       —Murph    Aug. 17 '06 - 03:04PM    #
  19. Man, I never knew Shakey Jake was so angry…


       —Brandon    Aug. 17 '06 - 06:34PM    #
  20. Alabama (the band), Harry Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Joan Baez, Josephine Baker,Long John Baldry, Barenaked Ladies, Beck, Ronnie Benice, Irving Berlin, Paul Bettany, Blue Man Group, Jimmy Buffett, George Burns, David byrn(TakingHeads), Cirque Du Soleil, Eric Clapton, Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Elvis Costello, Russell Crowe, Spencer Davis, The Dixie Chicks, Donovan, Champion Jack Dupree, Bob Dylan, Stéphane Grappelli, Wavy Gravy, Woody Guthrie, Bob Hope, Jeremy Irons, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Jewel (singer), Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, George Jones, Norah Jones, Janis Joplin, Toby Keith, Q’Orianka Kilcher, B. B. King, Leadbelly, Huey Lewis, Mary Lou Lord, Lene Lovich,Bernie Mac, Steve Martin(comediene), Country Joe McSonald, Memphis Minnie, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Penn & Teller, Madeleine Peyroux, Joaquin Phoenix, Rain Phoenix, River Phoenix, Édith Piaf, Gerry Rafferty, Lou Reed, Django Reinhardt, Bill Robinson(Mr.Bojangles), Sheild’s and Yarnell, Simon and Garfunkel, Patti Smith, Rod Stewart, Stomp, Sophie Tucker,KT Tunstall, Jerry Jeff Walker, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Kanye West, Hayley Westenra, The Wiggles, Hank Williams and Robin Williams as well as Tracy Chapman, all started their carreers as buskers and these are just some of the more prominent ones. If the Ann Arbor government had their way they would all be criminals. Where would the world be If these jewels of intellect had been crushed because of some haughty fools. This isn’t even about regulating buskers. It is about an arrogantly slanderous, defamatory and criminally negligent, misguided attempt to stigmatize buskers as beggers and violate their civil rights. If buskers were beggers we wouldn’t need the word buskers. Get some respect people. I am not a lawyer but I have read over several hundred legal books and articles on free speech and busking. I know the law about this subject and what is going on in Ann Arbor is illegal, criminal and un-American.


       —a busker    Aug. 17 '06 - 07:09PM    #
  21. P.S. I USE CAPS SOMETIMES BECAUSE I’M ELDERLY AND HAVE VISION PROBLEMS.


       —a busker    Aug. 17 '06 - 07:15PM    #
  22. “Alabama (the band), Harry Anderson, Louis Armstrong,...”

    But all those guys quit busking. Losers. Robert Nelson is the best

    “I have read over several hundred legal books and articles on free speech and busking”

    Feeling a little haughty, are we?


       —Bruce Fields    Aug. 17 '06 - 07:31PM    #
  23. “If the Ann Arbor government had their way they would all be criminals.”

    Uh, I’m pretty sure council agreed to ask the fuzz not to enforce busking regulations last year, and it seems to still be going on. I’ve been seein’ a lot of ‘em on Main Street on weekend nights lately.


       —Brandon    Aug. 17 '06 - 07:40PM    #
  24. Hale, you got me laughing with “Busker Du”. Even the two little dot thing was there! I have no idea how you do that.

    Bruce, I’m with a busker on this one. I could care less if a few people use all caps or if they don’t use elegant speech, or even if they mis-cite the ammendments. I still get his point. Posting the modal, formal way isn’t necessary for human communication. Respect is though.


       —AK    Aug. 18 '06 - 06:19PM    #
  25. “I have no idea how you do that.”

    On my machine I have caps lock configured to do the compose thing: caps-lock-double-quote, release, u lets me do stuff like Büsker Dü, at the cost of making it harder to SHOUT. Good tradeoff if you ask me.

    I’ve got to say, though, this is, hands down, my favorite AU post ever:

    “buskers are not panhandlers or beggers. they are intellectuals. if you can’t tell the difference between a busker and a begger u may be a moron. morons are incapable of perceiving intellectual concepts.”

    And I want to hear those “crappy cello arrangements” of Beatles songs some day.


       —Bruce Fields    Aug. 18 '06 - 06:47PM    #
  26. Murph I said busking was intellectual behavior not that I was a big time intellectual. I know all about the how busking and free speech can be regulated. Defamation is one of the three or four contents of free speech that can be regulated. These are defamation, obscenity/pornograhy, sedition and treason. I don’t quit get the differences between sedition and treason but it don’t matter on this issue.
    The issue is not about the content but the manner of free speech practiced. When I asked about whether you ever gave anything to society it was an inquiry about weather you ever busked. Apparently not as your sarcastic response seemed to indicate. u see buskers literally give their art away in return for voluntary payment. They are usually the nicest people you’ll ever come across. After all the concept is to entertain people by doing things which most people can’t do.
    Any way if buskers in Ann Arbor continue to have problems they should contact this organization.
    Mr. Baird is perhaps the most knowledgeable person about busking history and the law in the entire USA.
    Stephen H. Baird, Founder and Executive Director
    PO Box 300112, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-0030
    Telephone: 617-522-3407 TTY/MA RELAY 800-439-2370
    Email: info@communityartsadvocates.org
    Web site: www.CommunityArtsAdvocates.org

    Ps. I am not Mr. Baird nor do i have any affiliation Community Arts Advocates.
    They are just something good i’ve come across in my research about busking.


       —a busker    Aug. 18 '06 - 07:04PM    #
  27. AK Re mis-citing the amendments. District Superior Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. issued an injunction barring the city of St. Augustine, Florida from enforcing an ordinance banning street performances on St. George Street. Judge Adams’ order stated, ” Street performances are a form of expression protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.”


       —a busker    Aug. 23 '06 - 02:05AM    #
  28. Any updates on the Ann Arbor street performance issues?

    There are specific court citations protecting street artists rights to receive donations and contributions plus selling cds and books. Ben Franklin sang ans sold broadsides on the street. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was sold on the street and monies from the sales supported Revolutionary soldiers. We would not have a country if donations, contributions and sales were banned on the street. My best.


       —Stephen Baird    Jan. 7 '07 - 10:59PM    #
  29. My understanding is that the Mayor issued some kind of order for police to leave buskers alone. That solved the problem, but deprived us of the excuse to get a strong public statement from City Council.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jan. 8 '07 - 04:40PM    #