Public Safety Committee meeting on busker regulations set for Wednesday

Asheville city seal

Asheville City Council’s Public Safety Committee is holding a community forum and meeting on Wednesday, June 22 to discuss proposed regulations for the city’s street performers, or buskers.

The members of the Public Safety Committee are Council members Cecil Bothwell (who chairs the committee), Brian Haynes and Julie Mayfield.

A memo attributed to city staffers from several departments summarizes the process the city undertook while developing the proposed rules. While the staff committee recognizes that buskers are a vital part of Asheville’s culture, according to the memo,  “Those performances can cause adverse impacts to the community in the form of gathering crowds attracted to the entertainment offered in locations where there is insufficient room for crowds; blocked sidewalks; blocked ingress and egress of buildings; the risk of disrupting nearby motor vehicle traffic; and/or disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of residents and businesses.”

Among other new guidelines, buskers would need to register with the city and reserve spaces ahead of time. The regulations would also set performance venues where busking would be permitted, in an effort to limit busking space to one venue every 100 feet.

The community forum will be broken down into three sections: a welcome and introduction of forum participants, a presentation of the proposed guidelines by Assistant City Manager Paul Fetherston and a facilitated discussion between forum participants.

Musician Abby Roach serves as a spokesperson for the city’s buskers through her work with the Asheville Buskers Collective. Roach says that, while representatives from the Buskers Collective did meet with city officials and other stakeholders prior to the release of the draft regulations, the measures in the city’s proposed rule changes were not discussed during those meetings. Roach posted on Facebook, “If these ordinances pass I will be forced out of Asheville…” Roach has previously commented that a vibrant and successful busking community depends on sensible rules and self-policing rather than permits or defined schedules and performance areas.

After the community forum wraps up, the Public Safety Committee will commence a formal meeting with time allotted for public comment.

The forum and meeting take place June 22 at 3 p.m. in the U.S. Cellular Center Banquet Hall.

Additional documents regarding the Wednesday meeting, including the agenda, can be found here.

For more Xpress coverage on Asheville buskers, see “Down on the corner: Asheville buskers, businesses chime in on sharing public space” and “Buskers to City: Don’t put art in a box“.


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11 thoughts on “Public Safety Committee meeting on busker regulations set for Wednesday

  1. boatrocker

    For reading the memo, either my eyes are tired or I did not see what a busking permit costs and what it guarantees.

    Just for the sake of the elephant in the room aka the one question I have asked for years in print LTEs, online and to anyone who will listen:

    How much will a busking permit cost, for how long is it valid, what will monies collected for said permits applied to and what rights do said permit gaurantee for buskers.

    I look forward to a lack of answers, as per usual.

    • Virginia Daffron

      Boatrocker, as I understand the city’s proposal, one of the new features this time around is that buskers will have to sign up for a specific time slot online. If a person is not signed up for a spot and a time, even if the spot is unoccupied, that person may not perform. Buskers say scheduling and sign ups are permits by another name. There is no charge proposed for signing up to play.

    • Lee Elliott

      Boatrocker: you didn’t see the cost for the permit, because it hasn’t been established or disclosed yet.

      I’m not even sure there will be a cost for the permit.

      Maybe go ask the PSC on Wednesday?

    • Virginia Daffron

      Here is the reference to scheduling in the proposed ordinance amendment:

      “Individual performance spaces may only be utilized in two hour, non-consecutive blocks of time. At least one performer utilizing an individual performance space must be registered with the City and scheduled to perform in that space for the block of time in which the performance is taking place. Persons not registered and scheduled may perform within an individual performance space so long as they perform in conjunction with a registered and scheduled performer actually present and performing in that space during a time in which they are registered.

      Persons registering to utilize performance spaces shall be required to provide contact information and a photograph. Such information may be accessed by city personnel at any time to verify compliance with this section.”

      Note: this section pertains to “high impact areas.” Another type of area, “incentive areas” (which would allow some vending) have greater requirements, including provision of “a current and valid state sales tax identification number.”

  2. IndyMedia

    In the United States there have been numerous legal cases about regulations and laws that have decided the rights of buskers to perform in public. Most of these laws and regulations have been found to be unconstitutional when challenged. In the US, free speech is considered a fundamental right of every individual, guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth constitutional amendments, and in the majority of legal cases it has been concluded that practicing artistic free speech is legal. Busking is legally considered to be artistic free speech and clearly not panhandling or begging.

    In the United States, reasons to regulate or ban busking behavior include public safety issues and noise issues in certain areas such as hospital zones and residential zones. In residential zones, a reasonable curfew may be allowed. Such laws must be narrowly tailored to eliminate only the perceived evils by limiting the time, place and manner that busking may be practiced. They must also leave open reasonable alternative venues. The only exceptions to these free speech rules are sedition, as defined by the Smith Act, public displays of pornography and obscenity as defined by the Miller test for obscenity, criminal behavior such as fraud or defamation, certain commercial advertising and the common laws talked about above. In the US, laws regulating or banning busking must be applied evenly to all forms of free speech according to the first and fourteenth constitutional amendments and the judicial decisions listed below.

    Busking cannot be prohibited in an area where other forms of free speech are not prohibited. For example, if busking is regulated or banned but people are allowed to conduct free speech behavior for pickets, protests, religious, political, educational, sports, commercial or other purposes, then the law is illegal. In the United States any form of regulation on artistic free speech must not be judgmental, and permits must not be so restrictive, complex, difficult or expensive to obtain that they inhibit free speech. It is also unlawful per federal court decision for law officers to seize a performer’s instruments.[1]

    Under Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241 Conspiracy Against Rights, it is unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, or because of his/her having exercised the same.[2]

    Under United States law, it is the express duty of all officers of the law or individuals such as security guards, legislators, mayors, Council Persons, judges, Hospitals and Nursing Home Proprietors, etc., to protect and preserve an individual’s constitutional rights Under Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 – Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law. Most of these individuals take oaths to uphold the US Constitution. It is clearly a violation of federal law for these individuals to violate people’s constitutional or civil rights under the color of the law.[3]

  3. boatrocker

    Wow, information! Thanks posters above me for surmising what might happen. I don’t have a dog in the race but have followed this issue for a loooong time as it is both one of the things the city touts as ‘local color’ yet clamps down on when tourists brought here by local color whine about. If only Thomas Wolfe were a musician instead of a writer…

    I guess we’ll see if these new regs make everyone happy. For reading the ashvegas coverage (thanks ashvegas for always using the same pic of the dirtiest buskers available online), so far the spoon lady, aka the self proclaimed spokesperson does not seem happy with the new regs.

    I’m no sage, but my two cents? Let the class war between locals and tourists continue. No surprise there.

    Regulating buskers/musicians in general? That is why they took up music in the first place- in order to not be subject to the ‘squares’ rules.
    Maybe we’ll see less free entertainment on our sidewalks, maybe not.
    SEASAC, BMI and ASCAP benefit the suits, not the pickers, as musicians have rightfully claimed all the way to the dark ages of myspace and even (gasp) pre social media.

    Welcome to the Buskererdome!

  4. Shultz!

    Very, very bad idea. A solution looking for a problem, and quite unrealistic and onerous for the busking-types. Pre-registration? Wow. I mean, The folks drafting these rules are left-brained, organized types that like to make todo lists for themselves and keep stuff neat and tidy. They don’t realize that for a right-brained, artistic type, those types of regulations are pretty rough. Just hire a busker patroller or two and let them manage safety issues and spats between players? Bet you it would cost less than any permitting and preregistration system.

    • Shultz!

      Thinking on it more, who would enforce such registration/permitting/whatever you want to call it? Police? If so, scrap the registration idea and have basic ‘policing’ of the buskers done by public safety personnel. It’d cost less, avoid turning downtown into fakeville Disneyland, and allow our police to do real police work vs being a ‘hall monitor’. Sort of like the old meter maid vs a police person.

  5. boatrocker

    So Mtn X, for supposedly sending a journalist to the meeting about buskers (did you or did you not?)-
    Report in a timely fashion. Or admit that you grab info from ashvegas.

    This post has been posted to all the other national papers that covered the original story. xoxo.
    You can be a paper, or a national laughing stock.

    7:03pm, June 22, 2016, AD. posting time.

    Publish the entire new series of busking regulations and guidelines post meeting today.

    Do busking permits cost money? If so, how much?
    Can buskers sell merch while busking or not?
    How long do busker permits last?
    If so, where does busking permit money go?
    c’mon, X, we locals look to you for articulate, objective and (giggles) never mind.

    In a timely fashion by the way.

    • boatrocker

      Well, for reading the Thurs article about the meeting, given the comments about congestion, noise, foot traffic, drunk/drugged up performers,

      well that sounds like every issue local business owners have with buskers are the same exact issues locals who don’t go downtown anymore have with tourists!

      Can we regulate them too?

  6. This is all wildly speculative.
    All we are trying to do is to solve some serious pedestrian problems. The proposals offered by Staff are just that: proposals. As you’ll learn from reporting on today’s meeting we are moving very gradually, and thoughtfully on ways to address the problems in a few spots downtown. Anyone who suggests we are attempting some major regulation of busking is simply wrong.

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