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Downtown musician rules postponed; others start Thursday

Downtown musician rules postponed; others start Thursday


September 11, 2002
Sentinel staff writer

The City Council voted unanimously to put off some of its new downtown behavior rules just 24 hours before they were to take effect.
The council voted for a five-month postponement, and more study of rules that would have eliminated or reduced the favored spots of money-soliciting street musicians and information tables.
Council members Emily Reilly and Ed Porter, who recommended postponing those rules, did not suggest postponing rules expanding an after-dark ban on panhandlers to include sign-holding beggars, banning Hackey Sack and blocking sidewalks with personal belongings. They are set to go on as scheduled.
The city has heard hundreds of complaints about aggressive panhandling, harassment and obnoxiousness downtown. But lately it’s been getting bad publicity and pressure from constituents worried about musicians losing space.
One protester, Yakov, said the city was still “railroading through” most rules and restricting places where musicians could perform while sitting. Some say the delay is a positive sign. Others considered the postponement proposal an admission that the council stumbled when drafting its rules.
In a recent letter, Susan Fife complained “the Santa Cruz atmosphere will not be improved by removing musicians. If it’s the drug-addled smelly beggars you are after, you need to aim more carefully. Sheesh, the council is the laughing stock of the nation already.”
Councilwoman Emily Reilly said postponing and revisiting musician rules should not be interpreted as backing off. She said the council supports police “100 percent” in enforcing the changes. She said the council should respect the recommendations of its Downtown Commission, which has been unable to find “exemption zones” where musicians could play for money regardless of expanded setbacks.
Councilman Ed Porter said he wanted the city to begin an inclusive process, perhaps allowing street musicians to help draft a binding social contract that could take the place of “exemption zones.”
He also took to task people spreading “lies” about the city banning bubbles, clowns, the homeless and panhandlers. “We are not enacting anti-homeless laws. It’s not homeless people we have a problem with. It’s abusive people who hang out on our downtown streets.”
Downtown merchant Teri Chambers, who owns the Hat Company, said she was glad other downtown rules would be in place and that “merchants have never wanted the musicians and street performers gone. We are going to have a new start for downtown.”
Three women who work at Rosie McCann’s said they get sexually harassed constantly, and said downtown debate is about security, not freedom of expression.
“I walk home with pepper spray,” said a woman who hears constant remarks about her body. She said she didn’t think the homeless are causing the problem.
Last week in an interview, Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker said there was no truth to the “conspiracy theory” that the city and police want to clear musicians from downtown. He said people have been overreacting to rules that are “way more subtle than the press is making it. ... Even under new laws, we can’t touch the musicians.”
Contact Dan White at dwhite (at)

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