Friday, February 23, 2007

Fairfield Smack Down

After writing my blog post criticizing Proposed Ordinance 070180, I wrote each of the committee members expressing my concern about the legislation. Today, I received a response from the author of the anti-street-performer legislation, mayoral candidate John Fairfield. Here is what he had to say:
Dear Constituency:

I am concerned about 3 basic things. One, I have sincere concerns about safety at street intersections. Second is my concern about how aggressive some panhandlers have been and how that could damage our new entertainment area or other areas, or lead to violence. We have invested too much to let that happen. Individuals have told me stories of three panhandlers following a person down the street at night to their grocery store or home. Third, over amplified music is unnecessary, does not create the atmosphere we want, the gas generators are dangerous on crowded streets, and the excessive noise could also drive people away from these areas.

It is interesting that an ordinance designed to deal with aggressive panhandling and safety issues has been converted by the press as some evil attempt to attack street performers. If you read the ordinance carefully, you will find that it focuses on panhandlers and safety.

The bill does not make street musicians the same as panhandlers. They are already considered such by the courts, and the ordinance just recognizes the courts position. It is unfortunate that the courts consider it arbitrary to treat street performers different than panhandlers. When I started to address serious panhandler issues, I was dismayed to find that anyone asking for money (actively or passively), including street performers could be impacted. However, since the courts take this position, we were better off including references to street performers in the ordinance so we can try to deal with the issue. That is one reason I made it clear that we wanted to take the time to consider the issues and possible solutions. The ordinance is just a starting point for discussion.

I have been trying to find legal solutions which would allow the performers but control some of the aggressive panhandling. I have been working with attorneys representing the areas of impact, and have asked them to research how we might address the street performer issue.

We have panhandlers at street intersections causing vehicles to swerve out of their lanes into other vehicles to miss the panhandlers stepping into the street. If we do nothing and someone is killed in an accident, we will be asked why we did nothing to prevent it. As I stated above, panhandlers have ganged up and followed people at night to the grocery store or back to their home. This should not happen. It is easy to say, let the person file a complaint but that is only reactive, and many times has not worked. It seemed better to define times (especially at night) and places when any panhandling was inappropriate.

Last fall I was eating dinner on the second floor deck at the Brio restaurant on the Plaza, and a street performer over a block away had amplified his music so loud our party could not hear each other talk. This is certainly unnecessary, and would not create the atmosphere anyone would favor. Business owners and pedestrians have rights which must be balanced along with the rights of the panhandlers, and street musicians. I knew it would not be an easy task, but true leadership is not about ignoring difficult issues. It is easy for the press to criticize, but much harder to try to find fair solutions to these difficult issues. I would not be much of a Councilman if I always took the easy path.

Believe me, I want the ambiance of street performers, as you do, but I also want to protect the public from those that abuse the panhandling situation for their own benefit. It is always the case that a few bad apples create issues for those who we like.

One possible solution to the street performer issue is to have the owner of the shopping/entertainment district provide a pool of funds for street performers during the non-panhandling hours. I have recently spoken to the some of the district owners’ representatives about this idea. I asked them to discuss how the districts might essentially hire street performers (or rotate them by groups) as a possible solution during the non-panhandling times. Hopefully with continued discussion we can save the good and lose the bad.

Testimony will be taken during the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee hearings that are held on Wednesdays on the 26th Floor of City Hall at 2:00pm. All innovative suggestions towards a reasonable solution are welcome.


John Fairfield
City Councilman 2nd District-In-District

Here is my response:

Thank you for responding to my comment. I emailed each of the committee members, and you are the only one who bothered to respond to me. I sincerely appreciate your responsiveness.

That said, it seems like you're not being straight with me. You claim that you were motivated to propose this ordinance because somebody was followed home or to a grocery store. Where did this happen? There aren't grocery stores on the Plaza, or in the South Loop, or in Zona Rosa. Aren't the VAST majority of grocery stores and Kansas City homes OUTSIDE of the areas your proposed ordinance seeks to protect? It seems to me that well-heeled developers are MUCH more likely to be protected by your ordinance than people walking in residential areas. We can agree on that, can't we?

Your attempt to blame the courts for the fact that your proposed ordinance would ban street performers is silly. Neither one of us believes that you need to ban all street performers in order to eliminate excessive noise, and your attempt to point the finger at the courts is a subterfuge. If you really need help in drafting an ordinance to ban gas-powered, excessivley noisey amplifiers and generators, please resign your seat on the council and turn in your bar license.

It is also silly for you to blame the press for criticizing your proposed ordinance. Mr. Fairfield, it is not the press who is criticizing your ordinance, it is me. One of the citizens of Kansas City who cares deeply about this city, and the people in it. I am not a wealthy developer, and I do not live in any of the areas your ordinance seeks to "protect".

Finally, you claim that this ordinance is just a starting point for discussion. Even you seem ashamed of what you have drafted. I ask you, do you pledge not to vote for the ordinance you have proposed, now that you are aware of how deeply flawed it is?

I look forward to your response. Again, I thank you for your willingness to address the concerns of a constituent.


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Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

You know, I really don't have an issue with legislation that keeps people from guilt-tripping their way into my pocket.

Beggars, street musicians, mimes, they're all the same.


Here's a about you go slave away in a cubicle farm like everyone else and give YOUR money to annoying street people?

I love the Intersection Beggars holding signs that say "Will work for food".

How about woking for money! Like with a job! Don't give them spare change. Hand them a job application.

I consider myself to be a liberal and a progressive.

If someone is truly in need, by all means, help them up if you have the means.

Better yet, let's have a more European and socialist society with higher taxes where no one can fall into abject poverty. I'm serious.

But I truly despise those who freely choose to live an unprofitable life and expect others, with jobs, to make up the deficit.

Sorry pal. I'm not giving you a percentage of my "sucks ass to work 40 hours a week answering e-mails and phone calls wages" so you can get stoned and sit on the corner playing guitar.

Fuck. You.

2/23/2007 9:28 PM  
Blogger Stacey K said...

Most street entertainers do not live in abject poverty. Most do what they do simply for the love of doing it. You don't have to give them anything, they will still be doing what they do. I'm sorry if your job sucks the life out of you, get a new job.

I make my living as a balloon artist. Street performing is a small, but enjoyable part of what I do. I like to meet people from all around the world, and it makes me feel good when they walk away with a smile.

I don't expect you to make up any deficit in my income. I work hard at what I do and am very successful at it. I put in more than 40 hours a week (mostly the grunt work like inventory and book keeping) but I do it because I love what I do.

Many of the people who entertain downtown have day jobs that keep them fed, or they are capable of earning a living doing what they do. They play their guitar, blow their horn or make balloons because they love their art.

If this ordinance were to protect people from stumbling into the streets while begging for money, then it would not only protect the ritzy shopping areas. I actually have no problem with a ban on commerce between car and pedestrian. That would take care of a lot of safety issues and could be enforced in the WHOLE city.

Don't let yourself be suckered into thinking that the city council gives a rats rear about stopping people from asking you for money. You'll still see people with signs all over town. They will be on lots of corners, possibly closer to where you live. The only real change will be the lack of street art in KC.

2/23/2007 9:52 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

"Most street entertainers do not live in abject poverty. Most do what they do simply for the love of doing it. You don't have to give them anything, they will still be doing what they do."

You know what? Most people don't want to be "entertained" on the streets. They just use the streets for what they were designed get from one place to another.

I say, get together with a bunch of other balloon artists, and organize a "Balloonapalooza" Tour. Rent stadiums, sell tickets and make a bajillion balloon animals for sold out crowds of adoring balloon art fans.

Either that or keep pimping yourself out to birthday parties.

But stay off the streets and keep your balloons to yourself. It's just annoying.

2/23/2007 11:30 PM  
Blogger Stacey K said...

You know what? Most people don't want to be "entertained" on the streets. They just use the streets for what they were designed get from one place to another.

My pocket book says otherwise. People tip me because they LIKE what I do. I've even had people track down my home address and mail me a thank you card (4 times) because I made their day a bit brighter. Never once have I gotten a "get off my streets card."

I don't care for assholes, but I don't think they should make a law banning you from the streets either.

2/24/2007 12:19 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

So, how about this. Street performers must be licensed with the city and the city would have certain requirements, such as noise control, etc and pay a business fee like everybody else.

I've done some international travel and you can find the same thing all over the world in metro areas. The grand plaza in Cologne, Germany, is filled with street entertainers who really are fun to watch. They even allow artists to draw the most amazing pictures on the concrete sidewalks. I was told by my colleagues, however, to watch out for pickpockets who hang in the same area (gypsies actually, quite interesting).

I still think this is a bunch of whiney greedy nose up rich merchants who are afraid of losing a dime in sales and I have no sympathy for them. I say tax em for the police protection they say they need. If there are criminals on the streets, then deal with them as criminals.

2/24/2007 8:04 AM  
Blogger Stacey K said...

I personally don't have a problem with getting a permit or license. It's a system that works in many cities around the world.

2/24/2007 1:00 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Stacey - It probably feels like I've been attacking you personally (ballonapalooza was below the belt and I apologize), but I honestly don't mean it that way.

I'm sure you are a sweet, wonderful person whose balloon animals delight people every day.

And when you called me an asshole you were pretty much on target. If I'm not a complete asshole, I at least lean towards assholish behaviors.

For example, I have some serious road rage issues. My girlfriend will tell you that I am the sweetest, kindest, most generous man she has ever met...until I get behind the wheel. I have ZERO patience for anyone who is not 100% focused on their driving. Make up, cell phones, reading, chatting with passengers are all reasons why I don't own handguns.

So there is that.

But I also don't like being "accosted" by anyone, at anytime, for anything.

Even Quick Trip clerks are included in my wrath.

I don't want to be greeted when I walk in the door because that obligates me to respond. I don't want to respond. I didn't come in here for human interaction. I want a fucking diet coke. That's all. Not looking to "network" or make new friends. I'm buying a beverage. That's all.

At the checkout, I don't want to be asked "Is that it?" because it implies that I'm some sort of idiot who will forget to buy something I need if not prompted by a QT clerk. I am perfectly capable of selecting the items that I need from a convenience store and presenting them at the counter. Cut the chummy chatter and just ring it up so I can be on my merry fucking way!

I don't want to hear "Come back again soon" as I leave. If I need something you have, and it is convenient for me to purchase it here, then I will come back. Otherwise, you'll never fucking see me again. So please, for the love of God, just SHUT THE FUCK UP and quit pretending like we are old pals!

Now that you have a little background, perhaps you can better understand why I don't want you or anyone else to present me with an unsolicited balloon animal, song, dramatic performance, bucket-drum solo, window wash or an appeal for a down payment on a cheese burger.

I consider them all to be "human junk mail" (no personal offense intended) designed to separate me from my hard-earned cash by guilt and deception.

I have all the human interaction I need and want without having it imposed upon me by people with designs on my wallet.

2/24/2007 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've all had days when we don't feel like interacting with anyone else.

True if the performer is a musician, you may not be able to tune them out. But then again you can't tune out the sounds of cars, boom boxes turned up too loud, police sirens, and all the other noises of the city.

As a balloon performer, I don't harass people that seem uninterested in what I'm doing. When I see parents tugging on their kids arms in evident fear that their kid might actually see what I'm doing and ask for one, I let them pass by without interfering. You get the idea. My goal is only to make my service available to those who want it. For those who don't desire my service, I'm not out there trying to change their mind.

Dan the Balloonman

3/06/2007 9:28 AM  

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