Friday, June 05, 2009

Tax street musicians

There really is no limit to the government's desire to tax and regulate. In Madison you are never too old to rock n’ roll but don't pass the hat for a little spare change while you perform on the street. (Ht: The Lost Albatross)

State Street musicians and others performing for donations have not been subject to fees or official rules despite calls for regulation from the city’s street vending coordinator. Attempts in past decades to regulate musicians under the city’s noise ordinances have been roundly rejected by the courts.

But during this year’s Dane County Farmers’ Markets on the Capitol Square, a glut of street performers — including balloon hat artists and a masseuse — has made even Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, change his position on the issue.
“I really thought it was a solution in search of a problem,” Verveer said. “Now staff is bringing this to our attention again, and in a more adamant way.”

Verveer had been reluctant to regulate street musicians because he said they contribute to the “funky, eclectic” nature of State Street. But he now says he is willing to sponsor an ordinance that would regulate the time, place and manner of street performers, similar to how the city has regulated panhandling.

At a Vending Oversight Committee meeting last week, Warren Hansen, Madison’s street vending coordinator, suggested charging performers $50 for an annual permit, or $10 a day and setting standards for things like how close they could operate to a business and one another.

Really? Isn’t this somewhat self-regulating? I would assume most street musicians would not want to play to close to the others. I can’t believe that this is too much of an issue.

But then we learn something about human nature, although it’s really an old, old lesson:

Food and art vendors have complained in the past that they have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees and insurance for their booths, but musicians don’t pay anything.

I confess to not knowing the rules in Waukesha but surely this is as much a part of Madison as leftover hippies, stupid protests, drunk college kids and Democratic legislators thinking of new taxes.