Wednesday, December 23, 2015

End Unjust Laws Against PleinAir Art: Protesters Covered by Record Two Days Later (below the fold)

Art by former Disney illustrator Thomas Thorspecken, who drove from Orlando to join protest.

Ex-mayor JOE BOLES, a/k/a "JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR.," oppressor of artists

Ex-Mayor LEN WEEKS, a/k/a "CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR.," oppressor of artists.

I reckon the St. Augustine Record was waiting for instructions from the Politburo -- ex-Mayor JOE BOLES and his running dogs at the Historic Area Council of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, whose President for life is ex-Mayor LEN WEEKS a/k/a "CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR.."
LEN WEEKS is in no position to lecture anyone about legal compliance.
He's a serial lawbreaker.
Ex-Historic Architectural Review Board Chair, who never filed financial disclosures while on HARB and frequently sought favors from HARB.
Ex-member of the St. Augustine Visioning Committee.
Commercial landlord.
Destroyed 211-year old DON PEDRO FORNELLS HOUSE, working without permits.  Fined only $3600.
Runs illegal St. Augustine Sister Cities, Inc. -- all-white embarrassment to our City.
Co-lessee of 81 St. George Steet no-bid, below market lease for FLORIDA CRACKER CAFE and SAVANNAH's SWEETS (with ex-Mayor JOE BOLES).
LEN WEEKS is quoted opposing ending the unjust laws against street art, natch.
LEN WEEKS is a cognitive miser.
As lugubrious a goober as ever made a chair squeak.
A squawking ninny who ruined St. George Street by running off the cool artists and musicians.
St. George Street is  now "one giant t-shirt shop," says Cathy Brown, former chair of the Council on Aging and now a member of the St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board. Most of the cool stores on St. George Street have departed, as the talented artists have been hounded off the street by strutting turkeys LEN WEEKS and JOE BOLES, who fancy themselves Republican Lords of All They Survey and arbiters of taste.
Today, St. George Street is not authentic, with crass commercialism and booming recorded bad music playing on loudspeakers.
Here's the Record's article on the challenge to the street artist ban, brought to you by cognitive miser commissioners led by the likes of LEN WEEKS and JOE BOLES, the fervid product of prejudice, as if  from the brow of the 17th century burghers of Salem, Massachusetts, or the Utah city commission in in movie Footloose:

Street performer rules draw scrutiny in St. Augustine - again
Posted: December 22, 2015 - 11:54pm | Updated: December 23, 2015 - 12:09am

Artist Charles Dickinson said he doesn’t agree with city rules that prohibit the creation of art in some public spaces in St. Augustine.

“That’s an unjust law,” he said.

The same city ordinance that bans performances on northern St. George Street also prohibits artists from painting or drawing in that area.

Dickinson and about 20 others protested this week in front of City Hall on King Street about rules related to art creation. One man sat and sketched the Lightner building to show support, though the Lightner public grounds are not a restricted area for art creation.

Angel Jones, of Melbourne, held a sign that read, “Art is not a crime.”

“The city is supposed to be about culture and history,” she said.

North St. George Street, Hypolita Street and parts of nearby areas are off-limits to art creation. Painting, drawing and other “artistry” is considered a performance and is prohibited, according to city code. Sales of art and other items are also restricted. Outside of the restricted areas, people are able to create art in public spaces.

Breaking the rules is punishable by a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment of up to 60 days in jail or both, as is the case with other city code violations.

“The law’s like [using] a sledgehammer to crack a peanut,” said Jack Owen, a writer from Interlachen who came to the protest.

While some are looking for greater freedom for artists, a former city official said changing the rules is risky. The city has been tangled in multiple legal battles related to rules over street performing and the creation and sale of art.

“I dealt with this issue for six years while I was on the City Commission back in ’95 to 2000,” said Len Weeks, former mayor. “It was the most controversial issue that I had to be involved with.”

As St. Augustine grew more popular in the late 1990s, St. George Street became crowded with entertainers, Weeks said. Sometimes the crowds would clog foot traffic and performers and shopkeepers would get into conflicts, he said.

So the city acted, incorporating rules not only about street performers but also about vending.

“We had a really serious problem on St. George Street. ... Sometimes there [were] 50 to 70 entertainers,” Weeks said.

Legal challenges and changes followed.

In 2009, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against city rules that kept visual artists from displaying and selling work in the Plaza de la Constitucion. Since 2009, the city has expanded the area where performers and vendors are prohibited.

A challenge to city vending rules was filed in June in federal court by local artists Elena Hecht, Kate Merrick, Helena Sala and Bruce Bates — Bates was also at this week’s protest.

The suit says that after a successful injunction in 2009, “the city has incrementally cut back on the First Amendment rights of plaintiffs by implementing a series of new ordinances which extend the ban on the creation of art and the vending of art from a limited four block area of St. George Street, to include four additional streets, and two public parks within the city’s downtown area.”

The case is in federal court, and a ruling on a motion to stop enforcement of some city rules is pending.

Weeks said the street-performer rules are in place because the city cannot pick and choose who performs and sells. Weeks cautioned against jumping into any rule changes, which he said could jeopardize the existing regulations overall.

Some city officials have been cautious about commenting on the issue because of the pending case.

Commissioners Nancy Sikes-Kline declined to comment for this story, and Commissioner Leanna Freeman did not respond to a request for comment.

Mayor Nancy Shaver said little because of the case but said she hoped “that we would be able to revisit this at some time in the future.”

An email from Shaver gave her response to previous email inquiries on the topic: “As you may know, our current ordinances are the subject of a first amendment lawsuit so I am unable to comment. That said, I have publicly stated many times prior to the lawsuit that I supported livelier streets in our City. I also brought the subject up for discussion and review close to a year ago. Sadly none of my fellow commission members were supportive. Perhaps 2016 will bring a change.”

Protesters in front of City Hall on Monday came from around Florida and out of state, as well as locally.

Ethan Bates, an 11-year-old artist from St. Augustine, came to the protest with his grandfather, Bruce Bates. Ethan sat in front of the City Hall lawn.

“We are protesting because art is illegal, only here in St. Augustine. ... We are protesting for our rights,” he said.


attinson63 12/23/15 - 06:50 am 00Auditioning
What if, like an actor, street performers and artists had to audition for the role? That would put regulations on the number of street performers, while still allowing expression. I don't see anything wrong with regulating, since the downtown area had become clogged with people "expressing" themselves.

I don't see anything good out of just letting everyone perform. People complain about crowds to begin with... why add fuel to the fire?

I'm all for freedom of expression. I understand both sides of this issue. I think regulation is the answer. Audition for the role.

Reader12 12/23/15 - 08:51 am 00Audition and Lottery
License them, or make them city employees, with certain requirements, such as dress code that fits into the historical theme, place of performance, type of allowed performances, times of day, etc. Then a lottery system which would allow a limited number of artists per day in any certain section may help to satisfy everyone. It would be lovely to hear some Spanish guitar, classical music or even a little Jimmy Buffet to complete the vacation experience. Emmett Fritz would be turning over on his grave to know that painting and drawing was prohibited on St George. Again, allow artists to register and give permission on a limited basis so as not to clog the streets, but not permitting it at all, well, that's just sinful, and goes completely against what we St Augustine natives believe to be part of the culture of St Augustine.

ThomasB 12/23/15 - 11:17 am 00Emmett Fritz
that's how Emmett Friz got his start! I remember being in the market watching him paint when I was 8.

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