From The Philadelphia Inquirer

In West Chester, buskers push back against "Footloose" proposal
Updated: July 8, 2016
by Mari A. Schaefer, Staff Writer

Some street performers are dubbing a West Chester proposal to set rules governing singing, dancing and music on public streets the "Footloose" ordinance.

But some council members say they are victims of a deliberate "misinformation" campaign about the ordinance.

It's buskers vs. the borough, and it's taken on a confrontational air as bloggers have posted videos of police detaining apparent performers. It is not clear who is filming them or why.

At issue is an ordinance that would require permits for street performance. The Chester County borough will hold a public hearing in August, but no date has been set.

Opposition to the ordinance has already popped up on the Internet and social media.

An online post on charges the borough's ordinance would "outlaw singing, dancing, acting, reading, juggling, magic, mimes and more."

Another post on stated: "If you obtain a license to perform music and kids start dancing, they will be breaking the law."

Authors of the online posts did not respond to requests for comment.

But the borough council feels the buskers are making way too much out of what local government sees as a relatively benign proposal.

"There has definitely been a misinformation campaign," said Jordan Norley, vice president of the borough council.

"This is West Chester," said Mayor Carolyn Comitta. "We love our creative expression, music, art. We are a cultural center, an arts center."

The ordinance came about to balance interest of buskers with those of residents and the business community. It also fills in the gaps that other ordinances don't address to protect buskers, residents and businesses, she said.

There have been incidents of performers playing loud music at 3 a.m., he said.

Tony Waldman, a West Chester resident, said he is a supporter of the proposed ordinance addressing buskers.

"They are out there constantly day and night,: he said. "It doesn't stop. They disturb my peace when I am home."

He said the street performers could be relocated to non-residential areas in town.

"They do what they want to do regardless of anyone else's peace of mind - day or night," Waldman said.

Daniel Brouse, 53, a writer who lives in West Chester, objects to the proposal that permits will be required "to play and write music" in the borough. He plans to attend the proposed meeting.

"It violates the Constitution," he said. "You don't need a permit to sing."

Brouse, who is "part of the team of people" that write for, has been performing near Gay and Church Streets for seven years. He claims the police have unfairly targeted street musicians and he has received three citations for noise disturbance in the last month. He has a lawyer and plans to appeal, he said.

Efforts to reach Scott Bohn, chief of police, were not immediately successful.

"The Borough Council finds that the existence in the Borough of street performers provides a public amenity that enhances the character of the Borough," the ordinance states.

A borough press release states that, "Busking would be allowed Sunday through Thursday between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Loud music would need to comply with borough ordinances."

As for a 5-year-old not being able to use sidewalk chalk, as implied by the online bloggers:

"That is just silly," Norley responded.

Back to the West Chester Busking Ordinance