Oregonian Article: Busking cellist shooed from spot by Pioneer Square

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The following article is from the Oregonian, reposted here with original links. After the article, we have made commentary and fact corrections to this article. Please read thoroughly and learn your rights as a street performer!


By Special to The Oregonian
April 24, 2010, 6:01AM

Martin Watkinson lugged his cello to Pioneer Courthouse Square one sunny afternoon last month and set up across the street at Southwest Broadway and Morrison Street.

It was a familiar routine for the 21-year-old music student at Lewis & Clark, who earns most of his spending money playing in public, or busking. But only 15 minutes into his improvised set, security guards asked him to move along.

“They said because the conglomeration of businesses in the area had received a large number of noise complaints, nobody could be within two blocks of the square,” Watkinson said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of cops telling me to move, so I listened to them, and once I realized they weren’t yielding at all, I left. I went two blocks down and set up.”

The move put a dent in his take — he can pull in $80 an hour near the square but much less elsewhere — and he saw it as an affront.

“It’s totally contrary to the spirit of Portland,” he said. “I like to see music in public places, and there’s more chances for more people to see music when there’s lots of people.”

It may have been an isolated incident. The area is patrolled by police; Clean & Safe security guards, who are contracted by the Portland Business Alliance; and security contracted by nonprofit manager Pioneer Courthouse Square Inc. All three said they do not keep musicians from playing within two blocks of the park.

Still, buskers can’t play wherever they like. City parks — which includes the space in the square — are generally off-limits without a permit.

“You can play in the parks, but you can’t collect a fee for it,” said Mark Warrington, public safety manager for the Bureau of Parks & Recreation.

An exception is Tom McCall Waterfront Park between the Morrison and Burnside bridges. Musicians can play for money without a permit, thanks to the Street Musician Partnership worked out under former Mayor Vera Katz. The agreement also lays out rules for busking in downtown and at farmers markets.

Under the agreement, musicians are asked to space themselves by at least one block but may occupy opposing corners at intersections “as long as the music levels are compatible.” They’re asked to move every hour but can return to the original spot — once a day — after an hour break. Under city noise ordinances, music can’t be “plainly audible 100 feet or more” away.

As for Watkinson, he has since returned to his usual spots across from the Pioneer Courthouse Square with no problem.

–Leland Baxter-Neal, Special to The Oregonian
Original article can be found here.


COMMENTARY AND FACT CORRECTIONS
Unfortunately, it’s an all too common occurrence to be hassled by security. Without an updated and maintained Street Musician Partnership, there is always room for confusion and misinformation.

Where this article is wrong isn’t exactly black and white. Yes, you can play in Portland Parks & Rec areas, but you can not collect a fee for it, as Warrington pointed out. However, this is where it gets tricky.

In the Street Musician Partnership for Portland it states in Section III.A.7 “When using Waterfront Park, musicians agree to only solicit funds inside the permit area. Parks Bureau cannot grant permission to solicit without permits.” OK. You can play at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Great. However, scrolling down to Section III.E.1, it states that the Parks Bureau “agrees to issue a permit to the Association for Portland Progress for [the applicable sections] of Waterfront Park for use of the street musicians.

The APP is, as stated on an outdated website: a private, non-profit membership organization dedicated to the beneficial growth and development of the central business district of Portland, through policy development, advocacy and program management functions conducted on behalf of businesses in the central business district, and in cooperation with public and other private sector partners. Upon calling their contact number, I am rerouted to the main number for the Portland Business Alliance. OK. APP is now PBA. A lot happens between 1994 and now. Names change.

In September of 2009 a security manager for Portland Parks & Rec met with the Portland Business Alliance regarding the buskers and permitting issues. The PBA, according to the Parks & Rec staffer I spoke with said; “As the Street Musician Agreement calls for, the PBA must take out a Park permit in order to administer the guidelines in the agreement. At this time PBA is focused on administering the Right of Way (public sidewalk) permitting in the downtown area and do not intend to pursue a park permit for the Esplanade area at Waterfront.” They go on to say; “Until the PBA requests a park permit individual performers are not allowed to collect any fees in Waterfront Park under the Street Musicians Agreement.

The Street Musician Partnership is not being upheld by all parties. Period. It is an outdated, orphaned agreement that is no longer maintained. Who is getting the short-end of the stick for this negligence of the agreement? The Police Bureau certainly aren’t. The Portland Business Alliance and Parks & Rec aren’t. It’s the street musicians that are hassled and kicked out of venues that they rely on. The misinformation and naivety to the Street Musician Partnership has led to many unreported security interventions with musicians. This is a regular occurrence in downtown Portland. An unfortunate, regular occurrence.

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One Response to “Oregonian Article: Busking cellist shooed from spot by Pioneer Square”

  1. The Great Monopod Saga Says:

    […] Oregonian Article: Busking cellist shooed from spot by Pioneer Square « PDXBusk.org […]

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