Councilors want to license street performers

City Councilors Sal LaMattina and Bill Linehan want to require street performers to buy $40 annual licenses for the right to perform on Boston streets.

The city council tomorrow considers their request for a hearing on a proposed ordinance that would require street performers to wear their permits - and to show them to inquiring police officers and to stay at least 100 feet away from elementary schools and hospitals - and at least 50 feet away from other buskers.

The measure would require members of groups to buy individual permits - up to a maximum of $160 per group.

The proposed regulation would also let police or the city DPW ban performers who receive five "noncriminal dispositions" in a year.

The city has not regulated street performers since 2006, when it agreed to give up a permitting system to settle a First Amendment suit filed by Community Arts Advocates. The stipulation that settled the case did call for "reasonable time, place and manner restrictions of the expressive rights of street performers and their audiences" in Downtown Crossing.

The hearing request states:

Street performers enhance the character of the city and the City of Boston seeks to encourage street performers while maintaining the reasonable expectations of residents to the enjoyment of peace and quiet in their homes as well as the ability of businesses to conduct their services uninterrupted.

It is in the interest of the City of Boston to reasonably regulate street performers in order to balance the interests of performers with those of the residents and businesses of the city.

LaMattina represents the North End; Linehan represents downtown.

The council's regular Wednesday meeting begins at noon in its fifth-floor chambers in City Hall.



Free tagging: 


How does a permit help?

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I agree that there should be some rules relating to when you can play, how close to another performer you can be and when it is being disruptive to business or the public in general. The definitions of many of these items could be tricky. (That's "too disruptive?") However, how does charging a $40 fee solve any of that? Pass some regulations that everyone must obey and leave it at that.


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They have to come up with the money for the pay raise they just got.. this is how. /snark

I honestly see this as yet another law that won't be enforced unless the police want to harass someone (i.e. Seat Belt Law). Not sure this will do any good. There will be nothing stopping people from not getting the permit, and just getting up and walking away if the police come by. It's going to be very hard to enforce. I do get what they are trying to do but I think charging a fee is pointless.

While we're on the same vein.. how about they do the same to canvassers. If I get harassed by Children International one more time in DTX...

And one other thing.. they were sued for this and stopped a permit process in 2006. Why do they think they can get away with it again? Yeah the suit was dropped, but it's still a very grey area.

"Hey! How You Doing?"

Piss off is usually the best response to them. Breaks their spirit. Not that I don't agree with what they are raising money for, just leave me alone as I walk down the street.

They're opening lines make me cringe.

I've also heard:

"Hey there, you look like a cool dude."

"HI! You should be in my life." <---came from a very pretty young woman

"Do you want to save kids today?"

"Would you like to make the world a better place?"

The others I can't remember. The young lady I'll never forget.

Mercenary professional fundraisers

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"Not that I don't agree with what they are raising money for, just leave me alone as I walk down the street."

You may agree with it, but they don't necessarily. They are mercenaries, pure and simple. They get paid to fundraise, and do so for any cause thrown in front of them. Understandably, this type of street fundraising job is always available (like telemarketing used to be in the 80s), so people in need of any old job take it. The turnover is tremendous.


Since they're often college kids, I try not to be too mean, but I definitely put on my bitchiest possible Resting Bitch Face and storm past without making eye contact. When they see me coming, they don't usually even try to get my attention. Works like a charm.

(I do donate to charity privately, when I can afford to do so, lest I come off as some kind of monster. Just...not in the street.)

I do the same--I usually just

I do the same--I usually just ignore them or tell them I'm not interested. I'd love to know how much money these organizations get by soliciting this way. Maybe if it's a cause you're particularly interested in you'll stop, but it seems to me many people go out of their way to avoid contact with these folks.

Short and sweet

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I just say "No thank you but good luck" and keep going. I used to work in Back Bay next to the train station and you have to have a stock automatic phrase or it will drive you bonkers.

I Never Give on the Street

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I just tell them that I don't give money on the street, as well as telling phonecallers that I don't give over the phone.

The canvassers are awful!

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These people get WAY too close.

Last Summer I reported a Planned Parenthood dude to their boss in DC. Dude basically blocked me from passing him. His invasion of my personal space, was scary and gross. Definitely harassment.

Now I just use a Sign Language gesture and they back off immediately.

I wonder if the religious people with their little kiosks of brochures, will need a license.

What about homeless people selling their art on the street? What about homeless people just asking for money?

What about transient buskers like Queen Amor, that just breeze into town for a couple weeks?

I wish these dinosaurs would show some humanity for our least fortunate. Take a tour around DTX on an early Sunday morning and see HUMAN BEINGS sleeping in doorways, in the freezing cold. Go to Dewey Square and see disabled people sleeping on the ground, with crutches at their side.

Mayor Trashbag and City Council Dinos, take a walk around the hub of your own city. Do you even spend any time here?


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I usually will have my earbuds in and will just ignore them. But if I don't.. my reply is

"I gave at the office" and keep walking away.


I did canvassing for a month. We did have to be licenced, the licence had our photo on it and we always had it around our necks.

Interesting thing, Non-profit

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Interesting thing, Non-profit solicitation already requires registration, not sure of the rules though. I've had door-to-door people show me their letter from the AG's office. The fee from the state is $50. I like this system, partly because it was enacted upon finding people raising money for AIDS were actually spending it on themselves.

I'm going to go against the vein here and say the City Council is not out of line for asking buskers to get a license. The stories of Hurdy-Gurdy Man and Keytar Bear are enough to convince me. I'm sympathetic towards all buskers, but the accusations of assault are too much for me to support an open system anymore.

I prefer the performers to act nicely to each other, under a clear set of rules, and to cooperate with the police. Lest their means of income is threatened. On the plus side for buskers, no one asks them to move along if they've obeyed all the clear regulations. I don't like the Hobbesian state of nature I read about buskers now.

Street performer's can make

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Street performer's can make at least $2000 cash a day juggling balls in fanuel hall, and I wonder if these people pay taxes. Call it a racket, the permit fee is lunch money to them.
Does this permit apply to someone who's playing guitar at State State mbta station, non city property!

MBTA property

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They already have a performer permitting system. $25 per year, have to be in designated performance space, some regulations on which instruments are allowed.

Is this really needed?

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As a person who has businesses all over the city and many locations outside in places like Downtown Crossing, the Boston Common and the waterfront I question this.

The fact is that we don't have a huge bloated amount of street performers taking over the city. This is not a huge problem. If a street performer sets up in one of my spots or is too loud or too close or doing something wrong there is already something in place to address the situation.

It's called me. I can speak to them like a human being and 9 times out of 10 the situation is resolved easily. If I need to call the police I do. They then will help me.

This is just another hack way of charging people to do what should be free. If you are on public property doing your thing the courts have already said it is ok. It's just another end play to circumnavigate a court decision and grab more money and it's disgusting.

Leave the buskers alone. Address the homeless situation. There are people SLEEPING on the ground in freezing weather. There are people addicted to drugs all over the city. THEY need help. The City government employees should be doing everything in their power to help those people instead of wasting their time attacking another group of hard working people. Do you think it's easy to sit outside and perform for tips? Do you think these hacks even consider what these buskers go through in a typical day? No they don't.

Why do the tax payers put up with this nonsense? Raise the MBTA fares, Charge street performers fees all the while going after a RAISE for themselves when half of them barely show up for work. Pretty hypocritical.

Right on!

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This is the basic issue:

The fact is that we don't have a huge bloated amount of street performers taking over the city.

They should be drug tested

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They should be drug tested too. Have to be on some good shit to come up with some of their ideas.

To be fair

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The City Councilors don't have any power to raise MBTA fares. That's just not their jurisdiction.

That aside, I, too, considered what this might mean for people busking who are doing it to make ends meet. That is, I know I've seen some homeless people with instruments. The effect of this law on them would be the same as the laws that prohibit homeless from sleeping in public places, i.e. just about anywhere aside from shelters.


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I can't see what problem this is supposed to address, and I hate the prospect of cops coming after people for singing, dancing, or juggling in public without a permit. No one should have to get a permit for self expression. Makes me cringe to think that we might have police rousting buskers from the *freedom* trail.

When I was a street singer in the 70s

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When I was a street singer in the 70s it used to be commonplace for police to "move us along". I would just move down a ways and start again. One time one of those "park ranger" types on the Common tried to move me along. Said I was making too much noise. I had an acoustic guitar and was unamplified. There were buses going by on Tremont Street making more noise than me. What a clown. He wasn't even a cop. More like an amateur boy scout.

Would this also apply to the

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Would this also apply to the Dancing Doctor who goes out to raise money for charity? Because if it does, then Boston City Councilors will have officially taken away money from poor children.

Someone Run Against These Out-of-Touch Dinosaurs

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If anyone needs another reason to think these two are among the most worthless members ever on the Council (which is really saying something) this post is just another piece of evidence. I've lived in the districts of both of these lunkheads, so I know what I'm talking about. Elections are coming up but no one is officially running against either of them. At this point I would write in almost anybody else. I can't be alone in this.

It's so dumb that one would

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It's so dumb that one would expect Murphy to be a co-sponsor as well. He must have clocked out early the day La Mattina and Linehan came up with this brilliant idea

These performers are taking

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These performers are taking up public property, just like a parked car, and should pay a tax/fee to use such space. While we are at it, bring in the IRS to audit them. I am sure none of them are paying taxes on their income. It is time they pay their fair share too.

Ladies & Gentleman I present to you:

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a Moron.

That let them eat cake attitude is precisely why we have so many problems in the world right now.

They are just liked parked cars?

You KNOW they don't pay taxes?

I hear this attitude all the time. Kick out all those illegals! Put all those addicts in jail!

Dehumanizing people is easy. It's the uneducated easy way to view the world instead of putting yourself in someone else's shoes. Instead of empathizing with people you just say, "Screw them!" Actually though, Screw you! Who are you? What do you do every day? Do you pay your fair share? Probably not.

Takes one to know one babe.


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I read it over three times before I just said to myself no she's for real. I hope I was wrong too.

Hook, line and sinker. It is

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Hook, line and sinker. It is so easy to get a libetard Mass hole to go flying off the handle bars. Thanks for calling me a moron; I take that as a true complement. I get bonus points for making you bring up junkies and illegals in your response.


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Now that I know you're just a troll, I can safely pre-delete your future posts. I appreciate the head's up.

-- Your increasingly bitter moderator

I still

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I still wonder how you approve all these comments without wanting to stab yourself in the eyes.

I get steamy at many facebook posts by ignorant fucks.. I can't imagine what you see that we don't.

And "libetard" is now the defacto "I'm a troll" word.

I know that the word "libtard

I know that the word "libtard" exists, but I don't spend enough time in the deep, dark corners of the internet to encounter it regularly. Is there an agreed upon definition? Anywhere I could read up on the history and evolution of the term? It seems so new, but already so widespread, and it's so incredibly disparaging of roughly half the country. Seems like there must be some interesting etymology there.

I've seen it used a a

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I've seen it used a a pejorative to refer to either liberals or libertarians, usually the former (never both as a group). It seems to mean the insulted party has an overly simplistic or unrealistic worldview.

"These performers are taking

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"These performers are taking up public property"

Anytime you walk on a city sidewalk, YOU'RE taking up public property as well. Are you in favor of a "being-out-in-public" permit? $500 a year should cover it, right?

Street performers

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I could be wrong or outdated about this, but don't Cambridge street performers require a license? Its seems to work there.

Also, if they are going to require a license, I certainly hope it applies to the "performers" in T stations. Rarely do I come across an actual musician in these spaces, but rather panhandlers with no musical ability singing off key acapella or singing awfully with a karaoke machine.


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I used to live four blocks away from Fenway Park. I've definitely heard some free concerts over the years because of that, even though my apartment faced away from the park!


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Does the Cambridge system charge a fee? Are permits from Cambridge needed to play in Cambridge T stops, or only on city property?

It's been a while since I've

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It's been a while since I've looked at any of it, but when I used to do that stuff Cambridge had a fee similar in amount to what they're proposing for Boston. The MBTA system was completely separate from any/all of the cities/towns its stops/stations are in.

It might've been closer to 15

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It might've been closer to 15 years ago at this point. It's been almost that long since I used to play out in Cambridge and needed a permit. I don't know what it's like these days, but at the time it wasn't a huge inconvenience, and I can't remember a single time anyone ever came to check them. It would've been nice to not have to deal with it though.

He already kicked that woman

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He already kicked that woman's ass, who he hit first without apologizing, in front of the apple store on Boylston.

I don't blame Keytar Bear

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I believe The Dirge Woman of State Street (the one who plays the recorder and keens between the blue and orange lines) made them feel sad.


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This is absurd -- one of the many things I love about Boston is that you can take a walk around the city and almost always hear music. And with the music schools and conservatories around, most of them are pretty talented! If anything, the city should pay them instead of charging them a license fee.

And I agree with regulating the "colored vest" people...they are much more intrusive, especially when you work in a key spot like Kenmore or Copley and have to deal with them multiple times a day. For some reason they can never remember that they've accosted you once (or twice, or...) already that day.

This proposal is offensive.

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This proposal is offensive. It stifles artistic expression.

Let's say a musician is visiting from out of town. They show up on a Saturday morning. Even if they wanted to spend $40 just to play for one weekend (which would be a big chunk of any money they might make), they wouldn't be able to get one since City Hall would be closed.

Needs clarification

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If the city destroyed its past permitting system in 2006 as a result of a lawsuit then what does this new permitting system somehow provide as cover for why it's not a violation of that past settlement? They claimed the need for time/place restrictions, but also agreed to destroy any permitting at the time. You don't need permitting for time/place what gives? Wouldn't enacting this just be begging to be sued again in violation of the city's past agreement?

Also, do we really need a cut of busker income to survive? Is this funding some part of the city's budget that deals with the fact that buskers exist? It's not like they're damaging their performance locations or driving up costs for administrative needs (especially since there's no permitting system any more). So, is this just a bald money grab for little to no reason (how many buskers could there even be total in the city?). Also, going back to the prior lawsuit, what's the difference between a busker that would need a permit and someone exercising their right to free speech that wouldn't need a permit? The tipping? Why would someone else's actions (tipping you) somehow invalidate your own right to free speech (performing)? Does this mean if there's anyone I don't like while walking around the city that I should just give them $1 and call the cops on them?