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Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment’

Is Michael Cotter West Chester Borough Manager?

Friday, October 6th, 2017

WEST CHESTER, PA — On October 2, 2017, Borough Manager Michael Cotter took “an indefinite leave of absence.” The latest controversy for Mr. Cotter has to do with signing an unauthorized check for $600,000; however this is not the only controversy facing the former Borough Manager.

Michael Cotter at a Busking Ordinance Public Hearing

Michael Cotter at a Busking Ordinance Public Hearing

For a good portion of 2016, Michael Cotter pushed the West Chester “Footloose” Busking Ordinance through Borough Council. Several public hearings were held and drastic revisions were made and voted into law. In 2017, the Borough started requiring street performers to get licensed. With the license, a copy of the the ordinance is issued.

After the first permit was issued, it was discovered that the Borough Code is the original draft of the ordinance without any of the revisions. There are many unconstitutional aspects of what the Borough has done. The lawyer for the Borough noted during the public hearings that the drafted ordinance would make it illegal for “a two-year-old to draw a chalk dinosaur on the sidewalk.” The published code also declares it is against the law for anybody to read within 100 feet of a library.

The following are illegal without a permit: acting, singing, playing musical instruments, pantomime, juggling, magic, dancing, reading, puppetry, sidewalk art (working with nonpermanent, water-soluble media, i.e., chalk, pastels, or watercolors directly on the pavement), and reciting.

Under no circumstances — even with a permit — can the above performances occur within 100 feet of “a school, library, or church while in session, or a hospital at any time.”

On March 27, 2017, the Borough was contacted about the problem, and Borough Manager Michael Cotter stated, “The correct version is in the process of being posted.”

The problem was not corrected. In August and September, several instances of a West Chester Police officer(s) trying to enforce the wrong ordinance were reported.

On September 27, 2017, Michael Cotter was again contacted:

Dear Mr. Cotter,
Quite some time has passed since the Borough published the wrong “busking ordinance”. (http://ecode360.com/31784800 )

On March 27, 2017, you (Borough Manager Michael Cotter) stated, “The correct version is in the process of being posted.”

Since that time, reports of rogue police officers trying to enforce the wrong law have surfaced.

Your prompt attention to this matter would be greatly appreciated.

As of publication date, we have not received a reply.

Previous Articles:
West Chester Busking “Street Musician” Ordinance September 27, 2017
West Chester Outlaws Singing, Dancing and Pantomime March 27, 2017
West Chester Busking Ordinance Monday, September 19th, 2016
West Chester Busking Public Hearing Monday, July 25th, 2016
West Chester Borough Petition Against Busking Ordinance Saturday, July 16th, 2016
West Chester Busking Ordinance Borough Council Saturday, July 16th, 2016
West Chester Borough Busking Ordinance Saturday, July 9th, 2016
West Chester Busking Ordinance
West Chester Borough Busking Press Release
Letter To West Chester Borough

West Chester Outlaws Singing, Dancing and Pantomime

Monday, March 27th, 2017

WEST CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA — The West Chester Borough Council illegally enacted an unconstitutional law that restricts:
acting, singing, playing musical instruments, pantomime, juggling, magic, dancing, reading, puppetry, sidewalk art, and reciting.

In July, September and August of 2016, Borough Council held public hearings to discuss a proposed busking ordinance.

After much discussion and debate, the Borough’s legal council stated many changes had been made, including:

  • The removal of sidewalk chalk, reading and pantomime from the list of restricted activities
  • Busking would only apply to performers soliciting money
  • The ordinance would not apply to private property

However, the new ordinance was not advertised and was incorporated into Borough Code without incorporating the voted upon changes.
Read the West Chester Busking Ordinance (pdf)

The ordinance completely bans performance art without a permit. For instance, if you allow a 5-year-old to color with chalk on the sidewalk without a license, you both will be breaking the law. If you obtain a license to perform music and kids start dancing, they will be breaking the law. If you write music without a license and kids start dancing, you all will be breaking the law. Should you and your friends attend a peace rally or sporting event and sing the “Star Spangled Banner”, you will be breaking the law. You are not allowed to read the busking ordinance without a permit.

Many performances are even banned if you have a permit. Under no circumstances can you read within a 100 feet of a library. Choirs are banned from singing within 100 feet of a church. No pantomime or magic is allowed near a hospital.

Two businesses (Penn’s Table Restaurant and Malena’s Vintage Boutique) along with the West Chester Business Improvement District (BID) appear to be behind the illegal passing of the unconstitutional law. Concerned citizens are boycotting these establishments.

On March 27, 2017, Borough Manager Michael Cotter stated, “The correct version is in the process of being posted.”

Related Articles:
West Chester Borough Busking Ordinance
Saturday, July 9th, 2016

West Chester Busking Ordinance Borough Council
Saturday, July 16th, 2016

West Chester Borough Petition Against Busking Ordinance
Saturday, July 16th, 2016

West Chester Busking Public Hearing
Monday, July 25th, 2016

West Chester Busking Ordinance
Monday, September 19th, 2016

West Chester “Street Performing” Law

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

by Daniel Brouse

WEST CHESTER, PA — On August 2, a public hearing was held at the West Chester Borough Hall. The hearing was intended to be for the proposed “Busking Ordinance“; however, just hours before the meeting, the Busking Ordinance was thrown out and a new proposed “Street Performing” ordinance appeared on the borough website. The new ordinance changed “reading” to “reading aloud” and removed sidewalk chalk art. The borough’s attorney said chalk art was removed because a 2-year-old drawing dinosaurs could be found in violation.

Street Performing– Includes, but is not limited to, the following activities: acting, singing, playing musical instruments, pantomime, juggling, magic, dancing, reading aloud, puppetry and reciting.

Boycott-Malena's, West Chester, Gay Church

Boycott-Malena’s, West Chester, Gay Church

A large crowd of citizens opposed to any ordinance that would restrict the First Amendment filled council chambers. There appeared to be only one person in attendance that supported the proposed ordinance, Malena Martinez. Martinez, owner of the business “Malena’s” at the corner of Gay and Church Streets, said she finds the performances to be annoying.

Contrary to Malena’s opinion were a wide array of artists and fans of the arts. A borough resident presented a petitions with pages of unsolicited signatures of people against any ordinance that would regulate the arts. The signatures were collected at the corner of Gay and Church Streets and included world-class musicians, politicians and supporters of the arts. “We love hearing you play,” was a common comment made by the signatories. One petitioner said he takes a day-trip just to come to the businesses in West Chester because of the street performers.

“It’s an attack on free speech and First Amendment rights in many respects,” said Oliver Kocher, a borough musician. “To try to stifle other people simply because you don’t like what they have to say really isn’t appropriate. People are out there promoting art and promoting culture and it seems to me this is a direct attempt to stifle the display and dispersion of people’s art.” Oliver went on to say, “I am a whistler. Sometimes I don’t even know that I’m whistling when I walk down the street. Under the ordinance, I might be found in violation.”

Tom Wagner, one of the area’s finest lawyers and musicians, explained how the ordinance would be in violation of the Constitution. Any such ordinance would result in an injunction and lengthy court battle for the borough.

Resident Phil LaRue pointed out that there are already enough laws on the books to accomplish the goals of the proposed ordinance.

Several others in attendance also voiced their disapproval of the ordinance. In fact, there were so many people that wanted to speak out against the ordinance that another public hearing was scheduled. None of the council members in attendance appeared to be in favor of the ordinance, so the hearing was postponed until September 21 at 6PM.