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Posts Tagged ‘freedom of speech’

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 Attempts to Regulate Free Speech

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by C. Moore

WEST CHESTER, PA — At the second public hearing for a proposed ordinance to regulate street performers, the problems with creating a law that violates the Constitution of the United States became increasingly apparent. In fact, the ordinance is so problematic that a third public hearing has been scheduled for October 18 at 6PM.

Police Chief Scott Bohn and Mayor Carolyn Comitta

Police Chief Scott Bohn and Mayor Carolyn Comitta

At the request of the Borough, Police Chief Scott Bohn tried to explain why the ordinance would help the police. Part of the reason they are trying to pass this ordinance is because Mayor Comitta and Police Chief Bohn are already embroiled in allegations of hate crimes and civil rights violations against street performers. Two musicians have been assaulted by West Chester Police officers and wrongfully arrested. Dozens of citizens have been wrongfully cited. The proposed ordinance would attempt to legalize criminal activities committed by the Borough Police.

Borough council members held a slugfest for the next two hours suggesting a multitude of changes. Ironically, one of the most significant changes was to the Purpose of the ordinance, changing “the Borough Council therefore seeks to encourage such performances” to “the Borough Council therefore seeks to regulate such performances”.

Eventually, comments by the public were heard. The overwhelming majority of the comments were against any attempts to regulate free speech; however, a couple of music haters did voice their opinion.

The West Chester Business Improvement District (BID) executive director, Malcolm Johnstone has been accused of committing hate crimes and civil rights violations; nevertheless, he stated his support for the ordinance.

Residents Boycott Penn's Tavern

Residents Boycott Penn’s Tavern

Only one business came out in favor of the ordinance. The owner of Penn’s Table Restaurant complained that the artists blocked the public right-of-way. The audience found this quite hypocritical since Penn’s Table Restaurant’s customer seating on the sidewalk impedes the public thoroughfare on a daily basis.

Comments against the ordinance came from a wide array of artists, performers and fans. A songwriter and arranger (who has written hundreds of songs at the corner of Gay and Church Streets) voiced his concern about police mistakenly accusing him of performing. He then presented pages of unsolicited signatures from individuals opposed to regulating the arts.

After the meeting the resident stated, “If you want to see me perform, I get on stage and you have to buy a ticket. ‘Street Performance’ is an oxymoron.”