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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 Street Performance Ordincance

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Daniel Brouse

WEST CHESTER, PA — A second public hearing for a proposed ordinance to regulate street performers was held on September 21 at Borough Hall. Due to the time length of the meeting, a third public hearing has been scheduled for October 18 at 6PM.

The ordinance would regulate “the following activities: acting, singing, playing musical instruments, pantomime, juggling, magic, dancing, reading aloud, puppetry and reciting.”

Borough council members spent an hour-and-a-half suggesting changes. 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”. Council members Michael Galey and William J. Scott brought up concerns over unnecessary regulations, redundant regulations and over-reaching regulations. Quite a bit of discussion revolved around applying the regulation to private property. Surprisingly, there was no discussion about how this law would be applied to minors. At the previous hearing, a resident was voiced concerns, “If I’m playing a guitar and children start to dance, are they in violation.”

Eventually, comments by the public were heard. The overwhelming majority of the comments were against any attempts to regulate free speech.

The West Chester Business Improvement District (BID) executive director, Malcolm Johnstone stated his support for the ordinance. 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.

Comments against the ordinance came from a wide array of artists, performers and fans. Tom Wagner, Esquire, stated his opposition to the ordinance based on The First Amendment. Virginia Schawacker, director of Shaw Strings, voiced her concerns about regulating musical performances especially when on private property. Tony Webb has an architectural firm on Church Street and talked about his support for the music. A variety of musicians and students from West Chester University spoke out against the ordinance. Brad Rau, who holds a masters degree in classical guitar and teaches in West Chester, created a petition in support of the arts. The petition with hundreds of unsolicited signatures of citizens against regulating the arts was presented.

The discussion will continue in October.

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.”