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  • Council tables busker ordinance for now

    Tom Durkin

    Nevada City Advocate  


    What could have been a hotly contested debate turned out to be just a lively discussion at the April 25 Nevada City Council meeting.

    Up for consideration was a six-page resolution to adopt a street performer (busker) ordinance. The proposed ordinance designated – in detail – places, times and at what volume buskers could play.

    The ordinance also stipulated that each busker or group had to buy a $10 quarterly permit from the Chief of Police. 

    Additionally, the penalty for violating the busker ordinance for the first time would be up to $100 and repeat offenders could quickly rack up fines “not exceeding $500 for each additional violation.”

    It quickly became apparent that nobody in the audience had read the ordinance. 

    Furthermore, buskers who had said previously they would attend to protest any kind of ordinance did not show up.

    Mayor Duane Strawser invited Janssen Kuhn, the only busker there, to address the council. 

    Kuhn, who originally proposed the ordinance in March, came forward and said he did not have a copy of the ordinance written by county staff.

    Nevertheless, Kuhn said he still favors permits because he feels it would ensure a “higher quality of music” in town. 

    He also expressed concerns about out-of-town buskers competing with regulars – and not just during September/October cannabis harvest season when many farmworkers (aka “trimmigrants”) disrupt the music scene.

    Strawser said a busking ordinance wasn’t even on his radar until Kuhn brought it to the council, but now he believes it’s an issue the city needs to address before it becomes a problem.

    “I don’t see why we need it,” stated Councilmember David Parker.

    Councilmember Reinette Senum was inclined to wait and see if becomes a problem this year when the price of marijuana might be low. Not all members agreed with her prediction.

    Councilmembers Evans Phelps and Valerie Moberg expressed support for the guidelines in the ordinance, but they didn’t seem to support permits, fines and law enforcement involvement.

    Strawser said he and several members have been researching the issue “around the world” – but need to do more. This would include exploring the way the BriarPatch Co-op manages buskers at its facility.

    “We have more work to do on this,” Strawser concluded. 

    He suggested they table the motion and bring it back at a future meeting. The council concurred.

    Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada County. Contact him at tdurkin@vfr.net or www.tomdurkin-writer.net.

    Photo by Tom Durkin