NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 14, 2006

Street performers in Chicago -- including bucket drummers, saxophonists, bagpipers and singers -- are being ordered to pipe down, making it the latest city to try to reduce urban noise, says Judy Keen of USA Today.

The crackdown was prompted by complaints from businesses and residents who say the street cacophony is a quality-of-life issue. Susan Mardell, who lives above a popular spot for street musicians, says unwanted music echoes up even through closed windows and doors. And John Maxson, president of a local business group, says the noise "has a significant impact" on office workers' productivity and annoys customers in stores.

The same debate is playing out in other cities, but some communities encourage street performances:

  • Honolulu is debating whether to limit street performances to six designated spots on four blocks in the Waikiki neighborhood from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mayor Mufi Hannemann vetoed a measure last month that would have barred performers from the area during those hours.
  • Baltimore's City Council will hold a hearing on a proposal to license street performers. The goals: bring in cash with permit fees costing $50-$75 and make the city more lively.
  • Los Angeles City Council recently passed an ordinance creating a "free speech and expression zone" that protects street performers in Venice Beach, but includes certain noise restrictions.
  • Chicago also has a contingent that opposes the City Council's decision to limit performers. Tim Nutt, who records street music, says Chicago's rich musical heritage makes it a surprising place to limit performances.

But Alderman Burton Natarus, who proposed the changes to the City Council, says he is sympathetic to people who come home at the end of the day and don't want to be aggravated by these loud sounds.

Source: Judy Keen, "Noise restrictions in Chicago muzzle makeshift musicians," USA Today, February 9, 2006


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