Thursday, March 03, 2011

Public space is not to be used for creativity? odd time to tell us...

Irony is actually seldom seen in our world, contrary to what Alanis Morissette says (most of her examples are just things that suck).
Recently, we got a true ironic moment here in New Orleans when the NOPD shut down the 20th year of the Costume Bazaar held on Frenchman by local artists on Barkus Sunday.
(I actually was standing next to the artist who I believe wasn't even actually part of the deal, the vendor set up in front of Cafe Brazil-when the police officer told her this was illegal. Interestingly, I watched her point across the street at the Blue Nile directing the police to those folks.)
I could see it was going to get shut down by the vehemence of the officer. I could see that it was going to be a doozy of a week as well...
The ironic piece comes from the fact that many of us were coming from or going to a Carnival parade and sitting in chairs in streets, or sitting on on private property (stoops and such) and no one cared. No one cared because we know (and the police know) that most of us agree to the social contract when we are together in public space that we are just borrowing some of it for a while but not violating it. And if we overstate our control of the public space, we will probably get corrected by others or maybe the police.
And that we were in the middle of weeks of that and yet the artists who inspire us, who share their talent with us get shut down because they need a permit to gather.

Maybe we need to pass a law that if 3 or more artists gather with their handmade items they can sell without hassle if they agree to monitor themselves and to be orderly in the use of public space, leaving it better than it was, while being our eyes on the street. In other words, maybe we need to establish social contracts for many types of entrepreneurial behavior that falls under itinerant.•

Wait, something is nagging at the back of my head. Wait for it.

Oh, we do have that- Jackson Square.

but it used to be a entire city that made us famous with a street culture that came from a diverse use of our city streets where musicians, painters, sculptures, streetwalkers, politicians, sailors, and regular folks met regularly . When did we lose that exactly? When did it become just one square in the whole town?
and do know that those in Jackson Square have to have permits to get to vend even there. and have to get there at 5 am to stake out a space cuz there are so few. Something seems wrong. Permits to hang things on a fence to promote the city. nagging in head again...

Maybe its time we start to collect at our own Tahrir Squares on issues like this too. I know its not a dictator that needs to go, but maybe if we just start collecting and having these public conversations more regularly we can influence our dict- sorry, government leaders.

And maybe we can collectively agree on a simple process:

You want to have a artist sale less than monthly? 3 or more of you:
1. Ask a business owner in a cultural district to use their unused space or day. You pick an area are where there are businesses that can benefit from your presence.
2. He or she says yes.
3. Mention it to the adjoining neighbors.
4. If someone has a good reason against it they tell you and then can organize the majority against it or if that fails, just grumble to themselves.
5. You tell the city so they can make sure nothing illegal or dangerous is being sold and that they can assist the organizers if needed.
6. You sketch out a nice layout leaving room for fire exits and handicapped people which you post. You sell some stuff.
7. You clean up after yourselves.

As far as sales taxes and permits, you ask artists to register every 3 years and pay sales tax on anything when they register for what they resell that is not significantly altered by the artist, No tax on things they make.
You set up a committee of artists and citizens that serve for 5 years, making a small stipend who roam and check here and there. They cannot serve again and when they vend, are excused themselves from being allowed to inspect.
and listen, this is just off the top of my head. better minds can come up with better plans with a few weeks of thinking about it.

And you allow street culture to thrive. You allow artists to be the leaders they are and let them get out and sell their items when they are ready to do so and those who yearn for a storefront to get to be business owners ultimately that understand the city and can pick a location that is based on their itinerant experience.
You allow self-determination.
And you build your city.
And if we actually get things like this done, we can say we are on our way to being a great city.
without irony.

A person or agent of a person who offers for sale, barter, or exchange anything of value at any place in, upon, along, or through any street, alley, or other public place, or on private property. The term "itinerant retailer" does not include an owner or operator of a business located in a building or structure being used for a commercial or retail purpose, nor to such owner or operator's activities adjacent to or abutting such building or structure when items sold on property adjacent to or abutting a commercial building or structure are the primary type of goods offered for sale inside that commercial building or structure.

oh okay.

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