Sunday, January 07, 2007
Commissioner Burk - Mucho Grande Pelotas !
St. Augustine City Commission
If you have read the previous post you will see that the City has suspended permitting for vendors in the Plaza. This does not apply to the visual arts. (paintings, prints, sculpture or photographs). A Few points must be brought up regarding this special meeting and the repercussions of the City Council's actions.
Was this meeting a violation of the Sunshine Laws?, meaning was it posted as to time and place at least twelve hours in advance?...........Yes, we were aware of a meeting on the 22nd to discuss a Homestead Exemption issue as the agenda stated. These meetings are usually held at 5 Pm at City Hall. Inexplicably, this meeting was held at 9AM and the majority of discussion was in regards to the vendors in the Plaza. One would guess from the tone of the commissioners ( we heard the tape) that this was discussed previously at least by a couple of commissioner's. Difficult if not impossible to prove.
Jewelry vendors still continue to set up near visual artists though the ban has been in place almost one week. When questioned, the jewelry vendors state that the City approved their products as visual art protected by First Amendment.Today there were two artists and two jewelry vendors. Commissioners , commissioners, the First Amendment protects free speech and press. According to Federal Court, jewelry is not in this category whether it is hand made or not. One reason for the past problems is that the Licensing department was unsure of First Amendment qualifications for artworks. Be decisive, it´s not that difficult. City Manager Harris´quote from a few years back '' In the long term, we have to let them sell their products.'' was based upon faulty legal advice.
Commissioner Gardner referred to a recent lease agreement in NYC that permits a hot dog vendor a 8x10 space on the sidewalk in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $35000 a month! Here is another example Mr. Commissioner.......In NYC´s Union Square the Parks Dept sells a concession/permit to one big company for a few million dollars which then sells space to a few hundred vendors for as much as $10,000 each per stand. A gigantic tent is erected for an entire month completely preventing the public from enjoying or using the Park, the benches, walkways etc. Most of these vendors in this Union Sq gift show sell products (jewelry, crafts, tee shirts, trinkets) the City considers illegal merchandise when it is sold on the street...the same merchandise the Parks Department normally does not allow to be sold in Parks....................So Mr. Gardner, you brought this up to illustrate what exactly? Do you propose that the City of St. Augustine look into privatization of the oldest public space in the U.S.? Are we artists the only people who view this as extremely dangerous? Our streets , sidewalks and parks are up for sale to the highest bidder? Do you see where this can lead? It´s already happening.
We artists of Art In The Market have many friends vending in the Plaza. We have some regrets that they may no longer be with us. On the other hand the cheap bazaar that has evolved is very unbecoming to the City of St. Augustine.
Is it possible by law to immediately change a portion of an ordinance (22-6) rendering the whole ordinance invalid? Shouldn't this go through the regular proceedings of two readings, two votes and finally public input?
We have received a number of e mails from AITM subscribers protesting the City Council´s actions. We gotta say that we agree with the Council regarding the deplorable state of commercial activity in the Plaza. We disagree with the fashion that this was done without public input other than the commissioner´s own anecdotal comments.
To our vendor friends who read this newsletter.........Research, read the ordinances and come up with an alternate plan. Find out where you CAN sell your goods. ..............The answer is within the City Codes.
Posted by Karl at 4:50 PM