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Ordinance Considered To Make Singers Keep Walking As They Warble

April 26, 1993

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) _ The troubadours of Santa Cruz will have to pay the piper if an ordinance allowing police to ticket street musicians is approved by city council.

The law, prepared at the request of downtown merchants in this generally tolerant coastal community, would allow police to ticket musicians who stay in one place too long. A second offense would be a misdemeanor. It will be up to council members to decide how long is too long.

″Sometimes these aren’t the best musicians in the world,″ said City Attorney John Barisone, author of the ordinance. ″Some of these people only know two or three songs - ‘Yellow Submarine,’ ’Suite Judy Blue Eyes,‴ he said.

″After a time, it grates on your nerves.″

The ordinance, to be considered by the council by June, would apply to all ″noncommercial″ activities, including speech, music, panhandling and the distribution of literature by political, civic and religious groups.

But the main focus is singers and others whose performances often assail the ears of shoppers, downtown workers and tourists.

One woman, city officials say, likes to stand outside a hotel and wail for hours at the top of her lungs.

Barisone says nobody believes the musicians, who frequently don colorful 1960s-era garb as they play their guitars, flutes and tambourines, must go altogether. But the city wants to limit the time listeners in stores and shops must listen.

Some singers think city officials are out of touch.

″They are trying to cater to an older crowd with the new mall,″ said Teddy ″Ace″ Everett, 38, who came to Santa Cruz from Connecticut 11 years ago. Unemployed, living on the street, Ace plays the flute.

″They want to get the musicians off the street,″ he said. ″They are losing touch with what’s really going on.″

To earn a day’s wage, he says, he must park in one spot for more than an hour or two. Shoppers don’t drop a dollar into his hat until they pass him the second time, he explains.

Derek Sorrentino, a songwriter and guitar player who moved to the area with his wife a few months ago, believes some controls may be a good idea.

″There is something to be said for a level of repertoire and skill,″ he said. Sorrentino said he would support a listing of acceptable street musicians and even a city permit process.

But musicians must be allowed to perform on the streets of this beach town, in the open air, in front of spontaneous audiences, he said.

″On the street, you get an instantaneous response to a song,″ he said.

And this liberal town that’s home to a University of California campus should stay true to itself, he said.

″Expression is what Santa Cruz is all about. That’s why people love the place.″

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