Somerville this week could replace a rule that prevents all sorts of street performances. The current rule, according to Marc Levy at Cambridge Day, "blocks even sermons, lectures and 'discourse' in public without a license from the board of aldermen—unless it's for a funeral or a military parade or for a recognized civic organization with an official police escort." The rule's usually been ignored, though arguments last summer between street musicians and police asking for nonexistent permits pushed the issue to the fore.
Now, the Somerville Board of Aldermen is talking about the rule in terms of the First Amendment: e.g., was it ever constitutional to bar street performances that weren't a nuisance to those around them? (The current rule is decades old, a product of a time when Somerville was trying to become a quiet bedroom community to Boston. How'd that work out?) There's also a concern, however, about accidentally spawning a permitting Leviathan: As Alderman William White put it, "Who's going to be hired to do this? It could create more of a problem than what we're trying to remedy." Common sense will probably prevail:
When asked what would happen if two or three musicians showed up to play at the same time, [Alderman Rebekah] Gewirtz again resisted a regulatory solution. "When two or three people show up on a bus at the same and want a seat, people sit in the order in which they get on the bus. The government doesn't say who gets to sit," she said. The aldermen could vote on the rule change as early as this Thursday.
· Street Performer Law Heads to Vote in Somerville [Day]