busted for busking

Posted by Daniela Elza on May 15 2011

The Nanaimo Daily News today has a piece titled Well-known busker hit with fine after using wrong spot. (via Kim Goldberg’s site Pig Squash Press).

The well-known busker (also a poet) is Tim Lander.
The article says:

Tim Lander was called under the city’s controversial street entertainer bylaw, now under review, for playing his flute in the wrong spot on the wrong day, according to city bylaw officials.
Lander was busking at the Diana Krall Plaza last summer during the incident. Late last month, Lander was issued the fine, which he has up to one year to pay.

Tim Lander playing the flute (photo credit Kim Goldberg)

Controversial bylaw? That takes me back. A few years ago I took on a little neighbourhood issue that seemed to have deprived people for almost a decade from enjoying a tiny beautiful corner on False Creek because Parks Board decided to put up a sign there that was confusing, and too many did not bother to read, pay attention to, let alone honour. I tried to figure out why parks board puts up bylaw signs with shared dog off-leash/on-leash hour. Then delegates to the city to enforce their poorly thought out decisions. Or when they see something is really not working (with documented evidence) they do not rectify the situation.

Dogs would run around off-leash even during on leash hours. That, of course, right next to a huge off-leash area so the dogs can pick up speed as they run across the bike path to the confusion of joggers, skateboards, elderly people, bikers, dogs on leashes, children etc.

After dealing with dogs taller than my kids running around wet, without training (not to mention dog owners without training), or registration tags. (Somehow it appeared it was never the dog owners’ responsibility.)

After two years of stepping over dog shit and running steaming dog urine while walking through the park to take my kids to school, I gave up.

After two years of trying to talk to parks board through official channels, like phoning them, like having a committee, a huge folder of paperwork trail that parks board left behind, yet seemed to ignore (the way their sign is ignored).

After the ineffective task force parks board assigned to give the illusion something is being done on the issue. The outcomes of that were inconclusive. It took a year and a half to come to that conclusion.

(Yes, I am sure I can put links to all these here, but why bother).

After the dog owners, who were bent on not complying with the sign, formed themselves a committee and called themselves Friends of False Creek.

After all that time feeling cheated playing this game, a game which was played by rules we did not get let in on.
I chose to stop playing.

All we asked for was: please obey the bylaw.

When we asked the dog owners to obey they became angry, irate, and threatening. (Let’s be clear that is not all dog owners.) There were even acts of vandalism, when the initial fence was taken down.

When we asked parks board to do something about it they appeared to be more of an impediment. Eventually, things worked out in such a way they rewarded the people who behaved most poorly.

When we asked the city, they admitted they do not have enough people to patrol or enforce the bylaw. Perhaps Nanaimo can send us a few bylaw officers to help out here with our dog off-leash epidemic. Give those buskers a break.

Bureaucracy is rarely if ever wise. In fact, I am trying to remember such a rare moment, and cannot.

Who makes these half-baked bylaws? I am pretty sure if we prepared our food this way we will not be able to look at it, let alone taste it. Too many cooks spoil the broth?
What is the difference between a stupid bylaw that is enforced, and one that is unenforceable? Or even a good one that is unenforceable?

Now another controversial bylaw: Who decides how best one should express oneself? And where? How to distinguish crime from other human expressions.
It is curious that we live in places (allow to create places) where we can afford to ignore such human need. No, I am not thinking about homelessness, or drugs, or letting your dog off-leash in densely populated areas etc. These are already well ignored.
I am talking about play, song, dance. (I was even trying to figure out how one can busk with poetry. I cannot play an instrument, but apparently I can harp on things.:-))

And when music comes to our street for free, we get all worked up about it? I have never felt bad passing a busker who offers their music for free. Or even a mime. They are pretty quiet. More often than not it has brightened my day. But I have, more often than not, been scarred by bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy is not wise, and never will be.
But the human spirit can. How about we invest more often in that.

2 Responses to “busted for busking”

  1. cathy davis Says:

    I really enjoyed this comment.Nanaimo is very strange when it comes to busking. I have busked here for 27 years and the perception has always been that i am a panhandler.If you read their Bylaw 5723 it will make you laugh.

  2. Al Says:

    I hope Tim gets some support from writers in Victoria; I met him when he came up to PG about 12 years ago. He’s a champion of chapbooks & poetic freedom.