Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

July 10, 2014

City officials on street performers' tickets: play it again

TRAVERSE CITY — Two unlicensed Traverse City street performers may find a reason to sing the blues after all.

Kewayden Brauker, 19, and Maayingan Brauker, 17, fought the law and won last week when Grand Traverse County Magistrate Tammi Rodgers dismissed tickets city police issued them for violating the city's street performer ordinance.

But Rodgers' decision failed to strike a chord with city officials, who this week filed an appeal. That means a district court judge could uphold the dismissal or reverse it. A reversal could prove costly for the Braukers, who said their citations totaled $700 each.

"At this point we have not set it for a formal hearing yet," said 86th District Court Administrator Carol Stocking.

The Braukers received two tickets in two days after they sang tunes in the Jay Smith Walkway off Front Street without a permit. Maayingan Brauker said he believes the ordinance is out of tune with his constitutional rights, especially for performers who don't seek money.

"I'm not worried about it at all because I didn't do anything illegal," he said. "The city ordinance violates the First Amendment."

City commissioners approved the ordinance in 2003 amid concerns that hosts of street artists, jugglers, musicians and other performers could clog already busy city sidewalks, especially along Front Street. City officials require performers to obtain an annual permit if they plan to draw crowds along public sidewalks, parks, playgrounds and other pedestrian areas.

City Clerk Benjamin Marentette's office issues the $40 street performer permits required under the ordinance. He deferred questions on legal matters to City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht, who could not be reached for comment.

"I can say for the time being the city will be enforcing the street performer ordinance," Marentette said.

Rodgers cited concerns about the Brauker brothers' free speech rights and the city ordinance's language when she dismissed their tickets. City Manager Jered Ottenwess said city officials disagreed with the decision and filed the appeal because it could weaken the ordinance.

"If the magistrate does not uphold those citations, it would undermine the ability to enforce the ordinance clearly," he said.

Ottenwess said officials will look at the ordinance's language to see if it needs to be refined, but referred specific legal questions to Trible-Laucht.

More than 20 performers obtained permits this year.

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