Sandpoint City Council April 20th – Chapter 1
by Anita Aurit
As the council had not met earlier in the month I expected the meeting to go long and long it was.
A Message to The Intolerant
Our mayor is still banging that old “There are some unenlightened bigots in the city and I need to set them straight” drum. He began the meeting by reading a proclamation declaring this “Fair Housing Month” and stating the city’s firm stand against discrimination as a result of sexual orientation, race, etc. etc. The verbiage sounded like a veiled reference to his more aggressive wording of the original city refugee resolution, where he referred to those who disagreed with him as using racist and discriminatory terms and conjured up images of Nazi Germany, the KKK, internment camps, etc. If you missed this document before it was voted down, there are many screen captures available, as well has the mayor’s doubling down on the name calling on his personal Facebook page calling for all supporters of “religious and ethnic tolerance” to come and support the city, thereby labeling those who were against the pro-Syrian refuge resolution as people with no ethnic and/or religious tolerance. Although he deleted the post, there are numerous screen captures available.
Before the haters get ramped up and assume I am for housing discrimination, allow me to enlighten you. I am an enthusiastic fair housing supporter but the timing of this resolution as well as the line in the sand the current and former mayors have drawn between themselves and those they label as intolerant if they disagree with their policies does tend to make me very suspicious, particularly when I have neither read nor heard anything about any problems in this city regarding discrimination in housing. I said it before and I’ll say it again. Trust and respect are earned and so far, I have experienced nothing that would indicate any changes in the mayor’s attitude. (Note, to date there is no copy of this “Fair Housing” resolution on the city website so I cannot quote it verbatim but you can view the first part of the video if you want to hear it).
One Complaint So We Must Regulate
The council breezed through the consent calendar, approving $1 million plus in costs and quickly approved the sub-lease of the Senior Center. They then moved on to a lengthy discussion regarding regulations of amplified music from street performers. The city attorney, Scot Campbell, provided a history of street performers in the city. He then told the council about a complaint from 2015 regarding a musician using an amplifier through his vehicle that precipitated this revision in the ordinance.
Campbell gave information regarding First Amendment issues, Supreme Court rulings and the codes of other communities regarding street musicians or buskers. He then presented his proposal to the change in code to regulate noise decibels in respect to street musicians. The mayor asked about more regulations, perhaps requiring consent from adjacent property owners. More discussion ensued. Councilman Camp asked how many complaints were received by the city regarding street musicians since they had been allowed in the city. Campbell responded, “One” and then a voice from the audience said, “It was me.” It was a well-needed moment of comic relief.
The police chief was asked how many decibel meters would be needed (there are none now) and what the cost would be. The cost was determined to be between $30.00 and $100.00 and “several” would need to be purchased. Councilwoman Williamson wanted to know if the decibel law would apply to the Live After Five program. Campbell cited a case regarding competing rights. The mayor interjected another question regarding further regulations, asking if a distance restriction could be added. When public comment was open, Jesse Warburton (forgive me if I misspelled the name), the street musician who had received the complaint regarding the amplifier, presented a proposal. The gist was some specific ideas for street performance (not just music) and the hope that Sandpoint would be a city that would attract talented people and in turn create a “vibrant street scene.” Jesse was eloquent and respectful as well as passionate. Patricia Walter, the Executive Director of the Panida asked if “asking for money would be restricted”. Campbell advised that this could not be restricted and reminded her that the city had an ordinance that deals with aggressive panhandling. A citizen wondered if this ordinance would affect jugglers and was told no. Tracy Lutrick proposed that perhaps some of the empty retail space downtown could be rented to musicians.
Councilman Camp noted that since the city had received only one complaint he was not in favor of the ordinance. The mayor responded by saying that “The spirit of the ordinance is to inspire and encourage” but that there should be preventative measures “to protect ourselves”. Councilman Camp again expressed his opposition, saying that some people don’t like what others wear on the streets, should we have an ordinance for that? Thank you Councilman Camp for being a voice of reason.
Councilman Snedden expressed his agreement with Councilman Camp but felt this addition to the ordinance was important. The mayor read the current code and then again began to ask about further regulations to add to it, (regulations regarding permission from adjacent properties, another restriction regarding permitted events or perhaps additional restrictions on place (allowing some areas and not others). Just as I was writing in my notes “more restrictions, more restrictions, more restrictions”, Councilman Camp said, “All I hear is restriction, restriction, restriction.”
Council finally voted on the code addition regarding decibel level restrictions. Councilman Camp was the sole “no” vote.
I always leave work in time to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the start of council meetings. As I sat in the front row (my regular seating preference), another man seated himself a few chairs from me. The City Administrator, Jennifer Stapleton, wandered around the room, chatting with her coworkers. She moved toward the first row of and introduced herself to the man. As they were exchanging pleasantries, I sat in my chair with a welcoming smile, interested to see if she would extend the same hospitality toward me. I’ve been attending meetings for months, seated in the front row directly behind her chair, quietly taking notes. Surely she would move two chairs down and greet me as well. If good manners wasn’t the impetus, perhaps it would be curiosity. Nope. Didn’t happen. Attending these meetings has the distinct feeling of High School , if you’re not in the “in crowd” you’ll be politely shunned, probably with the hope that you will be discouraged and go away. This stubborn, overworked small business, city property owning individual who has already been categorized as a bigot and a racist by our mayor has no intention of being frozen out. And there’s another reason I keep coming back, these folks are paid from monies taken from folks just like me.