What to know about the new Special Assembly Occupancies bill, and what to do about it

If nothing else, praise Councilman Mark Squilla for giving musicians at their day jobs today a little something to get them through hump day.

Since this morning, people have been storming social media over an article published by Billy Penn announcing the Special Assembly Occupancies bill Squilla introduced last week.

It reads an awful lot like the proposed ordinance in 2010 that would have require registration for every live music event in the city, and outlines the requirements of venues for lawful assembly for entertainment, most of them obvious and humdrum.

But, as Billy Penn noted, buried in it lies a disturbing provision: Essentially, the bill would require every venue in the city to provide police with the names, addresses and phone numbers of every performer on a given night. You can read the bill yourself here, with that part coming up on page 8:

Bill No. 160016 Amending Section 9-703 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled “Special Assembly Occupancies

Parsing through the legalese reveals just how extensive, and crippling, this ordinance would be if it passes: any establishment where more than 50 people congregate for “social entertainment” as rarely as “once a year” will fall under its provisions. It shows just how out of touch the bill is with the realities of the dozens of small venues in the city book three to five bands a night, sometimes seven nights a week, often on little more than an email, text or phone call. That’s on top of the potential to crack down on house shows, one-off events, and other creative endeavors.

The sheer number of people who’d need to be logged, let alone the chances of a band’s lineup changing before a show, makes it a logistical nightmare. Ron Bauman, co-owner of Connie’s Ric Rac in South Philly, weighed in on the matter. The issue will also be a major talking point at tonight’s weekly music scene roundtable and happy hour tonight. Here’s his take on it:
“It’s hard enough doing what we do at venues to support the local music scene. Booking shows, promoting them, coordinating all the details for the event with the bands; Now I have to worry about this? And what liability do we have as a venue if we don’t get the info from the bands? Is it now a requirement of booking? I can’t see how this helps anybody involved. If you want to prevent problematic shows from happening, find them on Facebook like everyone else and reach out to the venue and/or promoter for shows you take issue with.”

It’s still too early to say just what the motivation is behind the bill, especially since the police and Squilla’s office aren’t very forthcoming. Is it just a misguided, tone-deaf idea? A political stunt for attention? An attempt to give the police enough reach to circumvent normal procedures? A diversion for something else in the works?

Derek Dorsey from the Philadelphia music venue The Fire had this to say:

Even when you gloss over the logistical impracticality of this particular piece of legislation, passing a law like this would be nailing a letter onto the front door of every starving artist in the city and informing them they’ve gone hungry for absolutely nothing.
 And here’s a few comments from the musicians around Philadelphia:

Mr. Squilla, the proposed bill is both an invasion of privacy amongst musicians local and abroad that perform in our city as well as a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars. Our police force is already stretched to its limits without needing to enforce this misguided policy. To expose private information like this is wrong and inappropriate. Violence in this city is not incited through the artists of this community but by numerous other issues such as a rampant drug trade, dilapidated housing, lack of funds for education and any number of other factors, and this proposed bill will do nothing but allow the police force to shut down performances that they deem “unsuitable” based on a criteria of prejudice and misinformation. If “no specific acts created this issue” and you have concerns about artists who “have been known to have created incidents and violence at their previous acts,” reach out to those artists directly. We, the musicians of this city, will not stand for this. ~Pat Durkin

Mr. Squilla has proposed an idea so insulting, so preposterous, that we in bong hits for Jesus are going to do every thing we can to impregnate all the women in his family. End quote ~ Stephen Rose

“It’s an idiotic attempt to violate musician’s civil liberties and encroach on the basic rights guaranteed to all citizens in the Bill of Rights, specifically amendments 4, 5, and 6 most blatantly. It won’t pass, but we have a responsibility to speak out against wasteful legislation and attempts to infringe on our rights.” ~ Reverend TJ McGlinchey

“The only lasting defense we have against this bill and all other legislation seeking to undermine freedom is to demand respect for private property and a business owners right to deny government encroachment. The problem is we’ve already given City Hall authority to regulate business as it sees fit without regard to private property as a principle, which gives them the power to arbitrarily expand their power at will. If government is good at one thing, it is growing and controlling more in society.” -Andrew Napoli, Looseleaf Trio

Squilla’s also taking more of a PR hit, as other publications are again reporting his involvement in a “White Lives Matter” rally in South Philly last summer. That’s being paired with conjecture that a shooting after a rap concert outside the TLA last year is what inspired the bill, or at least the provision to provide law enforcement with entertainers’ information.

The shooting theory is based on what little response the police and Squilla’s office has given about why the bill was created. Combining that with the “White Lives Matter” protest is, for some, painting Squilla as possibly a racist who’s really out to squash just one certain type of music in the city with an encompassing bill.

Gashouse, and, we’re sure, plenty others, will continue reporting on this. In the meantime, a public outcry could go a long way. It certainly helped the last time a measure like this came up. Here are a few ways to voice your opinion about Bill No. 160016 Amending Section 9-703 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled “Special Assembly Occupancies,” before the bill goes to a vote.

We recommend providing well-thought-out statements, and not mailing your snot to public officials like The Fugs did back in ‘67. But, if you’re pissed off and have a sinus infection, who are we to stop you?
special assembly occupanciesContact Mark Squilla directly at:
www.phlcouncil.com/MarkSquilla

City Hall, Room 332
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
(215) 686-3458, (215) 686-3459
FAX: (215) 686-1931
Twitter: @CMMarkSquilla

Call L&I chair Maria Quinonez at 215 686 3448

You can also let your own local councilperson know your thoughts on the matter. Find them here: http://phlcouncil.com/council-members/

 

Finally, if you’d like to discuss this further, join us at the RonBomb Music Scene Networking Happy Hour tonight 7-9pm at Connie’s Ric Rac