Frustrated by busking bylaw, Kelowna councillor threatens musical disobedience | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Frustrated by busking bylaw, Kelowna councillor threatens musical disobedience

Kelowna city councillor Ryan Donn is pictured in this file photo. Frustrated by what he called the "dumbest bylaw process ever", Donn vowed in an online post last night, March 27, 2018, to busk on downtown streets without a license, daring bylaw officers to give him a ticket.
Image Credit: Shawn Talbot
March 27, 2018 - 11:00 AM

KELOWNA - Frustrated by what he called the "dumbest bylaw process ever", Kelowna city councillor Ryan Donn vowed in an online post last night to busk on downtown streets without a license, daring bylaw officers to give him a ticket.

But Donn, an accomplished musician himself, had already changed the details of his protest several times by Tuesday morning, March 27, and said he’s is having second thoughts about his threatened civil disobedience.

“I prefer to be calm and level headed when making decisions and not let emotion get in the way, but obviously this one got to me,” Donn said.

The biggest change is the requirement for all buskers to be licensed after an audition by Festivals Kelowna, a process Donn says is untenable.

“I ran the program for five years, we never once said no to anybody,” he said “Explain to me how they are going to judge who gets a permit? The market should decide who gets a permit by how many coins they drop in their hat.”

Donn said the program has 18 busk stops where an estimated 85 buskers can set up shop, 16 of them downtown and he estimates there is room for about 10 more.

"The issue is the lack of staff capacity at Festivals Kelowna to add more just as they head into their busiest season," Donn said.

Added to that, since he helped choose the busk stops over five years ago, only a few of the stops have since proven to be financially viable.

“I would suggest there are maybe four good spots,” Donn says. “We created an issue yesterday because there are not enough places to play.”

He says the restrictions on buskers runs counter to the revitalization of Bernard Avenue, which is where the best busk stops are located and where he says there is room for more.

“Part of the whole widening of Bernard Avenue sidewalks was so we could accommodate buskers,” Donn says.

Donn was also critical of the bylaw amendment process where councillors saw proposed changes and additions for the first time at Monday’s public meeting.

“We were trying to assess on the fly what the impact would be,” Donn said. “We were essentially seeing it for the first time.”

That format lead to a long fractious debate where councillors put forth their sometimes-competing concerns about the amendments.

In the end, the package of amendments, which also included significant changes to the panhandling bylaw, was narrowly approved in a 5-3 vote.

This story was updated 11:42 a.m. Tuesday, March 27, 2018 to correct information about the availability of busk stops.


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