Monday, August 11, 2014

Turning artists into beggars (ft. Aladdin)

Gwyddion Storm is an enterprising guy I used to chat with while walking past Borders. You can read the Ann Arbor News story about his "professional beggar"days from back in 2011. After a while he switched from panhandling to selling jewelry made of beautiful stones wrapped in copper wire.

I got this one a while ago for my mom

But apparently somebody has complained about him selling his stuff. Must have been some regulation-obsessed cat lady/dude, since Gwyddion doesn't bother anybody and is very careful to not obstruct foot traffic.
But now the city won't let him sell his goods without a permit and, guess what? He can't afford a permit, so he's back to panhandling in the exact location where he used to set up shop. And while I'm not opposed to non-aggressive panhandling, everyone should have the option of earning money in a way they feel leaves their dignity intact.

You know there's a structural problem when city rules are designed to turn artists into beggars. The great leaders of the city gave immensely unsatisfying responses, basically saying that it's a shame, but there's nothing to be done. That's just the rules!

Is anyone else reminded of the scene in Aladdin where our favorite street rat has defeated the bad guy and has Jasmine simpering all over him, but the lovebirds realize that they can't marry, since despite his bravery and shirtlessness poor Al is still not a prince? And after frowning a bit the the sultan realizes that he's the sultan, of course, so he can change the rules! A nice little deus ex machina to bring the the story to its necessary conclusion.
Sorry, dude, rules are rules

So, to the Ann Arbor city council members: you're the council, of course! Municipal ordinances are meant to serve the people, to keep them safe. They are meant to change based on changing circumstances and needs. Ann Arbor now has a need for an affordable mechanism for licensing street artists. If the city's leaders brush this aside, they are succumbing to obstructive legalism and ignoring their responsibility to the city and its people.

Meanwhile, Gwyddion's gonna be on that corner with his cardboard sign, waiting.

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