If you are an arts advocate, please click here for actions you can take regarding the below open letter to Chattanooga City Council and Police Chief Roddy.

April 3, 2018

Dear Police Chief Roddy and members of the Chattanooga city council,
I'm writing to restate what I presented at last week's council meeting concerning the definition of panhandling in the proposed panhandling ordinance amendment.
Currently, Part II, Chattanooga City Code, Chapter 25, Article I, Section 25-45 under (a) Definitions (1) Panhandling states that 
“Panhandling” means any solicitation made in person requesting an immediate donation of money or other thing of value for oneself or another person or entity. Purchase of an item for an amount far exceeding its value, under circumstances in which a reasonable person would understand that the purchase is, in substance, a donation is a donation for the purpose of this section. Panhandling shall not include the act of passively standing or sitting, performing music, or singing with a sign or other indication that a donation is being sought but without any vocal request other than a response to an inquiry by another person.
I, along with hundreds of local Sidewalk Stages street musicians, music industry professionals and volunteers, would like to see the highlighted wording above remain in the new code, should you adopt the updated ordinance. I recommend the wording be inserted under section (i), related to "passive" panhandling.  I'm referring to this version of the code I downloaded from the Chattanooga Times Free Press website.
I am concerned that failure to explicitly exclude musical performance from the definition of panhandling would be a regressive step and could unnecessarily put law enforcement and street performers at odds with one another.
About Sidewalk Stages
Now at the beginning of its third year, Sidewalk Stages boasts nearly 800 annual performances, 35 of those just last Saturday as part of the highly successful Beats on the Blvd event. 
In 2017, we reached 210,000 people with live, local music in the streets, sidewalks, shopping centers, tourist attractions, and public transportation hubs of Chattanooga. We try to keep this program as accessible as possible for both performers and the public by activating places where people are. This program weaves our vibrant culture into the fabric of everyday life in Chattanooga, serving to increase tourism, attract top talent, and promote business acceleration, neighborhood revitalization, and economic development.
Sponsors and partners in the program include TVFCU, Warehouse Row, the Chattanooga Airport Authority, CBL & Associates (Hamilton Place Mall), River City Company, the Chattanooga Convention and Visitor's Bureau, the Northshore Merchants Association, the MLK Merchants Association, ArtsBuild, the TN Arts Commission, Erlanger Children's Hospital, the Benwood Foundation, the Lyndhurst Foundation, and the McKenzie Foundation.
To help performers understand best practices related to street performing, we publish the attached street performance guidelines. This ensures that Chattanooga's street musicians know how to operate well within bounds defined by existing laws.
Jack “Crazy Flute” Holland saved up the stipend money and tips and donations he made through his 2016 Sidewalk Stages performance so he could afford to produce his first professionally recorded CD of Native American flute music. SoundCorps was elated to see Crazy Flute's success as he was announced as a finalist in the 2017 Native American Music Awards for Best New Music Group. 
The above is just one story of many highlighting the value Sidewalk Stages brings to the diverse, vibrant local music community through musical street performance.
For a visual on our program, check out #SidewalkStages on Instagram.
Please do not inadvertently lump our street performers in with panhandlers and beggars by failing to exclude musicians from the definition of panhandling.
Thank you,

Stratton Tingle
Executive Director