Monday, August 07, 2006


I had a nice chat with Michael Combs of the Santa Fe Buskers last night. He told me that on Wednesday the City Council will consider his group's proposal to allow musicians to play for tips on downtown Santa Fe streets.

He told me that local government first got interested in restricting street entertainment back in the 1800s. Something about Mexican acrobats performing downtown. (Sounds like an insurance nightmare.)

I first met Michael about 20 years ago when I was covering City hall for the Journal North and he was leading a one-man fight for his right to pick his tunes downtown. His opponents were downtown merchants who seemed to be in great fear that street musicians would somehow scare away affluent tourists. "Gee I'd like to buy that $15,000 sculpture, but I just gave my last buck to a guy singing Bob Dylan songs up the street ..."

Combs lost that battle in the 80s. But he didn't give up. (And indeed, some of his opponents blew out of town long ago. I assume they managed to go broke without the help of street singers.)

I think it's obvious where my sympathies lie. Here's what the S.F. Buskers argue:

1. Santa Fe prides itself and markets itself on its orientation to the arts and culture. Busking is another wonderful artistic, cultural outlet and phenomenon that is an integral part of many great cities.

2. Busking will enliven the streets of downtown Santa Fe and help draw locals and tourists alike to the downtown area. This builds community.

3. Local musicians benefit from an additional source of income, and Santa Fe benefits in turn by having a better music scene.

I just snapped the above picture of a busker in Boulder, Colorado's Pearl Street Mall last week. This guy didn't seem to be driving away commerce there. Take a deep breath, Santa Fe shopkeeps. The empire won't crumble over a few guys with a few bucks in their guitar cases.

So check out the web site for Santa Fe Buskers . Note the proposed code of conduct and see exactly what Combs and crew are asking for.

And if you can, show up at City Hall about 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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