The planned creation of a Boardwalk Regulation Task Force is what should be the first step toward Ocean City taking another shot at regulating street performers.
Officials learned the hard way last summer that they cannot simply allow the federal court ruling on a case challenging the town’s street performer regulations to be the final say on the matter. They can’t let the disgraceful free-for-all continue on the Boardwalk.
Unfortunately, Ocean City was too aggressive in its approach to street performers years ago when it shot too far with its regulations. When challenged in court, the restrictions the city passed were found to be unconstitutional. Therefore, after spending thousands of dollars on the legal battle, the city was left without regulations whatsoever on street performers. That led to a pole dancer setting up shop on the Boardwalk this past summer, embarrassing the city and its businesses. She has maintained she will be back this summer and other similar acts will probably follow.
Ocean City cannot simply sit back and do nothing. This task force is a good first step toward finding some sort of happy medium that will govern street performers while not stripping them of their First Amendment rights. The resolution creating this task force says as much this week. It reads, “the Mayor and City Council are working towards enacting laws regulating conduct on the Boardwalk that will not offend the First Amendment but take into account needs of various constituencies, including the street performers.”
Currently, nobody is happy with the street performer scene on the Boardwalk. Veteran street performers, including those who challenged the town’s former regulations and won in court, are unhappy because their crafts are being cheapened by other non-professionals, such as the costumed characters.
The Ocean City Police Department is frustrated because it basically can do nothing to stop street performers from setting up wherever they like and doing whatever they please.
The town’s elected and staff officials are embarrassed because they have to deal with the complaints from the general public. They are being made a mockery of by the less wholesome and ill-intended types, such as the pole dancer.
The Boardwalk businesses are disgusted by the visual pollution caused by the street performers as well as the unfair competition of many who are selling their goods and taking sales from them while not having the same overhead expenses associated with legitimate, tax-paying operations.
Something has to change and the answer is in finding some regulations that will hit a compromise for all parties involved. Good luck to the five- or seven-member task force in reaching this goal. The work is critical because change is needed on the Boardwalk before the coming season.