May 22, 2013

Portland street artists pleased with modest rules

City councilors scale back a task force's tough approach, but those who perform with fire face new safety scrutiny.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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In this June 2012 file photo, Portland code enforcement officer Chuck Fagone talks with Tara Michaud about regulations for street vendors using city sidewalks. fter two years of debate, the City Council has backed off an effort to require street art sellers to register with the city, passing only modest new restrictions for street artists.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

Neighborhood Prosecutor Trish McAllister said she is still working on an enforcement plan with the fire department and code officers, who will be charged with enforcement.

The rule, which takes effect in 30 days, would give the city new powers to shut down street performers who are juggling or dancing with fire or blowing fire on public property -- activities, McAllister said, that have generated "a lot" of complaints in the past.

"That was the point -- to give the enforcement officials a tool to use when in their opinion they see something that is truly unsafe for the public," she said.

The Maine Fire Dancing Collective has been putting on performances most Fridays in Tommy's Park for the past five years without incident, said Elias Brenick, a Portland resident and collective co-founder.

Brenick said he was disappointed that the group was not consulted about the changes, since it has a history of working with local authorities to keep performers and audiences safe.

"We use well-defined safety protocols that have met with approval from city fire officials in the past," Brenick said. "We have also worked extensively and positively with the police to keep (our) performances safe and community-friendly."

Emilie Palmer, a fire performer and organizer, said she was unaware of the city's new rule until contacted by a reporter. Palmer lives in the Boston area, where such performances are illegal. Performers in the loose-knit collective come to Portland from all over the region and take safety precautions so no one gets injured, Palmer said.

"We'd like to do everything in our power to work with the city to allow this to continue to happen," she said.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings

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Today's poll: Street art vendors

Do you agree with how the Portland City Council resolved the debate over street art vendors?

Yes

No

View Results