6 Times City Council Tried to Screw with Our Fun

Fiorillo: From banning skateboarding to the new Promoter's Bill, Council really knows how to ruin a good time.
Photos like this one from Union Transfer make our legislators' hair stand on end. (Photo courtesy Dan Long Photography)

Photos like this one from Union Transfer make our legislators’ hair stand on end. (Photo courtesy Dan Long Photography)

There’s nothing like a group of municipal lawmakers to ruin a good time, and Philadelphia’s City Council seems to be especially well versed in the art. Here are six ways that our elected officials have tried to mess with our leisure-time activity, starting in 2000 and rolling right through this week:

Thou Shall Not Rock and Roll

Sometimes, a terrible City Council idea goes away, never to be heard from again. And other times, it returns, like a hacking winter cough that you thought you shook a week ago. Such is the case with the Promoter’s Bill.

In 2010, Councilmen Darrell Clarke and Bill Greenlee introduced Bill No. 100267, which sought to force promoters — whether they were promoting a DJ night at Silk City, a DIY concert in West Philly, a comedy night at Raven Lounge, or a touring artist at the TLA — to register with the city and to notify the police of each show no more than 30 days before the event. Every event. They also wanted promoters to tell the city how much they were paying the venues. After pretty much every person in the city under the age of 30 became outraged at this suggestion, the idea basically went away. Well, until this week.

Let us introduce you to our little friend: Bill 160016. Different number. Same stupid fucking idea, more or less. Earlier this week, word came that Councilman Mark Squilla wanted to require all promoters to apply for special licenses, and he also said that all performers should register their names and other personal information if they want the privilege of getting on stage here. Now that his idea has gone viral, he appears to be backtracking a bit, so who knows where this is going to end up? We can just see it now. Finally, the Led Zeppelin reunion happens, and before the band is allowed to play at Citizens Bank Park, Squilla asks, “But Mr. Page, what is your home address these days?”

Thou Shall Not Skateboard

Nothing gets under the skin of the buttoned-up squares in City Hall like a kid on a skateboard, and there’s a long, long history of bureaucratic handwringing over the scourge. Even “progressive” Michael Nutter — back in 2000 when he was on City Council — proposed a bill to abolish the four-wheeled terrors from public spaces. The bill eventually passed 14-3. Yes, fourteen of our City Council members were so horrified by our little Tony Hawk wannabes that they agreed to make a law to get rid of them. Bravo.

Thou Shall Not Facebook

In 2010, a large group of unruly youths barreled through Center City causing widespread carnage — or at least some vandalism, bruises and a snowball fight — and launching an all-out “flash mob” panic from old white people everywhere. Two of those old white people were then-City Councilman Frank DiCicco and City Councilman-turned-mayor Jim Kenney. When reports emerged that the punks might have used social media to organize their blitzkrieg, this dynamic duo came up with the brilliant idea to take Facebook and Twitter to court, no doubt eliciting snickers from great legal minds everywhere. The idea never got off the ground.

Thou Shall Not Bicycle

We agree that listening to your tunes while riding a bike around our busy streets isn’t exactly Einstein-level thinking, but in 2009, Kenney sought to increase the fine for doing so from $3 (which, yeah, is a stupidly low number) to $300, which seemed a bit high. Council eventually settled on a maximum fine of $100. Oh, and you could go to jail for 10 days. Seriously.

Not to be outdone, DiCicco decided that anyone over the age of 12 who wanted to ride a bike in the city would have to register — and pay $20 to do so, of course. What is it with these politicians and their registries? Don’t they know that most of us have read 1984? Long story short, there is no bike registry.

Thou Shall Not Smoke Blunts

Longtime Philadelphia legislator Brian O’Neill had it up to here with people buying blunts and using them to smoke the wacky weed, so he introduced a bill that prohibited stores from selling them. Believe it or not, his distinguished colleagues on City Council agreed with him unanimously, and Mayor John Street signed it into law in 2007. One year later, a court overturned the ban, and you can now walk into any Wawa and buy your blunts. The city hasn’t imploded. Yet.

Thou Shall Not Be a Chicken Farmer

Once upon a time, Philadelphia residents were allowed to keep chickens at their homes, enjoying the benefits of farm-fresh (or at least backyard-fresh) eggs, not to mention the companionship of the animals, which actually make really good pets. But then a miserly old Republican — bluntophobe O’Neill again — decreed that the peasants throughout the land would no longer be permitted to raise chickens. Twelve years later, with most major cities in the country allowing urban chicken farming, Philadelphia still says no. What the cluck?