Sean Watterson 
Member since Oct 6, 2011

Recent Comments

Re: “13 Reasons 2012 Was Cleveland's Best Year Ever

...and city council voted unanimously for admissions tax reform after the city's music clubs banded together to make the case for supporting live local music, and the musicians and music fans spoke out in support.

11 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Sean Watterson on 12/26/2012 at 7:01 PM

Re: “Ever Want to Shoot LeBron? A Cautionary Tale...

Just checking - it's still ok to hate on Peyton Hillis for laying an egg and pouting over his contract after Clevelanders voted him on the cover of Madden, right? He's white, so that's not racist...

10 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Sean Watterson on 12/15/2011 at 10:19 AM

Re: “The Truth About The "Footloose Act" Music Legislation That Everyone Is Worried About

Scene, I'm disappointed that your take on this issue is as oversimplified and misleading as the uproar that was created in the most recent news cycle. The laws do need updating, but there are serious problems in the initial draft of the bill.

There are bars, restaurants and yes, even nightclubs, based on the legal definition of the term, in areas zoned 'general retail districts' that are not operating illegally under the outdated laws - do your homework and don't assume everyone is operating in a local retail district.

This bill lumps general retail districts in with local districts and throws them both into the new 'conditional use' regime because the default position in the bill is that no amplified music is allowed unless the zoning board approves it first through a conditional use permit. The conditions outlined in the bill are all weighted in favor of making sure the applicant has no negative impact on any neighbor - none of the conditions require the zoning board to consider any positive impacts the applicant might have on the neighborhood, including job creation, increased tax revenue and the ability to attract more businesses and residents to the neighborhood.

There are absolutely no restrictions on the conditions the zoning board can impose (restrictions on hours, requirements to make unlimited investments in soundproofing), and there is nothing in the bill that allows for any appeals from or challenges to the zoning board's decisions.

The bill creates new responsibilities (read financial liabilities) for activity outside of bars, restaurants and nightclubs, including providing security in parking lots and cleaning sidewalks in the middle of the night. The parking lot provisions make it much easier for people to sue bar owners for anything that happens in a parking lot - dented fenders, stolen cars, harassment from panhandlers - by codifying the owners responsibility for ensuring safety. Safety on the streets is the job of the police, not the business owners.

Business owners in some districts have taken the initiative to create business improvement districts by agreeing to pay more property taxes to fund safety and maintenance services beyond the services the city currently provides. These services are spread out throughout the district, with security during daytime and evening hours, and maintenance during the day. If bar and restaurant owners are forced to pay for dedicated security for their parking lots and are forced to pay maintenance crews to clean their sidewalks in the middle of the night, there is no incentive to participate in these new business improvement districts. By tailoring this bill to the offenses of the worst clubs and the most disagreeable neighbors, one of the many unintended side effects will be to punish the businesses and neighborhoods that don't have the problems that drove this overhaul.

The bill also doubles the fees on all permits (and there are many permits licenses and fees the city and state impose). The defenders will say, "well it's not really that much more money." Well that's what we hear when we get hit with the 8% admissions tax, the music licensing fees, sin taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes and property taxes (we don't generally worry about income taxes, because after all of the taxes, fees and operating expenses, there is very little, if any profit left to tax).

The defenders of the bill also point to meetings that were held in some parts of the city in the run up to the drafting of the bill. If those meetings had been effectively communicated to all the relevant stakeholders, the defenders might have a point, but it is abundantly clear that many of the city's stakeholders weren't aware of those initial meetings.

The defenders of the bill might be stinging from the criticism of the first draft of the bill, but the truth is, the attention that's been drawn to the bill has opened up the debate over the bill to a much broader set of stakeholders, and will hopefully lead to better bill that balances ALL of the stakeholders interests and concerns, not just the concerns of those who managed the process leading up to the first draft.

Posted by Sean Watterson on 10/06/2011 at 10:48 AM


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