Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Music, The Mayor And The Monarchy

    The music in this case is generally not music. It is the aimless, repetitive banging away on a piano keyboard, a piano provided by the non-profit charitable organization Music For Everyone as part of the Keys for the City exhibit. Even if the person at the keyboard were playing a concerto by Beethoven or Prokofiev, the fact that it is unwanted by me in my space renders it an unwarranted intrusion. I want to choose what I listen to and be able to turn it off when I wish.

    From the Music For Everyone website:

             The objective of Keys for the City is to provide access to musical opportunity,
             foster creativity and build a sense of community among the public and, in the process,
             raise awareness for local music and visual arts education initiatives.

    How can disturbing the peace pounding away aimlessly on a piano keyboard at 3 o'clock in the morning on a city corner foster anything but animosity?

    This banging away often begins early in the day and continues well into the night past the legal limit on certain sounds. Therein lies the rub. Even though the city has a noise ordinance, the mayor himself has directed the Lancaster City Police to


                            (That information came to me from an impeccable source.)

From the Lancaster City Code:

                Chapter 198 Noise

                    198-1 Purpose

            The Council, finding that excessive levels of sound are detrimental
            to the physical, mental and social well-being of the residents
            as well as to their comfort, living conditions, general welfare and safety,
            and being therefore a public health and welfare hazard,
            hereby declares it to be necessary to provide for the greater control and
            more effective regulation of excessive sound and the sources of
            excessive sound within the City.
                    198-4 Prohibited Acts; Violations

            B. Specific prohibitions. The following acts and the causing thereof
            are declared to be noise disturbances and therefore in violation of this chapter:
            (1) Radios, television sets, musical instruments and similar devices.
            Operating, playing or permitting the operation or playing of any radio,
            television, phonograph, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier, automobile radio,                         automobile stereo, high-fidelity equipment or similar device which produces,
            reproduces or amplifies sound: (a) At any time in such a manner as to cause a
            noise disturbance across a property line (boundary),
            or between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. so as to be plainly audible
            across a property line (boundary); [emphasis added by this writer]


        Any sound which annoys or disturbs humans or which causes or tends to cause
        an adverse psychological or physiological effect on humans.
        In addition to the sounds specified in §198-4B hereof, any sound which ...
        B. Annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities...

   From the Lancaster City Code:

                Part I,
                Chapter 55,
                Part V (Mayor),
                 §55-18 Powers and Duties,
                sub-paragraph I,
        It is the duty of the mayor to:

         "Cause the enforcement of all city laws, codes and ordinances."

    Nothing I was able to find in the city ordinances or the statutes of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allows a mayor to violate his own city ordinances.

    Reputedly, the mayor has said the pianos elevate the cultural status of the city and bring much needed money to the city. What suburbanites will drive to the center of Lancaster at three in the morning to hear some drunk pounding on a keyboard when the only place open at that hour to spend money would be an over-priced convenience store.

    The unanswered questions are: Can the mayor of a third class city ignore existing ordinances with impunity? Is the mayor pretending to be the king of a not-so-benevolent monarchy? Who decides which ordinances are to be enforced and which will be ignored and of those there are many — lined parking spaces; one vehicle per space; pedestrian crossing protections; speed limits; other violations of the noise ordinances.

    Are we a nation of laws, a city of laws or are we an anarchy?
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