John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Salem has had it up to here with inept jazz musicians. Also outlawed recently: noisy electronica in Santa Cruz, payday lenders in Iowa and the entire vice squad of Salt Lake City.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (last week's edition here):
THE VICE SQUAD, IN SALT LAKE CITY
The chief of police in SLC has basically banished his vice squad from existence, after detectives in at least three cases became "too close to the alleged prostitutes they were investigating," according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The cops are in hot water for violating a police policy, for some reason enacted only a year ago, that states law enforcement should not get it on with escorts. In an excuse that he probably now regrets, one of the vice officers complained that he had no choice but to motorboat a suspect: She had him pinned on the floor, and "I kissed her breasts and nipples, as there was no place for my face to go." The police department is still investigating sex crimes, but plans to build a different kind of vice unit in the future.
SAXOPHONES, IN SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS
Ears ringing from a truly awful jazz concert, officials in this Boston satellite city came this close to passing a ban on saxophones. The saga of how a single, tone-deaf street performer almost sparked an iron-fisted crackdown on the world's second-most-ridiculous wind instrument (seriously, there's one called a "Goofus"?) is entertainingly detailed in the Salem News, which quotes the city solicitor as saying, "I never realized how loud a saxophone could actually go." The offending musician had staked out a pedestrian mall and was playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" over and over again, leading citizens to bombard city hall with furious phone calls. However, the Salem Licensing Board opted not to add "no saxophones" to its new set of street-performer regulations after councilman Bob McCarthy pointed out that not all practitioners of the instrument are terrible. (McCarthy's kid plays the saxophone in the school band.)
PAYDAY LENDERS, IN AMES, IOWA
This community a little over 30 miles north of Des Moines has decided it doesn't want to deal with any more payday lenders. Its government recently passed a law that all but zones them out of town by preventing new ones opening near "schools, child care centers, parks and land zoned for residential purposes, the highway-oriented commercial or Gateway overlay zones, other payday lenders and any arterial street," according to the Ames Patch. Officials said that the businesses, which give pricey loans on customers' next paychecks, make neighborhoods seedy and dangerous; they quoted a study in Criminology & Public Policy that linked them with crime and lower property values.
A MUSICIAN CALLED “BASSNECTAR,” IN SANTA CRUZ
A musician called BASSNECTAR decided to ban himself from playing in this coastal California city after finding noise controls lacking at the city-owned venue he was to play at. BASSNECTAR, whose name conjures up fresh-squeezed fish juices, is the stage name of Lorin Ashton, who attended UC Santa Cruz and recently broke into Rolling Stone's Top 40 list with his album, "VaVa Voom." According to his website, BASSNECTAR plays high-energy electronica that "engulfs the senses" and "covers every genre imaginable and smashes it all into a synthesis of intense, wobbling basslines and hypnotic soundscapes." Dannettee Shoemaker, who runs the city's parks department, told the Mercury News that she was "personally really sorry it came down to this," and that "City staff is willing to meet with the promoter to see how we can accommodate BASSNECTAR in the future."
Enjoy some BASSNECTAR:
Top photo of lonely saxophone man, who is NOT the Salem musician talked about above, but is just some random dude, by vtgard.