Eastern Market To Permit Political Petitioning Pending Implementation of New Policy

Open For Political Petitioning

Open For Political Petitioning

Eastern Market To Permit Political Petitioning Pending Implementation of New Policy

Issue Exposes Tension Between Petitioners and Vendors

by Larry Janezich

Wednesday night, Eastern Market manager Barry Margeson told the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC), that a draft policy regarding the rules and regulations for “everybody who is on our space” was currently under review by ​city lawyers and the new policy takes effect, Eastern Market will permit political petitioning​.  It was unclear whether petitioners will be restricted to a certain area or areas under the Market’s control.

Until the draft policy is made public, it is also unclear what other changes will be made and how it will address the complaints of the sellers of the newspaper Street Sense,​ who in recent months have been banned from vending on 7th Street between Pennsylvania and North Carolina Avenues. SE.  One seller who was present Wednesday night, Conrad Cheek, Jr., complained he sold Street Sense near Eastern Market until he was “kicked off the corner.”  Cheek claims the restrictions have cost him one-third of his income, and vowed to appear on his old corner near the market this weekend; “I will be here selling my paper​,​”​ he told the EMCAC meeting, hinting that he has consulted a lawyer.​

Broadening the policy to permit – (at least) political petitioning – will not come without some grumbling by the Eastern Market street vendors who view the petitioners and other vendors as problematic because they interfere with access to their businesses.  Artist Joe Snyder who operates a stand on 7th Street on weekends said petitioning is a distraction for vendors.  Vendor Anita Jefferson said petitioners impede traffic and thus impede public safety.

The petitioning issue illustrates some of the multi-dimensional tensions that exist between Eastern Market and the community which are being addressed in a piecemeal fashion, speaking to the need for a new stronger market governing structure to better coordinate the resolution of problems as the Market moves forward in a more competitive environment which is characterized by a changing demographic.

The outside vendors contribute substantially to the financial stability of the market, but often fail to acknowledge the sacrifices the community makes in order to provide them with space to operate – e.g., the closing of 7th Street – and the parking difficulties nearby residents encounter on weekends as the market becomes more of a destination rather than a walk-to food outlet.  And although a more rigorous enforcement of the parking policy in the spaces between the market and the natatorium has made more parking available to shoppers on weekends, the inside merchants are not convinced that the closing of 7th Street to accommodate street vendors has worked to their benefit.  ANC6B is currently working with DDOT to develop a parking policy to help protect weekend parking for residents close to Eastern Market.

ANC6B Commissioner Ivan Frishberg said that the petitioning issue went beyond leaving it up to lawyers who can find a way to defend anything, noting “this is our town square.”  He said “we don’t want anything promulgated without EMCAC and ANC(6B) review.”  Frischberg said he would like to see the draft policy at the next meeting (which won’t come until near the end of September).  Margeson agreed to refer the draft policy to the ANC.

The petitioning issue received city-wide attention owing to a recent news report by WRC/NBC TV reporter Tom Sherwood who witnessed the prevention of political petitioning on space controlled by Eastern Market.

Sherwood not only tweeted about it but called the Mayor’s Office, Council Member Tommy Wells’ office, and the Department of General Services.  He subsequently received assurances from DSG that they had no intention of banning political petitioning at the market.

You can see Sherwood’s report here: http://bit.ly/1pjFIMx  and CHC’s post on the issue here:  http://bit.ly/1oRvLEC


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9 responses to “Eastern Market To Permit Political Petitioning Pending Implementation of New Policy

  1. Karl

    If it’s just to help our do-nothing politicians, I see no need to permit petitioning.

  2. It would a misunderstanding of the comments made by outside Eastern Market vendors at this particular meeting and also the general attitude of farmers and arts/crafts vendors, to say we oppose political petitioners, Girls Scouts or Street Sense people at the Market. The only thing we oppose is loud or intrusive hawking; in fact, we have long enforced a ban on hawking among ourselves. The sort of verbal assaults that may be charming in souk somewhere else in the world, for better or worse, make people uncomfortable here. Whatever you may think of our American proxemics, we have found that discomfort to repeatedly to be the result of hawking. For an artist, it is a relief to know that you can sell your work based on the its quality rather than the persistence of your tone of voice.

    I personally welcome all to the Market, and until the recent brouhaha, all have coexisted pretty well. Civil coexistence and reasonable boundaries the purported goal of the forthcoming policy. Goals that we all can support.

    I would go on to question this blogs presumption that somehow a pedestrian 7th Street, a destination, and a walk-to food market are somehow in conflict; they are not; but I will save that for our next “grumbling” session. Finally, I would have to say that various public debates surrounding the market are not the sign of impending drama in the market governance, but are, in fact, healthy steps toward resolution those multi-dimesional issues and increased competition alluded to in this blog.

  3. Hill Feller

    Please, please, please do anything that you can to shut up Mr. Cheek (famous for his very loud pitch, “Get YOUR new EHHHHHHDITION of Street Sense! Because HOOOOOOMELESS ISN’T HELPLESS…” which he uses at the top of the Eastern Market metro escalator almost daily).

    I am totally fed up with loud Street Sense vendors who use the pretext of selling a paper to ask for handouts. The vendors are now seemingly everywhere and navigating around them and listening to their pitch is becoming unbearable.

    This is not a First Amendment issue. This is a “you don’t have a right to loudly beg for handouts wherever you want” issue.

    • Basil

      Are you kidding? I love that guy!

    • Protect the First Amendment

      Actually, this is quintessentially a First Amendment issue. What other types of (non-amplified) expression that you might deem bothersome would you seek to regulate or even prohibit in public space used principally for private commercial purposes? Banning petitioning or even requiring a permit on a public sidewalk because it is purportedly a distraction for vendors or somehow impedes pedestrians? Absolutely preposterous, at least in terms of First Amendment jurisprudence. Remember, a majority of justices only recently affirmed that corporate political donations are a form of protected speech. I would argue that sidewalk vendors present far more of a pedestrian obstacle than Mr. Cheeks, who cheerfully greets me and my children each time we encounter him.


      • Hill Feller

        I’m not a lawyer but I don’t think somebody has the right to loudly vend / ask for handouts wherever they want. Would you mind if he did that every day inside your office? Surely the noise pollution / nuisance of having that guy take over the soundscape of an entire area is enough justification for some kind of limit.

        As for his cheerful greetings, he gives me and my family the creeps and the one time I stopped and talked to him he reeked of gin in violation of Street Sense vending rules.

      • TheGrassIsAlwaysGreener

        Let me try to clear up your apparent confusion, Mr. Feller. My office is not a public forum. So-called time, place and manner restrictions can pass constitutional muster in certain limited circumstances (e.g., after 10 PM, using electronic amplification, etc.) not applicable here. However annoying and distasteful you may find panhandling, it is constitutionally protected activity and cannot be limited by a DC Protective Services officer with a decibel meter.

  4. A Market Regular

    What if individuals with commercial or political interests had to also pay a modest fee like the vendors do, to occupy the space?

    I’ll admit to being willing to support almost anything that would get rid of the recorder playing guy repeating the same refrains from the Beatles and Seal for 8 hours straight.

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