City of Houston residents, police officers, musicians and promoters have all been plagued by ambiguous language in the city Noise Ordinance. For many years the language in the city statute has lacked clear, objective criteria for what constitutes a noise violation. Consequently, businesses who host live music and their neighbors have been locked in a seemingly endless of tug of war with Houston Police Officers stuck in the middle. City Council is now considering revisions to the existing statute which will further confound all parties involved by asking officers to make arbitrary judgements with their own ears as opposed to equipment rooted in science. The proposed revisions would allow officers to write tickets for alleged violations without a Decibel or LEF ( Low frequency effect ) meter reading. This would be comparable to forcing officers to write speeding tickets based upon what they see as opposed to using their radar for concrete, objective readings of speed. Officers and courts would have a difficult time enforcing such laws. Importantly, there are questions as to whether the proposed revisions are constitutionally sound as the regulated community may often not know if they are violating the law or not. Lawyers would have a field day fighting these cases. However, an objective and concise criteria in the law would help residents, musicians, and police officers alike. Organizers and musicians would have a clear understanding of compliance with the law and residents could demand accountability. The proposed revisions have the potential to strangle and possibly exile Houston’s burgeoning music and arts community. Countless historic Houston music venues and festivals have resided in residential areas for several decades. Under the proposed revisions, someone could potentially end the music and dancing at the beloved Greek Festival with a single phone call. A downtown resident could stop a world-touring music artist at International Festival despite the fact that they have a sound permit issued by the City. Historic venues like Rudyard’s, Fitzgerald’s, and Last Concert, who have hosted myriad touring musical acts of the highest caliber, could be a thing of the past. Local musicians would be left with few if any places to perform. On a smaller but just as important level, family events like Quinceanaras and weddings which are often based around music would be stifled. Houston’s musical heritage and future are at stake with this. Let’s all urge City Council to create objective, VERIFIABLE, and enforceable laws which benefit residents, musicians, and police officers. Let’s open a comprehensive dialogue with ALL parties involved and find effective, scientific solutions.
We ask anyone who has a stake in this to come to Houston City Council Open Session on Tuesday October 11th 2pm at City Hall or write to City Council.