The Healdsburg, California Planning Commission unanimously ruled last week against allowing a psychic business to move into the city’s downtown commercial district.
In a vote of 6-0, they decided against Mike Stevens’ application to establish his business in a former insurance office downtown.
According to pressdemocrat.com, the decision was at least partly based on the particular building Stevens wanted to work out of.
The building is primarily occupied by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other licensed practitioners, which as Planning and Building Director Barbara Nelson said, “psychics and palm readers are not”.
In addition, psychic businesses are not the type of industry Healdsburg is looking to develop. As Commissioner Phil Luks is quoted as saying, “It’s perhaps antithetical to the basic image we’re trying to project as a tourist town.”
Mike Stevens plans to appeal the decision to City Council.
Yay!! It’s election day today in the United States!
Though as a Canadian in Toronto, I won’t be participating in this particular democratic process, like much of the rest of the world, I’ll be watching with great interest to see how it unfolds.
And unlike the psychic squirrel in the CNN clip below, I’m not going to try to predict the outcome. I did, however, ask the cards what they had to say about getting out to vote (something I encourage all my American friends to do).
The card I got was the 3 of Pentacles.
In it, an artisan stands on a bench and displays his work for a priest and an architect. They, in turn, seem to be passing judgment on how well the artisan has been following the plans they hold in front of them.
Normally I see this card as describing a growing mastery in one’s work, where people in authority recognize and often reward the technical and spiritual skills of the querent.
Today though, when I look at this card, I’m thinking that the priest and the architect represent the two candidates, each trying to convince the worker to choose him.
The whole story is turned around a bit in the voting scenario, but the main theme of the card remains.
Mastery is still at issue, but now it is up to the artisan (or worker) to judge whose plans are best, and who should be rewarded with the mantle of leadership.
I think that the 3 of Pentacles is reminding us that getting out to vote is a practical and creative activity, where the average person gets a chance to help shape plans for the future.
Don’t miss the opportunity – if you’ve got a vote, use it!!
Per the proposal, fortune-telling businesses would only be permitted ‘in the I-1 Light Industrial zone, and allowed expressly as a special exception in the C-2 General Commercial, CBD Central Business District, CD Corridor Development, and MXD Mixed Use Development zones.’
Fortune-telling would be prohibited as a home occupation.
Though Council authorized city staff to move forward with both establishing the new zoning regulations and repealing the fortune-telling prohibition, they requested a redraft of the actual definition of fortune-telling before official changes are made.
As it stands, the draft presented to Council defines ‘fortune-telling’ as:
‘Any attempt to tell fortunes or predict the future (for pay or voluntary contributions) by means of occult or psychic powers, faculties, or forces; necromancy, palmistry, psychology, psychic psychometry, spirits, mediumship, seership, prophesy, cards, talismans, sorcery, charms, potions, magnetism, tea leaves, magic, numerology, mechanical devices, handwriting analyses, phrenology, character readings, or any other similar means. Fortune telling shall not be considered a home occupation, church, or other place of worship.’
Some Council members were disturbed by the inclusion of both psychology and churches in the definition and would like those words removed. Planning staff will follow up on Council recommendations and present the changes within the next few months.
Interestingly, the Commission’s report noted that fortune-telling businesses have a negative stigma, and have historically fallen into the category of ‘urban decline use’.
Other businesses in that category include pawn shops, tattoo parlors, check cashing, and sexually oriented establishments.
Last month Cook County, Illinois zoning commissioners approved a zoning change that would have allowed a ‘tarot card psychic business’ to open in Maine Township. The Maine Township Zoning Board also approved.
Last week however, Cook County commissioners deferred the final decision on the question until next month.
Apparently, Commissioner Peter Silvestri, who represents the district in which the psychic business is located, received a petition signed by 50 people opposing the shop.
According to Journal On-line, the signatories gave no legal basis for their opposition. They simply don’t want a psychic business in the neighbourhood.
Until last month, the business had been operating without a license, but no other criminal complaints had been lodged against it.
The issue will likely be raised again at the county board’s next meeting on October 2nd.
Though the fortune-telling ban in New Smyrna Beach, Florida has been struck down, city commissioners decided last week to limit where such businesses will be allowed to locate.
The new rules will allow psychic businesses to set up shop in the highway service business district and the planned shopping center zoning areas.
They will not, however, be welcome in the beachside commercial hub.
Even in the areas where psychic businesses will be allowed, licenses will be granted only on a case-by-case basis.
According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, some business owners and councilors are concerned about the demographic that might be attracted to psychic readers, and that such businesses are not ‘family friendly.’
In my experience, people from all walks of life visit psychics and Tarot readers, so I’m a little surprised that the City is concerned about the clients a psychic business might attract.
I’m pleased though that they’ve at least repealed the ban and hope that all goes well. Other cities in the region have not had the courage to go even that far.
Psychic businesses are still illegal in the cities of Daytona Beach Shores, DeBary, Deltona, South Daytona, Oak Hill Beach, Ormond Beach, and Volusia County.
They are legal but regulated in Edgewater and DeLand.
Another fortune-telling ban has been struck from the municipal law books, this time in York, Nebraska.
Last week, York City Council did some house-cleaning, and according to yorknewstimes.com, they scrapped not only the fortune-telling ban that had been in place since the fifties, but also restrictions on cursing in dance halls, and bowling on Sunday mornings.
Hattiesburg had shut their business down based on a law from 1929 banning fortune-telling within city limits.
The Costellos argued that the ban was an unconstitutional restraint on their right to free speech and due process. In their lawsuit, they asked for its repeal, and for unspecified damages.
The city of course disagreed, and responded that the ban was a legitimate regulation meant to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Hattiesburg.
In November, U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett ruled in favour of the Costellos and issued a preliminary injunction against the fortune-telling ordinance. In early December, Hattiesburg repealed the law.
Now finally, the story is almost coming to a close for the Costellos. Just last week, the City of Hattiesburg settled the lawsuit and agreed to pay $7,500 in damages.
Given that their business was shut down for almost a year, it’s not a lot of money, but it’s still quite a victory.
Following up on a story from last September … it looks like Rachel Adams of Alexandria, Louisiana may have won her battle against that city and its fortune-telling ban.
A little over a week ago, US Magistrate Judge James D. Kirk ruled that Alexandria’s law against fortune-telling was unconstitutional in that it infringed on the First Amendment right of free speech.
The law itself not only prohibited psychic or Tarot readings for pay, it stated that it was unlawful …
“… for any person to engage in the business or practice of palmistry, card reading, astrology, fortunetelling, phrenology, mediums or activities of a similar nature within the city, regardless of whether a fee is charged directly or indirectly, or whether the services are rendered without a charge.”
The City had argued that ‘fortune-telling’ constituted commercial speech and could thus be regulated.
As reported by The Town Talk, Judge Kirk disagreed and ruled that the law should be struck down.
“To apply the ordinance literally would outlaw every ‘amateur psychiatrist, parlor sage and barstool philosopher’ in Alexandria who dares to suggest to another what the future may hold.”
In his 10-page recommendation, Kirk went on to make some more pretty powerful points,
“This attempt at ‘alchemy’ by the city to turn content-based speech into commercial speech just doesn’t shine … “
“My use of allegory and analogy is intended to demonstrate why we cannot afford to allow government to squelch free thought and speech without a compelling interest, and why even a fortuneteller’s speech must be protected …”
“For a government to believe that it knows all that is true and real, no matter how obvious it thinks it is, is arrogance, pure and simple. Our Constitution protects us from such government oppression.”
The City has two weeks to respond with objections.