We could all be dancin' in the street again by next week.
On May 12th, the Minneapolis City Council will vote on a measure that would repeal a current ordinance that bans dancing in the streets of Minneapolis. (Did anyone even know it was illegal?)
Here's the article from the Star Tribune this weekend:
At the office of late, I've been bursting forth with the song "Dancing in the Streets." "There'll be swingin', swayin' and records playin' and dancin' in the streets."
This seems to stress my younger colleagues, who don't understand that the Mamas and the Papas' version of this song begs to be sung. I try not to hold their youthfulness against them.
What has put this song in my heart is that in all likelihood, it will soon be legal again to dance in the streets of our city.
On Tuesday morning, Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon will lead a public hearing that will be the first step toward eliminating city ordinance 427.20, which prohibits dancing in a street, except at a block party.
"If we're going to be a cultural center, shouldn't it be OK to do a little jig when you're crossing the street?" Gordon asked.
No one seems to oppose his belief that the ordinance is "an embarrassment."
He said the city attorney, the former police chief and the interim chief have said it's time to dance on the grave of the strange ordinance, which came into being in the 1960s.
According to Guy Gambill, an advocate for the homeless, the prohibition was initially intended to stop flower children from carrying on in public. But the flower children have, ummm, matured. Gambill says that when the ordinance is invoked these days, it's used against the homeless and mentally ill.
For example, in December, a homeless man, Paul Wicklund, was ticketed by University of Minnesota police for dancing in a street, while cursing police.
There were many problems with Wicklund's behavior. But dancing?
The ticket, for $112, eventually was dropped.
The point that Gordon, Gambill and Mark Anderson, who works with the mentally ill as head of the Barbara Schneider Foundation, will make Tuesday is that the city shouldn't criminalize mental illness.
"When you tell people there's this ordinance, they say, 'You're kidding,' " said Anderson. "But laws like this are serious because they're used against people who really need help."
This rarely used ordinance invariably ends up stepping on the city's toes.
"Police have plenty of tools without this," said Gordon. "When it is used, it just becomes a public-image problem."
Ah, our city's image: Minneapolis, a nice place to live, but save the last dance for St. Paul.
Of course, after the ordinance is erased, there still will be limits. "It still will be unlawful to obstruct traffic, for instance," said Gordon.
And it will take more than changing the rules to turn Minneapolis into a city of dancers.
Some people just can't dance, said Gordon, an old rock 'n' roll bass guitarist. "Whenever I start to dance," the council member admitted, "people look at me and say, 'What are you doing?' "
By mid-May, Gordon hopes, the ordinance will be a bad memory, and if someone in Minneapolis feels really good, it will be legal to do just a couple of quick dance steps in the street.