Ever spit on the sidewalk? How about throwing a snowball across the street? Or tossing a watermelon rind out the window?
If you did any of that in Indiana community of Peru over the last 100 years, you would have been breaking the law.
But not anymore.
The Peru City Council last week repealed more than 100 old, outdated or obsolete ordinances, many of which were put on the books in 1917.
In one sweeping vote, council wiped clean city code which made it illegal to:
• annoy squirrels.
• drive a horse and buggy on the sidewalk.
• use “boisterous” language or climb trees in city parks.
• commit any act that would frighten a horse.
Council also voted to repeal a slew of city permits required to operate a bizarre collection of entertainment acts, including puppets shows, freak shows, wax figures, feats of tumbling or juggling, rope or wire dancing, sleight-of-hand performance, ventriloquism and hypnotism.
One ordinance placed a $7 license fee on every pool table purchased by a business or bar.
“Some of these ordinances sound like something out of ‘The Music Man,’” said councilman Kurt Krauskopf.
City Attorney Dustin Kern said the move to repeal the ordinances came after he and Peru Mayor Gabe Greer were trying to track down a specific ordinance and came across some of the archaic rules set out in the city’s code.
He said after that, city officials got together in May to discuss how to best update the ordinances. Kern then started combing through the code book to find all the rules that either duplicated what is now local, state or federal laws or simply didn’t make sense in the 21st century.
And there were a lot them. One section alone had 12 ordinances dedicated to regulating taxicabs – which don’t exist today in Peru. All 12 were repealed.
“This is going to take out a decent amount of pages [in the city code book],” Kern said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to find what we’re looking for a little faster. It’s going to be beneficial to the lay person who wants to know what the real city ordinances say you can and can’t do.”
It may be easy to laugh at some of the ordinances that today seem frivolous, but they all served a valid purpose when they were put on the books 100 years ago, Kern said.
“They were all passed because these issues had presented themselves,” Kern said. “You don’t just pass an ordinance unless it happens, so at some point someone actually did this stuff.”
And the code-book cleanup isn’t done. Kern said they are now working on a list of ordinances which need to be amended to bring them up to date. He said they hope to have that list to council before the end of the year so the changes can make into next year’s new code book.
That will lead to the city having the most current and relevant ordinance book in decades, Kern said.
“Times have changed,” he said. “Obviously some ordinances still apply from 100 years ago, but for the most part, things are completely different. It’s just a matter of modernization.”