In Ramsey, golf carts soon will have the green light to travel on city streets -- a move the mayor hails but that two council members think makes as much sense as teeing off with a putter.
Ramsey also is giving an OK to all-terrain vehicles, something that more than a half-dozen other Minnesota cities allow to some degree. But golf carts on metro area streets are hardly par for the course. Red Wing has an ordinance allowing them -- but only if drivers have permits and are on the way to or from golf courses.
"Golf carts are so slow," said Jack Davis, administrator in East Bethel, which in December passed an ordinance allowing ATVs on street shoulders. "I would think that golf carts would be a traffic impediment."
Starting July 22, Ramsey residents who get permits and are at least 18 will be able to drive golf carts and ATVs on streets in the city other than county and state roads. They won't be allowed on sidewalks, trails or ditches. But there's nothing prohibiting someone whose driver's license has been suspended, even for drunken driving, from tooling around in an ATV or golf cart.
"We're cutting staff, cutting budgets, our roads need to be fixed and we're worried about golf carts?" said Randy Backous, one of the two no votes when the City Council passed the ordinance, 4-2.
"There was no need for this, no public outcry for it," Backous said. "This is an example of misplaced priorities, which are typical of this mayor."
Mayor Bob Ramsey said he wanted it because, "I'm tired of the fun police taking away our freedoms and liberty."
Sarah Strommen, who cast the other dissenting vote and is running for mayor against Ramsey this year, countered: "It's not the City Council's job to provide fun."
"This is a safety issue," she said. "We already have traffic problems. This compounds it. We've created a recipe for disaster."
In Florida last Sunday, Erika Robinson, 27, was thrown from the passenger seat of a golf cart on Land O' Lakes Road, the Florida Highway Patrol reported. She died from injuries suffered in the accident. Nathaniel Williams, 28, was driving the cart, though he'd had his driver's license revoked. The State Patrol did not immediately say whether alcohol was a factor in the accident.
Other Ramsey 'yes' votes
In Ramsey, the council members who joined the mayor in voting for the ordinance were Colin McGlone, Jeff Wise and Jason Tossey.
McGlone said that city residents already "are driving golf carts every day on the streets without any ordinance. We're just trying to give the people back their rights."
Wise said that "bicycles are allowed wherever they want. Some 8-year-old kid could cut across the road, cut across four lanes on his bicycle. So why can't a guy who is registered drive his four-wheeler or golf cart in the street?"
Tossey admits he struggled with the ordinance, and insisted on the 18-year-old age minimum for drivers.
The golf carts will have a slow-moving-vehicle label in the back. "There's nothing illegal about passing," Mayor Ramsey said.
Arizona and Minnesota
Ramsey Police Chief Jim Way said he was recently in Arizona, where golf cart drivers view city streets as extensions of their favorite fairways. But Minnesota isn't Arizona, said Way, who has safety concerns about golf-cart drivers who may not be using turn signals or may disregard the rules of the road.
Asked if a golf cart is capable of maneuvering away from an accident in a split second, Way replied that golf carts rarely have power steering.
He and Backous both expressed concern about drivers whose licenses have been suspended -- particularly for drinking -- taking a golf cart onto the streets.
"You have somebody with three DWIs. ... They can drive on the streets of Ramsey," Backous said.
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419