Drawing a hopscotch board on a sidewalk or street in Anoka is now against the law — one of the ramifications of a new ordinance governing displays on city property recently passed by the City Council.
The ordinance regulates flags, murals, memorials, banners and even chalk art displayed on buildings, light posts, flagpoles, streets and sidewalks, parks and other city infrastructure. It's designed to allow the city to protect and maintain aesthetics of city-owned property.
Only items that illustrate "governmental expression of the city of Anoka" will be allowed. Displays, memorials or artwork commissioned or solicited and approved by the city and those that celebrate and portray Anoka in a positive fashion also are OK.
Governmental expression, for example, includes the American flag, flags representing the branches of the U.S. military, city of Anoka banners commemorating holidays, seasons or celebrations, and temporary signs for city events and activities. The ordinance allows the city to change the backlighting of the city logo on the Hwy. 10 bridge, lighting on Main Street and on buildings for causes the city financially supports and partners with, including Anoka Halloween and the Alexandra House, a shelter for victims of domestic, sexual or relationship violence.
Displays of commemorative flags or similar objects based on a request from a third party will not be allowed.
The issue of chalk art dominated the discussion at the Nov. 1 meeting where the ordinance was passed 4-1. Council Member Erik Skogquist, who cast the dissenting vote, said he agreed with 95% of the ordinance but was concerned about its far-reaching impact.
"I don't want to make it illegal for a kid to draw on the sidewalk with chalk, which is what we are saying," he said. "I am not OK with that."
Council members asked City Attorney Scott Baumgartner for advice in crafting the ordinance, wondering if there was room to allow certain types of chalk art, such as hopscotch boards.
Baumgartner advised adopting an all-or-none approach. Subjectivity in determining what is and not allowed could land the city in trouble. He cited federal precedent that allows cities to regulate the use of chalk art on sidewalks.
Upon Baumgartner's advice, the council voted to ban all chalk art on city property, even children's sidewalk drawings.
"This is silly to say that you can't have that type of chalk work on the sidewalk," Mayor Phil Rice said. "But in the case where it is something that is very political or very offensive, I don't think you can go with a bucket of water and throw it on it without a bigger problem than telling a youngster to paint that hopscotch on the driveway."
Rice said it is unfortunate the city needs an ordinance like this, but "it protects the integrity of the city, our community and our citizens and all of that from … more nonsense."
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768