Drop the glue and nobody gets hurt
Atlanta's ordinances a study in the unusual, archaic and bizarre
God bless those city councilors of yesteryear.
To keep citizens from abusing aftershave lotion and model glue, Atlanta's city council passed laws decades ago that placed tight controls on the toiletry and the hobby shop staple.
By law, aftershave lotion and model glue can be sold only by a "bona fide retail merchant or dealer at a fixed location." Even those authorized to sell the products must use caution. You can't, for example, peddle aftershave lotion near areas "habitually littered with empty containers of aftershave lotion" or sell it to someone who "appears to be in a continuous state of intoxication." And it's illegal to sell more than a single tube of model glue to someone in 24 hours, for fear he might huff too much of it.
"There's some crazy stuff in there," Atlanta Municipal Court Judge Andrew Mickle says of the code of ordinances.
While few violations of such laws ever reach the courtroom, one pops up every once in a while. One of the latest victims of Atlanta's antiquated laws was Cathi Greenwood, who made the mistake of moving on a Sunday — a violation of city code Section 106-88. A cop ticketed her and there wasn't a thing she could do about it.
"As far as the moving on Sundays, it's supposed to be a day of rest," Judge Mickle says. "It's on the books but it's ridiculous."
However ridiculous the laws may be, cops say they have a responsibility to uphold them.
"As long as it's on the books, it's something that can be enforced," says Atlanta police spokesperson John Quigley. "If the officer encountered it and wrote a ticket for it, he would be justified in doing so."
Greenwood faced a $50 fine, but prosecutors apparently recognized the absurdity of her situation; on April 4, the case against her was dropped.
But Greenwood is still a little sore. "There's nothing like losing a day of work and paying downtown parking fees," she says. "I hope that somebody's teaching the officers the difference between creating criminals and stopping crime."
Greenwood didn't want other Sunday movers to go through the same hassle she did, so she urged Atlanta councilwoman Cathy Woolard to strike the 25-year-old ordinance from the books. The city council unanimously did so on April 2.
"You wouldn't have thought anybody would have enforced the moving on Sunday thing," Woolard says, although she did decide to leave in place the part of the ordinance that makes it illegal to move between sunset and sunrise.
"You just don't want to have trucks moving people's personal possessions in and out of homes in the evenings," she says. "People do burglarize. In the daytime, they're a little less likely to do things like that."
Woolard says a thorough house-cleaning of the code of ordinances is overdue. She found out last week that it's illegal to buy or possess a lottery ticket in the city and said she might urge the council to vote that one off the books — but it would make better sense to purge all the outdated ordinances.
"It's always good to look at your laws and change them and keep them updated," Woolard says. She says the council hasn't reviewed the code of ordinances in at least five years.
It's probably been longer than that. After all, the city still has a law that states you can't leave a horse untied and unattended in the street. And there's one that says you can't drive livestock through the streets or transport livestock to any public place.
Woolard says she would not push for the removal of laws governing aftershave lotion and model glue. The products can be dangerous, she says. Police see the danger, too. Quigley say children have grown especially susceptible in recent years to the two products.
"Those ordinances keep up with the trends in culture, to protect the youths," he says.
But trends, because they are trends, come to an end. Attitudes change, and laws should change to reflect them.
Judge Mickle is particularly amused by the dated ordinance that outlaws spitting on the sidewalk, for the reason that it is an offense against public morals. Mickle does not consider spitting to be the crime it once was. He's presided over a couple of those in the past 20 years, and he let the alleged offenders walk.
"I mean, where else are you gonna spit if you're gonna spit?" he says.??