FORT SMITH -- City directors did some municipal house cleaning last week, repealing an ordinance that had lain fallow on the books for nearly 64 years and thinning out the long list of city commissions, boards and committees.
The opening bars of the 1984 dance song "Footloose" filled the meeting room to set the mood as directors took up the repeal of the 1953 ordinance that banned dancing on Sundays.
"I thought this would be an opportunity for us to start repealing and start looking at some of these unenforced ordinances and codes on our books and those that are outdated," said City Director Andre Good, who introduced the ordinance's repeal.
Good said a resident informed him of the antiquated ordinance that remained in the city's code of ordinances.
Directors pass and repeal ordinances on a regular basis, but City Clerk Sherri Gard said she didn't remember them repealing an ordinance for obsolescence in the 22 years she's worked for the city.
The ordinance, which was signed into law Nov. 27, 1953, by Mayor H.R. Hestand, made it unlawful for any person or business to operate a public dance hall on Sunday or any other place that has dancing on Sunday.
"It is ascertained and declared that present laws are inadequate to restrain public dances upon Sundays and that such dancing greatly endangers the public health, safety and welfare; that the enactment of this ordinance is necessary and will correct this condition," a portion of the ordinance's emergency clause said.
Fort Smith spokesman Karen Santos said police records show no one has been arrested or ticketed for dancing on Sundays in the past 20 years.
The dancing ban was passed in the time of blue laws that were established in Arkansas shortly after it became a state in 1836, according to The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. The laws banned all sales on Sunday and most labor. Later laws also barred card games, hunting, horse racing, baseball and other activities on Sunday. The last prohibitions remained in effect until about 1982.
Two days after the directors unanimously repealed the Sunday dancing ban ordinance, they met again and dissolved seven of the city's 34 commissions, boards and committees.
City Administrator Carl Geffken said in most cases the committees, commissions and boards don't cost the city anything but that residents want to see the government keep up to date with its laws. If there is no need for them or they are not required, it's best to get rid of them, he said.
During the meeting Thursday, directors kept the Civil Service Commission but questioned its objectivity and called on staff members to analyze and report back on the commission's hiring process.
Some directors criticized the commission last year after it rejected a request by Police Chief Nathaniel Clark for a change in commission rules that would allow him to fill supervisory positions from outside the force rather than promoting solely from within.
Directors disclosed that interviewing of police candidates at a recent commission meeting was not uniform from one candidate to another. They also learned that Fire Department candidates were interviewed by a review board composed of firefighters and Civil Service Commission members, and that each candidate was asked the same questions by the same interviewer to ensure objectivity.
Fort Smith has a variety of boards, commissions and committees for various purposes. They range from the Advertising and Promotion Commission, Transit Advisory Committee, Electrical Code Appeals Board to the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Fort Smith Municipal Employees Benevolent Fund Board of Advisors.
Directors decided to eliminate the Massard Prairie Civil War Battlefield Park Advisory Commission, the Outside Agency Review Panel, the Parking Authority, the Residential Housing Facilities Board, the Riverfront Task Force, and the Streets Bridges and Associated Drainage Capital Improvements Plan Advisory Committee.
The Oak Cemetery Commission was dissolved, and its duties were put under the authority of the Parks and Recreation Commission.
State Desk on 07/16/2018
Print Headline: City dumping outdated laws, panels; No dancing on Sundays is one ordinance repealed by city directors in Fort Smith