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Friday, June 04, 2010

The Odd, Ignored, and Amusing Laws of Milwaukee

The Wisconsin State Journal recently published an article, "Are you a lawbreaker? Most likely 'yes,' due to these largely ignored city laws," which outlined 6 little-known and generally ignored laws in Madison. For example, Madison has laws prohibiting throwing pet droppings out with the trash and requiring bicycles to be registered (Milwaukee has a similar requirement but in Milwaukee the licenses are free but unlike Madison the law here is enforced). I figured this was a good opportunity to write about a few of Milwaukee's own odd or often over-looked ordinances.

In Milwaukee, should you "improperly ogle" a stranger, you might get hit with up to a $500 fine or 20 days in jail. This ordinance naturally raises the question, if improper ogling is prohibited, what then is "proper" ogling?

Perhaps in an aim to cut down on the temptation to "improperly ogle," it is illegal in Milwaukee to be out on the streets in a "bathing costume" meaning wearing a bikini top on that trip to the corner store on a hot summer day might cost you a $100 fine.

The virginal eyes of Milwaukeeans are further protected by the city's ban on the "indecent" display of any stud horse or bull. I am avoiding imagining what would constitute "indecent" display of a stud horse or bull, but I do wonder what series of events led to city lawmakers deciding that this ordinance was necessary. This ordinance also imposes up to a $50 fine for any person who would "let any such horse to any mare, or any bull to any cow or cows within the limits of this city, unless in some enclosed place out of public view." Milwaukeeans will just have to settle for Animal Planet rather than a live exhibition.

Businesses are prohibited from displaying "marital aide devices" in a manner that makes them visible from the street or to minors. For those not familiar with this antiquated phrase, Milwaukee's lawmakers were took the time to define it: "'Marital aid device' means a device designed or marketed primarily for use in achieving the sexual stimulation or arousal of human genital organs, including a dildo or artificial vagina." Too bad for prudish granny Betty Zurawski that Spencer's Gifts was not in Milwaukee; if so, she might have had a real basis to complain.

Milwaukee's lawmakers have also sought to protect citizens from the scourge of unwashed rags making it illegal to sell or to even use rags in a factory unless they have been thoroughly washed.

It is illegal to consume alcohol in a public parking lot or parking structure (except Miller Park). So, pre-loading in a carside tailgate before a Bucks game or a concert is a no-no unless you get a permit (and private individuals are not able to get permits).

It is illegal for everyone except young children to ride a bicycle on nearly every sidewalk in the city. Next time you are walking along a sidewalk and tempted to jump aside to dodge that oncoming bike, you can now stand firm knowing you the one in the right and the bicyclist should be in the street.

You can't mow your lawn before 8 A.M. unless you want to do it with an unpowered push mower or perhaps a scythe.  When your neighbor wakes you up with their lawnmower or chain saw, just yell out the window, "Hey, that's prohibited by Milwaukee ordinance 80-67 paragraph 4!" But then you might run the risk of violating Milwaukee' ordinance on "boisterous or unreasonably loud" human created noise.

Dog owners are not the only ones required to be armed with a pooper scooper when venturing out in public. Every pet owner who takes a pet onto public property must be ready to pick up any poop. So before going for a walk with the cat, guinea pig, iguana, or parrot, you better have a pooper-scooper handy.

It is illegal to give a live animal as a prize meaning the game of tossing a ping-pong ball into a container to win a goldfish, a ubiquitous part of carnivals and church festivals, is prohibited in Milwaukee.

If you like attracting birds to your yard, be sure to get a tape measure and maybe a lawyer before installing a birdfeeder in Milwaukee. A property can have up to 4 feeders, provided they are all "gravity type" hopper feeders meaning suet feeders are not allowed in Milwaukee. Each feeder has to be at least 3.5 feet off the ground and 6 feet from the nearest "climbable object." The City will let you hang a feeder from a tree only if it protected by "rodent guards." I am picturing hamsters in British Foot Guard uniforms stationed around a bird feeder but that's probably not what the City meant.

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