What's the best way to fight a law that interferes with a homeowner's right to build a treehouse in his backyard? Charge $2.00 a head for a tour of the 50-foot, seven-level structure. That's how Mark Tucker decided to raise money to pay his lawyer to battle City Hall. Kids love the solidly built $7,500 retreat, which has two rooms and seven verandas. But the powers that be of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, have ordered Tucker to fix up the place to the city's specifications or tear it down.
As if we didn't already know it. A new study shows that residents of Washington, D.C., drink about three times as much wine as other Americans. Wines and Vines magazine says the average resident of the nation's capital consumed 6.59 gallons of wine in 1986. Ah, that explains it.
Move over, Miss America. This is a real scholarship program. Legislators in Wisconsin are seriously thinking of paying high-school girls $10,000 not to get pregnant. Under the plan, 100 freshmen girls at Milwaukee high schools would each get the money if they continued on to college without becoming pregnant. Well, if you can't shame them, scare them, cool them off, or reason with them, the only alternative left is to bribe them. And we'll probably need a new word to describe the chaste young ladies: If a woman who exchanges sex for money is a prostitute, what do you call a women who takes money for not having sex?
For two months, air traffic controllers at a Federal Aviation Administration center in Palmdale, California, worked under a dress code that specified which brands of jeans they could wear to work. Calvin Kleins, Gloria Vanderbilts, and Sergio Valentes were fine. But Wranglers, Levis, and Lees were prohibited. If the jeans that won the West are "good enough for Ronald Reagan to wear…they ought to be good enough for controllers to wear,"says a controllers' association leader. The FAA finally relented. But not before several controllers were sent home to change their pants. "And this is at a facility that…is critically [understaffed," says the controllers' spokesman. "What the hell difference does it make when you're sitting on the designer label?"
Except for three days at Christmastime, public dancing in Anson, Texas, is against the law. And people like Baptist minister Bob Evans want to keep it that way. A local group called Footloose (named after the 1984 movie) is trying to overturn the 1933 ordinance banning dancing in favor of carefully chaperoned hops. But opposition is virulent. Evans says he's counseled youth for 31 years and asked unwed mothers and fathers "where they date the beginning of their downfall toward a road of sin. And 9 times out of 10, it was on the dance floor." Furthermore, what can start with the hokey-pokey can end with "adultery, divorce, murder, and little children left orphans," according to Evans. The teenagers of Anson see it differently. "On Saturday nights," says one 17-year-old, "you sit up at the Church of Christ parking lot if you're with someone, or you drive to the crossroads and watch the blinking lights from the highway.…There's just nothing to do."
In order to earn a living as a writer in Loudoun County, Virginia, you have to obtain a license and pay a fee. The county says that writing, the First Amendment to the contrary, is just the same as any other home occupation, the plundering of which is a lucrative source of county revenue. Author Byron Farwell started a campaign to overturn the law. "If the county can issue a license, the county can revoke a license," he says, adding that freedom of speech isn't a privilege that can be taken away. Did Farwell's cool logic win the battle? Not exactly. Writers still need to be licensed. But the new business tax receipt will no longer boast the word license in bold capital letters. Nor will it require that any but commercial enterprises display it prominently. Thomas Jefferson would be proud?
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".