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May 2022 - Curfew in Ballard

Ballard City Hall

In a letter dated February 4, 1896, Ballard mayor George G. Startup explained his reasons for vetoing an ordinance recently passed by the Ballard City Council. Referred to as the Curfew Ordinance, the measure made it a misdemeanor for boys and girls under sixteen years old "to be on the streets, alleys, or public grounds of the City of Ballard" after 9 pm during the months of April through August, and after 8 pm the rest of the year. Exceptions were made if they were with a parent or guardian, or had written permission. Children found in violation could be fined up to five dollars or jailed for up to two days. The town marshal was to ring the fire bell each night to signal the start of curfew.

Startup’s list of objections included:

First, it is my opinion that the enaction of this ordinance will greatly injure the hitherto good name of our fair city. I submit that such an ordinance carried out and published to the world will convey the impression that we have in our young people of both sexes a great many incorrigibles and candidates for the reform school and that the authorities are utterly unable to cope with them without practically declaring martial law, which is a blotch on the escutcheon of any community even in the case of an emergency.

Second: I submit that we have less rowdyism here than will be found on an average when you consider the inefficiency of our police department which consists of only two men.

Third: I further submit that no good can come of a measure that authorizes the imprisonment of children under 16 years of age except they be actually guilty of some crime. I consider such a course to be demoralizing in the extreme for instance throw a half dozen boys & girls in to our common jail and imagine the result. They are then fairly launched on the highway to desperation and lawlessness. Such treatment of the young in my opinion tends to break down their manhood and womanhood and leads them on to recked [sic] and desperate lives.

Startup asserted that the majority of their constituents were not in favor of the law. Despite his objections, his veto was overridden by the council.