A time to dance

MOTHER'S DAY sentiment didn't help Margaret Pageler. Instead of mobilizing the Teen Dance Ordinance's fans Monday, the Seattle City Council member found herself presiding over a forum dominated by angry punks, keen teens, and their supportive moms. Opponents of the law, which tightly regulates teen dances, packed the house in Capitol Hill's Miller Community Center and, at one point, stopped the proceedings with jubilant dancing, lackluster singing, and incoherent speechifying (including a paean to Motorhead).

The audience, which frequently interrupted the speakers with catcalls, boos, and raucous applause, heard from downtown residents who find clubs are lousy neighbors, a police officer with horror stories about raves, and a Korean War vet who found the teens obnoxious. The evening's low point was a speech by John Simpson from Parents in Arms, the group that spearheaded the Teen Dance Ordinance in 1985, who made a racist remark about "a Chinaman's chance in hell" from the podium that stunned the assembled. The high point came when Doug Theil from the North Precinct Citizen Advisory Council spoke from his heart about his love for music, dance, and his son, whom he lost to alcoholism, drug addiction, and AIDS.

The most compelling speakers made an important distinction: This debate should not be about free expression, music, and dance for teens—all of which should be promoted by the city—but about providing a safe environment for those things. Since, as in Sgt. Dan Beste's personal observation, "The Teen Dance Ordinance is a de facto ban that doesn't work," it's easy to conclude that it's time for something new.

A slim majority of the City Council—five out of nine members—believes it has found that something in the All Ages Dance Ordinance, a new version of which is slowly winding through the political process. Pageler and her panelists disagree, saying the new law does not provide enough regulation. But if she doesn't get more allies, her opinion will not matter.

George Howland Jr.


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