Snowball

Ald. Brent Eisberner is updating city laws, starting with an ordinance that prohibits snowball throwing.

What’s a Wisconsin winter without a snowball fight? But in Sun Prairie, it had technically been a violation of a local ordinance to partake in the classic winter activity — until Tuesday.

Following in the steps of cities like Madison and Wausau, Sun Prairie decriminalized snowball throwing at a Tuesday city council meeting, modernizing the “antiquated” portion of Sun Prairie municipal code that regulates the throwing or shooting of arrows, stones and other missiles, said District 2 Ald. Brent Eisberner.

The section of the municipal code prohibited “discharging or throwing by any means any dangerous missile, which is defined as an object, arrow, stone or snowball,” according to the city of Sun Prairie.

Eisberner, who was elected to the council in April and brought the change in the ordinance to the full council, has been going through the city’s ordinances and codes to bring them up to date. He noticed the ordinance technically prohibits a good-natured snowball fight between family members or friends. 

“I have young children and we build snow forts every winter and have a snowball fight across the driveway,” Eisberner said. “In theory, although it's never enforced, at least not to my knowledge, if a police officer saw us doing that, under the prior ordinance they could give us a citation for it.”

He called the ordinance antiquated and believes it was likely copied from another municipal code decades ago.

“It’s probably been on the books for so long that people even forgot it existed,” Eisberner said. “One of my goals is to make our city ordinances not only reflect current times, but... also easy to read. If there's something on the books that's not enforced, why is it even there?” 

There are approximately 10 municipalities that still have an ordinance prohibiting snowball throwing in Wisconsin.

Under the outdated ordinance, if a citizen were to throw a snowball with malicious intent, they could still be prosecuted for disorderly conduct or assault. 

The Sun Prairie City Council Tuesday voted to remove snowballs from the list of objects prohibited from being discharged or thrown.

“Over the last couple of years, COVID has taken a lot of things away from kids and this is just giving them an opportunity to get outside and have some fun and not really think about all the things that have happened the last couple of years,” Eisberner added. “I wouldn't say this was a major issue but … this takes away the threat of random citation.”

Next on his list of updates to city law, Eisberner is tackling a parking ordinance that tows or tickets a vehicle if it is parked on the street and doesn't move within 48 hours. Eisberner said he and Sun Prairie City Attorney Kathleen McDaniel are examining if 48 hours is a realistic timeline with all the people who now work from home.

“(McDaniel) and I are looking at the ordinances to make them easy to read and just update them to current times,” Eisberner said. “Sun Prairie is growing and changing, and the city ordinances haven't really been evaluated on what needs to be there.”

“Hopefully this is just the start of updating numerous ordinances that have been on the books for way too long,” he added.

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