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O.C. Lifts Outdated Laws on Water-Skiing, Communists

November 18, 1998|JEAN O. PASCO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Communists in Orange County can breathe a little easier today.

A county law from the 1950s requiring members of the Communist Party to register with the Sheriff's Department was repealed Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, along with 243 other ordinances that were deemed outdated, unnecessary or unconstitutional.

Gone is the law mandating counterclockwise water-skiing in Upper Newport Bay, where water-skiing hasn't been allowed in decades. Gone too is the ban on public dancing between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. and the prohibition on feeding other people's garbage to pigs.

Adults are no longer barred from using rock-a-bye swings, merry-go-rounds and other children's playground equipment at public parks. And the law that made it illegal to mutilate or destroy a yucca or to pick any of its flowers on public or private property is off the books.

"Government is sometimes of the opinion that it can do no wrong, but government can be wrong by simply doing nothing, like letting outdated ordinances sit on the books," said Supervisor Thomas W. Wilson, who requested the comprehensive review of 4,000 county ordinances.

An additional 106 ordinances were revised and updated to conform with federal, state and county laws.

However, supervisors left some curious ordinances on the books after recommendations by county staff to retain the local laws for public safety reasons.

Among those that remain: a requirement that dog leashes be no longer than six feet, regulations for manure dealers and a ban on horseback riding, singing, dancing and chanting at John Wayne Airport.

In most instances, county officials could only guess why the laws had originally been passed. In other cases, the origins are known.

The Communist registration law stemmed from a planned visit to Disneyland by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, said Stan Oftelie, a former supervisor's aide who now is executive director of the Orange County Business Council. Khrushchev canceled the trip after area officials said they couldn't guarantee his safety.

County Counsel Laurence Watson said ordinances will be reviewed periodically to evaluate their relevance and compatibility with state and federal laws.

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