Rush City Council votes to allow mural after public input, review city code

At a special city council meeting in Rush City on Monday afternoon, a mural on the town’s Main Street loomed large over their small Chisago County community.

Owners of the Hairdo Or Dye Salon, Erin and Jason Oare commissioned the art in an effort to promote diversity and unity in rural Minnesota. But then they received a letter informing them the art was a violation of a local ordinance that could lead to fines or jail time.

From there, their options were clear: paint over the mural or face criminal charges. But the Oares decided that was a misuse of power and a violation of their freedom of speech.

"It’s been emotional because it’s a hard battle to fight… I expected there would be a little bit of a fight. I did not think it would be this extreme, or it would blow up like this." Erin Oare told FOX 9 on Monday. "Anyone who knows us will know that our intent was never to hurt or cause problems. It was to push for unity."

The city took a stance that anything not explicitly permitted in its code was then prohibited, including a mural. But the Oares fought back, arguing that the rule was too broad.

Still, some city leaders felt they flouted normal procedure to install the art, even after receiving warnings in advance.

"This is nothing but bullying, plain and simple, you can’t have a valid process for an invalid ordinance," Jason Oare said. "It is the city’s job, not ours, to ensure that the city‘s code is clear and understandable."

Over the weekend, the conflict sparked plans for a rally to "save the wall" on Saturday, which was later canceled, after Mayor Dan Dahlberg called Monday’s special meeting.

At the meeting his city council voted to withdraw the letter, citing deficiencies in the writing of the code.

City council member Frank Storm was the lone "no" vote in the 4-to-1 decision. 

"This was done wrong," he said afterwards. "If it’s not listed on there, it’s not permitted. It’s just that simple."

Now, Rush City’s planning commission will look into revising the ordinance.

"I think it’s over for now, I think we’ll see what happens with the planning commission, and what we have to do," Erin reacted.

Before leaving the meeting her family demanded a public apology from the city, calling on it to rewrite the ordinance, and provide a signed statement ensuring their mural will remain.