Phoenix woman, Dianne “DD” Barker, is an energetic 65-year-old community activist who has found herself in some hot water with a local government agency. Barker was recently sent a letter from the attorney representing the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), which insisted that she "must immediately cease performing cartwheels at MAG meetings."
DD is standing up for, what she feels is, her right of self-expression. The former Ohio State cheerleader told KSAZ Fox 10 that to her, the cartwheel is, ”…something I found out that I could do that is enjoyable, and definitely expresses my passion.” She’s been taking that passion to the MAG meetings where she is often heard and seen commenting while cartwheeling to emphasize her points. “I said you know something you need to have passion in what you're doing,” Barker said. She is a proponent of “multimodal traveling,” (traveling without a car) and cartwheels to show the benefits of an active lifestyle.
The planning agency’s attorney stated in the letter that MAG had, over many years, repeatedly told Barker to stop performing cartwheels because of the potential injuries they could cause and their disruptive nature. The letter continues saying, “You have from time to time suggested that MAG cannot prevent you from performing cartwheels during your comments. That position is incorrect.” They added that legal authorities allow public bodies to place time and manner restrictions on speakers.
The cartwheeling senior did not take the letter lying down. “Just because I have confidence in myself in executing, they said it was unprofessional. Excuse me, it was professionally and skillfully executed. So now, you know, what’s their problem?” Michael LeVault, Youngtown mayor and chairman of the MAG Regional Council, told The Arizona Republic, "It's not my intention to shut down public comment at all…It was just really a safety issue, a liability issue for the attorneys."
The Republic also reports that Barker responded to the correspondence with an e-mail saying the attorney’s letter, “was intimidating, threatening, and defaming.” She went on to write that she supports MAG and now felt that she could not freely express her “positive conviction.”
"Well, it's disappointing, but I feel that there's no reason for me to go and try to prove that, you know, I have an ego and that I'm right or wrong, to do it again," Barker told KPHO CBS 5. DD says that she will follow the order and refrain from doing cartwheels, but she is working on a new move: a flip. She said, “The cartwheel isn’t the end of it. I’m walking down the wall backwards and getting myself in shape for doing a back over.”