The "squeegee kids" are safe, at least for a while.

The Baltimore City Council tonight postponed a vote on the controversial bill that would prohibit youths from leaping into stopped traffic to wash windshields for tips.

The measure, which proponents say is designed to protect kids and drivers, won tentative approval last week. That 11-to-7 vote split the council along racial lines, with white members in favor of the ban and black members arguing against it, noting that the youthful entrepreneurs are predominantly black.

The council had been scheduled to take final action today on the measure, which would then be sent on to Mayor William Donald Schaefer. But council member Frank X. Gallagher asked the council to postpone the vote following a request from the mayor for all sides to work out a compromise.

Gallagher said after the meeting that the compromise proposal he will offer would still put the squeegee kids out of action, but it would reduce the penalty for the offense from a summons, which would require their appearance in juvenile court, to a citation, in the form of a traffic ticket.

But in reality, Gallagher conceded, neither of those penalties would likely be stringently enforced.

"Realistically, nothing would happen," Gallagher said. "If the officer sees Jimmy Jones and says, 'Hey, you're breaking the law,' that's the end of it.

"The mayor recognizes, like the majority of the council, that this operation is a serious hazard to the youth of Baltimore, as well as to motorists, and he feels as we do that there have been some injuries in the past and we don't want to encounter some serious injury down the road," he said.

But council member Michael Bowen Mitchell, who voted against the bill last week, said the compromise idea was "ridiculous."

Under the bill as amended, he said, not only squeegee kids would be put out of business, but also flower vendors and newspaper hawkers, and "the mayor every time he stops in traffic to praise somebody" would be breaking the law.