Carrboro upholds anti-lingering law, for now
By Susan Dickson
CARRBORO – Following a Tuesday morning press conference at which concerned citizens called for the repeal of Carrboro’s anti-lingering ordinance, a motion to rescind the ordinance by Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Sammy Slade failed, 4-3, at the board’s Tuesday night meeting.
The board approved an anti-lingering ordinance for the intersection of Davie and Jones Ferry roads in November 2007, after residents of the surrounding neighborhood complained of public consumption, public urination and garbage in the areas around the intersection. Day laborers, many of them Latino, often gather at the intersection in hopes that contractors will come by and offer them work. The ordinance prohibits waiting at the intersection from 11 a.m. until 5 a.m.
On Tuesday, a group of residents gathered at the corner at 11 a.m. to unveil a letter to the board signed by 115 Carrboro residents and advocates calling for the board to rescind the ordinance.
At Tuesday night’s board meeting, board members Lydia Lavelle, Dan Coleman and Slade voted to rescind the ordinance, while board members Jacquie Gist, Randee Haven-O’Donnell, Joal Hall Broun and Mayor Mark Chilton voted to uphold it, at least for the time being.
The vote came after Steve Dear, who signed the petition, asked the board at its meeting to repeal the ordinance, and said he planned to start eating lunch on the corner next week.
“I find this to be unfortunate that we have to get to a point where we have citizens pointing out the inconsistencies of our application of this law and challenging us,” Slade said.
“There’s not going to be any kind of constitutional argument someone’s going to make to me to change that vote,” she said.
The board is scheduled to revisit the issue on Nov. 22, and those who voted against the ordinance’s repeal said they wanted to wait to consider it then so that neighbors would be aware that they were doing so.
Broun said she felt those who live close to the corner should have been informed that the motion to repeal was going to be raised.
“It seems to me to be a lack of due process that’s happening right now,” she said, adding that behavior at that corner has been “an ongoing problem.”
In June, the board voted to take another look at the ordinance. Earlier that month, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent a letter to the town alleging that the ordinance is unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds and stating that it is “overbroad and vague” and has interfered with workers’ ability to obtain employment during the late-morning and early-afternoon hours.
“What you’re doing right now is actually a crime,” Chris Brook, staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, told gatherers at the corner on Tuesday morning.
“It looks like we’re not going to have a problem being here this morning … so we also potentially have a selective enforcement issue,” he added.
Rafael Gallegos, associate director of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center, told the crowd Tuesday that the current economic climate makes finding work that much harder for day laborers, whose families rely on them. The ordinance makes obtaining jobs especially difficult for day laborers in the winter months, during which many jobs are completed during the warmest part of the day, after 11 a.m.
Elimination of the ordinance “will send a message to those individuals that this community is interested in their well being,” Gallegos said.
Angel Martinez, a day laborer who lives in Abbey Court Apartments, said that finding work as a day laborer has become one of his only options as manufacturing and restaurant jobs have dried up, and that the ordinance makes finding day-labor jobs much more difficult.
Elizabeth Haddix, a staff attorney for the UNC Center for Civil Rights, said the ordinance is a violation of both the first and 14th amendments.
It has “an avert and intentional racial and discriminatory impact, which violates the 14th Amendment,” she said.
Haddix added that while some argue that the ordinance is needed to address issues of littering, public consumption and harassment, “state laws and the town code already address these offenses.”
“This ordinance prohibits a person’s very presence on this corner,” she added.
Chris Kreutzer, who lives across the street from the corner, said he had no problem with day laborers using the corner to find work, but that “this corner has a lot of problems unassociated with people looking for work.”
“People come here to drink. Prostitutes use this parking lot,” he said, adding that people use the bathroom in his yard.
While there are laws in place to prevent such behavior, “They have clearly failed miserably on this corner,” Kreutzer said.
He acknowledged that the ordinance is “imperfect,” but, he added, “Until we find a better solution, I am very much in favor of it.”