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Carrboro repeals anti-lingering law

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer
CARRBORO – After months of consideration and calls for the repeal of Carrboro’s anti-lingering ordinance, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen voted unanimously on Tuesday to rescind it.

Upon passage of the resolution, the packed boardroom erupted into loud applause. The resolution also included measures that the town look for ways to find funding for a community-resource officer to staff the corner and work to strengthen the town’s anti-harassment laws.

“It’s a great victory for the people,” said Mark Dorosin, an attorney with the UNC Center for Civil Rights and former member of the board of aldermen. “The only lament I have tonight is that it’s just long overdue.

“It’s been four years, and the same issues that have always made this ordinance unconstitutional and, I think, discriminatory … were the concerns the same day it was adopted.”

Last month, a motion by board member Sammy Slade to rescind the ordinance failed, 4-3. Those who voted against the ordinance’s repeal said they wanted to wait until last night’s previously scheduled meeting to consider it so that neighbors would be aware that they were doing so.

The board approved the anti-lingering ordinance for the intersection of Davie and Jones Ferry roads in November 2007, after residents of the surrounding neighborhood complained of 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 prohibited waiting at the intersection from 11 a.m. until 5 a.m.

In June, the board voted to take another look at the ordinance after 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.

Board member Jacquie Gist moved the resolution, including a provision “that [the board] work, in the early part of next year, to strengthen our anti-harassment ordinance to look at harassing speech to women as being hate speech.”

Gist, who previously voted against the repeal of the ordinance, has said that she’s heard reports from women from the neighborhood who felt harassed by men at the corner.

“That is a physical threat, and it is hate speech,” she said.

A number of residents urged the board to rescind the ordinance, including recently elected Michelle Johnson, who will join the board in January.

“For a community that has focused on progressive thinking and action, we must do better than this ordinance,” Johnson said.

Several day laborers also spoke before the board, noting the ordinance’s infringement on their ability to find work and provide for their families.

“I respect the community. I respect the police,” said day laborer Santiago Hernandez, in Spanish. “What I want is to work.”

Hernandez said some employers come by the corner after 11 a.m., after he and other workers have been required by the ordinance to leave.

Other residents spoke of the problems in the community that the ordinance helps to prevent.

Chris Kreutzer, who lives adjacent to the corner, said that before the ordinance was instated he dealt with drunk men urinating in his yard and garbage on his property.

“Since this ordinance has been passed, things have definitely improved on the corner,” he said.

“It was pretty bad [before the ordinance],” said Bill Madden, a resident of nearby Fidelity Street. “It’s gotten a lot better. The community needs to take better action in policing, self-policing, that if you see somebody out of line, call the cops.”

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  1. John Kramer

    Another landmark decision by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. I am so glad they struck down this law that made it illegal to loiter. That is so against what Carrboro stands for!