Councilman Martin Targets Saggy Pants in Proposed Law
By Lanine Toote, Special to The Atlanta Progressive News
(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta City Councilman CT Martin (District 10) has sparked debate over whether to amend Section 106-129 of the City of Atlanta Code of Ordinances to permit law enforcement officials to arrest or fine people for “the indecent exposure of his or her undergarments.”
Currently the ordinance focuses only on lewd conduct by declaring it unlawful for any individual to have sex, or to expose or touch genitals or breasts publicly.
The Saggy Pants Ordinance would expand the ordinance to include undergarments.
Co-sponsors of the amendment include Council Members Ceasar C. Mitchell, H. Lamar Willis, Ivory Young, and Joyce M. Sheppard, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
At the end of August 2007, Councilman Martin distributed a letter to Atlanta residents promising to use this opportunity to help define “public indecency” and assured constituents it was not an attempt to profile or target youth.
To allow conversation over the ordinance, Martin has organized a Sagging Pants Task Force (SPTF), which held its first meeting on September 05, 2007, at the Atlanta Civic Center.
Members of the newly created Task Force include educators, City of Atlanta officials and employees, college students, retirees, parents, youth workers, and doctors.
The Task Force aims “to continue the work [TV actor Bill] Cosby started,” Martin said in his opening remarks.
The Task Force will have a “participatory” format allowing participants to make governing discussions like whether or not “to increase the size of the Force” and to anticipate “public hearings and amendments” on the ordinance, Martin said.
Brenda Muhammad, Atlanta School Board Member, and Dr. James Young, former professor, presided over the meeting and are the Task Force Co-chairs.
Muhammad thinks the “community believes it [sagging pants] is a problem,” and agreed with Dr. Young “to listen and then share results” with Martin.
Throughout the meeting, members expressed varying comments and concerns. Remarks ranged from reminiscent tales of life as a youth to questioning the implications of passing the ordinance.
Queen Hadijah, a youth worker, and Yolanda Adams suggested legislators replace “undergarments” with “underwear” because specificity would prevent the arrests of women in slips or elderly men wearing t-shirts.
Wayne Martin, Jr., 24, the Community and Civic Outreach Coordinator for Councilman Caesar Mitchell, said he feels he “treads the lines of adulthood and young urban culture,” because after he leaves Atlanta City Hall he may change into oversized jeans and a t-shirt at home.
Florence Weaver-Pitts, a retired teacher, encouraged outreach to parents.
“What is the spirit of the ordinance?” Saptosa Foster of 135th Street Agency, a marketing and public relations firm, asked.
Foster believes legislators should “exhaust all possibilities to reach the youth,” before legislating because the “practical application is pretty disastrous.”
The BGTF is divided into six committees to address public awareness, outreach and education, organizing focus groups, compiling surveys, restoring justice, and fundraising.
The next meeting of the BGTF is scheduled for October 03, 2007, at 6 pm at the Atlanta Civic Center.
Currently, Martin is engaging in community discussion of the bill; however, it is not scheduled for a vote in Council at this time.
About the author:
Lanine Toote is an Atlanta writer who recently received her BA in English from Spelman College.
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