State Lawmakers Move to Stop Kalamazoo from Going Down the Toilet
Proposed law would make it illegal across the state to urinate or defecate in the streets.
Kalamazoo business owners have recently spoken out against a vote by their city leaders to decriminalize public urination, defecation and littering – among other offenses – under the guise of “equitable changes.” In fact, the new law was so outlandish, it made national news.
Those business owners got some relief recently when State Representative Matt Hall, R-Marshall, introduced a bill that would override the local ordinance.
Hall’s bill would prevent local governments that have ordinances on public decency from repealing them. The legislation specifically refers to public urination, defecation and littering – the acts covered in the Kalamazoo ordinance. Additionally, local governments that have repealed such an ordinance after Jan. 1, 2022 would be required to reinstate it.
There is some debate over whether or not the state can require local governments to enact a public decency ordinance. There is precedence, however, for the state overriding local decisions in other areas – including occupational licensing – preventing local governments from imposing stricter standards.
Additionally, many feel that decisions like this one in Kalamazoo prioritize political agendas over public safety. Many don’t see how lesser punishments will make the downtown area more attractive to customers or are in the best interest of local communities.
Monte Janssen, owner of Youz Guys Dogz, said, “I think it would probably allow people to think they can do what they want and not get in trouble for it. I think it’ll take away the consequence and that’s the concern.”
Janssen believes that police officers should be able to decide whether a violation warrants criminal action or a fine. “Now you’re taking some of the discretion out of their hands, where if someone is doing a blatant violation, they should have a harsher punishment than someone who simply is doing it out of an absolute need,” he said.
In her comments regarding the move to decriminalize public urination, Kalamzaoo City Commissioner Stephanie Hoffman said people are urinating and defecating in public because there are systemic inequities in housing and health care.
This move seems to mirror the actions of other cities with leaders who believe public safety must be sacrificed in the name of “equity.” Both San Francisco and Los Angeles have been facing public defecation problems since decriminalization.