Saggy Pants ban OK'd

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany City Commission has passed a controversial overhaul of its public indecency statutes which includes a provision barring people from wearing pants too low below the hip.

In a 5-2 decision, the commission adopted the measure which, in part, bans a person from appearing in public "wearing pants or skirts more than three inches below the top of the of hips exposing the skin or undergarments."

In the commission's briefing before the meeting, the principal behind the ordinance revision, Commissioner Tommie Postell, rebuffed criticisms of the ordinance, saying that the ordinance was needed to help slow the further decay of society.

"No one wants to see bare butts walking down the street ... We need to try and correct their behavior because YDC (Youth Detention Centers) is full of them, jail is full of them," Postell said. "(Albany) is deteriorating more and more and if we don't do something it's just going to get worse."

The vote came at the same meeting during which a resolution offered by Commissioner Roger Marietta proposed sending a letter to local businesses and educational institutions urging them to quash what Marietta called the fad of sagging one's pants much as businesses did with the "No shirts, No Shoes, No Service." The proposal was tabled for further discussion.

Marietta, who sparked the ire of Mayor Willie Adams during the briefing by using the word "criminalizing" to describe the commission's efforts to legislate how people wear clothing, said during the briefing that he felt passing an ordinance was "over the top."

"This kind of reminds me when my 16-year-old daughter shaved her head...it's all an attention-getting thing," Marietta said. "I just feel that an ordinance criminalizing this is over the top."

"Criminalizing?" Adams asked. "No one at this table would vote for something that is going to put someone in jail. That's not the intent ... And I think we at this table need to choose our words more carefully."

"I'm just saying, what if someone doesn't pay the fine?" Marietta asked. "The judge will hold them in contempt and that will be one of his options."

As the commission has deliberated the ordinance, other communities in recent week, such as Cordele, have passed a similar ordinance. Public hearings held during recently featured a majority of participants coming out against the proposed ordinance. many opponents say the commission is overstepping its bounds.

Now that the measure has passed, police and code enforcement officers have the ability to write $25 tickets to first-time offenders and $200 tickets for subsequent offenses.

The ordinance also allows for up to 40 hours of community service to be issued in addition or in lieu of any fines and while the ordinance does expressly prohibit arrest or imprisonment for violation of the ordinance itself, it also states "the municipal court shall have the same authority as the superior court to enforce obedience to its orders, judgments and sentences."