COVINGTON- The Covington City Council will not pursue an ordinance regulating the wearing of baggy pants.
The council reached a consensus during Monday night's work session to remove the item from the agenda of the regular meeting.
"If the thinking of the group is not to proceed on with it, I'm for that…The last thing I want to do is to divide the City Council on any kind of issue," said Councilman Chris Smith, who proposed the ordinance a few weeks ago.
Last week, Assistant City Attorney Frank Turner Jr. wrote a memo to the council stating that he had drafted an ordinance restricting the wearing of pants more than three inches below the waist such that undergarments are exposed, and addressing potential challenges to the validity of the ordinance.
The most likely grounds for challenge is that the ordinance restricts the wearer's right to expressive conduct, which is protected under the First Amendment freedom of speech provision, he said.
Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said that while she understood the intent of the proposal, now is likely not the time to address such an issue, given the tensions that have arisen from the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.
"I'm just kind of really leery about this. I think it's going to cause some situations. Some young men are going to get hurt and some policemen are going to get hurt. I don't want anybody hurt from this," she said.
Councilwoman Janet Goodman said that the real issue is adults allowing children to wear clothes that way.
"I don't think we have the responsibility of trying to tell people how to dress. If that was a fad when I was coming up I would't do it because my parents wouldn't let me," she said, but added that parents buy baggy clothes for their kids nowadays.
Councilman Mike Whatley said he sees the baggy pants regulation as on par with passing an ordinance prohibiting smoking in public.
"We made a resolution that said no smoking in a public place and I feel like we could do the same with the baggy pants issue. I don't want to be divisive either. But I hate to run scared with something just because it could be a problem. I'm not one to run, but it may not be the right time. I do admire Chris's gumption for bringing it up," he said.
Councilman Keith Dalton noted that a study by the Chamber of Commerce has shown that businesses aren't coming to the county because of a lack of a qualified workforce.
"It goes back to the parents. You can't let the inmates run the jail…They need to realize what it means to make it in the real world and having your pants hanging down is not how you get a job to provide for your family," Dalton said, adding that when those who dress that way can't get a job the rest of society should not be expected to provide for them. "If you're going to let them do what they want then by God, they're going to suffer the consequences for what they do," he added.
Williams noted that other cities have passed such ordinances and recommended waiting to see how they fare with enforcement before tackling the issue again.
The council discussed tackling the issue in some other way, such as through a program teaching youngsters how to dress for job interviews.
Brian Jenkins, who is running for chairman of the Board of Commissioners in Rockdale County, attended the meeting to see how the discussion panned out. During public comments, Jenkins said he plans to bring up the issue in Rockdale if elected.
Jenkins said he used to run a youth program for gang prevention and kids who attended were not allowed to wear baggy pants. "The problem does not correct itself, it only gets worse," he said.
Smith encouraged any citizens with concerns to voice them to council members. He said the council could address the issue again in the future.