Porterdale council deliberates over baggy pants law

PORTERDALE -- The City Council entered into a lengthy debate Monday night over whether or not the city should attempt to regulate the wearing of baggy pants.

Councilman Mike Harper brought the matter before the council at Monday night's work session, saying that he has been contacted by several residents who object to individuals wearing their pants below their buttocks and exposing their underwear. Harper said other jurisdictions have enacted ordinances against baggy pants, and he would like to see Porterdale do the same.

"Small towns have gotten tired of people walking around with their Fruit of the Looms showing," Harper said.

The council reviewed a draft ordinance, based on one enacted in Albany, that would define the public wearing of pants or skirts more than 3 inches below the top of the hips and exposing the skin or undergarments as public indecency.

Violators of the ordinance would be subject to a citation and fine of not less than $25 for the first offense. Fines would increase for subsequent offenses. Violators could also be ordered to perform community service.

Not all council members agreed that wearing pants or skirts 3 inches below the hips would qualify as public indecency.

Councilwoman Anita Rainey cautioned against trying to regulate what people wear.

"I think you start getting into an area that is gray when you try to control the way people dress," she said.

Councilman Lowell Chambers agreed, saying that some fashion choices -- like tattoos and piercings -- are examples of freedom of expression, and though they may be unappealing to him, that doesn't make them illegal.

"I don't think we have a strong basis to prevent those sort of things," he said.

Chambers said he also had a concern about the down side of outlawing baggy pants -- particularly the time and energy required to enforce the ordinance.

Porterdale Police Chief Geoff Jacobs said more warnings would likely be given than citations written for offenders.

Chambers added that he had no objection to enacting a public indecency code in line with the state law, but that including baggy pants would be "a big leap."

"I think baggy jeans are ugly, stupid and illogical," said Chambers, "but I don't think there should be a law against it."

Harper said he respected his fellow council members' opinions but asked that the council continue to consider the proposed ordinance. Council members agreed to put the issue on the agenda for the next work session, which is scheduled for Feb. 23.