The city of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has decriminalized littering, public defecation, and urination, despite various business owners decrying the policy.
On Monday, the Kalamazoo City Commission voted to water down some misdemeanor crimes so that they are merely civil infractions in the code of ordinances. Part of their reasoning was that people convicted of these crimes could have their lives negatively affected.
"One thing a lot of people don't realize is a misdemeanor is for life as much as a felony. So many things come with a permanent record on somebody's record," explained Commissioner Chris Praedel.
The commission voted unanimously to accept the changes.
Praedel defended the decision to WXMI-TV.
"We're not rolling out the welcome mat for crime in the city of Kalamazoo," said Praedel. "We're not rolling out the red carpet. We still want there to be accountability and guardrails, and it is still against the law for many of those things on there, to do those actions."
Some business owners are in an uproar over the changes.
“We have a major problem downtown, and I don’t understand why it would even be proposed that the law would be less restricted than it is now," said Cherri's Chocol'art owner Cherri Emery.
"The people that are urinating, defecating, they're not going to stop. We live with it every single day," she added.
Pop City Popcorn co-owner Becky Bil said she was concerned that aggressive and unstable panhandlers might drive people away from the downtown area.
“People have to clean up where they have defecated right in front of your door of your business,” Bil said. “We can’t have that downtown.”
Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson said that part of the reason for the changes was a concern about "equity" in the community.
“The approach of criminalizing these activities has also not done anything about it,” Anderson added.
Commissioner Stephanie Hoffman recommended people develop empathy and compassion about the issues.
“If you see a person who may be defecating, someone in their sane mind would not do that,” Hoffman explained.
Praedel said that he cared a lot about business owners who invested in the community, "but we care a lot about everybody in the community."
Here's a local news report about the development:
Changes to KZoo City Codes www.youtube.com