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Board mulls anti-lingering ordinance

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer
CARRBORO – In a discussion regarding Carrboro’s controversial anti-lingering ordinance, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on Tuesday struggled to find a solution to issues surrounding the ordinance and the problems that led to its creation.

The board approved an anti-lingering ordinance for the intersection of Davie and Jones Ferry roads in November 2007, after residents of the surrounding neighborhood complained of public consumption, public urination and garbage in the areas around the intersection. Day laborers, many of them Latino, often gather at the intersection in hopes that contractors will come by and offer them work. The ordinance prohibits waiting at the intersection from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

On Tuesday, the board asked staff to explore the possibility of hiring an outreach officer to staff the corner, and also to look at limiting the times during which employers could hire day laborers, instead of limiting when residents could linger at the corner.

In June, the board voted to take another look at the ordinance. Earlier that month, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent a letter to the town alleging the ordinance’s unconstitutionality, stating that the ordinance is “overbroad and vague” and has interfered with workers’ ability to obtain employment during the late-morning and early-afternoon hours.

On Tuesday, Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison reported that the number of complaints stemming from the corner had steadily decreased since the ordinance was instituted, though a large portion of complaints received by Carrboro police still come from that general area of town.

Several board members said they felt they were dealing with two different issues – the need for a center for day laborers and loitering at the corner by those who aren’t looking for work. Over the past several months, Orange County Justice United and leaders in the Latino community have been discussing the possibility of establishing some sort of day-laborer center.

“I’m worried that we’re confusing the two issues because they’re located physically in the same place,” board member Jacquie Gist said. “If we had [a day-laborer center], I think we’d still have some problems on that corner, because I’m afraid that the problems on that corner are not from the people that are going there to get work. They’re from the people that are going there to get high, and those are two separate sets of problems.”

Gist said she has heard from a number of residents of the surrounding neighborhood, most of them female, who feel uncomfortable and threatened by comments made to them by men at the corner.

Gist said she would not feel comfortable repealing the ordinance without another plan in place to mitigate the issues that surround the corner.
Board member Joal Hall Broun agreed, adding that it’s a public-safety issue for the neighborhood.

“In my opinion, and we are as guilty of it just as any other municipality in North Carolina, we sometimes tolerate a certain level of inconvenience in some neighborhoods that we would not tolerate in others,” she said.

Board member Lydia Lavelle said that while she agreed that women should not have to feel threatened when they walk by the corner, she did not support the ordinance, regardless of whether it would be held up in court if challenged on the basis of constitutionality. Lavelle said if it were to be upheld, she would hate for other communities to use it as a model to perhaps take it in a different direction.

Judith Blau, a UNC professor and director of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center, said in an email to the town Tuesday night that the center employs a community organizer who spends most of his time at the corner and is helping the day laborers to develop a code of conduct. Additionally, Blau said, the organizer has been approaching residents of Davie Road to ask how things are going regarding the corner.

Staff will report back to the board regarding the ordinance and surrounding issues in November.

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