The city of Kalamazoo, Michigan has now decriminalized public urination, defecation, and littering to be more “equitable.”
Small business owners in the area had voiced their opposition to the effort, but their concerns were ignored.
On Monday, July 18, the city commission unanimously voted to reduce the offenses from a misdemeanor to just a civil infraction.
Becky Bil, co-owner of Pop City Popcorn in downtown Kalamazoo, is one of the business owners who has been taking a stand. She told MLive that there have already been “aggressive and unstable” panhandlers in the 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.”
Cherri Emery, owner of Cherri’s Chocol’art, echoed Bil’s concerns, telling the news outlet that “I don’t understand why it would be proposed that the law would be less restrictive than it is now.”
“I don’t understand why we would make it easier for them,” Emery said.
Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson said that decriminalizing these offenses will help the city be more “equitable.” City Commissioner Chris Praedel said pretty much the same thing, according to a report from Fox 17, that it is “fair and equitable to who these laws were most affecting, the unhoused population, as well as provide a better solution for those trying to get on their feet.”
“I definitely empathize with the downtown business owners too. They have invested a lot to be in downtown, and a lot of those spots are mom and pop shops where that is their life income. We want to be respectful of that. We hear them. We are listening to them, and we care a lot, but we care about everybody in the community,” Praedel said.
Commissioner Stephanie Hoffman said that the community needs to have more empathy for people crapping in front of their stores.
“If you see a person who may be defecating, someone in their sane mind would not do that,” Hoffman said. “There is an issue, there is a trauma, there is a crisis going on.”