Bogalusa residents address council

Published 4:54 am Friday, March 8, 2013


The Daily News

Local residents expressed concerns on different issues at the Bogalusa City Council meeting on Tuesday and then commended the city and urged community support.

Larry “Nub” Galloway, who has long complained about seeing young people walking around town with their pants at half-mast and an under layer showing, revisited that issue.

He said the council had, three or four months ago, determined that the “saggy pants” law that was on the books was unenforceable and had it rewritten “so it could be enforced.”

“I ask why it didn’t come back before the council,” he said.

President Wendy Perrette said the council was never presented with a rewritten ordinance, and Councilwoman Oneita Graham said the council was told that it was unconstitutional.

While Perrette said the council never voted on a rewritten ordinance, there was some confusion among the council and administration as to what ever came of the issue.

Later, Police Chief Joe Culpepper said he was sent a memo to enforce the existing “saggy pants” ordinance.

According to Daily News records, in late November Mayor Charles Mizell told the council that he had looked into the existing nudity ordinance and consulted the city attorney, judge and police chief. He then asked Culpepper to begin enforcement of the law already on the books, starting with a 30-day grace period.

That ordinance, passed in 2007, prohibits anybody from being “found in a state of nudity, or partial nudity…, or in any indecent exposure of his or her person or undergarments” in any public place. Anyone found guilty of such exposure can be fined up to $500 or imprisoned for up to 30 days, or both.

This week, although Galloway and others said they regularly see violators on the streets of Bogalusa, Culpepper said the law applies specifically to showing underwear, not under layers of pants.

“I have yet to see underwear,” he said.

Councilman Michael O’Ree said he did not know if he would be able to support a “saggy pants” law and that many cases would not hold up in court.

“They could be (showing) shorts or a bathing suit,” he said. “If they’re showing their butt, that’s a whole other story.”

The councilman admitted that he used to wear his pants low, but said he learned better years ago.

Perrette related the practice to that of men wearing their hair long in the 1970’s.

“I understand that it’s offensive to some, but it’s personal,” she said. “To each his own. I can’t mandate, and I’d rather see the Bogalusa Police Department doing something else with its time.

“It would be hard to enforce. It’s not realistic.”

Both Perrette and O’Ree said they discourage their own children from wearing the low slung pants, but balked at making it a law.

“It’s got to start at home,” said Perrette. “They should outgrow it like Mr. O’Ree.”

Joel Miller’s concern was with the city’s code enforcement.

He said that a year and a half ago, while he was at his brother’s funeral, he was cited for having abandoned vehicles on his property.

Miller, who said the vehicles are not abandoned and not on blocks and that he is saving them for his grandson, fought the citation.

“After going to court a couple of times, I was found not guilty,” he said.

Miller admitted that the vehicles are not currently insured, but said he cannot borrow the money to keep afloat like the city does annually.

He additionally charged unfair enforcement.

Miller said that he followed the code officer for two days and that he appeared to pass by vehicles in “white areas, but targeted blacks and the elderly.”

He asked the council to revisit the code ordinance and to ensure fair enforcement “for people of all races.”

Miller said he does commend the city for “wanting to clean up.”

Galloway took that one step further. He challenged the residents of Bogalusa to get more involved.

Galloway said that the ditches and streets of the city are littered because “we are letting people throw down cans” and other trash. He encourages everyone to pick up litter and to write down the license plate numbers of anyone they see throwing trash out of a vehicle.

“Be a citizen of Bogalusa and keep our city clean,” Galloway said.

City Housing Project Manager Melvin Keith later commended the cleanup challenge and said he had contacted each council member in advance of a “concentrated effort” with the same focus.

“We’ve each got to start in our own area,” he said. “If you are concerned about your area, just take a few minutes every day to keep our city clean. If you do it daily, it’s minimal work.”

Mizell was among the others to applaud Galloway’s enthusiasm.

“I want to see people walking the walk,” he said.