News Story

Kalamazoo may need No. 2 plan as state moves to override city’s repeal of decency law

Council member blames public defecation on systemic inequities

The city of Kalamazoo made national news after it decriminalized public urination, defecation and littering in July. The Kalamazoo City Commission voted unanimously to reduce these acts from misdemeanors with possible jail time to infractions punishable by fines. But if the Michigan Legislature passes a bill introduced Sept. 7 by Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, state law would override the city ordinance.

Under the new city ordinance, violators are subject to a $135 fine. During a July 18 meeting, Clyde Robinson, the city attorney, said the size of the fine for littering is based on the amount of trash being dumped. The Kalamazoo County District Court’s list of fines has only one fee for “public unination/defaction.”

If House Bill 6367 were to pass, local governments that have ordinances on public decency could not repeal them. The bill specifically refers to public urination, defecation, or littering, the acts covered in the Kalamazoo ordinance. Local governments that have repealed such an ordinance after Jan. 1, 2022, would be required to reinstate it.

It is not clear whether the state can require local governments to enact a public decency ordinance. It has, though, overriden local decisions in other areas, including occupational licensing, preventing local governments from imposing stricter standards.

Hall’s legislation pass does not list penalties a local government would face for overturning a public decency ordinance, and there does not appear to be any companion legislation that addresses it.

At the July 18 meeting, Chris Praedel, a city commissioner, said he was voting to repeal the ordinance because the city needed to “develop strategies to address situations while creating an equitable community.” Stephanie Hoffman, another city commissioner, said people are urinating and defecating in public because there are systemic inequities in housing and health care.

Hall did not respond to a request for comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.