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The Daily Tar Heel

Carrboro Town Council discusses misdemeanors, public bathrooms and racial equity

Carrboro Town Council meets at Carrboro Town Hall, pictured here on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

During the Carrboro Town Council meeting on Tuesday, council members discussed an amendment to the Town Code that makes certain offenses punishable as misdemeanors. The council members also heard updates on the Energy and Climate Protection Plan, Community Climate Action Plan and equity tools being used in Carrboro.

The meeting began with a poetry reading to honor Black History Month and the beginning of Women’s History Month.

What’s new?

  • Nick Herman, the attorney for the Town of Carrboro, presented an amendment to chapter five of the Town Code to comply with a state law change that requires specific wording to punish certain offenses as misdemeanors. 
    • Under the new amendment, the following violations would be changed to misdemeanors by the Carrboro Police Department’s recommendation:
      • Noise
      • Discharge of firearms and air rifles
      • Public urination and defecation 
      • Begging and soliciting
      • Public consumption of beer or wine  
    • These violations would have criminal penalties instead of civil penalties under the amendment, according to Herman.
    • Council member Sammy Slade said he was concerned about unhoused people in Carrboro being targeted by this amendment.
    • “I don’t have an interest in making these penalties worse, especially since a lot of these are things that people who are homeless, for example, typically can be held accountable for, such as public urination,” Slade said.
    • Mayor Pro Tem Susan Romaine suggested providing more public restrooms, and council member Randee Haven-O’Donnell agreed.
    • “There is a need to address a basic need for folks to relieve themselves in a dignified manner,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “We need to address that, and it has nothing to do with whether it's criminal or civil; this is dignity.”
    • The council chose not to proceed on the matter, but Mayor Damon Seils said there is a possibility of discussing only certain violations, such as the discharge of firearms and air rifles, at a later date. 
  • Laura Janway, the environmental sustainability coordinator for the Town of Carrboro, presented the ECPP and CCAP quarterly update. 
    • Haven-O’Donnell proposed holding a work session to address the council’s climate efforts and racial equity efforts.
    • “Climate needs are different depending upon the community,” Haven-O’Donnell said. 
    • Council member Danny Nowell proposed working on a live “dashboard” to display council and staff efforts toward emission reductions.
  • Anita Jones-McNair, the chief race and equity officer for the Town of Carrboro, presented an update to the Town Council on the equity tools used in the town.
    • There are three tools currently used by staff, according to Jones-McNair:
      • The racial equity assessment lens is designed to help council and staff members evaluate existing and new initiatives around race and equity.
      • The decision-making for racial equity tool is used by staff members on a daily basis.
      • Pocket questions will be written on council members’ agendas for time-sensitive matters such as grants or proposals as a racial equity analysis.  
    • “This work is very valuable to me and to people who look like me,” Council member Barbara Foushee said. “Being from a population that has been historically marginalized and underserved, I look at this as an equalizer.”

What decisions were made?

  • The Town Council unanimously approved a work session for early fall to discuss incorporating environmental justice into the Town’s climate action plan, as well as a platform for tracking climate action progress.
  • Council members unanimously approved a work session to inquire about public restrooms from Town management.
  • The council unanimously voted to accept the Town of Carrboro equity tools update. 

What’s next?

  • The Carrboro Town Council will meet next on March 7.


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