Ald. Mitts looking to ban sagging pants

May 18, 2012
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Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said she’s tired of the “unfortunate trend” of saggy pants on young men and women out in public in her ward and other parts of the city, and if she has her way, the look could soon be banned.

Mitts, whose ward encompasses parts of Austin, Garfield Park and other West Side neighborhoods, introduced a resolution at last week’s Chicago City Council meeting that, if approved, would prohibit Chicagoans from wearing droopy pants – defined as three inches below the hip – in public and in the city’s schools.

The trend of sagging pants with undergarments exposed is associated with negative stereotypes targeted at people of color, and that can bar young people who wear the look from obtaining a job, Mitts said.

“As summer is around the corner and the end of the school year approaches, more young people will be on the streets in various communities of Chicago, and it would be refreshing to see more appropriately dressed youth ready to secure a job, further their education or enjoy the best of the city,” Mitts said in a written statement.

Saggy pants are also associated with gang-activity and other negative influences that impact street and school violence, she said, but not everyone agrees violence is a pants problem.

Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said it’s a misguided notion to link problems in a community to the way people dress.

Yohnka said the resolution is “overreaching.”

Everyone has the right to express themselves, and often times the way people do that is by a particular clothing style, he said.

“When the government begins to single out one of those things as a means to subject people to a criminal penalty, that’s never a good thing,” Yohnka said.

The resolution would complement the city’s indecent exposure ordinance. Mitts said she wants “folks to exhibit some social manners, basic common sense and overall respect for other people.”

“Today, the wrong attire can cause you a lot of grief if you run across others who don’t like what you have on,” Mitts said. “It can also cost you even more than that – far too many young people have lost their lives because of the wrong color, tilt of a hat or slope of the baggy pants.”

Other governing bodies in Illinois and the U.S. are also enacting, or at least considering, some type of “saggy pants” laws or bans, including Detroit and Atlanta, Mitts said.

In Illinois, Evanston, Lynwood and Sauk Village have also brought up the issue.

James Leahy, executive director of the Illinois Principals Association, said although he’s not familiar with all the components of the resolution, it’s important students come to school dressed appropriately and in a way that doesn’t impact learning.

But determining what’s appropriate or not to wear at school can be difficult, he said.

“It’s a challenge,” Leahy said. “I sure respect the intent and effort to form an opinion on whether it’s appropriate or not.”

He said school is a place where kids come every day, and it has to be like a second home and a place where children learn how to be effective citizens and what’s appropriate in public and the workplace.

This resolution could be “a good thing” if the desire is to help create a more positive culture and climate in schools, Leahy said.

The proposed ordinance now goes to the council’s education committee where hearings regarding the resolution will be held. It’s not yet clear when the hearings will take place.

Mitts said she hopes as a result of the hearings, the city council “will seek to craft an initiative that would ban the wearing of saggy, baggy pants in public places.”

ACLU’s Yohnka is worried this measure would create another reason for city police to target young, black men.

“You have this circumstance where people are effectively creating a new reason for police to interact with people,” he said. “In this case, targeted at people who are young and people of color.”

He wonders how police would know whether someone’s pants were three inches below the hip.

“From a police car, from the street, how do you know if its three inches or two and a half?” he said. “You’re going to get out and go over and have a conversation, and that may include searching.”

It’s an invitation for further intrusion and police interaction of  people of color.

“It just really isn’t appropriate or necessary,” Yohnka said.

2 thoughts on “Ald. Mitts looking to ban sagging pants

  1. I go agree that it’s ridiculous to assume that by making all the kids pull their pants up they are some how all going to start getting jobs, acting polite and apply to college in masses. I personally find the still of sagging pants also to be ridiculous, and at time associated with gangs, but we could say that about a lot of things… Are we going to stop people from wearing oversized white t-shirts just because gangs have decided to adopted them as a form of color camouflage (though not very good camouflage)?

    One thing I will agree with is that there is a culture of disrespect and a lack responsibility and accountability on a wide scale in Austin that needs to change if the community hopes to see positive progress. I don’t think Mitt’s idea really addresses these problems, but I also think that it’s a mistake on the ACLU’s part to try to tie the polices hands when the community needs to let the police do their job. You cannot have a community that won’t work with the police to hold their youth accountable, and then hold the police accountable when the youth commit a crime… That is a recipe for failure.

  2. AustinTalks received the following from reader Sharron Troupe – (TBTNews Commentary from correspondant C. Dubb):

    37th Ward Alderman Emma Mitts recently introduced a bill to her colleagues in City Council to pass a law banning sagging pants. Is she nuts? I dislike excessive sagging pants, and I also find women, as revealing as they may be, who wear booty shorts in the summer showing their butt cheeks over the top. And I think women, as nice as they may look; who wear tops with no bras and their nibbles exploding out is annoying, but even more, a tease. And when women wear tops with their boobs popping out, it’s also a tease and offensive to many people, regardless whether it’s a turn-on or not. In reality, these examples are no different than men or boys wearing sagging jeans displaying their briefs. And if anyone says it’s not, is either blind, foolish or drunk.

    Is it because Alderman Mitts is old, with no vision or purpose in City Council? If this is all she can come up with to appear relevant on the 5th floor, then she either has too much time on her hands or she’s lost her way and that means it’s time for her to step-off and maybe retire. Actually, that’s what she should do anyway. I can find five things Alderman Mitts and other elected council members in City Hall or Springfield that they can present as bills that’ll have a more adverse affect on the quality of life for the residents of my fine state. For instance:

    1). Pass a bill stating that every politician has to go door-to-door greeting and shaking the hands of voters in their ward or district so we can know who the hell you are after you’re elected or reelected!

    2). Pass a bill that stop elected officials from working a second job while holding public office, therefore not taking away from the time needed to serve voters.

    3). Pass a bill that just because a police car doesn’t feel like waiting at a red light, they just can’t switch on their sirens stopping traffic and alarming pedestrians while they go about 30 feet.

    4). Make sure convenient stores in the community stop selling weed papers or blunt cigars, because you know what they’re being used for!

    5). Go to City Council chambers and demand a bill outlawing a raise for elected officials during economic hard times for the city and state municipalities. OH YEAH, don’t forget this bill – TERM LIMITS!

    Then we got Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor or New York wanting to eliminate the Big Gulp. What is wrong with elected officials, do they think everything revolves around what they believe or want? Their arrogance and egos are amazing. They forget that they work for the people! Use some of the money in your political coffers and send out surveys to the homes of voters asking them what they suggest or want from you, their elected servants. One last point about the underwear deal. For the last two years Chicago has hosted a 30-foot statue of Marilyn Monroe on North Michigan Ave. She was posted up in her signature pose with blonde hair flowing and her white pure skin glowing while her skirt flared up showing non other than her UNDERWEAR! Where was Mitts and anyone else denouncing that as being in very poor taste? That’s why Chicago’s mayor emanuel had it removed before NATO!

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