OUR VIEW: Saggy pants not most pressing local issue
For some of us, the open-mouthed smacker in the mess hall is disgusting.
Others are peeved by the toe-tapping colleague one cubicle over. The yellow-toothed waiter at that café makes diners avert their eyes. The dude with the earrings so large that his earlobe is a window, he really creeps out strangers.
And there are many, to be sure, who disdain the sight of underpants peeking above the rim of pants.
For those put-off by drooping waistlines, the Terrebonne Parish Council may become the hallway legislator, following the distinguished tracks laid by their straight-shooting Lafourche Parish counterparts nearly six years ago and installing their own ban against the “saggy pants” threatening quality of life.
The council will hold a public hearing on the proposal April 10, when it will decide whether to pursue the ordinance further.
The Lafourche Parish Council in 2007 passed its own saggy pants ordinance. While some constituents support the initiative, the parish was vilified by civil-rights watchdogs who continue to question its constitutionality.
For the embarrassment bestowed on parish government with that gem championed by current Chairman Lindel Toups, it didn’t result in the number of tickets he imagined. Over the last three years, one and one-third person have been ticketed each month for violating the ordinance. Forty people in three years.
Of course, the grand, oft-repeated “law” included in Toups’ ordinance provides penalties for people “in dress not becoming to his or her sex, or in any indecent exposure of his or her person or undergarments.”
Terrebonne’s proposal is somewhat admirable in that the law does not overreach by subjecting violators to arrest or searches in an age where New York residents can be stopped and frisked at any time.
If that were indeed the case, the subjective lens used to define someone’s dress could substitute for probable cause. Instead, they’ll only use the distortion of personal taste to fine violators $50 on first offense, $100 on second offense and $100 and 16 hours of community service for a third offense.
The questions could extend for perpetuity. Is his shirt too short, or pants too low? How low is too low? The top of the waistband? Were his boxer shorts merely bunched up when he was rushing to get ready for work?
Never mind the constitutionality, it’s a waste of time, legislating how people are allowed to dress. Look away instead of making a law, complain to friends instead of issuing a fine; it’s hardly the only non-violent nuisance that comes with the freedom of self-expression.
From this angle, that tank top does expose her midriff. Rap her knuckles with that ruler, toss her in with that scoundrel wearing pants two sizes too large, treat her like that guy with decayed teeth who makes funny noises while he eats.