Council approves ordinances that address racial inequality

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 24, 2020

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The city of LaGrange approved multiple ordinances Tuesday night that address racial inequality.

Those ordinances included a policy against discrimination in city services, a civil fine ordinance for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and enhanced penalties for hate crimes. 

City of LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton explained that the new marijuana ordinance would result in a civil fine of $100 on the first offense.
The offense will be a civil infraction, and will not constitute a criminal infraction or criminal offense for any purpose.

In a previous meeting, Thornton said if there are other crimes associated with possession of marijuana such as guns, intent to sell or assault, those would be handled accordingly.

“All we’re talking about is just the mere possession of the small quantity,” Thornton said previously. “And those arrests disproportionately affect African Americans across the nation. But even here in LaGrange, there’s a disproportionate number of African Americans who are arrested for those low-level drug offenses.”

The ordinance granted the Municipal Court jurisdiction to try and dispose of cases where a person is charged with the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana if the offense occurred within the corporate limits of the city.

Councilman W.T. Edmondson said Tuesday that he was glad the city was discussing the ordinances.

“The way the ordinance is now, people would never come out of the system,” Edmondson said.

“I feel as though this is a great ordinance to come up at the time it came up.”

The non-discrimination in employment essentially requires all ciy employees, agencies and contractors to treat all interactions equally.

The hate crime ordinance enhances penalties for violations motivated by hate.

The ordinance adds that the city will provide for the collection and dissemination of investigatory data by and for law enforcement agencies.

The city also approved a Language Access Plan grant that will help the city communicate better with the community.

According to city of LaGrange Development Director Alton West, the LAP is how the city can reach out to the limited English-speaking community.

The city of LaGrange staff reviewed the 2013-2017 American FactFinder Survey 5-year estimates and determined that of the population of 28,035 persons over five years of age, 2,292 persons in the city (8.2% of the total population) speak a language other than English. Of those 2,292 persons, 1,223 (1% of the total population and 53.4% of the population speaking a language other than English) have limited English proficiency.

In LaGrange, of those persons with limited English proficiency, 413 speak Spanish, and 810 speak other languages.

The city plans to do the following for its outreach efforts:

  • Contact residential managers of low-income housing agencies to request their assistance in distributing information to residents regarding training and employment opportunities in relation to the CDBG Project.
  • Consult with state and local workforce training program agencies, career centers, probation and parole agencies, unemployment compensation programs, Troup Works and other officials and organizations to request their assistance in recruiting program participants for the city’s or the contractor’s training and employment positions.
  • Advertise relevant jobs or training opportunities through the local media.