Morgantown Nuisance Ordinance Hearing Tonight!
In the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis and statewide stay-at-home guidance, Morgantown City Council has chosen to move ahead with a Criminal Activity Nuisance Ordinance proposal which could have some city residents finding themselves homeless without the protection of due process.
The proposed ordinance, which can be found here, is an improvement over previous versions in that it more narrowly targets those accused of drug distribution, theft, or illegal occupation. It's still far from perfect though. While there is some mitigating language which gives the appearance of trying to avoid eviction, this ordinance still carries with it the potential of homelessness as a penalty for residents, even those who have never been found guilty of any crime.
We need to speak out today and let City Council know that this is not what our town needs, especially not in this moment!
Tonight's meeting is via videoconference at 7:00 PM! If you want to be heard, please log in at https://zoom.us/j/660030233 with meeting ID 660 030 233 or call in to 646-558-8656 with meeting ID 900 638 172. Also, the public may submit written comments for the public portion of the meeting by sending written comments via email to the City Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email, please use the subject line "Public Comment 3/31/20".
In order to speak, just complete this form at
https://www.morgantownwv.gov/FormCenter/Public-Comment-Sign-Up-Sheet-March-24-20-14/PublicComment-Committee-of-the-Whole-fo-57 or provide your name, phone number they will use to participate, and the topic on which you would like to speak by texting 304-288-0847 or calling 304-288-7072.
Feel free to tell your personal stories and concerns how moving forward with an ordinance that fuels homelessness could affect our city and our neighbors, but if you need some suggested talking points, here are a few:
1. A nuisance ordinance, however narrow, is the wrong way for Morgantown to go at all. "Broken windows" police theory such as this has proven a disastrous failure in our communities for over 20 years. We should be focusing our time and our resources on preventative programs and services which cure the underlying social problems that fuel crime, rather than adding to social deterioration with an ordinance that could well put some of our neighbors on the street.
2. The middle of a pandemic with a statewide stay-at-home order is not the time to be focusing on laws which can leave people without shelter, and which the public has not had a full opportunity to weigh in on. Any ordinance passed targeting housing should be tabled until after this crisis has passed.
3. This ordinance does not contain true due process for those involved. It allows the City to take action against citizens based solely on the accusation of a crime rather than requiring that said crime be proven in a court of law. The following language should be stricken throughout the entire bill "(A) a criminal charge filed by a law enforcement agency of the State or a political subdivision, or" to ensure that only proven conviction of a crime triggers this ordinance.
4. This ordinance could well put entire families on the street for the actions of a single household member. IE if a pair of grandparents were raising four grandchildren, and one of those grandchildren was convicted of a crime, then the entire family could be punished. The city should draft language and include it in this bill specifying that any abatement process should only affect those convicted of a crime, and not other household members.
5. The ordinance contains no exemptions for the distribution of cannabis. In a city that just publicly eliminated the possession of cannabis as a criminal offense, it makes no sense to pass an ordinance which can further punish people for the distribution of it.
For more information or to get involved further, please reach out to OFWV Organizer Liira Raines at