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Contentious debate precedes curfew vote
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Members of the Covington City Council asked if government should police people’s children during Monday’s work session.

Words were exchanged on how a curfew in Covington would be enacted and suggestions were tossed around on who would be involved.

Before a vote on a curfew ordinance passed 5-1 during Monday’s public meeting, the council discussed it in a more private setting. Councilwomen Janet Goodman, Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams were hesitant to vote on it, with Goodmanand Franklin wanting to table the ordinance.

Councilmen Keith Dalton, Chris Smith and Michael Whatley, along with Mayor Ronnie Johnston were for the ordinance.
The discussion turned into a lengthy and heated debate with Smith even stepping out of the room.

“We have to do it for the entire city,” Smith said during the debate. “I don’t see it as a black and white issue like some do.”

Franklin answered that she too was looking at the whole city, not just the Green Acres community, which spurred the ordinance in a town hall meeting recently.

“I’m not saying it’s a black and white issue, I’m saying it’s for the entire city.”

Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton reassuring the six council members that the curfew would not target juveniles but give police a tool to issue parents citations. The ordinance would make it unlawful for juveniles, 16 and under, to be out and unsupervised after 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and after 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

City of Covington attorney Frank Turner, Jr. said parts of this ordinance were taken from a similar one used in Conyers. That curfew saw 14 citations written to parents on Sept. 13. On that night, approximately 30 juveniles were gathered in the area of a fight near Applebee’s.

Cotton said the amendment to the ordinance was spurred, in his mind, by a string of robberies that occurred on Hwy. 278 in September. Those robberies were tied to a 10 year old.

“When we come across children and take them to their parents, sometimes the parents are saying they don’t care,” Cotton said. “The ordinance is to deal with the parents having more responsibility.”

Despite the split vote during the work session, which Johnston, —who is the tiebreaker — said he would vote for the ordinance, it was a near unanimous decision during the first reading.

The second reading will occur during the council’s December meeting. If it passes, Johnston would sign it into effect Dec. 9.

“We need to give the chief as many tools as we can,” Johnston said during the work session. “I don’t want us to wait until something really bad happens. I want us to be proactive before we get a 10 year old shot.

“I struggle with government getting in people’s lives too.”

For more on this story see Sunday's The Covington News.