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Public urination: a Baltimore public health problem | READER COMMENTARY

The public health threat is to bystanders, not perpetrators

I had no choice, but to respond to Katharine W. Rylaarsdam’s letter, “Arresting people for public urination solves nothing” (July 28). To equate public urination with breathing is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard. Talk about a stretch. In a civilized society, people do not urinate in public. Period. There is no excuse for it, and anyone who does this is no better than an animal. Even animals keep their dens and nests clean.

It has nothing to do with being rich or poor. It has to do with respecting oneself and one’s neighbors and fellow citizens. And yes, it is a public health problem, but not for the reasons Ms. Rylaarsdam implies. It’s a public health problem because people walk on sidewalks that are stained and smelly from grown people urinating on them, and then track that filth into their homes and to their families. I dare say Ms. Rylaarsdam would be horrified to come out of her house every morning to find that someone had urinated on her front steps. Yet, this is what many Baltimore business owners have to deal with every single day. Bar patrons — who are beyond intoxicated — urinate, and in some cases even defecate, in the doorways and on the sidewalks in front of many of these businesses. No one should have to clean up after another human being in this way in the year 2021.

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This isn’t the early 20th century. There are no longer public restrooms and baths available in our cities. I grew up in Baltimore, and yes, there used to be large public restroom facilities available. But like most other things in the city, they were ruined, and used for any number of purposes other than those for which they were intended. So they were removed. And I shudder to think what would happen if Spot-a-Pots were placed in the city. They would be tipped over within 15 minutes of being installed. If people need to use a restroom, there are fast food restaurants, bars and other places that have restrooms that could be used in an emergency. Don’t make excuses for this behavior. It cannot be justified under any circumstance. If this becomes acceptable behavior, then we are in a world of trouble and we will have sunk even lower than I ever thought possible.

Theresa Toni; Street, Md.

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This is a problem caused solely by men

In a recent letter to the editor, the writer stated that “physiological processes are going to occur. If people do not have access to toilets, they will do what they have to do because they have no alternative. This is not a criminal problem, but a public health problem.” (“Arresting people for public urination solves nothing,” July 28).

This is a public health problem caused solely by men. You never see women urinating in public (barring late-night social activities, perhaps). Women always find a place to urinate that is out of the public eye and indoors. Just because men can easily do it is absolutely no justification for public urination. It is disgusting, unhealthy, arrogant and, yes, criminal.

N.L. Bruggman, Jarrettsville

Pay businesses to make their restrooms available

Dan Rodricks’ article on State’s Attorney Mosby and the likely knock-on effects we’re seeing in Fells Point got me thinking about progressive policies (”Marilyn Mosby’s experiment in ‘progressive prosecution’ calls for patience, something in short supply in crime-and-grime-weary Baltimore,” June 11). While I agree that progressives have been pushing for decriminalization of victimless crimes (such as public urination, open containers, drug use and prostitution), that isn’t the whole solution to any of those problems.

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Merely decriminalizing (or not enforcing, or not having a law) seems more like libertarianism to me — with less government regulation or interference altogether. Progressive solutions often go a step further, by implementing a better alternative to the old, usually more punitive, laws. For example: the new law in Oregon that decriminalizes small amounts of all drugs, but where offenders face either rehab or a small fine.

I, personally, would be OK with fines for public urination, but only if people have access to restrooms. So then the question becomes: How do we make sure that everyone has access to restrooms, within the constraints of Baltimore’s budget? I doubt we can afford nice, permanent public toilets like in Paris. More Porta Potties sounds cheap and easy (though I don’t know how much is required for setup and maintenance), but I imagine some people would consider them eyesores in tourist areas. My favorite solution is to offer businesses some amount of money to allow people to use their restrooms and have a sticker on their window that announces this to the public, as some German cities have done. I’m open to other creative solutions too.

I don’t put any blame on Mosby for any of this. Not enforcing bad laws is a step in the right direction, but she doesn’t have the authority to change the law altogether. The legislature needs to step up and finish the job by implementing good laws that promote better, more responsible behavior

Stephen Lauer, Baltimore

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