Portsmouth First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson says car title loan companies and payday lenders are “predators.” At Monday’s Portsmouth City Council meeting, Council gave second reading to an ordinance that would restrict how many of these businesses could be located in one area.
“I understand where you’re headed with it as far as other cities are preparing legislation to slow these things down,” Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows said. “First of all, I don’t see us as having that issue. I don’t see us as having that problem. To my knowledge, two little title loan places, this wouldn’t apply to them. Second, I’m not so sure of the possibility of regulating business. Let the marketplace take care of it. If there’s a need for them to go to it, they’re going to, but if there’s not, then they won’t come here for business anyway.”
Johnson attempted to explain the purpose of the legislation he is proposing.
“All that this legislation is asking is that it be put in place,” Johnson said. “We can’t touch those that are here, so we have to grandfather what is here; but we simply, as a city, do not have to recognize, or we should recognize the fact that these are predators.”
Just because we are a poor community it doesn’t mean that we should have to put up with this type of a business … 500 percent interest. He said the purpose of government is to step in when nothing else works, saying Paul said the same thing to the Corinthians – to step in when you see things are wrong, and that, with that legislation, it is what he is proposing to do.”
“We don’t really have that problem,” Meadows said. “We don’t have them popping up everywhere and I don’t know if we would have a problem if they were everywhere.”
Portsmouth Mayor and Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Kalb said he could see both sides of the issue.
“I have some mixed emotions on this,” Kalb said. “One thing I thought of, if by eliminating the number and grandfathering in the ones that are here now, we’re not slowing down that business any. We’re actually just enhancing the business of the existing ones are going to be getting.”
Johnson said because of the popularity of such businesses is the reason other communities have dealt with it and enacted legislation to restrict their activity.
“It’s because of their popularity that they are popping up everywhere,” Johnson said.
“If we don’t limit the amount that can come in and we don’t try to control how many come in, wouldn’t that be a possibility that if you have multi ones pop up, then they would start lowering their rates to compete with the business?” Meadows asked. “Maybe we can start getting better rates here.”
“No. Honestly, no,” Johnson responded
The ordinance amending Section 1133.08 was given a second reading by a vote of 4-2. Aeh- aye, Kevin E. Johnson-aye, Jim Kalb-Aye, Gene Meadows-no, Thomas Lowe-no, Kevin W. Johnson-aye.
Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas was asked if the city can pass such an ordinance.
“The answer is yes,” Haas said. “That’s why I prepared this legislation.”
The Daily Times attempted to get comments from a payday lender, but did not receive a callback. Several of those companies were not listed in the phone book nor online.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.