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Party-Poopers on Parade: Council Defears"Unruly Assembly" Reform; More on 101.1 FM Tonight
The Coonerty-Mathews City Council voted down 6-1 any lowering of the $800+ fines for a first offense on the "Unruly Assemblies" law, originally championed by Mike Rotkin back in 2005. No police stats was made of enforcement costs, fines levied, or warnings issued by police shmoozemeister Zach Friend. Nor was any showing made that the City was any safer with folks diverted to bars downtown. The law's minor changes will return for a second and final vote the second Tuesday in April, but Coonerty slammed the coffin shut, abandoning his own law to side with conservative residents and cops. I'll be discussing the issue on-air later today 6-8 PM, possibly with student advocates, and perhaps again on Sunday 9:30 AM.
Conservative residents, the police, and two women from "Project Curb" praised the existing law, whose fines are 3 1/4 times what the stated amount ($125) is--a fact ignored by Rotkin in his early backing for the law. Even the defeated Rotkin-Coonerty amendments would only have reduced the civil fines by 1/2.
Student activists hustled to and from the microphone, frequently cut off by the "get moving" 2 minute time limit on speech. This was another Coonerty slap in the face of the public, considering that the ordinance changes were the only item on the evening agenda (other than the shortened Oral Communications at 20 minutes).
None of the organizations were offered more time (4 minutes, reduced from the previously standard 5 minutes for groups) to speak as organizations (which--keep it in mind for the future--they can get by informing the Mayor before the meeting).
The key issue--raised 2 1/2 years ago (http://santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/17931/index.php) was the vastly increased power given the police by adding the phrase "quiet enjoyment of residential property" to the prior standard "a threat to public health, safety, or general welfare."
Police noted they'd given out under 20 actual fine-citations but more than 450 tickets (presumably for other noise offenses) and 4 times as many "warnings" (though policepublicist Zack Friend was vague about that). There was no indication of how many parties they'd shut down with threats on the cranky sayso of a NIMBY neighbor.
Student leaders also complained that attempts to meet with residents, find meetings with the illusive Santa Cruz Neighbors, and engage in constructive dialogue had been ignored.
The current laws give more than enough leeway to police to threaten and/or cite. They also provide no requirement of a particular decibel level.
9.36.010 CURFEW - OFFENSIVE NOISE.
(a)No person shall between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. make, cause, suffer or permit to be made any offensive noise (1) which is made within one hundred feet of any building or place regularly used for sleeping purposes, or (2) which disturbs, or would tend to disturb, any person within hearing distance of such noise.
(b)"Offensive noise" means any noise which is loud, boisterous, irritating, penetrating, or unusual, or that is unreasonably distracting in any other manner, such that it is likely to disturb people in the vicinity of such noise, and includes, but is not limited to, noise made by barking or howling dogs, by an individual alone or by a group of people engaged in any business meeting, gathering, game, dance, or amusement, or by any appliance, contrivance, device, structure, construction, ride, machine, implement, or instrument.
9.36.020 UNREASONABLY DISTURBING NOISES.
No person shall make, cause, suffer or permit to be made any noises or sounds (a) which are unreasonably disturbing or physically annoying to people of ordinary sensitiveness or which are so harsh or so prolonged or unnatural or unusual in their use, time or place as to cause physical discomfort to any person, and (b) which are not necessary in connection with an activity which is otherwise lawfully conducted. As used in this section, "lawfully conducted activities" shall include, but not be limited to, any and all activities conducted by the city for public health, safety or welfare purposes.
9.36.030 SUBSEQUENT OFFENSE WITHIN FORTY-EIGHT HOURS.
Any person who violates any section of this chapter and is cited for such a violation, and who within forty-eight hours after receiving such a citation again violates the same section, is guilty of a misdemeanor. A person is cited for a violation when he or she is issued and signs an infraction or misdemeanor citation, or when he or she is arrested and booked, or when a complaint is filed and the person is notified of the filing of such a complaint.
(Ord. 80-29 § 1, 1980).
The provisions of this chapter are enforceable without reference to the regulations concerning noise set forth in the Zoning Ordinance and the fact that the city officer issuing a citation has not obtained a scientific noise measurement prior to issuing the citation shall not constitute a defense.
The definition of "loud or unruly gathering" currently:
9.37.010 (c)"Loud or unruly gathering" shall mean a gathering of two or more persons on private property or a permitted gathering of two or more persons on public property whose loud or unruly conduct constitutes a threat to public health, safety, quiet enjoyment of residential property or general welfare, including violations of Chapter 9.36. This term excludes incidents of domestic violence. A loud or unruly gathering shall constitute a public nuisance.
REILLY'S WAR ON TERROR
Emily Reilly, perhaps preparing for her congressional run, went on about threats to "public health and safety", but of course, earlier law dealt with all that. What this was all about was giving police and Santa Cruz Neighbors (the Robinson-Coonerty- Mathews election machine) a balnk check to shut down partying when and where they pleased.
TUNE IN TONIGHT
Tune in to Free Radio Santa Cruz at 101.1 FM (also http://www.freakradio.org) 6-8 PM tonight for more discussion of this. Call-in number 427-3772. I may follow-up with more on this Sunday morning if there's enough interest. Jesse Wilson of Against Santa Cruz Party Ordinance, which boasts 1,600 members and Students for a Sensible Party Ordinance has been invited to be on the show.