While I'm getting ready for tonight's meeting(s) at City Hall, I wanted to fulfill a recent request from several readers who wanted to see the sex offender ordinance debate from December.
Many people I talked to after the meetings were left with the impression that the proposal was rushed to a vote without any regards to addressing several legitimate issues Democrats brought to the council's attention. Now that's not to say that Democrats don't care about kids, but rather the opposite since it was the Democrats who attempted several times fix various problems with the proposal, which makes the ordinance as a whole rather weak.
Here's an example:
Several attempts by Democrats to offer amendments, which would have addressed several problems with the proposal, were dismissed by the Republican majority at the ad-hoc committee (which was noted by 5th Ward Council member Duane Perkins). During the Common Council meeting, in an attempt re-visit several problems with the ordinance, Tom Saadi offered an amendment to fix one of the various loopholes in the ordinance (note the portion in bold):
Mr. Saadi moved to amend the main motion to change the language in Section (3) Enforcement Procedure, that reads “If the person refuses to leave or is later found to be in the same Child Safety Zone....” to “If the person refuses to leave or is later found to be in “a” or “any” Child Safety Zone....”. Seconded by Mr. Chianese. Mr. Saadi stated that the current language would allow offenders to “zone hop”.Zone Hop basically means the following. As the ordinance is written, if a sex offender is in a Child Safety Zone, the police will give one warning; if that person is caught in the same Child Safety Zone a second time, then he'll gets a slap on the wrist by the police. In other words, under the current language, the offender is only slapped on the wrist if he's found in the same Saftey Zone two times.
Seems silly (a.k.a. a loophole)
Saadi's amendment would have changes the language in such a way so if a sex offender is found in ANY child Safety zone a second time, he'd get a slap on the wrist by the police. In other words, if an offender is in a Child Safety Zone, he'll be in violation of the ordinance and be fined if he's found in ANY Safety Zone as opposed to the same Safety Zone.
Republican At-Large Council member Mary Saracino joined the Democrats in approving the amendment but once again the Republican-majority rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment in an effort to rush the entire proposal though the process. In the video, you'll notice the frustration among many Democrats (most notably Duane Perkins and Ben Chianese) who wanted to pass the ordinance free of any loopholes that allows any offender to get around the ordinance.
In the end, all but one council member approved the ordinance and in conversations with several Democrats who approved the ordinance, they plan to address several of the loopholes in the ordinance in the future. If one is concerned about the welfare of children, then every step should be taken by the common council to fix the loopholes so this ordinance has the real enforcement capability it needs.
Many critics of the mayor called this proposal nothing more than an election-year gimmick along with the 311 system, the new concern over open space and over development, and the mayor's sudden "flip-flop" on broadcasting local government meetings. In any case, here's the requested video.