In Depth / Perspective / With Archival Audio
Bills Giving Cities More Control Over Sex Offender Group Homes Blocked By Sac'to Dem Leaders; City Staff and Ass'ywoman Karnette Now Say They Favor Reviving Measures
(Feb. 24, 2008) -- Two Sacramento bills that would give cities more control over the clustering of up to six convicted sex offenders in neighborhoods were blocked just weeks ago by members of the Sacramento legislature's current Gerrymandered Democrat leadership.
These actions passed without public mention by LB City Hall, local elected officials and much of LB's media. We're particularly annoyed by "news" stories that atttribute actions to "state laws"...instead of identifying lawmakers who are responsible for making and perpetuating those state laws. "State laws" don't make themselves. "State laws" are made or unmade or amended by state lawmakers.
One of the two proposed measures, AB 370 by Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R., San Dimas-Apple Valley), would let City Halls adopt ordinances prohibiting registered sex offenders on parole from living in residential facilities with six or fewer other persons on parole unless those persons are familymembers. Its supporters included the League of CA Cities (representing City Halls statewide), which wrote in a May 2007 letter to Assemblyman Adams:
AB 370 would provide cities and counties with greater oversight and authority regarding sex offenders in residential group homes licensed by the state. The League supports permitting cities to exercise review and land use regulation of group home facilities and residential care facilities in residential neighborhoods including application of zoning, building and safety standards. AB 370 is a good public safety measure which will allow communities who are most affected by the release of a sexually violent predators to have a say in the placement of these individuals. For these reasons, the League supports AB 370.
On April 11, 2007, the Assembly Human Services Committee took up AB 370 at a hearing that included a colloquy involving then-Assemblywoman, now Congresswoman, Laura Richardson (D., Carson-LB). She was unpersuaded by the opposition's arguments and voted for the bill. The Committee vote was 4-3 (Yes: Richardson, Berryhill, Davis, Duvall; No: Beall, DeSaulnier, Krekorian).
LBReport.com provides on-demand audio access to the pertinent portion of the April 11 Committee hearing [via California Channel archives]. To launch the audio, click here [large MP3 file, 16.8 MB, may take time to begin playing].
On May 8, AB 370 bill passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee 4-1 (Yes: Aghazarian, Anderson, Ma, Portantino; No: Leno)...but it hit a brick wall in the Asssembly Appropriations Committee, where chair Mark Leno (D., SF) put it on the committee's "suspense" file -- denying it a vote -- until it died at the end of January 2008.
To read AB 370 as blocked, click here.
Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D., LB) is a member of the Assembly Appropriations Committee...but didn't criticize blocking the bill publicly.
On Jan. 15, 2008, SB 913 (a measure similar to AB 370) by State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth (R., Temecula-El Cajon) was blocked on a party-line vote in the Senate Public Safety Committee 2-2 (Yes: Cogdill, Margett [both Repubs]; No: Romero, Cedillo [both Dems]; Absent/Abstaining/Not Voting: Perata [Dem]). The Committee's majority (three Dems) has a policy of not advancing bills they classify as worsening prison overcrowding, citing a federal court judge poised to release prisoners.
The blockaded legislation was first reported locally by LBReport.com in a February 19 editorial. It was separately cited [by coincidence] on KFI radio the same day by Assemblywoman Sharon Runner (R, Lancaster) who helped lead the petition initiated drive for "Jessica's Law". She referred to the blocked bills [not by number but by content] as measures that could help neighborhoods and cities...and commended Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal for using Jessica's Law to push for city actions.
Assemblywoman Runner's KFI appearance came after Alamitos Beach area residents went public about paroled sex offenders at a neighborhood apartment building, voicing their objections in the period for public comment on non-agendized items at the Feb. 12 City Council meeting.
2nd district Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, who indicated that she'd been discussing the issue with the City Attorney's office, agendized an item for Feb. 19 Council meeting which sought to oppose to what she termed the "over-concentration" of sex offenders...but didn't mention AB 370 or SB 913.
The Press-Telegram reported Councilwoman Lowenthal's Feb. 19 agenda item...but also managed to avoid mentioning the two blocked bills.
The story drew L.A. market media attention, including KFI afternoon talk show hosts "John & Ken" who broadcast their Feb. 19 show from outside the Alamitos Beach area apartment building in question.
Councilwoman Lowenthal and 3rd district Councilman Gary DeLong were present at the scene, and KFI indicated that Councilwoman Lowenthal would appear on the show...but for reasons not explained on air, she didn't.
Photo credit: Daniel DeBoom
Just weeks earlier, LBReport.com was present as 3rd district residents filled a College Estates Park meeting room, with Councilman DeLong present, to voice frustration over negative impacts allegedly stemming from a group home that appeared in their neighborhood.
At the meeting, the group home operator indicated that its on-site management has changed and its residents are individuals with various physical disabilities, not sex offenders; an LBPD rep acknowledged separate calls for service in the area not related to the group home.
A LB City Attorney office rep told the crowd that various state and federal laws and bureaucratic definitions currently make it hard for City Halls (including LB) to regulate such facilities...or even determine with accuracy where the facilities are and what they're doing until residents discover them and bring the issues to light.
Councilman DeLong told the crowd that he'd be willing to agendize an item to discuss the type of measures instituted by the City of Newport Beach regarding group home operations...if the City of Newport Beach's ordinances survive a currently pending court challenge.
On Feb. 20, a day after the KFI broadcast and the LBReport.com editorial independently mentioning AB 370 and SB 913, City Hall's Manager of Gov't Affairs, Tom Modica, emailed us:
We are definitely supportive of bills such as AB 370, and have discussed this issue with both the League of California Cities and our delegation, as it is a bill that provides more local government control over important neighborhood issues. We'll continue to work with the League and others to see if limiting sex offenders in sober living facilities can be incorporated into any of the other bills on sober living facilities the City is supporting...
On Feb. 23, Jay Day, an aide to Assemblywoman Karnette announced at an ELB neighborhood "meet and greet" attended by LBReport.com that the Assemblywoman favors reviving the substance of AB 370. (There are ways to do this, by amending it into another bill or gutting and amending an entire bill to clone the measure, etc.)
This glacial movement isn't occuring because officials are eager to get involved. It's happening because the public is fed up with endless excuses from state lawmakers who've let bad laws persist that now afflict LB neighborhoods from Alamitos Beach to College Estates-Naples and beyond.
LB voters -- Dems and Repubs and especially independents -- aren't about to drink more political Kool-Aid from Sacramento incumbents and their local clones on this issue.
Changing state law is the right starting point, but the remedy isn't spreading group homes/sex parolees across the city; the public hungers for real relief on this, not more of it.
The right to change those who brought us to this point is what elections are for. LB's State Assembly and State Senate seats are both at stake in just weeks.
Events on a national scale show that the public wants change. Candidates who challenge the status quo and aren't afraid to speak honestly on issues that strike close to people's homes can win.
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