With Scofflaws Detonating Explosives Shaking Multiple Neighborhoods, Councilman Austin (Joined By Zendejas, Andrews & Richardson) Seek Multiple City Mgm't, City Att'y And City Prosecutor Actions Going Beyond Previous Talk
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|(June 20, 2020, 5:25 a.m.) -- With scofflaws now detonating explosives shaking multiple neighborhoods (from NLB through Wrigley into Central LB) and residents communicating the extent of the problem via "Long Beach Against Illegal Fireworks Facebook page, City Councilman Al Austin, joined by Councilmembers Mary Zendejas, Rex Richardson and Vice Mayor Dee Andrews have agendized a multi-part item June 23 Council item seeking multiple actions. .
Their agendizing memo recommends a multi-part "Illegal Explosives and Fireworks Action Plan to address the illegal use of fireworks and explosives in Long Beach."
[Scroll down for further.]
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|The Austin-Zendejas-Richardson-Andrews item -- agendized as a last minute addition to the June 23 Council agenda -- goes previous years' pre-July 4th Council items (mainly seeking city management "reports") by instead seeks actions by city management, the City Attorney and City Prosecutor offices. It effectively eclipses an item the same night's Council agenda (seeking a management "report") scheduled earlier in the week by Councilwoman Suzie Price joined by Councilkmembers Pearce, Supernaw and Vice Mayor Andrews.
"By almost all accounts, the explosions have started earlier, with more frequency, and with greater noise and disruption than in previous years," Austin and his co-agendizers write. "Residents throughout our City are asking for additional measures to help address the daily barrage of explosions and nuisance from illegal fireworks, and have looked at additional steps that have been taken in other cities..."
The neighborhood-rattling explosives aren't simply "illegal" in Long Beach. They're contraband statewide, including mortar launched rockets and ground explosive devices.
A Long Beach Against Illegal Fireworks Facebook page, a private group, has documented the issues and grown to over 1,300 members since May 24.
Among the multiple actions in the Austin-Zendejas-Richardson-Andrews Illegal Explosives and Fireworks Action Plan is administrative enforcement.
On July 21, 2017, LBREPORT.com described how other cities use administrative citations -- civil notices, not misdemeanor criminal charges -- that can carry hefty fines but needn't involve sworn police officer involvement or criminal prosecution (which requires conviction "beyond a reasonable doubt." In contrast, an administrative citation can be issued by non-sworn city employees, doesn't require proof beyond a reasonable doubt to sustain and can still carry a hefty fine.
LBREPORT.com acknowledged that administrative citations aren't a panacea; the process differs from city to city; it could range from handing out an administrative citations in the field to using online emailed reports from residents to produce a mailed notice of violation to an alleged scofflaw.
But at the time, no Councilmembers followed-up with actions.
On June 19, 2018, LBPD/LBFD presented a pre-July 4th report that didn't mention using administrative citations. However Councilwoman Price separately agendized an item inviting a "Third District Residents' Fireworks Committee" to present the results of its independent nearly-year-long research which (independent of LBREPORT.com) recommended actions including administrative enforcement. She thanked her district's volunteer group for its work and said: "The administrative citation option is something that my staff is researching now to bring back as a potential agenda item in the future."
After another July 4th with conditions described as a "warzone" in some neighborhoods, Councilwoman Price, joined by Councilmembers Jeannine Pearce, Daryl Supernaw and Al Austin agendized a July 24, 2018 item that requested 8-0 [Mungo absent, was present earlier] a city staff report on the "feasibility of implementing expanded fireworks enforcement/administrative remedies."
In March 2019 with another July 4th period approaching, city staff sent the Mayor/Council a non-agendized memo citing reasons for not recommending administrative enforcement. City staff's memo, which can be viewed in full here, reviewed the use of administrative enforcement by other cities. It also considered online reporting and remote surveillance. The memo estimated LB's daily cost to implement all of the methods would include $35,000 to deploy LBPD officers and LBFD arson investigators plus $40,000 to purchase two special law enforcement drones. It estimated long-term costs would include another Deputy City Attorney position ($210,000) plus a minimum of 300 hours of administrative code enforcement work ($19,500, to review video evidence and process administrative appeals, plus a hearing officer on appeals at $150 per case.
Management's memo also noted that using city staff represented by employee unions would also require meet-and-confer proceedings with city employee unions under the Meyers-Milias Brown Act.
City staff's memo reasoned: "Given the significant immediate and long-term costs, legal concerns, potential lawsuits involving privacy issues, and the substantial administrative resources required, it is not recommended that the City implement and online reporting tool or a drone surveillance tool for fireworks enforcement. Implementing an extensive administrative citation program to enforce fireworks violations will require additional analysis to determine exact costs for additional resources and staff time...There are also significant concerns with the increased risk and danger to City staff when conducting enforcement of large crowds in areas of high activity during the Fourth of July holiday..." City staff's memo concluded:
At that point, Councilmember(s) could challenged management's reasoning and directed actions beyond lawn sign and social network messaging (that "all fireworks are illegal" and to "celebrate safely.")
Now Councilmembers Austin-Zendejas-Richardson-Andrews have done so in ways that include administrative enforcement and also go beyond in seeking actions on multiple fronts.
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