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City Staff Memo To Council/Mayor Recommends AGAINST Using Administrative Enforcement To Deter/Punish Fireworks Scofflaws


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(Mar. 28, 2019, 2:15 p.m.) -- With another July 4th period approaching and some neighborhoods rocked near nightly (especially Wrigley) with explosive contraband fireworks, city staff has sent a non-agendized memo to LB's City Council and Mayor citing reasons for not recommending use of administrative enforcement to deter and punish fireworks scofflaws using civil citations that can carry fines but needn't involve a sworn police officer or criminal prosecution.

City staff's memo, which can be viewed in full here, reviews the use of administrative enforcement by other cities and also considers online reporting and remote surveillance. The memo estimates 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 estimates 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. The memo also notes that using city staff represented by employee unions would also require meet-and-confer proceedings under the Meyers-Milias Brown Act.

In pertinent part, city staff's memo states: "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 concludes:

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City staff's memo to the Mayor/Council comes roughly eight months after an item agendized by Councilwoman Suzie Price, joined by Councilmembers Jeannine Pearce, Daryl Supernaw and Al Austin (July 24, 2018) that requested 8-0 [Mungo absent, was present earlier] a city staff report on the "feasibility of implementing expanded fireworks enforcement/administrative remedies."

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The Council's July 2018 voted request came roughly a year after LBREPORT.com suggested administrative enforcement (used in a number of other cities) and just weeks after a group of 3rd Council district residents independently recommended it. On July 21, 2017, LBREPORT.com described how other cities use administrative citations -- civil notices, not misdemeanor criminal charges -- that don't require police or other sworn peace officers because non-sworn city employees can issue administrative fireworks notices of violation carrying fines. LBREPORT.com acknowledged that administrative citations aren't a panacea and the process differs from city to city and 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.

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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 recommended actions including administrative enforcement. Councilwoman Price thanked the volunteer Committee 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."

City staff's March 15, 2019 memo hasn't been agendized for discussion at this point by any Councilmembers or by the Council's Public Safety Committee (Price, Supernaw, Austin.)

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