City’s proposed “park rules” ordinance needs more teeth

30 Nov
Tomorrow night our new council will discuss the difference between a “resolution” and an “ordinance”.  If you’ve never read Chico Municipal Code, now’s the time. Here’s a link to the section that will be discussed tonight.
 
According to the Staff report, you can’t enforce a “resolution,” it’s really more of a suggestion, apparently.  
 
 
“regulations in the City’s Municipal Code listed in Title 12R regarding rules and regulations related to City Parks and Playgrounds cannot be enforced by initiating criminal proceedings because they were adopted by resolution and not ordinance. This action will allow additional enforcement tools to address rules and regulations of the parks which are already on the books.”
 
The word “enforcement” comes up 11 times in the report and ordinance, with promises of criminal proceedings “by codifying such rules under the enforcement provisions of the Chico Municipal Code by ordinance., but the exact details of how they will enforce the ordinance never come up in either the report or the text of the ordinance. 
 
“Government Code Section 36900(a) states that violation of ‘a city ordinance is a misdemeanor unless by ordinance it is made an infraction. The violation of a city ordinance may be prosecuted by city authorities in the name of the people of the State of California or redressed by civil action.'”
 
And there it is, “may be”.
 
Hey, I don’t invent this crap, as I’ve been accused, I just cut-and-paste it out of city documents that are available for everybody to read. Unfortunately, judging from comments made on Engaged! Chico, nobody read the ordinance, they just assume it’s going to be a slam dunk and the tents will disappear from the park as soon as the meeting is over. 
 
From Chico Engaged:
 
“I 100% support getting back to enforcing our ordinances which will allow all of us to enjoy our beautiful natural resources together. I am pleased to see items such as this one on the agenda and look forward to its successful implementation! Thank you.”
 
“I fully support enforcement of our laws and ordinances, including in our parks and playgrounds. Let’s get back to not allowing camping, drug use, drinking, etc. in our parks. It’s time they become usable again by the law abiding citizens of this town.”
 
I have to ask these folks – what exactly do you 100%, fully support? Did you read ANY of the ordinance? The staff report promises, “violations of park rules and regulations may be enforced through not only administrative and civil code enforcement but also by criminal code enforcement and charging of violators with misdemeanors under the Chico Municipal Code.”  
 
I believe the words “may be” indicate this decision is up to the officer on scene, meaning, this ordinance is still discretionary. 
 
According to uslegal.com, Discretion is the power of a judge, public official or a private party (under authority given by contract, trust or will) to make decisions on various matters based on his/her opinion within general legal guidelines. It is a public official’s power to act in certain circumstances according to personal judgment.”  Any city employee is considered a “public official.
 
 So I went back to current municipal code, where it’s made pretty clear:
 
 
The park rangers shall be primarily responsible for enforcing the park rules and regulations adopted in this title, subject to the direction and control of the director. However, the park rangers, shall, from time to time, be assisted in enforcing the park  rules and regulations adopted in this title by city police officers.

A violation of the park rules and regulations adopted in this title shall be an infraction punishable by a fine in the manner provided for by Section 1505 of the Charter of the City of Chico.

A fine. Wow, I’m sure transients across Chico are shaking in their stolen boots. Take a look at Section 1505 of the city charter.

Section 1505.   Violations; penalties.
 
A violation of any provision of this Charter or of any ordinance or resolution of the city, or any order issued by any officer, agent or employee of the city pursuant to such ordinance or resolution shall be deemed an infraction unless such provision shall otherwise provide that such violation is a misdemeanor. All infractions shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) or as set by ordinance, and all misdemeanors shall be punished by a fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding the maximum penalty allowed under the general laws of the state for misdemeanors. A minimum penalty, not in excess of the maximum penalty provided for herein, may be adopted by ordinance with respect to any particular violation.
 
There it is – “a fine and/or imprisonment…” which is determined at the discretion of a city official. It also says “A minimum penalty, not in excess of the maximum penalty provided for herein, may be adopted by ordinance with respect to any particular violation.”
 
Read the ordinance yourself – there is no “maximum penalty” or any specific action listed in this ordinance. There’s nothing about repeat offenders, nothing about indecent exposure or defecating on the creek, nothing about vandalism or theft. But, here’s an irony – the next agenda item is an ordinance against dumping and prostitution, with specific fines and even threat of arrest. 
 
So, I’ll call this ORDINANCE OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CHICO, AMENDING TITLE 12 OF THE CHICO MUNICIPAL CODE BY ADDING CHAPTER 12.18, PARK RULES AND REGULATIONS what it is – another discretionary law that will not be enforced. Just like “sit and lie”.  
 
Of course, this is an “urgency” ordinance, and they’ve put a sunset of “no more than 6 months” on it. So, it’s still in the works. You still have time to chime in on Engaged! and ask them to put some teeth in their new chihuahua. 

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