Commentary: City Needs to Enforce Current Ordinances Not Make New Ones

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citycatToday has been one of those days where I have several good ideas for a column, but no great ideas for a column.  For example we have now had two horrific killings of police officers one of course down the road in Oakland and the other in Pittsburgh.  There is not a great local angle on that fortunately, but it is pretty tragic, especially I guess some of the political biproduct that has crept into the latter incident.

There is some interesting legislation that finally looks at tackling runaway state salaries.  Assemblymember Anthony Portantino has introduced legislation that looks to freeze salaries, benefits, overtime, and compensation for those who make over $150,000.  One group not directly addressed in this are UC Employees.  The numbers are staggering at the top end.  Well publicized is President Mark Yudof getting an annual salary last year of over $800,000.

UPTE cites this particular statistic:

“A 20% pay cut to UC’s 400 top executives would save $24.4 million, and would help the university do two critical things.”

Do the math there and you realize that 400 top executives are getting over $120 million, that is nearly three times what the same number of city employees are getting.

The Davis Enterprise has a nice article on the city budget where they again look at issues like employee salaries, comparative wages to other cities, and contract negotiations.  All things we have covered this week already.  They also have an Op-ed today that talks about the school funding situation, a call for salary cuts, and the fact that the district is not going to use one-time money this time to prevent layoffs.  Again fairly similar to the op-ed we had yesterday.

While all of these seem interesting in some way, there is one topic we have touched on but not really gotten into in great detail.  It has to do with city ordinances.

It seems we have dealt with two specific ordinances quite a bit recently.  One is the noise ordinance which comes into play with the failure of the city to enforce it with regards to a day care center.  Now it seems that the Mayor Pro Tem is trying to carry the water for the owner of said day care center to get such noise exempted.

The other is the variety of zoning codes and blight ordinances that apply to what is going on at Westlake.  We had a pictorial display of the center on Wednesday.  The city feels helpless, but they really need to step up and enforce what is on their books here.  It seems this article may have an impact in that regard.  We hear reports that the city is actually doing a bit more now to see what they can do with regards to the owners.  Whether that will have an impact or not remains to be seen.

A few weeks ago, the Davis City Council considered a new tobacco ordinance, to limit tobacco oriented businesses.  The issue pushed by the Mayor Pro Tem was looking into whether the council wished to pursue an ordinance related to tobacco paraphernalia or sex-oriented businesses.  The council wisely decided not to forge into such territory.

Watching the failure of the city to enforce many of our current ordinances leads to me openly wonder if we should not have a moratorium on all new ordinances until the city can enforce the ordinances currently on the books.

What good does it do to have new laws if you cannot enforce the current ones?  Everyone seemed to be either bewildered or bemused by revelations of the massage parlor sex going on, but that is already illegal–why do we need a new ordinance to deal with something already illegal?  Drugs are already illegal, why are we going to crack down on a business that sells legal things in hopes that it will prevent people from using their products illegally?  Does anyone really believe if we banned the sale of Hooka pipes, that people would stop using drugs?  People are pretty innovative when it comes to breaking the law, it seems doubtful that would have much impact.

In the meantime, we have serious quality of life issues with regards to the noise coming from that day care center.  It is distrubing to read through the stack of correspondence between those neighbors and the city from 1994 to the present and to see no action by the city.  Don Saylor who is pushing the current exemption, could not even make the time to meet with the neighbors.  He did not even bother to respond to their repeated letters.  Why does the city need an exemption when they haven’t bothered to enforce the law to begin with?  Meanwhile the neighbors have spent thousands just make their houses livable.  This is not what Davis is supposed to be about.

In West Davis, we see the owners of the Westlake Plaza have run their establishment into the ground–quite literally.  At one point there was a notice of violation posted over the issue of filling the cargo bay.  It was never acted upon by the city.  That cargo bay indicates a clear intent to violate the current city ordinance that requires a grocery store in that shopping center.  The city could enforce that law but has chosen for whatever reason not to.

In the meantime, there are broken windows, collapsing ceilings, and a completely ripped up infrastructure.  Many have suggested that the owners perhaps do not have money to make this project work with suitors such as the Delanos.  What they perhaps fail to recognize is that most of the cost at this point is of their own doing.  They ripped and gutted apart the inside of that store which is going to cost at least $1.5 million of their money to replace.

The city has allowed this property to sit vacant for nearly three years (May of 2006 is when Food Fair left).  That is appalling.  The other businesses are now sitting on the edge of the precipice.  They will fall in.  And that entire property may eventually sit vacant.  The owners will lose money, but so will the city.  And yet, to this point, the city has done virtually nothing.

So I think that the city is best off not passing anymore ordinances as it appears that enforcing the current ones is more than it can handle.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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14 thoughts on “Commentary: City Needs to Enforce Current Ordinances Not Make New Ones”

  1. My View

    In the case of the daycare, bothered neighbors should give up on the city. Just go to small claims (or superior court if an attorney will now take the case on a contingency basis), over and over again, until the owner of the daycare gets tired of it, and does the right thing. Why the neighbors have not resorted to a lawsuit, when they had an attorney ready and waiting to take their case on, is beyond me. Especially when these same neighbors have spent thousands of dollars on useless noise abatement. It is high time for the neighbors to take the gloves off, and show up the City Council’s inaction on this issue. Embarass the heck out of Don Saylor. He needs it, for stalling on this matter.

    As for Westlake, Don Shor made a good suggestion. Time to take the deterioration of the mall, etc. to the Business & Economic Development Commission, and whatever other commission DANG can think of, w your pictures DPD, to put this issue on the “front page”. I don’t care if DANG has done this before. It is time to do it again. Bring it in front of the City Council en masse. Get a huge group of people to appear before the BED and the City Council, start a petition drive, make noise – big noise. Citizens need to use the process, and get more vocal – right now! Shame the city into action.

    DPD, you make a good point. What is the use of passing more ordinances, if the ones already on the books are not being enforced?

  2. Rich Rifkin

    DG: “we now have had two horrific killings of police officers one of course down the road in Oakland and the other in Pittsburgh.”

    I am appalled at the huge amount of homicide going on.

    The Christian Science Monitor yesterday had a story ([url]http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0404/p99s10-usgn.html[/url]) looking at the spate of mass murders across the US lately, asking if the culprit might be the economy: [quote]“(The events in Binghamton, NY and Pittsburgh, PA) fit a larger pattern of mass killings which have seemed to proliferate since America’s economic downturn, experts say. [u]Forty-four people have died in a string of five such incidents in the past month[/u], from Oakland, California to Alabama to North Carolina.”[/quote]

    In addition to those 44, 5 children were murdered ([url]http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jjXzF8BSXFLpOFfc6psDn9i9AEKwD97C8MVO0[/url]) yesterday in Washington state.

    While I don’t know why any one of these individual murderers did what he did — they are all males, of course — I suspect our inattention to the dangerously mentally ill is a part of it. That and guns. Any family which has a seriously psychotic member knows how our system works. Until it is too late, that person cannot be locked up against his will. He cannot be forced to take anti-psychotic medication. We treat these disturbed people as if they are competent adults, when we should be treating them as seriously dangerous to themselves and to others. The idea of liberating the mentally ill is that they enjoy freedom. They like walking around deranged, homeless, malnourished, filthy and dangerous. I don’t get this attitude at all. Until we accept the fact that there are adults with serious psychiatric disorders which require society to take care of them, feed them, house them, medicate them, and in some cases locking them up in medical facilities, we face the risk that one of them will get ahold of a powerful gun and kill a bunch of innocent people. That is what I suspect happened in New York, and possibly was the case in some of the other mass killings. Our lax attitude with the mentally ill is compounded by our lax gun laws. At the very least, a purchaser of a gun should never be someone who needs the care of a psychiatrist.

  3. resident of old north

    The readers of this blog should be made aware of the documented connection between the use of antidepressants and mass killings.
    Antidepressants have been recognized as potential inducers of mania and psychosis since their introduction in the 1950s. Since the introduction of Prozac in December, 1987, there has been a massive increase in the number of people taking antidepressants. Over 200,000 people a year enter a hospital with antidepressant-associated mania and/or psychosis. The subsequent harm from this prescribing can be seen in the 2900+ stories that are posted on this web site, many of which you will recognize: http://www.ssristories.com/index.php.
    Before you go blaming all the mass killings on males and lax gun laws, consider the fact that it may more likely be the over-hyping and over-prescription of the antidepressants themselves.

  4. West Davis resident

    Thank you for the story today David. I’m frustrated with council not doing anything about potholes, city infrastructure overall, Westlake Plaza, the plaza in East Davis, etc. There is no accountability until the next election.

    My message to council, in particular the Mayor Pro Tem, get off your duff and do your job! We pay precious tax dollars to this city and deserve a better community.

  5. old e/of tracks

    If they do nothing, which they have shown repeatedly is easy to do, they can talk about “unmet needs” AND talking about new ordinances is always more fun and labor intensive than actually enforcing what’s already LAW. Keep busy, look busy, BE busy but do nothing–can all this be so difficult to grasp? I guess you have to work there to get it. With so many city employees, this is how so little gets done. So, who still needs a map to get this?? Let’s see a show of hands…

  6. Anonymous

    “The readers of this blog should be made aware of the documented connection between the use of antidepressants and mass killings.”

    Documented by Scientologists like Tom Cruise.

    Read what the Mayo Clinic says ([url]http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ssris/MH00066[/url]) and decide for yourself.

  7. Dr. Dubious

    “consider the fact that it may more likely be the over-hyping and over-prescription of the antidepressants themselves.”

    Isn’t that like saying sunscreen causes skin cancer? People who use sunscreen are much more likely to get melanoma disease, and you are blaming the sunscreen but ignoring their hours in the sun or their congenital paucity of melanin. People with major depressive disorder are treated with antidepressants, because they are mentally ill. The drugs don’t cause the illness. It is true that some individuals have harmful side effects from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. That is all the more reason those patients need to be under the careful control of a psychiatrist. All psychiatric patients can be relieved to some extent from anti-psychotic meds.

  8. My View

    “While I don’t know why any one of these individual murderers did what he did — they are all males, of course — I suspect our inattention to the dangerously mentally ill is a part of it.”

    Or our inattention to drug and alcohol use. Most crimes are committed by people who are under the influence, or are committing aggravated robberies to obtain the wherewithal to obtain drugs and alcohol. How many of the recent killings were done by those diagnosed as mentally ill, Rich? Do you know? Or are you just speculating?

    I suspect murders are up, if they actually are, for several reasons. Those who have lost jobs are under extreme emotional distress, and may snap, which I believe was the reason for at least one recent murder spree. Because of the state of the economy right now, law enforcement resources are more scarce. The less police presence, the more likely is crime to occur, since criminals exploit opportunity.

    But what does all of this have to do w the problems at Westlake? Let’s try and stay on track…

  9. Cheezburgers

    I would like to know what the city council does on a daily basis. I have not heard of them doing actual work like figuring out how to enforce existing ordinances. The Westlake situation is ridiculous. Don Saylor is ridiculous. He has office hours on the Quad, I’ve heard- has anyone actually gone to his office hours and asked him what he actually does for our city?

  10. Not a Saylor Fan

    He seems to spend all of his time meeting with people but he rarely does his homework and he often tries to play both sides and talk out of both sides of his mouth.

  11. Rich Rifkin

    MY VIEW asks: [i]”How many of the recent killings were done by those diagnosed as mentally ill, Rich? Do you know? Or are you just speculating?”[/i]

    I was only speculating. The mass murder in Binghamton, NY immediately struck me as the kind of inexplicable crime someone suffering paranoid delusions would manifest.

    I wrote: [b]”While I don’t know why any one of these individual murderers did what he did — they are all males, of course — I suspect our inattention to the dangerously mentally ill is a part of it.”[/b]

    Now, MY VIEW, we know a little bit more about Binghamton. This comes from today’s New York Times ([url]http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/nyregion/08binghamton.html?hp[/url]):

    [i]Mr. Wong, who shot 13 people to death at a citizenship class for immigrants on Friday before killing himself, had sent a letter to a Syracuse television station [u]accusing the police of breaking into his home numerous times in the 1990s, stealing $20 from him and trying to force him into car accidents on the highway[/u]. The letter, written in choppy English, referred to when he lived in Johnson City, just outside Binghamton, in the 1990s.

    The letter, which arrived at the television station on Monday and was postmarked Friday, the day of the shooting, began: “I am Jiverly Wong shooting the people.” In two pages of choppy English, [u]Mr. Wong laid out a series of complaints about the police in New York and in California[/u], where he lived off and on before moving back to Johnson City about two years ago. [u]He blamed the police in California for controlling his television and fan and for “connect the music into my ear[/u].”

    Mr. Wong wrote … : “Cop bring about this shooting. Cop must be responsible. And you have a nice day.”

    He would not discuss any preliminary theories about what the letter showed, other than to state: “[u]There are obviously some mental health issues here[/u],” and that “we saw some religious overtones.” [/i]

  12. My View

    Rich, one case does not a statistic make! Many more murders are attributable to or connected w drug use, alcohol use, domestic violence. To scapegoat the mentally ill is just wrong.

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