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My Letter To Council On Tuesday’s Party Ordinance Update

October 29, 2015 2 comments

Mayor and council,

I watched Deputy Police Chief Miller’s update on the party ordinance last Tuesday with great interest and concern. It appears that some of the metrics used to determine success do not necessarily equate to good community policing standards. They certainly don’t contribute to the mutual respect between officers and the public that many police departments strive for. Of particular concern was the following quote:

“We’re showing up to these parties. They’re shutting the door, they don’t want to talk to us, they run away.”

Admittedly, I don’t have a degree in any law enforcement field but that statement seems to go against everything I have read about law enforcement goals. Generally, police do not want the door slammed in their face and they don’t want suspects to run away. Those actions usually lead to escalation of a situation and when things escalate, people get hurt. How that statement could be presented and received as positive is frightening.

The second statement I found concerning was Miller’s assertion that he has “received nothing but positive comments” on the party ordinance. If that is the case, then he is only talking to, and receiving feedback from, a select group of people.

I suppose Miller missed the 500 plus signatures delivered to council calling for you to revisit the ordinance, the online petition opposed to the ordinance with over 3,000 signatures, the three articles in the Arizona Daily Sun and a Daily Sun editorial covering opposition to the ordinance and the two articles in the NAU Lumberjack newspaper criticizing the ordinance.

Leaving out the mention of any opposition in his presentation is misleading and some feel it is a slap in the face to citizens who are genuinely concerned about the ordinance.

At the end of the presentation, Vice Mayor Barotz said she supported adding the ordinance back on a future agenda so she could explain how the ordinance worked and turn people who oppose the ordinance into supporters. While I appreciate her vote and the votes of Oravits, Putzova, and Brewster to revisit the ordinance, I did want to clarify and make it clear that those opposed to the ordinance actually do know why they oppose it. The reasons are as follows:

1. As Deputy Chief Miller stated, many people are still receiving criminal charges under the new ordinance. He listed several “nuisances” that qualify for criminal action including littering.

2. Adding civil charges to the ordinance that apply to many more people including first offenders, while keeping many of the criminal options intact, means that more people are being cited and charged. Some are being cited and charged with both civil and criminal charges.

3. Changing the number of people who constitute a party from 15 to 5 puts everybody at risk of violating this ordinance.

4. Moving the probationary period from 90 – 120 days means there is a much larger chance of people getting a second or third offense under the ordinance.

Simply put, this ordinance does not help the people who are opposed to the ordinance.

Finally, while I know this ordinance was created to target students, eventually it will impact other groups and gatherings. For example, I have a feeling Councilmember Evans would be singing a vastly different tune if police had shown up and fined her $250 for a first offense when she had a run in with the law a while back. Here is a link for those who may have forgotten:

http://azdailysun.com/…/article_6220a6ac-4b5e-11e3-b4a3-001…

Then again, police are allowed to use their discretion with this ordinance so maybe they won’t fine councilmembers if something like this happens again. Councilmembers may be “above the law” as the police selectively enforce who they want to target.

Please put some thought into these points once the ordinance makes it on a future agenda.

Thanks for your time.

Elisha Dorfsmith
Flagstaff

Flag Deputy Police Chief Says He Has “Received Nothing But Positive Comments” On New Party Ordinance

October 28, 2015 Leave a comment

By Elisha Dorfsmith

“We’re showing up to these parties. They’re shutting the door, they don’t want to talk to us, they run away, they know its for real now.” — Flagstaff Deputy Police Chief Walt Miller

During a presentation on Flagstaff’s Student Housing Work Plan last night, Deputy Police Chief Walt Miller told the Flagstaff City Council that he has received nothing but positive comments on Flagstaff’s recently passed party ordinance. This is odd and kind of a slap in the face to all of the concerned residents and students who have been pushing back against this ordinance since well before the final vote to approve it on May 19th.

I guess Miller missed the 500 plus signatures delivered to council calling for them to revisit the ordinance, the online petition opposed to the ordinance with over 3,000 signatures, the three articles in the Arizona Daily Sun and a Daily Sun editorial covering opposition to the ordinance and the two articles in the NAU Lumberjack newspaper criticizing the ordinance. I suppose he also missed the 4/3 vote by council to put the ordinance on a future agenda so some of the problems could be worked out. It is getting harder and harder to trust anything the Flagstaff Police Department is saying these days.

You can see that discussion here:

After Miller’s presentation. Flagstaff Councilmember Celia Barotz said that if those opposed to the party ordinance just got the opportunity to understand it, they would realize that it was put in place to help the very people who are complaining. She was referring to replacing some criminal violations with civil penalties.

What Barotz doesn’t understand is that increasing the number of people that civil penalties apply to, while still keeping criminal penalties in place for many of the crimes, makes the ordinance much much worse than it was before. Now many people are being charged with a crime AND being fined.

The new ordinance also changes the number of people constituting a party from 15 to 5. Moves the probationary period from 90 to 120 days. And allows people to be cited for a first offense simply for being at a location where a disturbance is taking place. I think it is safe to say that people who are opposed to the new ordinance actually do understand why they don’t like it.

You can listen to Barotz discuss this here:

Even Deputy Police Chief Miller admits that contrary to what Councilmember Barotz is saying, criminal citations are still being issued under Flagstaff’s new party ordinance. For Barotz to say that the City did away with the criminal side of the ordinance to help students is misleading.

In Miller’s own words:

New Party Ordinance Supporters Misrepresent Critics

October 18, 2015 8 comments

By Elisha Dorfsmith

When the Flagstaff City Council gave the local police department the go-ahead to write an updated party ordinance, Flag PD came back to council with the perfect ordinance…for law enforcement. Vague language about what a violation actually is, huge fines for a first offense, the ability to go after people for simply being at a gathering, and taking the number of people constituting a party from 15 all the way down to 5.

While I believe the original intent of this ordinance was to bully a student housing complex called the Grove into joining the City’s Crime Free Multi Housing Property Program, Flag PD seems to have decided to make this new ordinance a win win in many other ways for their department. The biggest win being a lucrative revenue stream.

These changes caused quite a bit of concern and pushback from Flagstaff residents, especially among Flagstaff’s student community. So much concern in fact, that the Flagstaff City Council was presented with a petition with over 500 signatures asking council to reconsider the ordinance language. Council agreed to look at these suggested changes by a 4-3 vote.

Shortly after council voted to reconsider, a fight at NAU led to a tragic shooting on campus. Within hours, the new version of the party ordinance was being touted as an essential tool to stop violent behavior in the City limits.

Former Flagstaff City Council member Rick Lopez personified this attitude when he posted the following on Facebook:

“I would suppose the recent events of this past week might make this issue (revisiting the party ordinance) a little bit moot.”

This sentiment was echoed by many others in conversations around town, on social media and of course by the local paper. The perception being that the new tougher ordinance language is critical to stopping crime. This view is completely false but it plays into people’s kneejerk emotional reactions and many party ordinance supporters are running with it.

Those opposed to the new overreaching law are now branded as being completely against any form of nuisance ordinance. I have been asked by several people on social media why I feel their right to sleep at night is not as important as people’s right to gather. I respond by saying the previous ordinance already took care of noise problems and the new language was not needed. To which they say, wait, I was under the impression that you wanted to repeal the noise ordinance completely.

This misrepresentation is showing up more and more and is being used in a purposeful way to smear critics of the new party ordinance language.

So let me be clear: having been part of the opposition to the new language from the start, I can assure you that nobody I talked to had a problem with the previous nuisance party ordinance that was on the books. There has been no push to get rid of Flagstaff’s nuisance ordinance completely.

Ordinance critics had a handful of specific changes they wanted to see to ensure people’s rights were protected. Those changes include:

1. Raise the number of persons who constitute a party back to 15.

2. Remove all mentions of citations for indirect disturbances to the peace and safety of the public. (In other words, if you are not directly responsible for a disturbance you should not be fined).

3. Lower the probationary period back to 90 days.

4. Clearly define what criminal activity one must commit to receive a ticket for a party ordinance violation.

Seems pretty reasonable to me.

There is an important discussion that needs to be had and my hope is that the Flagstaff City Council can see through the intentionally misleading smears and realize there are genuine problems with the new ordinance language that need to be addressed.

Flag PD And Paper Back Off Attacking The Grove After The Grove Joins City Program

October 18, 2015 3 comments

By Elisha Dorfsmith

Today’s edition of the Arizona Daily Sun has a great example of how the police and the media manipulate public opinion to achieve a desired result. Over the past year I have said over and over again that the main reason The Grove was a target of Flag PD and the Paper was because The Grove said they did not want to be part of the City’s “Crime Free Multi Housing Property Program”.

On November 19th of last year I wrote:

“I believe I found the motive (for villainizing The Grove) when I attended last night’s Flagstaff City Council meeting. One of the items on the agenda was a discussion for another student housing complex. During the presentation from City Staff it was disclosed that The Grove has been approached multiple times and asked to participate in the Flagstaff Police Department’s Crime-Free Multi-Housing program. Each time they have declined. I am convinced that the villainization of The Grove by Flag PD is an attempt to bully them into participating in a program that they don’t want to participate in.”

After reading today’s paper, we see that both the Daily Sun and the Flagstaff Police Department are backing off their attacks on the grove because they succeeded in bullying the Grove into joining the program.

For those connecting the dots, notice how the Daily Sun says today that the Grove was the poster child for revising the City’s party ordinance? Now read the rest of the article. Not once is the party ordinance listed as a reason for reduced crime.

So what do we learn from this? Flag PD, with the help of the media, used The Grove as a poster child to show the need for a party ordinance. Then they used the ordinance to pressure The Grove to join a City program that they didn’t want to join. Now that the Grove has joined the program, they are being praised as an upstanding student housing complex. Maybe, just maybe, my concerns have been legitimate all along.

You can read today’s Daily Sun article on The Grove here:

The Grove Seeing Fewer Police Calls

daily sun michelle

When I brought up my concerns last year, a Daily Sun reporter came on my personal facebook page and attacked my perspective. That doesn’t happen unless you hit very close to the truth (click photo to enlarge)

Evans Suggests Passing Gun Laws That Already Exist To Stop College Shootings

October 9, 2015 1 comment

By Elisha Dorfsmith

Flagstaff City Councilperson Coral Evans joined the chorus of politicians and media politicizing last night’s NAU shooting by asking on Facebook:

“How is it possible for an 18 year old freshman to legally have a gun on campus?”

If Evans had listened to the police press conference this morning, she would have known that unless a firearm is locked away in a vehicle, guns are not allowed on the Northern Arizona University campus.

You can ban guns anywhere you want but that won’t stop criminals from bringing them in.

Coral Evans

Statement by Flagstaff Councilmember Coral Evans. (Click photo to enlarge)

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