By Elisha Dorfsmith
On February 16, 2016 the Flagstaff City Council voted unanimously to approve ordinance 2016-07 which contained sweeping changes to the Flagstaff Zoning Code. Among those changes were new restrictions on RV, boat and trailer parking which put major limitations on where you could park on your own property.
Much like Flagstaff’s recently passed Party Ordinance and rejected Property Maintenance Ordinance, residents were told that citations would only be issued on a complaint driven basis and only gross offenders would be targeted. What the City conveniently left out is the busybody element that always goes along with these types of laws.
“We have one guy going around our neighborhood complaining about everyone.” Writes Susan McCullough, founder of the facebook group Flagstaff RV/Boat/Trailer Code Breakers & Friends, a group dedicated to making changes to the ordinance.
“You can park in your backyard or interior side yard (between houses, but not on the street side of your house). The front of the rig must be behind the front of your house. Even if you have a paved driveway specifically for your rig, you are not allowed to park it there.”
McCullough joined with concerned neighbors and other Flagstaff residents and was successful in getting a FAIR (Future Agenda Item Request) on the October 4th City Council agenda. At the October 4th meeting, at least four council members will need to support moving this request forward in order for the City to revisit the RV/Boat parking part of the City Code.
If you have an opinion on this ordinance, you can contact the entire Flagstaff City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org
An illegally parked RV in Flagstaff.
By Elisha Dorfsmith
THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED AT THE END
When Flagstaff Police officer Tyler Stewart was tragically shot and killed last year, some in the public raised concerns that the graphic body camera footage had been released and a Phoenix news station had put the unedited video on YouTube. The Los Angels Times explained that Arizona law requires the footage to be public:
“We have to abide by the Arizona state law when it comes to releasing public records information,” said Flagstaff Deputy Chief Walter Miller, who said officials sought legal advice before determining that they had to release the video under Arizona law.”
What a difference a year makes.
Last Wednesday’s shooting of an unarmed (although reportedly seen with a gun) suspect had the Flagstaff Police Department taking a different direction on the only body camera that actually worked during the incident. From today’s press release:
“Due to the graphic nature of the video and the privacy rights of the suspect and his family the complete video will not be released.”
So which is it? Arizona state law requires police to release the footage or police can pick and choose which footage they want the public to have access to? Body cameras work great to protect the public and the police if they are used properly but what happens when the police police their own footage and decide what we are allowed to see and what we are not? How do we know we are getting the whole story?
Arizona Central has a great article on the topic of public records and they say:
“A court case, meanwhile, has held that a record may only be withheld if a countervailing privacy or confidentiality interest or the “best interests of the state” outweigh the public’s right to know – and the burden is on the party trying to withhold documents to prove the harm that would follow release.”
The Flagstaff Police Department needs to tell us what the harm would be.
As for the other body cameras mentioned above that were at the scene of the shooting, they all failed to work properly. The same Flag PD press release stated:
“Due to technical issues no footage was recorded of the initial contact at the car; Ofc Syers’ camera malfunctioned due to a battery issue and Ofc Seay’s connector cable became detached prior to the incident. Due to the intensity of the moment, Cpl. Lavelle did not activate his camera prior to the shooting. After he fired his weapon, he realized his camera was not operating and immediately activated the camera.”
Really? for those of us who advocated for body cameras for Flagstaff’s police department this is a huge disappointment. We expect them to not only work but be used on the job…especially during high profile cases such as police shootings that leave suspects dead.
Even while taking Flag PD at their word, which many don’t in this case, this whole situation is an embarrassment that fosters distrust and a lack of faith in our local law enforcement.
About 45 minutes ago The Flagstaff Police Department responded to concerns from citizens including some of the concerns posted in this blog. That response can be found here:
By Elisha Dorfsmith
Last night the Flagstaff City Council put up the final roadblock to nearly a year’s worth of work on a citizen driven effort to make changes to Flagstaff’s recently passed party ordinance. The Council work session was the last in a long line of hearings and meetings and council chose to keep the ordinance “as is” as the police department asked.
Councilman Jeff Oravits was the only member of council even interested in making any changes to the law and I want to thank him for being willing to look for a compromise that could make everyone happy. There were very reasonable changes that could have been made.
Even though we didn’t get our desired outcome, I am very impressed with the effort and work that went into this by so many people on so many levels. The fight is not over yet. We will be looking at other ways to push back against this ordinance and protect people’s right to assemble.
In the video below you can find my comments to council yesterday evening. I explain to them that they need to realize that this ordinance will impact the nuisance parties they throw.
By Elisha Dorfsmith
Today I had the opportunity to talk with LD6 Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe about yesterday’s hearing in the Arizona House Government and Higher Education Committee on Civil Asset Forfeiture reform. I have endorsed his reform bill in previous posts on my blog and have been anxious for it to start moving forward.
Unfortunately, I learned today that committee chairs are still refusing to allow this bill to advance. This is largely due to push back by prosecutors and police groups who profit from confiscating property and cash from people who are not convicted or even charged with a crime.
Below is the entire video of yesterday’s hearing. It is very eye opening and worth listening to. After watching it, one thing is very clear to me, we need an even bigger push for these reforms next session. We need to get this bill passed and signed by the governor.
By Elisha Dorfsmith
A bill introduced by Republican State Senator John Kavanagh seeking to regulate private drones easily sailed through the Senate Transportation Committee at the Arizona capital this afternoon. SB1449 should clear the Senate Judiciary Committee later this week and is quickly heading for a full vote in the State Senate in the coming days.
While there are some decent arguments on all sides of this bill, the biggest concern I have with it is that it exempts law enforcement from having to follow the same rules that drone hobbyists will have to obey.
The bill summary makes this very clear:
“Allows a law enforcement agency to operate an unmanned aircraft for an investigation or a search and rescue operation.”
Digging deeper into the details, this bill says that if you fly your drone over someone’s private property without permission you are committing a misdemeanor. If you film certain facilities (prisons, hospitals, water treatment plants etc.) without written permission you are committing a felony.
On the other hand, if law enforcement is flying over and filming your backyard (or any other place) for any reason, they get a free pass to do so.
Yesterday I was interviewed by Cronkite News (Arizona PBS) about this problem and today they published a paragraph about my concerns:
“It’s not just hobbyists who would feel the impact of new regulations. Elisha Dorfsmith, a Flagstaff resident and Flagstaff Liberty Alliance board member, said he opposes Kavanagh’s bill because it doesn’t explicitly prohibit law enforcement officers from using drones without a warrant.”
You can read the entire article here:
There are legitimate concerns that individuals may use drones to invade people’s privacy but many of these concerns are already covered under existing law. The bigger concern is passing laws that limit individual rights while exempting government from these same laws.
I would argue that government snooping is a bigger threat to my privacy than my neighbor flying his drone over my backyard.
By Elisha Dorfsmith
This morning I stumbled across the video below that was put out by an Independent journalist covering pushback against Flagstaff’s overreaching party ordinance. It is very well done and has some good footage of the public forum that Flagstaff PD held for concerned students and residents a few months ago.
The party ordinance saga is far from over. In the coming weeks, the Flagstaff Police Department will be holding another public forum and working on possible changes to the ordinance that will hopefully be presented to Council. I will keep you updated as things develop and meetings are scheduled.
In the meantime, check out the video posted below.
Be sure to visit the original source for this video at: https://vimeo.com/149236433