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Mailbag: Don't pass the 'Loud and Unruly Gathering' ordinance

May 21, 2011

I'm writing you to express my concerns with proposed ordinance, the "Loud and Unruly Gathering" ordinance. I understand that at times loud parties can be an annoyance to anyone in the immediate area, and I also understand that the ordinance aims to protect those people.

But if you approve this ordinance, Newport Beach will ultimately be deterring a very small group of people who wish to either host, or participate in, "loud and unruly gatherings," compared with the amount of people whose rights will be infringed upon by an ordinance that gives officers even more power based almost solely on discretion alone.

This is nothing new. Laws with the best of intentions are created all the time, but ultimately end up causing more problems than they solve. Aside from the fact that an officer would be able to issue a large fine to any person without any warning whatsoever, understand that officers in the field often make mistakes, whether it's a sincere misunderstanding or a mistake grounded in a difference of character, ego, etc.

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Levying a large fine under a "one strike and you're out" tone would be unfair. This would especially be true for those tenants who have entered into a contract with landlords who have been forced (by this proposed ordinance) to evict tenants after the first incident.

In other words, a tenant could be (unfairly) fined and evicted based on no quantitative grounds; it would come as a result of the particular mood of that particular officer on that particular day without any warning whatsoever.

To expand on the last point a bit more, the fact is a "loud and unruly gathering" is, at best, very loosely defined by the proposed ordinance. For example, not every gathering with eight or more people will be considered "loud and unruly," thus leaving the definition of a "loud and unruly gathering" up to the officer's discretion alone.

Moreover, because the definition is so ambiguous, why should an officer be allowed to levy a large fine on a person, or group of people, who may not be aware that their behavior fits with a particular officer's definition? It seems that if an officer is to be allowed to issue very large fines based on a poorly defined event, then, at the very least, the party causing the "public nuisance" should be warned without any fine so they are 1.) Aware that they fall into the officer's definition of "loud and unruly," and 2.) Given an opportunity to break up the party.

I urge you to stop this ordinance from passing. The "one strike and you're out" tone forces landlords to evict tenants after the first offense (unless they want to pay a fine as well).

The ordinance will decorate homes all over Newport with black tags, but most importantly, it will give the police too much power based on an event that is very poorly defined. If passed, this ordinance will infringe upon more peoples' rights than it aims to protect. Government is already growing out of control in terms of both size and power.

That being said, if you approve this ordinance, you will lose my vote, along with any other of your constituents' who believe in the preservation of liberty in the next election.

Brent Barbata

Newport Beach

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