The City Council Chambers was a sea of red Tuesday evening.
The red adorners came to voice their opposition to changes of Boulder’s Abatement of Public Nuisances. The public hearing, lasting late into the night, concluded with the Boulder City Council voting five to two to adopt the changes.
The Abatement of Public Nuisances was created in 2002 to enable local law enforcement and the municipal court to take civil action against ongoing nuisances at a specific location. Essentially, the ordinance allows the city to assign “strikes” to a property when inhabitants or visitors engage in nuisance behavior that annoys neighbors or passers-by.
The catch of the abatement is that there must be a civilian witness who is willing to participate in the municipal process. There is no public nuisance when the only person reporting the behavior is a law enforcement officer.
The city manager and the city attorney presented the revisions at the hearing, which they claim will improve Boulder’s public nuisance policy.
The updated ordinance will contain four major changes:
The allowance of state law violations (and not just municipal violations) to be considered strikes, the addition of an emergency off-ramp option to expedite urgent cases, a change to the rolling 12-month strike period to more closely match the academic calendar and the elimination of the requirement for the city attorney to prove violation of a voluntary compliance agreement before initiating abatement action.
One of the most debated changes was the emergency off-ramp proposal. The emergency off-ramp is an addition that will allow nuisance abatement proceedings to occur without neighborhood mediation. The purpose of this change is to permit an expedited abatement process for cases where the parties involved are not willing to participate or in situations of physical violence or substantial property damage.
The council also seemed hesitant toward the inclusion of state law in nuisance abatement. Two council members voted to keep the state law enclosure out of the updates. In the end, though, the proposal was passed in its entirety.
Those in red primarily consisted of landlords who feel that nuisance abatement punishes them for problems that are out of their hands.
Many voiced the opinion that the ordinance empowers poorly behaved students by attaching strikes not to a person, but to a property. They also say the ordinance forces them to try and police their tenants when that is not their responsibility.
After over an hour of public input, the council pointed out that the opposition seemed to be directed at the ordinance as a whole that has already been in effect for five years and not the changes on the table.
In reaction to the heavy outcry, the council did include a sunset clause to the updated ordinance. Essentially, the clause makes the updates applicable for only two years. After two years, the changes will cease to exist unless the council votes to keep them in place at that time.
The track record of nuisance abatement being used sparingly and effectively helped bring the council to its approval. Several council members expressed confidence that the updates will not affect the respectful and rare use of the abatement.
Mayor Mark Ruzzin put his stamp of approval on the newly formed ordinance when he said, “We can’t just wait around for somebody else to solve our problems; that’s not the Boulder way.”
Contact Campus Press staff writer Elizabeth Cuje at firstname.lastname@example.org.