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City of Vallejo’s image under attack

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 03-03-2011 | in Government, Vallejo, Critical Thinking,

The San Francisco Chronicle featured an article titled "Bankrupt Vallejo becomes magnet for hookers." It said, "There's a job boom for hookers in this economically battered town of 117,000 - and it's drawing women from all over the West." This title, those type remarks with interviews and pictures of prostitutes made the article more an advertisement for prostitution than journalism. Of course, it's easier to write this type negative article when most of the words come from city officials.

People subject to attack normally do all they can to hide their weaknesses. Robbers, pimps and prostitutes are enemies that destroy Vallejo residents' safety and quality of life. I do not understand city officials' inclination to broadcast the city's alleged inability to protect its citizens. They should just admit Vallejo has a problem with prostitutes like most large cities do and concentrate their remarks on laws and acts of deterrence.

Prostitutes and their customers must complete the act somewhere like an automobile, motel or in vacant buildings. The vehicle code allows a court to suspend any person's driving privilege for up to 30 days if a peace officer witnesses the person picking up a prostitute and engage in a lewd act within 1000 feet of a private residence using a vehicle.

The penal code says that every building or place used for lewdness or prostitution, and every building or place where those events occur is a nuisance which shall be enjoined, abated, and prevented. It allows the recovery of damages, whether it is a public or private nuisance. It continues to explain how a government agency or private person can take legal action against those nuisances.

Other parts of the code allow state or local agencies to bring civil action against the people engaging in those illegal acts, the person leasing the building or owner. It provides for the offending person or owner to pay cost, to force them to board up the building, or for the owner to pay rent to the city if closure or boarding up the building is harmful to the community. This is a law that allows the city power to force all owners of empty buildings to join the fight against their use by prostitutes and recreational drug users.

Vallejo should announce that it intends to recommend license suspensions for all acts of prostitution involving a vehicle. It should announce a policy of sending pictures of all convicted prostitutes and customers to local motels and take action to close motels that habitually rent to prostitutes. The penal code makes it unlawful for any adult to live off the earnings of a prostitute. Vallejo should announce it intends to enforce this part of prostitution law too.

California law gives Vallejo City Council authority to write ordinances that expand state laws. It should explore city authority to pass an ordinance allowing testimony by community watch organizations members to serve as witnesses to prostitution and solicitation. Then, peace officers need serve only as the arresting officer. In addition, the city should seek laws that make video camera evidence recorded by community watch organizations sufficient for arrest and conviction. The city should have an ordinance that plainly makes it a crime for prostitutes, pimps, and sex customers to retaliate against members of community watch organizations. The Council should petition the California Legislature to pass state laws incorporating those suggested actions against prostitution if local governments lack authority in an area.

Vallejo probably has some of these ordinances on the books now and may already engage of the suggested practices. Nevertheless, they should broadcast their enforcement, because deterrence is a best weapon against this menace. Prostitutes and their customers need to understand they face more than insignificant punishment and quick return to business. They need to know that specific laws, police officers and watchful, empowered community members oppose them.

Vallejo’s bad contract with Acting City Manager Batchelor

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 11-01-2010 | in Government, Vallejo, Democracy,

City of Vallejo California announced the City Council hired Phil Batchelor as Acting City Manager with a $25,000 a month salary. In the contract, Vallejo City Council agreed to substantial conditions of employment that binds members to certain standards of decorum and professionalism outlined by Batchelor. Council members degraded their office when they agreed to this appallingly bad and probably illegal employment contract.

The Council agreed in Section (1) to "maintain a positive, proactive working relationship with one another that fosters respect, civility, goodwill and services to the citizens of Vallejo in a professional and cordial manner at all times. This section expresses Bachelor's low opinion of the council members' behavior and professionalism and imposes his standards on them. Ironically, by making his concerns about council members' conduct a public issue Batchelor violated his conduct standards. He and the Council should have discussed this issue in a nonpublic forum.

The City Council agrees in Section (2) to "allow Batchelor to manage the City as provided by the City Charter (without second guessing his actions)." The definition for second-guessing is to evaluate or criticize with hindsight. Vallejo City Charter grants Council members authority and duty to evaluate the City Manager's performance and to remove him or her from office based on a majority vote of the Council. Obviously, they can only evaluate his performance in hindsight.

The City Council agrees in Section (3)) to "work through the City Manager when requesting information or desiring assistance from City staff members." However, this contract agreement imposes controls on the Council that violate this provision in the City Charter. "Except for the purpose of inquiry into the affairs of the City and the conduct of any City department, office or agency, the Council or its members shall deal with City officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the City Manager solely through the City Manager."

Clearly, in section (2) Vallejo City Council members agreed to abandon their duty under City Charter terms to supervise and evaluate the professional performance of Acting City Manager Batchelor. In section (3), they agreed not to use of all sources of information provided under terms of the City Charter to inquire into the affairs of the City necessary to perform their duties. Therefore, Council members must revoke sections of the employment contract that make illegal concessions of City Council authority to Acting City Manager Batchelor.

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