May 112008
 
Authors: Dolores Williams

Something isn’t quite right about the city of Fort Collins’ noise ordinance.

The noise ordinance fine can reach about $1,000, but nobody seems to know that the City Council mandates that the criminal record stay on the individual’s record for seven years.

So upon graduating, when a future employer or landlord accesses the criminal and credit records, a red flag sits, lowering one’s chances at a job requiring an identity clearance, a place to live or purchase of insurance.

The police officer has discretion as to loudness (no decibel measurement is specified) and time of day that would constitute a violation.

A recent experience of two tenants shows this problem more clearly.

One “party” of friends sending off a CSU graduate to the Peace Corps was breaking up and most had left for downtown. On their citation, the officer wrote up that he “broke up the party.”

He then went next door where six adults were visiting and wrote a ticket that he “broke up that party.”

Upon checking with three nearby neighbors, nobody was bothered by noise.

It is understandable that an officer may want to show a few tickets for a night’s work, but if the violation was civil instead of criminal, less harm could result.

Upon checking with members of City Council, they are surprised that the violation was not made civil along with other ordinances. However, not one council member said he/she would fix the problem.

I wrote CSU President Larry Penley asking him to show his interest in the city’s treatment of his students. His assistant suggested I contact the ACLU. I asked his assistant if he would write a short letter to the City but the request was refused.

I also wrote Doug Johnson, UniverCity Connections, who supposedly is interested in CSU-City cooperation in return for many hours of student volunteer work from Cans Around the Oval, assistance to teachers in Poudre R-1 and volunteer clean-up days in the community. No interest.

In addition, I wrote David May, director of the Chamber of Commerce, knowing that he sells a “University town” and “educated workforce” to entice companies to come to Fort Collins to provide jobs. No interest.

I talked with Police Chief Harrison, and he feels that a criminal record stemming from a noise violation is not a problem when he hires policemen.

The City Neighborhood Office, which administers the ticket program, is aware of the criminal records given for noise violations, but they don’t want to rock the boat. The criminal-industrial complex in the U.S. houses one in a hundred in jails at $100 per day, thanks to attitudes like this.

Recently, I personally asked some of the city officers who came to the CSU-Council meeting if they would change the noise violation from criminal to civil, as I have by letter and e-mail several times already.

I also asked why, if the city supported affordable housing and minimizing air pollution from vehicle trips to the university, were they penalizing CSU students and their landlords by forcing them to leave empty a fourth (or more) bedroom in a house while paying rent and utilities on the whole house.

Landlords are not allowed reimbursement on their property taxes because of forced vacant rooms, which is illegal considering real estate law of “taking.”

For instance, when a governmental agency needs to cut a road through a property by reimbursing the landowner for the portion “taken.”

Granted, a few young people — not all students — have been inconsiderate of their neighbors, prompting the city to write the noise ordinance and three-unrelated laws. Penalizing all students and young people seems unfair.

Students bring a lot of money to town and volunteer in the community.

They should instead spend time on studies and homework until the city council sees fit to change the laws to make housing costs more affordable and to not hinder the future employment that is needed to pay back the student loans.

Dolores Williams is a Fort Collins resident. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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