Monday, October 24, 2011

Montgomery Executive Ike Leggett's Youth Curfew Proposal Sinking // Anti-Loitering Alternative Emerges

Down with Curfew, Up with Big Boy

UPDATE: Just Up the Pike blogger Dan Reed discusses the anti-loitering alternative and notes the following: "County Executive Leggett worries that the loitering bill was 'overly broad' and could encourage racial profiling. Ironically, Leggett's concerns are the same raised by curfew opponents." It isn't so fun when it applies to all of us, is it?  

Besides, if Mr. Leggett is concerned about his police force racially profiling adults, I don't understand how he wants us to trust them with defenseless minors. Look at this preview of curfew enforcement from the Washington Post:
A group of about 15 young men exited the Silver Spring Metro station on a recent Friday night, heading toward the area’s bustling open-air restaurant district. 
Just before 10 p.m. they passed a police lieutenant. No hellos or smiles, but plenty of tattoos and stares. 
“My hunch is that’s not a good crowd,” Montgomery County police Lt. Robert Carter said, calling into his radio to alert fellow officers to keep track of them. 
For 38 minutes they watched. The group made its way to Dixon Avenue, a darkened street just off the main strip. Officers confronted them and started asking questions.... 
When officers approached the group on Dixon Avenue, the teenagers answered questions and had their pockets searched and their tattoos photographed. Police found no weapons or drugs and didn’t charge anyone. 
They just automatically assumed we were thugs, or we were about to cause some trouble or go fight,” said Mike Brown, 18, a James Hubert Blake High School student who ended his junior year with a 3.1 GPA and thinks the youths were targeted because they are black.
The key fixation of County Executive Ike Leggett's PR machine, a youth curfew proposal, appears to be sinking under the weight of its own controversy. The Washington Post today reported that Councilmembers Phil Andrews and George Leventhal are offering up their own alternative to singling out youths: a broad anti-loitering proposal that applies to everyone. Interesting move. I'll leave it to Maryland Juice readers to decide which proposal they like or dislike more, and I'll keep my own opinions to myself this time. You can read the full anti-loitering proposal at the bottom of this post.

This is certainly not the fatal or final blow to Mr. Leggett's attack on innocent county youths (and their parents' rights to raise their own kids) -- but it certainly makes his case much more difficult. For those that weren't paying attention to the legislative process, let me give you a refresher that will help you understand procedurally why the votes appear to be slipping away from the curfew....
  1. No policy justification: Crime has been going steadily down in Montgomery County (including youth crime)
  2. No prior legislative discussion: That's why members of the County's Public Safety Committee (Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, and Marc Elrich) were surprised to see Ike Leggett suggest a dramatic countywide youth curfew (they had not previously seen crime data calling for such a move)
  3. An attempt to rush the legislative process: But to (presumably) score a quick news-hit, the curfew was brought straight to the Council as an "expedited bill"
  4. Six-vote supermajority needed: Notably, you also need support from 6 of 9 Councilmembers for expedited bills (presumably, this higher bar slows down this kind of rash policymaking)

The Washington Post article didn't exactly report on a whip-count, but you can read between the lines:
The introduction of the bill comes as the curfew is losing support from county legislators. Leventhal, who has said he was undecided about the bill, says he prefers the loitering bill over the curfew. 
Council members Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) and Nancy Navarro (D-Eastern County), both skeptical of the curfew, are also heavily considering the loitering bill, according to council staff. 
The curfew was introduced in July as an “expedited” bill, which requires six votes to pass. Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield said there are no plans to introduce an amendment to remove the bill’s expedited status, which would allow it to be passed with only five votes.

If you add Councilmembers Andrews to the mix, you now have four potential opponents and a few unaccounted-for votes. Anything could still happen, but it seems that the collective opposition of the following groups is slowing down enthusiasm for Chairman MoCo's insistence on a presumption of guilt from our children:
  • thousands of high school students and parents
  • ACLU
  • Fraternal Order of Police (???)
  • Gazette
  • Examiner
  • Rockville City Council
  • Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition
  • Action Committee for Transit, etc.
  • Several elected officials (ie: Delegates Kirill Reznik and Eric Luedtke)

At least two County-appointed citizens advisory boards have also taken the unusual step of refusing to rubber-stamp the curfew proposal. Notably, the two skeptical boards represent areas targeted for curfew enforcement: Silver Spring and Wheaton/Mid-County. Here is a side-question that has not yet been raised -- will curfew or anti-loitering enforcement allow police to ask the immigration status of potential offenders, per the County's participation in Jack Bauer's "Secure Communities" deportation program?

Confused about what to do now? *snicker*  Maryland Juice calls for the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to study the various alternatives. :)

Besides, if Mr. Leggett would only stop wasting so many taxpayer resources pushing the youth curfew, we could all help launch Maryland Juice PAC's first project: a campaign to bring back Bob's Big Boy!

P.S. Stay tuned for Maryland Juice PAC's second project: a campaign to replace Police Chief Manger with former Police Chief Moose! We'll check back in with Moose soon....

P.P.S. There appears to be one Democratic candidate for Governor in 2014 that decided to wade into the curfew and endorse the proposal. I'll leave it to curious minds to inquire further and judge as they see fit.

You can read the anti-loitering proposal below:
Anti-Loitering Proposal: Montgomery County, Maryland

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