On Feb. 7th, Fullerton City Council unanimously repealed an unconstitutional ordinance.
The city ordinance, No. 3149, made it a misdemeanor for sex offenders living within 2,000 feet of daycares, schools and parks. The state law the city now defers to will allow any sex offender not on parole or specifically prohibited by the court to live anywhere they wish.
While the repealing of the ordinance is constitutional, it still puts children in more danger.
Unfortunately, because of this repeal, there are now questionably lenient restrictions on where sexual offenders can live once they are off parole. This is something that city council should have been prepared for and ready to fix ever since a 2015 California Supreme Court decision deemed similar restrictions in San Diego as unconstitutional.
Even so, members of the Fullerton City Council are not happy about being forced to repeal this law.
“This is disgusting, obviously. The state courts have decided that communities cannot take further steps to protect its citizens, especially its children,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald at the Feb. 7th Fullerton City Council meeting.
Although Fitzgerald’s reaction is just, she and the other city council members should not have been surprised when a man on the sexual offenders list sued Fullerton for enforcing the unconstitutional restriction that he claims made him homeless.
While it is problematic that the individual could not find a home due to his sexual offender status, the settlement should not have ended up with offenders being allowed easier opportunities to strike again.
On one hand, the state law may be more understanding because of the relatively thin line of rules that someone can be put on the list if crossed.
People are put on the sex offenders list for indecent exposure, which includes relatively harmless things like public urination or having sex in a car.
But when one looks specifically at the 94 registered sex offenders in Fullerton, the overwhelming majority of them have committed “lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age,” according to the California Megan’s Law Website, negating any sympathetic excuse one may have.
There are probably some people on this list who have learned their lessons and don’t plan to harm anyone else, but the risk of allowing sex offenders to live out their perverse daydreams across the street from an elementary school is too high.
Council members knew they were being sued and even had a lawyer tell them that they would probably have to repeal the law, so one would’ve hoped that city council had been working diligently before it was officially repealed in order to rectify this situation.
“We would be interested in moving in a direction of securing more protection if we thought it was legally possible,” said Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker.
Anyone can see that all this red tape would make it harder to create and pass a sufficient law, but Fullerton’s City Council were members voted into office so that they could protect their constituents–even if they have to be creative about how they do it.
Whitaker said that no city council member has come to him with any initiative in terms of addressing the “back-and-forth” legal situation or the costs involved in creating a new protection or restriction law.
Fullerton needs a new law as soon as possible that cannot be deemed unconstitutional under California law and simultaneously protect its citizens.
If the law that was in place was creating homeless sex offenders, then that undermines public safety since they have no means of reporting where they are living.
So, this is a chance for city council to pass an even better law for its people.
It’s going to be harder to protect people and children if cities are not allowed to limit where these dangerous people can live and the only barrier is members of city council that should come up with a better law that serves the public justly, rather than complaining about its dangers.