It’s become very clear that administrative citations are a bad
idea that are eroding trust between Gilroy residents and their
local government
Eight residents appealed administrative citations given to them last July 4 for allegedly setting off illegal fireworks. Seven residents beat their citations. A stunning 87.5 percent of illegal fireworks administrative citation appeals were successful.

That’s despite discouraging language in the letter from the city that accompanied the citations. “There are very limited situations that provide for a successful appeal,” the letter read.

Given that many of the 33 other residents cited last July 4 either didn’t know about the appeals process or couldn’t take time off work to navigate it, we suspect that many of the others could have beaten their citations had they appealed.

Apply that percentage to the unappealed citations, and it’s safe to assume that 29 more citations would have been overturned.

It’s time for the Gilroy City Council to repeal the ordinance that allows these administrative citations to be issued. Clearly, the evidence points to the fact that the citations are unfair and given out, to a large degree, in willy-nilly fashion largely by overzealous fire fighters who have no training or experience in what is essentially police work.

What the policy is accomplishing is the erosion of trust between residents and the city.

If illegal fireworks are being used, then issue misdemeanor citations. Yes, they require more work on the part of city employees – primarily police officers – but they also require a higher standard of proof and meet a basic standard of fairness.

It’s important to control illegal fireworks. Independence Day falls in the middle of California’s fire season, and Gilroy, like the rest of the Bay Area, is tinder-dry in July.

But it’s also important to ensure that basic civil rights – the very essence of Independence Day – are protected. That means a presumption of innocence, burden of proof on the prosecution, and corroborating evidence that the accused committed a crime. None of that is true of administrative citations. Though we initially supported this ordinance, it’s become very clear what a bad idea it is. Fortunately, there’s a simple remedy.

City Council should repeal the ordinance that allows administrative citations for illegal fireworks. Residents should query candidates in the upcoming election about their position on the issue.

It’s a matter of fairness, justice and constitutionality.

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