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Crime stats, oil by rail, Hookah bar issues confront City Council

By From page A1 | March 11, 2014

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Who: Davis City Council

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Community Chambers, City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

Watch it: Live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99; streamed at www.cityofdavis.org

The Davis City Council is set to take on a few thorny issues at its Tuesday meeting.

From a report from the police chief on a rise in residential burglaries the past few years to an analysis of potential city actions to ban e-cigarettes and hookah bars, the council has a full plate.

Here is a rundown of major issues.

* No. 1: Police crime statistics from 2009 to 2013.

There’s good news and bad news in this most recent crime report, requested by the City Council.

Property crime is the highest it has been in a four-year period — with residential burglaries up 53 percent and commercial burglaries up 38 percent from 2009 to 2013.  Robberies are down 65 percent and assaults down 32 percent in same period.

Among lesser crimes reported during the 2009-13 period, like indecent exposure — down 30 percent — and identity theft — down 35 percent — only four out of 15 so-called part-two crimes recorded an increase. The one lesser crime that couldn’t be measured realistically on a percentage scale over time was prostitution. There was only one instance of reported prostitution in 2013, the highest it had been since 2010, when there was also one instance.

The crimes with a reported increase included bike theft — up 25 percent — and drunk and disorderly conduct, helped by a spike in busts in 2013.

Rounding out the report are statistics on an increase in traffic violations. For example, from 2009 to 2013, there was a 116 percent increase in speeding violations, 30 percent more drivers were caught ignoring stop signs, 18 percent more were caught on cell phones and 19 percent more didn’t wear seat belts in view of the authorities.

* No. 2: Oil by rail report.

Davis city staff is recommending the City Council ask it to continue to monitor developments with the potential for oil by rail to the Valero Oil Refinery in Benicia. The refinery is petitioning the Benicia Planning Commission to install the necessary equipment to receive oil by rail, making Davis a pass-through area for Bakken Shale crude oil. The oil has been found to be explosive and in some instances deadly.

After 50 people packed a Jan. 27 Natural Resources Commission meeting, the commission voted on a draft set of recommendations, including making formal comment on the environmental review in March. The City Council then advised city staff to monitor developments with Benicia’s draft environmental review, among other actions that would seek to unite other so-called down rail communities.

“As the draft (environmental review) is still pending release, staff’s efforts are currently focused on gathering background  information and initiating collaboration with other jurisdictions,” the staff report said.

* No. 3: Considering changes to the ballot argument for an extension of a previous sales tax initiative and the addition of another half-cent to the sales tax.

It’s now officially called Measure O, the city’s bid to increase the life of its first half-cent addition to the existing sales tax and add another half-cent. It’s also generating some criticism for the way it’s worded on the ballot.

The current wording is: “Shall Ordinance No. 2432, which would authorize the city of Davis to continue to collect a sales and use tax for general government purposes at the total rate of 1 percent through Dec. 31, 2020, be adopted?”

Residents have criticized the wording for making it confusing about just what the city is really trying to accomplish. The word “continue” is misleading, some residents said. There is no specific mention of the sunset of the current half-cent sales tax, set to expire in 2016, but that the city is trying to get voters to approve a sunset in 2020.

* No. 4: Consideration of e-cigarette and hookah regulations.

City staff is seeking the City Council’s opinion and orders regarding rules surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes and hookah bar establishments. Many cities and states around the country have banned them.

The city already has an extremely strict no smoking ordinance, something city staff pointed out in its report that outlined what the council would have to do to ban them in town.

“However, these costs would be minimal, since Davis has had a strong no-smoking ordinance in effect for many years, and the (devices) would be wrapped into the existing structure for enforcement and implementation.”

— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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