After the majority Town Council vote to repeal the Senior Safety Zones, which was done in response to both a petition calling for repeal and the vote of the Commission on Aging to hold off on the controversial ordinance, Council President Candy Buebendorf asked for a vote on the repeal of a similar ordinance: the Child Safety Zones. She said ““My intention is, if (the senior safety zones) are a violation of civil rights than we need to be consistent. I feel we must rescind both.”
Almost immediately after that vote, residents and other town officials were questioning the legality of the move.
When asked by Montville Patch if the vote she called for was not properly introduced and voted upon per the rules of the Town Charter, Buebendorf agreed it was.
“That is correct. To repeal the ordinance we need an ordinance to repeal, which needs to go through public hearing before a vote,” Buebendorf responded in an email. “It will be introduced in that form at the next council meeting.”
Before Buebendorf called for the vote, Town Councilor Laura Tanner asked Town Councilor Rosetta Jones – who has been vocal in her opposition to the Senior Safety Zone ordinance because of what she has maintained is its ineffectiveness in keeping seniors safe and for opening the town up to a potential legal challenge by the ACLU – if she also wants to get rid of the child safety zones.
“Thanks for setting me up,” Rosetta Jones added quickly and within minutes, Buebendorf had called for a vote to repeal the child safety zones law.
Jones, Town Councilor Dana McFee and other town officials as well as residents have alleged the council moved to throw in the repeal of the child zones to cast opponents in a negative light.
In a letter to the editor, McFee said the move was “an obvious attempt to cast us in negative light to parents that support Child Safety Zones by blaming our repeal efforts of the senior zones as reason to repeal the child zones.”
Jones said the vote was “another illustration of the Democratic leadership’s impulsive reaction behavior to (weld) their majority power, at the expense of the taxpayer,” in an emailed statement.
“The repeal on the Child Safety Zone cannot be done by simply resolution. So it was illegal,” she wrote. “I simply couldn't buy into their diversion tactics, and had to stay focused on the Senior Safety Ordinance. I knew the action would have to be re-dressed by the citizens at a future public hearing.”
And apparently now it will be. The Council next meets Feb. 11 and the public hearing will likely be on the agenda.
A little history
The law would have prohibited sex offenders from coming in to contact with senior citizens and face a $99 fine if they violated the ordinance. Opponents called the law unenforceable and unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, Commission on Aging members told Council liaison Billy Caron the town should back off the ordinance and wait to see if the state moves on enacting legislation. A bill made it through committee last year but did not make it past both General Assembly houses.
But Montville Senior and Social Service director Kathleen Doherty-Peck as well as a group of seniors including Senior Center president Sandy Stauffer lobbied for the Council to preserve the law citing a number of newspaper and other media reports of seniors being sexually assaulted.
Here’s where you will find more on the Senior Safety and Child Safety Zones.