In the wake of the Newtown massacre, a semi-retired employment law and civil rights attorney thinks anyone in San Jose who wants to own an assault weapon should be required to pass a mental health check and hand over the gun to police for safekeeping.
San Jose resident Maurits Van Smith, 77, drafted a proposed city ordinance (pages 4-6), which he submitted to the police chief, the mayor and a handful of other public officials in the hopes that they’ll support his idea. City leaders will broach the topic at the Rules and Open Government Committee meeting Wednesday afternoon. If the committee moves it forward, the draft ordinance could go before the City Council.
“People think they have to wait on the state or the federal government to pass new gun control rules, but I think a city could be more effective,” says Smith, who spent a decade of his 50-year legal career as city attorney for Santa Clara. “I have some experience writing city ordinances, so I took the liberty of writing up a draft.”
The language in the ordinance would require assault weapon owners to provide fingerprint identification to check out the guns, explain the intended use of the guns and promise not to let anyone else use the guns during the time it is “checked out.” Possession of an assault weapon that is not registered would be then punishable by a fine of no more than $1,000 and six months imprisonment.
Smith’s open to feedback—in fact, his main goal, he says, was to spark a discussion in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
“Listen, my ideas aren’t the best ideas,” Smith says. “I just want to hear from our leaders and from other residents what we should do about this. It’s only for a specific type of gun control, and only to target these unusual, occasional, but increasingly common tragic situations like what happened in Connecticut.”
The proposed ordinance would not affect handguns in San Jose, which were increasingly used in last year’s surge of homicides.
Other notable items from the Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for January 16, 2013:
• Businesses looking to set up shop in San Jose could get a steep discount on a lease. The city is in the process of figuring out how much work it would take to implement a program encouraging commercial tenants to occupy ground-floor vacancies in downtown and other target neighborhoods by locking in their lease at a teaser rate of $1 per square foot for the first year.
To make it work, the city will have to convince property owners to lower their prices. The cost of convincing folks to do business: $250,000 in waived permitting fees.
The main concern for the city manager’s office, which proposed the initiative, is how to tackle the problem of blight perpetuated by vacant spaces. Per the staff report:
“Despite the resurgence of employment statistics in Silicon Valley, the ubiquity of vacancies in our neighborhood business districts and the Downtown plainly indicates that the recovery has not reached many of our neighborhoods. Large-mall vacancies remain relatively low, to be sure, reflecting rising sales activity, particularly for the more affluent consumers. Empty storefronts in several NBD’s and the Downtown persist, however. It is these street-level vacancies along our ‘pedestrian friendly’ retail corridors that have a unique impact on surrounding communities. Vacancies reflect missed opportunities for entry-level employment in many struggling neighborhoods, and reinforce the perceived dearth of consumer goods and services in underserved ethnic communities.
“Vagrancy, graffiti, and street-level crime proliferates in the absence of ‘eyes on the street’ and back-lit storefronts. Adjacent businesses suffer from reduced foot traffic, and from the perception that pedestrians don’t ‘feel’ safe walking along deserted sidewalks and empty storefronts. Landlords forego maintenance and basic investments in vacant buildings and even their occupied neighbors, thereby perpetuating a vicious cycle of urban decline. Surrounding neighborhoods feel the impacts, both in blight and in the decline of quality of life that walkable urban retail districts typically afford to nearby residents.”
• San Jose has the third-highest percentage of overweight children in the county, according to the city, which over the years has spent a good chunk of money to fix what it calls the “Let’s Move Campaign.” Recently, the city teamed up with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to figure out how to spend a $3.6 million federal grant to fight childhood obesity. About $140,000 of that grant will go to the city’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services arm to come up with a handbook about youth nutrition and activity.
• Apparently, enough inconsiderate cyclists have bumped into elderly pedestrians that the city’s Senior Citizens Commission has taken to imploring the council to do something. The commission says the Department of Transportation has done a fine job focusing on children’s safety but “is woefully lacking in a similar outreach for senior citizen pedestrians.”
• Seniors forwarded several letters to the city this month, including one that demands San Jose police undergo sensitivity training to deal with a population of senior citizen’s slated to double in the next decade.
• The city’s most tenacious critic, David S. Wall, wrote a sarcastic letter to the council about a homeless camp behind Columbus Park, asking if the city would oblige to give executives from Nippon Airways a guided tour of the spot bordered by Coleman Avenue between West Hedding and West Taylor streets.
“Perhaps our good friends at [the Office of Economic Development] would describe the vagrant encampment as an ‘urban village’ that is part of the Envision 2040 General Plan to our honored guests from [Nippon Air]. Or perhaps OED might say that the vagrant encampment is part of Mayor [Chuck] Reed’s ‘Green Vision’ since all of the habitats exceed energy and water conservation goals …Either ploy might just work to sway the tired ANA executives who just stepped off that really cool Boeing 787 Dreamliner.”
WHAT: City of San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee meeting
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: Wing 118-120, City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: Deputy City Clerk Tamara Davis, 408.535.1265