Mission Viejo

Noise Ordinance Screams for Clarification

by Ed Sachs

Groucho Marx once stated, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”
Ed Sachs

Such may be the case today as we see the Mission Viejo city council majority wanting to punish a very small number of homeowners who may have had the police return a second time for a neighbor’s complaint of noise. Many of us call this “disturbing the peace,” for which there are already laws, codes and ordinances that address such irritation.

 In July and August, our police department responded to between 32 and 35 second calls for disturbing the peace. If extrapolated for a 12-month period and allowing for fewer such calls in the winter months, we may be talking around .00046 percent of Mission Viejo homes requiring a second call for disturbing the peace.
Beyond the offense itself, the council wants to determine punitive damages to the offending homeowner by fining them the cost of police coming out more than once to handle a disturbance complaint. Upon discovering a potential administrative nightmare, the council now looks to establish a fine for disturbing the peace like the cost of violating the carpool lane.

If we already have laws on the books that cover disturbing the peace, why then must we pile on more offense? The answer may have to do with the fine itself. Is this a money grab by the city? I really do not believe this is the case since a $1,000 fine would rake in less than $100,000 annually to a city that professes to have more than a million dollars tucked under its mattress for that rainy day.

I suppose the real reason brings us back to Mr. Marx. That’s Groucho, not Karl. The culprit may be that officials from both sides of the aisle appear to believe they are elected to write legislation (codes). Officials want to show the electorate that they are working on behalf of their constituents, which allows them to get elected again and write more laws.

The California Assembly discusses more than 3,000 possible laws in one year. On Jan. 1, 2012, 745 laws took effect, and Jan. 1, 2013, brought another 800 new laws. In 2012 California passed two laws a day, every day of the week! You can begin to imagine the crushing weight to your liberty as we add unnecessary law on top of unnecessary law. How will we ring in the New Year Jan. 1, 2014, with possibly another 860 new laws in California, not to mention county or city laws? We are not even talking about federal laws, or rules set by bureaucracies.

City councils everywhere should consider managing essential services within budget and not worry about looking as though they are doing something from dictating the size of a soda you can buy to fining residents for the cost of having a helicopter called out to halt disturbing the peace. In the case of the latter, the helicopter would make much more noise than the noise offender itself. I sure hope that helicopter does not show up twice!

Ed Sachs and his family have lived in Mission Viejo since 1991.  Ed spent 30 years in the consumer electronics industry where he was inducted in the Hall of Fame. He retired as President Emeritus at Pioneer Electronics in 2009.  Since retirement, Ed has opened his own leadership-consulting agency while becoming active in the community.  In 2012, Ed ran for Mission Viejo City Council.  Ed and his wife Leagh,  an accomplished and award winning photographer, have two sons, David and Daniel.

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