2007-12-04: Public Safety Committee meeting

Meeting agenda — Item #4. See pages 5–17 for information about this bill.

This bill continues to remain tabled and looks like it’s finally circling the drain.

Former alderman Leo Pepino, the primary proponent behind this bill, finally got to speak in front of the aldermen during this meeting. Pepino’s attempts at justifying the need for this ordinance would be laughable if this issue weren’t so serious—resorting to the usual tactics of fearmongering and emotionalism, he claimed that not passing the bill would be a “crime against children” and implied that all sex offenders are the same—dangerous child predators—saying that the only different kind of sex offenders are “registered” vs. “unregistered” ones. Early in the meeting Pepino asserted that only the ACLU (whom he felt the need to point out supports flag burning and… baggy pants) would oppose his bill, but after Laurie and Mark spoke against it, his argument became that everyone opposing it was doing so for “personal reasons.”

All of the aldermen on the Committee have serious reservations about the bill at this point, and they grilled Pepino on a number of issues that we and others have brought to their attention. Pat Long again pointed out that all other cities’ residency restrictions are currently under litigation (which is what prompted Pepino’s odd tirade against the ACLU). Ed Osborne stated that 1000′ would be simply unworkable, forcing all sex offenders out of the city. Daniel O’Neil actually described the ordinance as “feel-good legislation” that would “drive sex offenders underground” and make it harder for the Manchester Police Department—who already do extensive compliance checks for registered sex offenders—to track them. William Shea cautioned that this bill would lead to unintended consequences and finally made the motion to re-table the bill, requesting that the police present a report about their current system of compliance checks at the next Committee meeting.

Pepino went on to claim of sex offenders that “this group can’t be controlled”—but that his pet ordinance would be “the only way we can control these people.” Finally, seemingly out of desparation, he exclaimed that “they’re all over the city now … everywhere you can imagine” and that failing to pass this bill would be a “crime against children.”

Mark Warden urged the Committee to kill the bill, asking how sex offenders would ever be able to figure out where the off-limits zones are, and that it would be a “nightmare for the police to have to enforce.” Laurie also spoke against the bill, reminding the Committee that this bill has lingered for four months now with no action—but that we will be there next month if that’s what it takes to kill it. She went on to remind the aldermen of all the points we initially brought up months ago, and also added how, for sex offenders still on parole or probation, residency restrictions will seriously interfere with the parole officer’s ability to do his job. She ended her speech by requesting that the aldermen “start dealing with real answers” and a plea to finally take this off the table and let it die.