With Hernandez-Thorpe, Torres-Walker absent Antioch council fails to approve ban on organizing sideshows

Councilman Barbanica speaks against the ordinance banning sideshow organizing during the Antioch Council meeting on March 12, 2024 for which both Mayor Hernandez-Thorpe and Councilwoman Torres-Walker were absent. (Video screenshot) Spectators watch a sideshow in Antioch on Sept. 24, 2023. Herald file photo.

Barbanica, Ogorchock want fines for spectators, greater penalties included

“This is doing really nothing. It is absolutely useless.” – Councilman Barbanica.

“I want this stronger. I’m not going to vote for it, this time.” – Councilwoman Ogorchock

“Yes, this is kind of a weak ordinance,” Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson

“You know how you get people? You hit them in the pocket…and hit hard.” – Police Oversight Commissioner Leslie May.

Public speaker says San Joaquin Co. Sheriff arrested 150 spectators, impounded 88 cars from sideshow.

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, the Antioch City Council failed to approve the second reading to adopt an ordinance banning organizing or advertising street racing, sideshows and reckless driving exhibitions. With Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker absent and Councilmembers Mike Barbanica and Lori Ogorchock changing positions on the matter, no motion was made by the three council members in attendance to adopt the new ordinance. The council had previously voted 5-0 to approve it at their Feb. 27, 2024, meeting, but the two councilmembers wanted a stronger ordinance with fines for those who attend sideshows and greater penalties. However, during the Nov. 14, 2023, meeting, the council majority opposed making it illegal to be a spectator at a sideshow.

District 2 Councilman Barbanica was the first member of the council to speak on the matter Tuesday night, under Item I on the Consent Calendar saying, “Yes, I voted for this when it came out initially. But it’s been no secret that I don’t think this goes nearly far enough. This is just a feel-good thing. The reality of it is, is our police department’s not truly going to be able to sit there and track down who organizes a side show. It could have been much more effective, a tool that was used much more effective if, in fact, we would have allowed our officers to cite. But unfortunately, there wasn’t an appetite for that. I think this is, it’s better than nothing but it’s pretty close to nothing. As we move forward with it, don’t expect to see a lot of citations issued for organizers, because the reality of it is determining who organizes something, how it’s put together is extremely difficult. So, it’s a tool on our books that we can all go, ‘woo, we did something’. We did almost nothing, here.”

District 3 Councilwoman Ogorchock agreed with her colleague saying, “I’m very frustrated with this ordinance, also. At our last council meeting when this was discussed I did vote for it because this is a beginning, it’s a start. But I was hoping the start would actually evolve into something.”

She then took City Attorney Thomas L. Smith to task stating, “I’m disappointed, right now, with the city attorney because I had a conversation with him, requesting that he reach out to other cities to find out what their ordinances were regarding the sideshows. Some of them have stricter ordinances than we have. I wanted it to go out across California to find out who else was doing different things within the state of California on this very specific issue.”

“Another part of the conversation was, we as a city, as we did with the rent control, we can make stricter ordinances of what the state makes,” Ogorchock continued. “This doesn’t mean anything, to me. This is just like a piece of paper saying we’ve got this ordinance. So, I want this stronger. I’m not going to vote for it, this time. It can’t pass, tonight. But if it comes back at another time it can pass at another time. But until we get some teeth behind this thing and make it to where these people are punished then I’m not going to vote for it just to have paper and say we have an ordinance. I’m not going to do it.”

During public comments, Leslie May, a member of the new Police Oversight Commission, said, “My goodness, I agree with Lori. This needs to have money. We need to put more money. You know how you get people? You hit them in the pocket…and hit hard.”

She also mentioned finding on Facebook “a link where these people are setting up sideshows. I called the mayor’s office. I think I got a call back from the police department and I told them where one big organizer was, located by Costco. They told me they couldn’t do anything about it.”

“The next time you rewrite this, you give the public a number directly into the police department to let them know and send a screenshot to let them know they’re planning this…so the police department can be prepared,” she added.

“Yes, this is kind of a weak ordinance,” Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson who chaired the meeting. “But I err on the side of I’d rather see something pass as a start. But this is probably going to be coming back.”

City Attorney Smith then said, “The discussion we had, previously was about misdemeanors and in fact, what we said was the misdemeanor was capped at $1,000 or six months in prison.” He then read from state law allowed either or both. “That’s what we have,” he added.

“What we did with the ordinance was, we found a gap,” Smith continued. “That was around the advertising as we noted in the ordinance, and we created a separate opportunity where we could apply that fine at the misdemeanor level. So, when we talked about the potential of what could happen to people who engage in sideshows, this ordinance provides an additional layer above and beyond what already exists. This is an additive tool. This is not something that is complete in terms of what the police officers have available to them when they encounter sideshows.”

Ogorchock responded saying, “Let’s talk about the misdemeanor. That’s the misdemeanor they get for driving. This is the misdemeanor for organizing. When we look…under remedies and penalties for rent control, we’ve added penalties to the rent control that the state had and we added more. We increased those fines. We’re not increasing anything, here.”

“It’s one of the things you and I talked about,” she said to Smith. “And I asked for another way to put more teeth behind this and to find out from other cities what other cities are doing.”

“We can put some teeth behind it and increase it. We can’t go lower than what the state says. We can increase it and that’s what I’m asking for,” Ogorchock reiterated.

Barbanica later said, “So, I actually had called…and hosted the meeting and Ms. May was in the meeting with me and she brought up the fact that we need to hit them in the pocketbook. While sitting in that meeting, I sent an email to the city manager and the mayor saying I want an ordinance brought in front of the council where we can actually cite people for attending these sideshows and there’s a financial penalty associated with that.”

“This has fallen way short of that,” he stated. “And each meeting I’ve pushed for let’s beef this up much more than it is. I can’t in good conscience just pass something just because, well, we want to say we did something. We want to hit the press tomorrow saying we did something. This is doing really nothing.”
“Having this in addition to an ordinance that we can hit folks in their pocketbook when they’re out there destroying city property, and so on, I would be all for that,” Barbanica continued. “But all this did was just weaken this thing down. It is absolutely useless. You’re not going to hear a motion or a second coming from me, tonight on this.”

Ogorchock offered her final comments on the matter stating, “At the last council meeting, it was talking about having to reimburse for services that have to go out and take from other areas of town. The instance that I brought up was there were two firetrucks that couldn’t get to calls, because of these sideshows. So, whoever organized the sideshow actually stopped our first responders. So, they need to be fined for the diminishing of our services or paying back for our services.”

Public Speaker Says San Joaquin Co. Sheriff Arrested 150 Spectators, Impounded 88 Cars from Sideshow

Wilson re-opened public comments on the item with both in favor of fines for spectators.

Resident Andrew Becker said, “I agree with the comments made. If you’re concerned about being fined at a sideshow don’t be at a sideshow.”

Another member of the public, Eddie Gomes with ACCE, spoke of what is done in San Joaquin County. “Sheriff Patrick Winthrop, and he arrested 150 people. It was on video. Had the buses. Took all their cars. 88 cars. They don’t get them back.”

“I mean, you want to hit them in the pocket, have them kids driving their mama’s car and get it taken,” he continued to applause from the audience. “Laws can have law enforcement and getting on the internet and finding out where it’s going to happen, beforehand. I wouldn’t say a word. I would just show up just like the sheriff with the buses, take them away.”

Following the final comments from the public, Wilson asked, “Is there a motion?” Barbanica responded, “No, there is not.”

Since none of the three council members made a motion to adopt the ordinance, Wilson stated, “So, it dies without a motion.”

Barbanica then said, “I apologize to the city staff for the work you put into this. I know this had to be a lot of work. But I was pretty clear along the way where I wanted to go but I understand your position.”

(See council meeting video beginning at the 1:16:00 mark)

the attachments to this post:

Barbanica speaks on sideshow organizing ban 031224 Sideshow 092423

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