Barbanica urges support for including spectators in sideshow ordinance

Antioch Councilman Mike Barbanica speaks about the sideshow ordinance in a YouTube video on his supervisorial campaign’s Facebook page on June 3, 2024. (Screenshot) Sideshow in Antioch on Sept. 24, 2023. Herald file photo.

Following Saturday’s rash of events

Responds to mayor’s swipe about playing politics

“We should not tolerate our elected officials dodging the issues by watering down penalties or limiting the authority of the police to cite everybody involved. Push your elected officials to put a stop to this.” – Councilman Mike Barbanica

“Pittsburg has taken a different direction. They have this policy.” – Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe

Lack of ordinance due to council member absences at meetings it was discussed and voted on

By Allen D. Payton

In a video post on his county supervisorial campaign Facebook page on Monday evening, June 3, 2024, Antioch District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica urged the public to support including prohibiting spectators in the sideshow ordinance. He also responded to Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe’s swipe at him, Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock for not voting to pass the second reading of the sideshow ordinance in March. As previously reported, after the council voted 5-0 in February for the ordinance banning advertising and organizing sideshows, with the mayor and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker absent, no motion was made by the three council members in attendance to adopt the new ordinance. Barbanica and Ogorchock wanted a stronger ordinance with fines for spectators and greater penalties.

As previously reported, in the mayor’s Facebook video post on Saturday night about the sideshows, he said about the three council members, without naming them, “Unfortunately, the council decided to play politics and not pass the sideshow ordinance.”

Asked “didn’t you vote against targeting spectators,” Hernandez-Thorpe responded, “No. I proposed a sideshow ordinance that targeted organizers and spectators. When it got to council there was only consensus for organizers. I defended the use of camera technology assuring the public that we did a good job of determining who was a side show spectator and who was legitimately stuck in traffic created by sideshows. It had consensus (not a vote) from the council. When it came back for first reading vote as a proposed ordinance only targeting organizers it had unanimous support (5-0). The second reading of the ordinance on consent was pulled and failed. That’s called playing politics because as you know…laws can be easily modified later. I don’t always expect to get 100% of what I propose.” (See related article)

District 1 Councilman Mike Barbanica speaks during the second reading of the proposed sideshow advertising and organizing ban while Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker were absent for the Antioch City Council meeting on March 12, 2024. None of the three council members in attendance made the motion to pass the ordinance which caused it to die. Video screenshot

All three council members were asked if they had a response to the mayor’s comments about their lack of action in March. Only Barbanica responded saying he would post a video on the matter.

Barbanica Urges Public to Contact Council Members to Give Police All Needed Tools

In the post of a YouTube video on his Facebook page entitled, “Side Shows and what we can do”, Barbanica wrote, “Last weekend, Pittsburg and Antioch both experienced side shows. Push your elected officials to do everything we can to give officers every tool possible to put a stop to these.”

In the video he said, “Many of you are aware I retired as a police lieutenant, I did 21 years with the Pittsburg Police Department,” I’ve been on scene where we’ve had large groups of individuals and had to work…to break up that activity. I will tell you from experience if you hear that all we have to do is cite the organizer and the whole thing will come crumbling down. That is ridiculous.

“We should be giving our officers the tools…to be able to go out and cite anybody who is there, depending on the situation,” he continued. “I’m not talking people that are stuck in their cars waiting to get through a sideshow. I’m talking active participants. These are causing havoc within our communities.”

Barbanica shared about firefighters telling him about an engine stuck in a backup caused by a sideshow on their way to an emergency. “It’s a matter of time before somebody is seriously hurt or worse,” he stated.

“I’m asking you to push your elected officials…and tell them, ‘Enough. We’ve had enough and to stop playing games and taking a potentially, a very strong ordinance and watering it down.”

“I proposed that we not only cite anybody involved with a sideshow but active participants, the folks with the video cameras, cheering it on, surrounding the sideshows. Obviously there to participate,” Barbanica stated. “And that met with resistance from politicians. For the life of me I can’t understand why we would not want to give our officers the tools to do that.”

“It doesn’t mean they’re going to cite everybody that’s there,” he explained. “It means it’s a tool that they have when they get there, and they need to break up a sideshow. Start handing out citations and see how fast that breaks up.”

“But what happens, we have elected officials that say, ‘ah, what we need to do is just cite the organizers’,” Barbanica stated. “Do we want to sign the one organizer sitting behind their computer the many who are out there causing these issues. I say both. We do both.”

“Don’t let your elected officials fool you. Put pressure on them to enact these municipal codes to give our police the authority and the ability to take action,” he stated. “So, as long as we continue to tolerate this and as long as we accept this from our elected officials, we’re going to see this continue.”

“Push your elected officials to put a stop to this, please,” Barbanica concluded.

District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica discusses the proposed sideshow ordinance with the other council members as District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock’s seat sits empty during the council meeting on Nov. 14, 2023. Video screenshot.

Ordinance Discussed During Nov. 14, 2023 Council Meeting When Ogorchock Absent

However, the lack of consensus for including prohibiting spectators in the ordinance was due to Ogorchock’s absence for the council meeting on Nov. 14, 2023. During discussion of the proposed ordinance that night, two of the four council members present, Torres-Walker and Wilson, expressed opposition to including enforcement against spectators. (See 2:35:20 mark of November 14, 2023 council meeting video)

Proposed Ordinance Included Banning Spectators at Sideshows

The section on spectators in the city staff’s proposed ordinance presented at that meeting reads:

“(I) ‘Spectator’ means any individual who is present at an illegal motor vehicle sideshow, speed contest, exhibition of speed, or at a location where preparations are being made for such events, for the purpose of viewing, observing, watching, or witnessing the event as it progresses. The term ‘spectator’ includes any individual at the location of the event without regard to whether the individual arrived at the event by driving a vehicle, riding as a passenger in a vehicle, walking, or arriving by some other means.


(A) It is unlawful for any person to:

1. Be knowingly present as a spectator at an illegal motor vehicle speed contest, exhibition of speed, or sideshow on a public street or highway or in an offstreet parking facility

2. Be knowingly present as a spectator where preparations are being made for an illegal motor vehicle speed contest, exhibition of speed, or sideshow conducted on a public street or highway or in an offstreet parking facility

(B) An individual is present at an illegal motor vehicle speed contest, exhibition of speed, or sideshow if that individual is on a public street or highway, public property, or on private property without the consent of the owner, operator, or agent thereof, and is within two hundred (200) feet of the location of the event or within two hundred (200) feet of the

location where preparations are being made for the event.

(C) Local law enforcement shall also have the authority to cite any spectator in violation of this chapter with an administrative citation.”

During the council discussion during the Nov. 14th meeting Barbanica said, “This is a tool our officers can use to break up sideshows. Torres-Walker responded with, “We’ve given this particular police department tools in the past and they have misused them and often abused their authority. So, to trust an individual to make the determination at a scene in this instance when we couldn’t trust some folks in our department to make the determination whether they would actively not violate somebody’s civil rights or participate in racism, I think, like for me it’s a real concern to say, ‘hey, here’s an ordinance, go, we’re going to trust your judgement when we haven’t been able to trust your judgement in the past. I’m not saying in the future we won’t have a department that we can fully trust. But at this point I’m not sure if, you know, if I support that. Tonight, we’re not voting for an ordinance, anyway. I have no problem supporting something coming back for review.”

Barbanica responded, “Based on what’s going on with our police department, here, the officers that are involved in this situation are being dealt with. To say that we can’t give an officer a policy to enforce an infraction because what other groups of officers are accused of doing, I do not follow that logic path. It doesn’t mean the officers out there working should be stripped of every enforcement technique they can use.”

“Saying that like something is within policy can mean that the policy in itself is problematic,” Torres-Walker then responded. “And so, when we provide policies to individuals in law enforcement with the authority to like, enforce those policies in our community we have to make sure that those policies don’t, in turn, intent versus impact is important. You can’t keep implementing policies that could also profile and harm people rather than provide an actual solution. That is why I am concern about this policy because I’m concerned about every policy in our police department that has not yet gone under review.”

“I’ll just say that, you know, we had gotten a handle on sideshows. The reality is it all falls back to the fact that our traffic division was basically decimated as a result of the racist text messaging scandal,” Hernandez-Thorpe said. “The policy, I thought it was punitive from the very beginning. I thought it was too much. But I thought it was important to send, you know, a very clear message to people who conduct and organize these sideshows as we have done in the past. So, I’ve kind of gone back and forth and I kind of scratched my head and I hear all the concerns everybody has expressed.”

In response to a question from Wilson about coordinating with neighboring cities, the mayor said, “Pittsburg has taken a different direction. They have this policy. In terms of what works, I don’t think anybody would say anything has worked. We can say what worked…when we had a sideshow traffic detail and it had nothing to do with any policy. It had to do with the methods and techniques our officers were using to find people who are organizing these sideshows. They were preventing them from happening and it worked when we had officers. So, this maybe, this may not work. I don’t know. What does give me comfort is the times we have had to cite people they’ve used our camera systems to validate whether anything was right.”

“I will give you the example of a woman who reached out to us and said, ‘hey, my son was just standing there doing absolutely nothing’ and we went out of our way as a city to say we will look into that,” Hernandez-Thorpe continued arguing in favor of including spectators in the ordinance. “And turns out not only was he there he was one of the people vandalizing the police car. So, not only was his car towed, not only did he get a citation but then he, now is being charged criminally, with a crime by the DA. So, what gave me some level of trust in having this policy is the fact we have a camera system in areas where we tend to see the highest number of sideshows, large-scale sideshows in the city.”

“If we don’t want to move forward with this, I’m personally fine,” the mayor then said sharing concerns about staff time. “And it’s clear we’re seeing in other cities it may not be working. This policy exists in Pittsburg. It exists in San Jose. I think Oakland is working on the policy, as well.”

“I’ve spoken with officers over in Pittsburg on the effectiveness of the program over there,” Barbanica interjected. “Most of the time they don’t even have to use it. They show up to these sideshows and say, ‘we will cite you, we will tow your cars, you’re not going to do this,’ here and the sideshows generally move on. I’m not saying they don’t get them. But that is a tool that they use to actually deter this, as a deterrent. And our staffing, we may not have capacity today but I’m betting we will at some point. Again, this is a tool for deterring this from occurring.”

“Isn’t it already somewhere in the traffic code…is this going to add an additional layer to something,” Torres-Walker asked City Attorney Thomas L. Smith.

“You are correct, for the drivers in the sideshows there are multiple ways they can be held accountable,” he responded. “What this is doing is looking at the people who are not the drivers but people who are either bystanders, watching, participating in the sideshow or planning the sideshow. So, it is another layer, as you said.”

“We all know who spectators are. I mean, they’re standing out there with cameras, they’re cheering and yelling and screaming. Some of them have fireworks,” Hernandez-Thorpe stated. “Someone sitting in a car is not going to be confused with a spectator.”

Wilson then shared her thoughts saying, “The organizer piece is really what I have the most interest in. The rest are concerning with the same concerns in this argument over here,” as she pointed toward Torres-Walker. “The organizer piece I do want.”

“Maybe we can look at an ordinance that specifically looks at organizers, for now…if we decide, ‘hey, that wasn’t strong enough we need to go after spectators we can always add that to the ordinance,” the mayor suggested.

Barbanica responded echoing the mayor’s previous concerns about wasting City staff time saying, “Doing two of these is really taking up a lot of staff time. I guess I’m just not following the logic of why…somebody standing out there cheering on a sideshow destroying the neighborhood and destroying city property, why we’re adverse to citing people for doing that.”

“Concern for some people…is that there’s a risk of, one, abusing that and two, confusing people who may not be need to be there,” Hernandez-Thorpe responded, “There have been instances where we decided, you know what, that tool, for now we’re just going to put it on the back seat,” while referring to the council majority’s vote against purchasing new tasers after a suspect died following being tazed by Antioch police officers.

Torres-Walker then reiterated the past police efforts to focus on the organizers and “preventing the sideshow from happening before it even happened. So, I wouldn’t be against coming back with something focused on organizers but not spectators.

“We can try that,” the mayor responded.

As a result, city staff returned in February with the ordinance focused only on banning advertising and organizing sideshows. See proposed sideshow ordinance.

Hernandez-Thorpe Won’t Include Spectators Ban When Ordinance Returns for Next Tuesday’s Meeting

Asked if he will now bring back the ordinance and include banning spectators as other cities like Modesto, Clovis and San Diego have done and state law allows and since he, Barbanica and Ogorchocck support including spectators if he will bring back the original ordinance staff proposed, Hernandez-Thorpe responded, “Top of FormBottom of FormThere was NO original ordinance proposed by staff. The Nov. 14th meeting was a discussion about my original proposal to focus on spectators and organizers. The time to make changes was at the meeting that EVERY COUNCILMEMBER was present for and nobody did and the proposed ordinance got a FIVE-ZERO VOTE. Then at the next meeting the same THREE COUNCIL MEMBERS who voted for it, then turned around and voted against it. THAT’S PLAYING POLITICS. Stop misinformation and get the facts. Thank you!”

When reminded of the proposed ordinance in the city staff report for the Nov. 14, 2023 meeting and his arguments in favor of including enforcement against spectators, Hernandez-Thorpe was again asked if he will include it as written in the city staff’s proposed ordinance when he brings it back to council for another vote. The mayor was also asked if the ordinance will return to the agenda for next Tuesday night’s council meeting.

UPDATE 1: Thorpe responded, “The proposed ordinance or any discussion around it that came to council was based on my initial call for the new law. It was literally all over the news. Further, I said on several occasions that I didn’t bring an ordinance forward after my initial call for the ordinance because we were doing SO well on the proactive side. So, any ordinance or discussion that came back was based on my request not something that came out of thin air from staff.”

For clarification, the mayor was asked if he is now claiming that he wrote and provided the proposed ordinance to the city attorney and his office didn’t develop any of what was in the city staff report for the council discussion. Hernandez-Thorpe was also asked, again if it will be brought back for next Tuesday’s council meeting agenda and will it include a provision prohibiting spectators.

Please check back later for his responses or any other updates to this report.

the attachments to this post:

Barbanica speaks on sideshow organizing ban 031224

Antioch Council mtg 11-14-23

Barbanica on sideshow ordinance 6-3-24 & sideshow 9-24-23

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