The Pleasanton City Council approved an ordinance last month that will continue allowing the city's police department to use military or specialized equipment for regular and promotional use.
The ordinance is part of Assembly Bill 481, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last September requiring police departments in California to keep a running list of what is defined as military equipment for oversight by local governing bodies, which now have to approve or reject the use of such equipment by local law enforcement.
Military equipment, as defined by AB 481, does not necessarily indicate equipment used by the military. Items deemed by the bill to be "military equipment" include robotic vehicles, armored rescue vehicles, tear gas, less-than-lethal weapons such as beanbag shotguns, 40-millimeter projectiles and noise/flash diversionary devices.
During the second reading of the ordinance on June 21, most of the conversation revolved around the armored rescue vehicle, which the Pleasanton Police Department often uses for promotional or community outreach purposes. Vice Mayor Valerie Arkin was the main dissenter on using the vehicle in ways like bringing it to parades and other community events.
"I'm fine with our officers having that available to us if it is needed, that is their job," Arkin said. "I'm arguing that exposure to young children and desensitizing kids is not something I would be interested in doing with armored vehicles."
She said limiting the promotional use of the vehicle to settings that don't expose it to children is something important to her as a former school board member.
"I'm not asking for all the equipment," Arkin said. "I'm asking just the vehicle, not to be exposed to children in an outreach setting."
Many of the speakers during public comments, however, supported the ordinance with many saying the same thing -- officers should be adequately prepared with the necessary tools in case of the worst case scenario.
Councilmember Jack Balch added that for him, the decision to inform his child about such vehicles should be a parent's choice and that he thinks being transparent with kids about these types of tools officers use is important.
"I want my son to be able to understand this as a vehicle of safety," Balch said. "I want my son to understand that a firefighter is there to save him and I want him to understand that a police officer is here for public safety as well."
Mayor Karla Brown shared similar thoughts with Balch saying that she wants children to learn about the vehicle so that in the case of an emergency, they know to head toward it rather than be afraid.
"I look at it as safety and security," Brown said. "I look at it as I want to desensitize children if they're afraid of it. They need to learn that this is here to help."
In other business
* The council voted unanimously June 21 to approve new garbage and recycling rates that would increase residential and commercial fees by 5.8%.
The fees are part of a 2018 franchise agreement the city made with Pleasanton Garbage Service, which stipulates that the council will approve adjusted rates annually.
Residential rates are bundled so fees are based on the size of the solid waste can where 35-gallon carts cost $27.58 a month. The 5.8% increase will make their rate $29.18 per month. If a resident has a 96-gallon solid waste cart, their increase will go from $48.12 a month to $50.91.
These changes became effective on July 1.
The franchise agreement was then amended to comply with Senate Bill 1383 on June 7, which includes annual route review and contamination monitoring. These route reviews and monitoring come with related costs that have been incorporated into the garbage rates for the new period.
"The premise of it, whether you agree or not, is that the landfills are obviously filling up and diversion and proper recycling of the organics and other elements and trying to think a little long-term as an entire state," Balch said.
In a recent agreement that council members adopted at their previous meeting, PGS agreed to conduct the annual SB 1383 required contamination monitoring. In the contract, the city negotiated an annual cost of $37,170 that includes costs like expensive fuel and adding cameras to trucks for contamination enforcement.
The enforcement of how residents properly dispose of waste was a main talking point that Becky Hopkins, assistant to the city manager, said will be looked into in the upcoming years as the city does not need to fully enforce that until 2024.
She said StopWaste, a public agency that works in helping Alameda County's businesses, residents, and schools waste less and recycle properly, will take care of commercial enforcement.
"The other costs that we agreed upon to help with contamination monitoring ... is this technology to go on the collection vehicles that are cameras that can take pictures as they're actually dumping the material and then can notify the resident and it allows the city to have visual proof of a violation," Hopkins said.
Brown expressed initial concern in the nuance of people mistakenly putting an item in the wrong bin and getting fined for that, but Hopkins said there will be a whole process of getting noticed and receiving education materials before getting to the actual fine.
There were also concerns about possible ways to lessen the financial burden on residents. City staff and the Waste and Recycling Subcommittee did discuss smoothing garbage rates and using reserve funds to lower the rate increases. However, staff are not recommending this option because it would only delay the increase for one year.
After that, the rates will go back up unless the amount needed to lessen the increase is generated through the rates the following year. Arkin, who struggled with not being able to return money to ratepayers, agreed with other council members in wanting to explore different ways to use the $3 million in rate reserve funds.
"I agree with (Kathy) Narum about having more information on how we are going to use that nearly $3.5 million with a plan and have that spelled out," Arkin said.
City Manager Gerry Beaudin added to the discussion saying that the reserve account will be used to address costs that will be incurred by the ratepayers, so the ratepayers will see the benefit of the reserves.
* Balch presented a proclamation recognizing June 2022 as Elder Abuse Awareness Month in light of the continued stress of the pandemic and higher cases of elder abuse.
There are 6 million cases of elder abuse nationwide each year with 11% of all cases in California, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. Another report from the National Council on Aging shows only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are ever reported to authorities.
The proclamation also focuses on general elder abuse such as neglect and financial exploitation.
"The city of Pleasanton recognizes that awareness of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation and the reporting of suspected incidents of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, particularly during the stressful times of the global pandemic, will keep our elders and community safer," Balch said.
Jennifer Pardini, a community education advocate, accepted the proclamation on behalf of the nonprofit she works at, Legal Assistance for Seniors. The Oakland-based organization provides community education programs, legal support and representation to seniors and dependent adults in Alameda County.
"This proclamation recognizes the significance of elder abuse in our community and Legal Assistance for Seniors joins with you to bring awareness and provide remedies for those experiencing elder or dependent adult abuse," Pardini said.