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Archive for Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Objections to noise rules aren’t music to leaders’ ears

Silence with a message

April 19, 2006

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Kerplunk.

That's the main noise that came out of City Hall on Tuesday night as a student proposal to make the city's noise ordinance less subjective largely fell flat with commissioners.

Leaders of Kansas University's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and other student groups had asked the city to limit the discretion that police officers had to issue noise ordinance violations. Instead they wanted the city to require that decibel meters be used to measure the sound coming from parties and other events before a ticket could be issued.

The student group began pushing for the ordinance change after city officials confirmed the number of noise ordinance violations they were prosecuting had climbed from three to four per week to 10 to 15 per week.

But Tuesday night, city commissioners said there might be a good reason for that.

"The reason the prosecutions have gone up is because there was a serious problem with noise," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "I have to say I've seen a steady increase in unneighborly behavior. I think it reached a point that the City Commission had to do something."

None of the five city commissioners said they had seen enough evidence to support a change to require the use of decibel meters. The city's legal staff and the Lawrence Police Department both expressed concerns about the ability to effectively enforce the noise ordinance.


About 20 silent protesters with the Kansas University chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union make their way down Massachusetts Street to City Hall in opposition to the city's noise ordinance. Members of the group asked city commissioners to require Lawrence police officers to use a decibel meter in determining whether parties or other activities are too noisy, but their request fell flat Tuesday night.

About 20 silent protesters with the Kansas University chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union make their way down Massachusetts Street to City Hall in opposition to the city's noise ordinance. Members of the group asked city commissioners to require Lawrence police officers to use a decibel meter in determining whether parties or other activities are too noisy, but their request fell flat Tuesday night.

Neighbors also asked city commissioners to leave the law alone.

"I would like to let the police do their job and trust that they are trained properly," said Tom Harper, a member of the Centennial Neighborhood Assn. who told commissioners he sold the home he was living in six years ago because of noisy neighbors. "I think our system now is finally working."

Students, though, said commissioners did not understand that some people were being unfairly punished by the noise ordinance. Before the meeting, about 20 KU students marched through downtown with signs - such as "Are We in the Soviet Union," "Noise is Nifty" and "Better Law is Better for All."

The students told commissioners that police officers had come to parties to issue noise violations when the sound wasn't even audible from outside the house.

"I know there are some people who violate the law and need to be punished," said Ben Cohen, a KU freshman. "But there are some people who are concerned that their neighbors just have a grudge against them or against students in general."

Students presented commissioners with a petition that had about 400 signatures asking that the ordinance be changed.

In a related matter, commissioners held off on making any changes to the ordinance that would regulate construction noise more closely.

There had been some neighborhood complaints that noisy construction activity near residential areas was happening at night or in the early morning.

But commissioners said the total number of noise complaints related to construction noise was still relatively low. Commissioners directed staff to convene a meeting with neighborhood and construction leaders to discuss the issue in more depth.

Wal-Mart discussions may be brewing

City commissioners Tuesday night spent a considerable amount of time huddling in a closed-door meeting with the attorney that is defending them in a lawsuit filed over Wal-Mart's efforts to build a store at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

Commissioners went into executive session with their attorney - Overland Park lawyer Scott Beeler - while Todd Thompson, a Lawrence attorney representing Wal-Mart, waited in the City Commission chambers.

Following the meeting, commissioners would make no comment about the case. Specifically Mayor Mike Amyx and interim City Manager David Corliss declined to comment on whether the city was in talks to settle the lawsuit out of court. Thompson also declined to comment on whether the parties were discussing an out-of-court settlement.

The case is scheduled to go to trial Monday, when Douglas County District Court Judge Michael Malone will hear arguments. According to court records, Wal-Mart within the last week has subpoenaed four city leaders to testify in the case: Mike Wildgen, former city manager; Linda Finger, former planning director; Victor Torres, director of neighborhood resources; and Corliss.

The city previously had argued that those officials should not be required to testify. Wal-Mart attorneys, though, said their testimony was necessary to show that the city wrongly denied a building permit for the project, which is what the retail giant alleges.

November vote on library plan unlikely

Bruce Flanders, director of the Lawrence Public Library, told commissioners Tuesday that he thought it was unlikely that a plan to build a new downtown library would be far enough along to ask for voter approval during November's election.

Library leaders have never set a timeline for bringing the issue to a vote, but Flanders said he thought an election this year would be a "pretty aggressive timetable."

Instead, he said an election in April 2007 - when three city commissioners will be up for election - would be more realistic from a design standpoint.

City commissioners haven't settled on a site for the project, nor officially given it a green light. The discussion came up as commissioners appointed a committee to review public-private partnership proposals for a new downtown library. Those proposals are due May 4.

The committee includes city commissioners Sue Hack and David Schauner; Flanders; library board members John Nalbandian and Ron Hurst; New Directions Task Force members Craig Penzler and John Gaunt; Corliss; and other city and library staff members.

Comments

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

Wal-Mart discussions may be brewing on whether the city was in talks to settle the lawsuit out of court.

Well discussions may be brewing about a Wal-Mart deal with Schwada to place a super store(anchor) in a large mall at 6th and K-10. This speculation came from a student through Wal-Mart who visited a KU class she was attending 4 semesters ago. I know nothing more and heard this Tuesday April 18th 2006. The student said it had nothing to do with 6th and Wakarusa.

introversion 8 years, 8 months ago

This whole noise thing touches on a subject that's always fascinated me. I realize that many people have spent a good portion of their lives in this town, however the days are gone of those who lived in this town before the University was here. I don't know what people expect to happen when they buy a house in a primarily student rented neighborhood. It's like moving to Arizona and then getting mad because you didn't realize that it got so hot.

All that aside, decibel meters need to be used, and the officers need to be appropriately trained in their use. Like Marion said, it ought to be like a breathalyzer. I know all this takes time and money, but Boog was quoted in saying that he thinks this ordinance is a good move- let's at least do it right instead of half-assing it.

tir 8 years, 8 months ago

I think the city should get the decibel meters. They might be expensive, but so is fighting a lawsuit, which the city might have to do if the ACLU decides to take this a step further. And I think the ACLU would win in the long run.

That said, there is still a big problem of officers not always being able to respond to noise complaints in a timely manner. If the police don't show up until after three or four in the morning after most of the partiers have either passed out drunk or staggered home, it does no good to even call.

And as for the argument some have made, that people who don't like the late-night noise in their neighborhoods should move, why should a person who doesn't bother anyone or cause any problems be forced to move out of their home when irresponsible disruptive people move in next door to them? That's punishing the innocent, and it's wrong.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

As I've said before. Get acquainted with each other. Set some agreements amongst each other. It's OK to sun naked,smoke pot, cook outdoors, have a party, drink wine and have music just keep the sound down. Some people like to open windows and may not care for Led Zepplin. Try to get along. The cops may have more important matters every now and then.

We had a meth lab crew move in behind us who did everything loud,raced their cars,shot off guns and harrassed a few of the neighbors consistently all day and night. Some of the children became afraid to play outdoors. It took only 18 months for the LPD to shut this situation down.

RonBurgandy 8 years, 8 months ago

Does a beastie boys song pop into anyone else's head?

Having a meter creates an objective way to assess party noise.

cellogrl 8 years, 8 months ago

Just a nitpicking point to you Agnostick... Tupak died a long time ago. I don't think that he'll be coming out with any new "jungle noise" any time soon. That was a bit derogatory as well and I don't really appreciate your use of that term.

Charla Welch 8 years, 8 months ago

The only problem I see with the decible meters is how to handle noise complaints in apartment complexes. I filed a complaint against the people in the apartment below me. I put up with their music playing all night long, directly below my bedroom, loud enough to vibrate my bed at times, for months. They would never answer the door when I knocked to ask them to turn it down. They finally woke me up one night around midnight with their music. The officer that came had to nearly knock the door down before they answered. But the thing is, the noise was much louder in my bedroom than it was out in the stairwell. So would I have to bring the cop into my bedroom in the middle of the night, so he could hear what I'm hearing? The cop actually gave them a warning, and I managed to have some peace and quiet for about a week.

staff04 8 years, 8 months ago

I agree with Marion. Too subjective.

So what happens if Wal-Mart builds a store at 6th and Wak? Do the commissioners get crucified?

Jerry Stubbs 8 years, 8 months ago

The human ear is amazingly adaptable. Decibel meters are not. A dripping faucet can sound loud under certain conditions. The ear adjusts itself to compensate. It's important to hear things in the night that could be a threat, so humans are sensitive to sounds even when asleep.

If Mr Agnostick can rouse himself outside at 10:45pm before the 'bling-mobile' is long gone down the street, I'd be very surprised. I'd rather have the police handle it.

Fatty_McButterpants 8 years, 8 months ago

Marion: Actually, the BAC of .08 is not a hard and fast rule. It is a guideline. Someone can still be charged, and prosecuted, for driving under the influence if their BAC is under the legal limit of .08 (I'm not talking about the under 21 provision of .02 to .07). If the arresting officer feels that one was unable to safely drive in an unimpaired manner than, yes, you can get an OUI.

Apparently the same standard applies with noise in Lawrence.

spamqueen 8 years, 8 months ago

I moved into a "mixed" neighborhood, consisting of both students & nonstudents about 10 years ago. A year later, an adjacent property owner moved a house from a large lot, sold it, and about 3 4-plexes were put in its place. The neighborhood BECAME predominantly student-inhabited. The noise after 2:00 a.m. on any given night became ridiculous over the years. We spoke with them repeatedly, asked them to tone it down when coming home from the bars, and did it stop? HELL NO. We had to resort to calling the cops, who could do nothing much, but at least when they showed up, the party, which was usually just a few kids yelling and drinking and playing their radios in their cars in the parking lot would disperse. It became so bad, though, that we lost a lot of sleep, and decided to move out of Lawrence. It was the best decision of our lives. :-) I still love Lawrence, but trying to sleep in some of the neighborhoods in Lawrence is a futile endeavor. And I agree, decibel meters wouldn't pick up the piercing screams, screeching tires, and other idiotic sporadic behavior that wakes you up and makes you HOMICIDAL at 2:00 a.m.

moveforward 8 years, 8 months ago

Does this also apply to city contracted street crews? I just spent the last week and a half writing a paper with air blast city street crews working outside my window. Argh!

Confrontation 8 years, 8 months ago

"when some gangsta-rap "bling-mobile" rolls by my house"- Every time I hear a loud car like this, there's always a white kid behind the stearing wheel.

craigers 8 years, 8 months ago

cellogrl, I hate to tell you but they still have new CDs put out by dead rappers. I wonder how they do it but Tupac, Big Pun, among others. They just digitally enhance the old songs and some closet songs done by the artists years ago and re-release it. Use a decibal meter and then we can be done with it. Agnostic, oddly enough I would love to see somebody do that to a car that is really loud, except for me it would be the foreign jobs that have mufflers to make it sound like they have a real engine in their car bigger than 4 cylinders. If you have a loud muffler, you better have a classic with a big engine that deserves the attention.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 8 years, 8 months ago

I can see an argument can be made for delibel meters; although I think the word of the cop or the neighbor should be enough. But the person carrying the sign that said "Noise is Nifty" must be thinking they have a right to be as loud as they want whenever they want, and that is never going to fly. They need to move to the country if they can't be good neighbors.
As far as music goes, it doesn't have to be loud to sound good. Now that I'm older I can admit that the reason I cranked up Led Zepplin when driving in my car was because I wanted people to know I had good taste in music. I would never have admitted that when I was young, but that's what it's about. If your music is loud enough for everyone to hear, then you are trying to get their attention and say "I'm cool, because I listen to this music". I still listen to Led Zepplin, but guess what! They sound just as good, or better turned down so I'm the only one who can hear it. Of course there was the time the Moody Blues were on PBS and my husband turned on the surround sound and cranked it up. Our 16 year old son came in and asked what we're were doing! I think we embarrassed him. I have to admit that was fun.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 8 months ago

Just when you think the City Commission can't be any dumber, they go and totally redeem themselves. Dudes, you can't party and keep neighbors up at all hours of the night with impunity. Are we raising young adults that have no concept of living in a civilized society. Perhaps a night in jail or a $300 fine is worthwhile to wake the undergrads at KU up to the fact you can't thump Snoop Dog on the crib radio till 3 am and be a good citizen. The rest of us in productive society don't have the luxury of partying from Thursday to Sunday. Your right to make yourself deaf ends when it involuntarily invades my head. I think they should double or triple the fines.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 8 months ago

thoughts on consumer1's comment:

Placing a duty on a neighbor to communicate to the disc jockey next door is equivalent to forcing a victim of a crime to communicate their feelings to the perpetrator. In a civilized society, no one should assume any superior right to be obnoxious is above the truly superior right to not be bothered by a jerk. Unfortunatley, some people lose sight of that for some reason or another. Thus, if your radio is blarring at 3 am, your already on notice that I'm going to call the cops. Of course, I'll be good neighbor and bake you a cake and feed your goldfish while your in the county jail.

drctrlr 8 years, 8 months ago

Mow your lawns at 6:00am. Turn about/fair play, etc. etc.

bucephalus 8 years, 8 months ago

Rationalanimal: actually, many laws regarding situations like this place a burden on the people involved to try to resolve it peacefully without turning to police. Noise-ordinance violations aren't on the same scale as, say, theft, rape, murder or other violent and/or possibly violent crimes, so is it really too much to ask nicely if someone will try to keep the noise down?

Also, in my experience people whose first response to anything that annoys them is to call the cops tend to be the people the cops really, really hate.

Bialosky 8 years, 8 months ago

cellogrl

Jungle is, in fact, a legitimate name for a branch of electronic music. Perhaps in your crusade for political correctness, you have remained ignorant of some of the details of certain cultures which you are determinded to protect.

Why is it PC crusaders are so quick to find rascism in any statement ? Perhaps you are driven by an inner prejudice of which you are ashamed. Please examine this possibility before making personal legistlations concerning them morals of others.

Everyone is rascist to some extent. Trying not to be prejudicecd is the bext any of us can hope for.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 8 months ago

bucephalus

Even if there are many laws that place a duty on a victim to attempt to resolve issues peacefully (which I doubt in the first place) a noise ordinance should not place such a duty. Doing so stands to inflame domestic disturbances with possibly fatal results. Imagine asking a house full of partiers, drunk and out of control, to turn their radio down. Reason dictates that my trying to reason in such circumstances only places me in harms way. How about a house of college girls having to go over to a house full of intoxicated frat boys, how about the unsavory neighbor on the fringes of looney tunes who has harrassed neighbors for years? A primary consideration for the police on neighbor issues is to avoid neighbor confrontation, because often times things turn deadly. Moreover, if a person that is so discourteous in the first place that there is even an issue of noise, they really haven't warranted any courtesy for a fair warning from a neighbor. My personal experience, from politely asking noisefeasor neighbors to turn it down has only served to embolden them and foster retaliation. Thus, such a duty stands to place people in harms way, and provoke retaliation if and when the ordinance is enforced. Victims shouldn't live in fear that there will be collateral consequences of a law being enforced. This only serves to undermine the law.

I go back to my original point, if your a jerk to spectacular degree in a civilized society, you're already on notice you're violating the law, and more importantly, subject to the penalties for doing so. As a neighbor, I am not responsible for cuddling and babying a wanton jerk to make him/her feel better about society and its laws. Turn your dang stereo down, conform to the basic standards of decency or pay the consequences. A civilized society isn't rocket science folks, its common decency. If one can't measure up to that, then I'll bake you a cake and feed your goldfish while your in the county jail.

My last point, your right to entertain yourself ends when it involuntarily invades my house. If your a jerk and do so, then the law has already put you on notice of the possible consequences. Entering young adulthood represents many things, among them is the time to grow up and join civilized, productive society.

Kontum1972 8 years, 8 months ago

what about the plight of the unborn Sperm Whales?......uhh...can i say SPERM?

compmd 8 years, 8 months ago

the decibel meters are unnecessary. Police officers are supposed have good judgment in dealing with crimes. A judicious use of power is the key here, not wasting money on decibel meters.

But as Gary Coleman, the superintendent of avenue q says, "you can be as loud as the hell you want when you're makin love." this exception should be noted.

lunacydetector 8 years, 8 months ago

these students want to fight for their right to Paaaarty!!!!! and they got the ACLU to back them up! from fighting for some man-boy lovers group (NAMBLA) to students who want to be loud, they got your back.

follow in the spirit of our banning city commission they should just ban loud parties. i'm sure they will consider banning new retail businesses from coming to town to go along with the smoking ban. after all, it is for our own good. hardly any of them have any kids, so we are their next best thing for them to tell us what is right and what is wrong. it is a "parental" power trip thingy, or you could just call them control freaks.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 8 months ago

bennyoates

First, your comment "...to hell with old people, children, and household pets who get in the way of having fun!" illustrates the need for a noise ordinance better than any proponent could dream of making. Underlying such a position also exposes a solopsitic ego-centrism that futher supports the necessity of implementing this type of ordinance.

Secondly, if infusing money into an economy is sole justification for one to do whatever one wants, then any consumer has carte blanche power to violate any law. The necessary consequence if such logic were actually implemented would be a state of chaos and lawlessness. That would mean I am justified in coming over to your house when your radio is on and either stealing it or smashing it into a million pieces. You see, chaos works against you as well. You can't have it both ways. Thus, it was settled long ago, and by very supportable wisdom, that a civilized society governed by rules is infinitely superior to the chaotic cave man arrangment. We're not going back no matter how many bad arguments are made.

Historically, there are always those trying to advance their own interests at the expense of digressing in law and human decency. History has labeled such individuals as criminals. Thus, the present noise ordinance is an appropriate measure, even more so when taken in the context of the arguments espoused by the opponents of this ordinance.

Opponents can rattle the cages of bad philosophy all they want, but your rights end when they involuntarily invade upon my basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The fact of the matter is, as demonstrated by "to hell with old people, children [etc, etc]", opponents of this ordinance typically demand the most tolerance are often the least tolerant. That is why we need and have a noise ordinance in Lawrence.

A very rare kudos to the City Commission on this one.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 8 months ago

I think Benny was being sarcastic...chill...

dacs23 8 years, 8 months ago

Hit them where it hurts. Fine the property owner as well. I managed my annoying neighbors by reporting them to the land lord who threatened eviction after several of my complaints. I now live in an area with a covenant where the owner can loose the property if he or his tenants break the rules.

cybermaiden 8 years, 8 months ago

I think the city should simply supply lawrence residents with free ear plugs and blinders. This may cut down on the number of complaints.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 8 months ago

An interesting scenario where sarcasm and reality represent the same thing. Duely noted, but the response is still generally valid to the arguments being made by opponents.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 8 months ago

I have been trying to follow this debate, and just concluded 'who cares"?

Bob Forer 8 years, 8 months ago

I think this issue speaks most poigntly to the lack of student political sophisticvation on campus. Come on, boys and girls, all the problems in Kansas, the US, and the world and you choose this as an issue to wage a protest. Shame on you. Why don't you have some guts and speak out on the real issues that are confronting humanity. The ACLU is a joke!

jhawk0097 8 years, 8 months ago

"The ACLU is a joke!"

Apparently, so is Delta Force. I'd like to see a new class at KU that teaches social maturity. Obviously, it's a necessary skill that seems to be lacking in some of the student body.

local_support 8 years, 8 months ago

Bialosky: The last thing I would associate Tupac with is "Jungle" style music. Have you heard jungle music? Definitely not the same as gangsta rap.

Oh and whenever I move into a new place I always meet the neighbors and let them know that if there is ANY issue that arises, PARTICULARLY regarding noise, to please come and knock on my door and we'll rectify the situation immediately. I know, a novel concept. : )

Paul Soyland 8 years, 8 months ago

Great....If we get another walmart maybe we can be just like Topeka

gphawk89 8 years, 8 months ago

Y'all should actually be very happy that you live in a city where a noise ordinance is the major topic of the day. Let's see, there have been eight murders in the past three days where I live - the cops here have more serious things to worry about than learning how to use a dB meter.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 8 months ago

Main problem is, most people who party all the time and make lots of noise don't give a rat's a$$ what you think or how you feel. And if you try to talk to them about it, they just get snotty with you and it makes things worse.

Why the hell should I go knock on doors and ask them to quiet down, when you never know anymore who has a gun? Why should I put myself in the path of possible danger?

In my experience, situations like this only get worse if you try to resolve it yourself. People retaliate.

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