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Manteca eyes ways of going after illegal fireworks use
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Tired of Manteca sounding like Kabul due to the firing of illegal fireworks?

The city is exploring some possible solutions.

Fire Marshal Ray Lentz, working with Councilman Vince Hernandez, is pouring over ways of how other communities have addressed the growing problem of illegal fireworks not just around the Fourth of July but all year long.

Some cities such as San Jose that had 2,000 complaints about illegal fireworks around Independence Day 2014 increased the fines for possessing illegal fireworks to $1,000 and put buddy patrols of police and firefighters on the streets.

They still, however, have to catch someone in the act unless a witness is willing to make a “citizen’s arrest.” That usually doesn’t work as neighbors don’t want to get involved to that degree.

What holds promises are ordinances put in place by cities such as Tulare.

Tulare’s municipal ordinance requires law enforcement to verify what property the fireworks were launched from. Once that is done, the city goes after the property owner for an initial $1,000 fine.

When Manteca Police or fire arrive on scene now, if they don’t see who is actually launching the illegal fireworks they have to ask. Of course, no one cops to it and all they can do is seize the illegal fireworks at that point.

The way cities such as Tulare do it they can simply video the launch of fireworks in such a manner that is shows it clearly is coming from a specific property. A neighbor could do the same thing.

When that was first suggested this past summer, there was a lot of grumbling about making property owners responsible for the lawbreakers much the way the city’s graffiti ordinance does.

But here’s the rub: If a homeowner is allowing someone to use their property to launch illegal fireworks they are definitely culpable even if they didn’t buy them or light them.

And if it is a renter, tough luck.

A rental home is a business. As such a business should not be allowed to shirk basic property management while making a profit. Those firing off illegal fireworks are committing a criminal act. It really isn’t all that different than a drug house in a sense. Using a rental home for a criminal activity is grounds to get booted.

The odds are the landlord probably wouldn’t be happy with illegal fireworks going off near their personal residence year round when they are trying to sleep.

Landlords should be held to the same standards of homeowners.

If you doubt that, try living in a neighborhood where an absentee landlord is all too happy to pocket six months in rent in advance at 50 percent above the going rate. The neighbors are left to deal with a drug house while the landlord counts his rent money and bonus windfall.

While most rentals aren’t housing lawbreakers and drug sellers, almost all of those that use residential property as the home base for criminal activity do not own their home.

At the same time a higher percentage of rentals are in disrepair and have junked yards that owner occupied homes.

Landlords are businessmen first and foremost. They have a responsibility to keep up their property just as any business does.

At any rate, Hernandez is hopeful to have an ordinance proposal before the council to consider sometime in the coming few months.

Manteca council

shows grace

Robert Certain by all accounts is a hardworking, law-abiding citizen.

It is why the Manteca City Council Tuesday granted his appeal for a business license to work as a handyman, clean up yards, painting and hauling away trash.

There was a point in Certain’s life that he — in his own words — “was a knucklehead.”

For the past 19 plus years Certain has been clean and sober. He’s also been a contributing member of society and has steered clear of any trouble that would bring him into contact with police.

Manteca’s municipal ordinance requires the police chief to conduct criminal background checks on an entire list of business license applicants. If any criminal convictions are found, the chief must deny the application which Police Chief Nick Obligacion did.

Certain appealed the decision to the council. He had several people speak on his behalf.

When asked by a council member that if he didn’t have to follow what city law required him to do if he would personally recommend issuing a business license to someone that had steered clear of trouble for 15 years, Obligacion replied “I would.”

The council agreed.

Certain is now in business.