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MENDON - Residents at a special Town Meeting later this month will decide on a bylaw restricting registered sex offenders.
The citizen petition, which is an article on the warrant signed by selectmen last night, would restrict Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, day care center, park or public recreational facility.
"We are primarily concerned with the safety of children in town," said Deborah McCarter-Spaulding, one of the residents who helped write the bylaw proposal.
One Level 3 offender lives in Mendon, one Level 3 offender works in town and three Level 2 offenders either work or live here, according to the state sex offender registry board. A Level 3 sex offender is considered to be the highest at risk of re-offending.
Residents started to get concerned when they saw that several offenders work or live in Mendon, a town without restrictions at the moment, and nearby communities, McCarter-Spaulding said. Massachusetts does not have state restrictions on where offenders can live, she said.
"Basically each community needs to take care of this themselves, in the absence of a state law," McCarter-Spaulding said. "Many communities instituted their own law. If we didn't have one, it would make the community more attractive to sex offenders, which would not be a good outcome."
The proposal is very similar to the current law in Weymouth, she said. Backers also studied ordinances in Marlborough, Holden, Rockland and West Boylston.
Some laws are more prohibitive, restricting offenders from living near places of worship and elderly housing, McCarter-Spaulding said.
Following discussion among residents, the proposed bylaw took a couple of weeks to draw up. The petition then received 113 signatures, 13 more than the necessary number to get on the warrant, McCarter-Spaulding said.
"There has been lots of support for it," she said.
Proponents wanted to get the bylaw before voters at the June 23 special Town Meeting, rather than wait another year for the annual Town Meeting, McCarter-Spaulding said.
McCarter-Spaulding and Christine Baumgarten, who did a lot of the research for the bylaw, spoke to selectmen last night.
Bylaw articles are typically reserved for annual Town Meetings, selectmen Chairman David Breen said at last night's meeting.
"It's a very short time to throw a bylaw together," Selectman Lawney Tinio said. The three bylaws on the annual Town Meeting took about one year to finish, he said.
Breen questioned the timing of it saying not a lot of people show up for special Town Meetings.
Selectman Michael Ammendolia said he didn't think attendance would be a problem.
If the bylaw passes, it would then go to Attorney General Martha Coakley's office. If the office sends the bylaw back with change requests, Tinio suggested working with the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee.
Bylaw proponents spoke with the review committee and were told that it doesn't fall under zoning, McCarter-Spaulding said.
"I'm also aware that they have to pass by the attorney general - that's why I have a file of bylaws from other towns, so we have the appropriate wording as passed by the attorney general," she said. "We may not be perfect, but we're not far off."
All three selectmen said they support the bylaw proposal.
"I can see this passing," Ammendolia said.
McCarter-Spaulding said she wanted to talk to selectmen about it to give the reasoning behind the bylaw and see if they had questions.
"It's always better to work as a team," she said.
Police and Fire Chief Ernest Horn said he has reviewed the proposed bylaw and plans to support it.
Among the restrictions, the bylaw would also force registered sex offenders who currently live within 2,000 feet of a school, day care center, park or recreational facility, to move within 30 days of receiving written notice.
The proposed bylaw prohibits sex offenders from loitering within 500 feet of such places as schools and elderly housing facilities, after notification from the Police Department.
Penalties would include fines and notification to the sex offender registry board.
Paul Crocetti can be reached at 508-634-7583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
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HARTFORD (AP) -- Passing notes in study hall or getting your best friend to ask a boy if he likes you or, you know, LIKES you, is so last century. Nowadays, teenagers are snapping naked pictures of themselves on their cell phones and sending them to their boyfriends and girlfriends.
Many of these pictures are falling into the wrong hands -- or worse, everyone's hands, via the Internet -- and leading to criminal charges.
Some parents are aghast.
"I just don't understand why kids would do a stupid thing like that," said Rochelle Hoins of Castle Rock, Colorado, where 18 students in her twin sons' middle school sent around nude pictures of themselves last year. "We did dumb things when we were kids, but not like that," said Hoins, whose sons were not involved.
Similar cases have been reported in New Jersey, New York, Alabama, Utah, Pennsylvania, Texas and Connecticut.
"It used to be that kids would make mistakes, and it was local and singular and everyone knew it was part of growing up," said Catherine Davis, a PTA co-president in Westport, Connecticut, who had a frank talk with her two sons after several students' nude self-portraits recently spread through the wealthy New York City bedroom community.
"Now a stupid adolescent mistake can take on major implications and go on their record for the rest of their lives," she added.
School administrators in Santa Fe, Texas, confiscated dozens of cell phones from students in May after nude photos of two junior high girls began circulating. The girls had sent the photos to their boyfriends, who forwarded them to others, officials said.
In La Crosse, Wisconsin, a 17-year-old boy recently was charged with child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child and defamation for allegedly posting nude photos of his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend on his MySpace page. The girl had taken the pictures with her cell phone at her mother's home and e-mailed them to the boyfriend, authorities said.
"They were pretty graphic," said sheriff's Sgt. Mark Yehle. "I think they just do it to impress their boyfriends. When he breaks up, he `vents,' in his words, by posting them. He apparently didn't think there was anything wrong with it. He didn't know it was illegal."
Psychologists said the phenomenon reflects typical teenage hormones and lack of judgment, with technology multiplying the potential for mischief. It also may reflect a teenage penchant for exhibitionism, as demonstrated on MySpace and countless other Web sites and blogs.
Brianna Moran, 15, who attends the same school as the girl in the La Crosse case, said she is not surprised by such behavior. "They probably think they're hot or something. If you look at people's MySpace, all the pictures are slutty," she said.
In suburban Syracuse, New York, several teenage girls sent naked pictures on their phones to their boyfriends, only to learn that another boy had collected them from the Web and was trying to sell a DVD of them.
Some boys are photographing themselves, too. In Utah, a 16-year-old boy was charged with a felony for sending nude photos of himself over a cell phone to several girls. Four middle school students -- two boys and two girls -- in Daphne, Alabama, took photos of themselves on their cell phones and traded the images back and forth, authorities said.
Some nude photos have even turned up in parents' e-mail inboxes.
The images are complicating the work of investigators whose job is to find exploited children. Authorities trying to identify youngsters in naked photos are increasingly discovering that the teens themselves took the shots, said John Shehan, a director at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Connecticut police Sgt. Jim Smith, who investigates cybercrime and online child pornography, conducts seminars in which he warns parents about the use of cell phones to send nude pictures.
"It's often so spur of the moment that they're not thinking about where those images might end up," Smith said. "They might think it's just fun and games at the time they do it, but these images can really spread like wildfire."
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Mass. state senator pleads not guilty to charges he attempted to grope woman in park
Prosecutors described a longtime state legislator as a "danger to his community" and "out of control" Wednesday after a third woman in as many months accused him of making inappropriate sexual advances.
Sen. James Marzilli (Email), 50, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he tried to grope a woman at a park in Lowell, then fled police, and to charges he made lewd remarks to another woman.
A prosecutor on Wednesday asked a judge to hold Marzilli without bail for three days.
"The commonwealth feels that the defendant is a danger to the community," prosecutor Richard Mucci said at Marzilli's arraignment. He also said Marzilli was "out of control at this point."
Lowell District Judge Neil Walker rejected the argument. Marzilli was released on $1,500 cash bail on Tuesday night. He is due back in court July 3 for a pretrial hearing.
Authorities were investigating still more allegations, Corey Welford, a spokesman for Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone, said late Wednesday.
"We are looking into the possibility of other related incidents that may have occurred in Lowell yesterday (Tuesday) based on others who have now come forward," Welford said.
Marzilli's lawyer, Terrence Kennedy, said his client "completely and totally denies" the charges.
"I can't comment on the underlying allegations at this point," Kennedy said Wednesday. "The only thing I've seen is the police report."
Marzilli, a Democrat who recently made the jump from the House to the Senate, was arrested Tuesday after a woman told police he approached her while she was sitting on a park bench and tried to grab her crotch. The woman told two maintenance workers, who flagged down police.
When confronted, Marzilli said they were only flirting. Asked for identification, Marzilli said it was in his car. He also identified himself as Martin Walsh — the name of a House colleague.
Police then described a chaotic chase through downtown Lowell as Marzilli fled on foot, racing down streets as pedestrians jumped out of the way. Police eventually tracked Marzilli to a garage where they said they found him running between parked cars. When confronted, Marzilli refused to be handcuffed.
"He stated his life was over, that they were destroying him," Mucci said. Marzilli also told police "you don't understand; I am a state senator," according to Mucci.
Marzilli then admitted giving a false identification and said, "I can't believe this was happening with me, I was flirting with her," according to Mucci.
The woman told police she had seen Marzilli a week earlier dressed in such raggedy clothes that she thought he was homeless. When he approached her on Tuesday, she said, he was dressed in a shirt and tie and asked whether she remembered him.
Mucci said a second woman called authorities after seeing media coverage of Marzilli's arrest Tuesday. She later picked him from a photo lineup.
"Oh, baby. You're so beautiful. Your body is so perfect," Mucci said Marzilli told the woman.
Marzilli pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges related to both encounters, including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and battery, and obstruction of justice.
Last month, the DA said there wasn't enough evidence to charge Marzilli after a woman claimed he had touched her inappropriately in April.
Walsh said he had no idea why Marzilli might have used his name when confronted by police.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Walsh told reporters. "My heart goes out to his wife and his family and the victims. I hope he gets the help he needs."
Marzilli is married to Susan Shaer, a longtime political activist.
He spent 17 years in the House before winning a special election in December to fill a vacant seat in the Senate covering several suburbs northwest of Boston. First elected in 1990, he built a reputation as a die-hard liberal on issues such as the death penalty, abortion rights and gay marriage.
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Video is available at the site above. This is exactly why all the old farts in office need to be kicked out, their brains are mush and they cannot think straight....
Opponents Say Bill Would Collect DNA From All Felons
CONCORD -- House members concerned about civil liberties are making a last-minute challenge to a bill that would tighten up New Hampshire's sex offender registry and bring it in line with national standards.
- Concerned about everyone's civil liberties, except sex offenders!
Some members of the House said they are concerned that the bill would allow DNA to be collected from felons even if they didn't commit a sex crime.
- So basically you can discriminate and make sex offenders do this, but other hard criminals, like murderers, you are OK with not taking their DNA? Come on, if it's OK to violate sex offenders civil liberties, then you should be violating everyone else's as well, to be fair!!!
"It is a very important bill that deals with sexual predators, but it goes too far in an add-on amendment that expands the number of situations in which a person who is convicted of a crime has to give his DNA," said Rep. Neal Kurk (Email), R-Weare.
- Hypocrites!!! If it's good for one class of people, then it should be OK for all!!!
Representatives like Kurk said they are particularly concerned about the number of juvenile felons from which the bill would require DNA samples.
"What the government seems to be doing is trying to establish a database on each one of us so that they can use this for other purposes," Kurk said.
- No kidding!!!! And all in the name of "security" and "war on terror!" You people in office are a bunch of self-righteous, egotistical, hypocrites who care nothing about the civil liberties of ALL people, just those who are the "flavor of the day!"
Supporters of the bill said those fears are unfounded and killing the bill now would undo the work that's been done to update the sex offender registry.
"It would mean a big blow to New Hampshire trying to bring New Hampshire into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act," said Rep. John Tholl (Email), R-Whitefield. "It would be a slap in the face to the members of the committee that worked for 18 months to develop this bill."
- What a crock! Where in the Adam Walsh Act does it say you must implement DNA or you will not get the funding? It doesn't!!!
"That would mean that we would be starting all over again, and unfortunately ... the loopholes within the law would continue to be open," said Amanda Grady of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Sexual Violence.
- What "loopholes?" Care to mention which loopholes you are talking about? Or are you just talking about more and more punishment for sex offenders to satisfy your own evil, sick desires? You are just fear-mongering and grandstanding!!!
Opponents said they don't mind passing the bill as long as it wouldn't include DNA sampling in felonies they say have nothing to do with the need for DNA evidence and constitute an invasion of privacy.
"My DNA is my own personal information," said Claire Ebel of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. "You can gain an enormous amount of information from a DNA sample."
While the debate is still active in New Hampshire, it has been decided nearly everywhere else. Forty-six other states already collect DNA from their convicted felons.
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ENTREVILLE (AP) - A Bibb County sheriff's deputy has been arrested for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old girl.
Sheriff Keith Hannah says the girl's mother and stepmother reported the incident to police Tuesday morning. He notified the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.
Hannah says 24-year-old Terrell Morrow knows the girl's family and agreed to an interview by an ABI agent. He fired Morrow before the rape charge was filed.
Morrow was promoted from correctional officer to deputy three years ago. The sheriff says he had not had any previous disciplinary problems.
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ORANGE COUNTY -- A 13-year-old girl's sexual shenanigans have put a second man behind bars. Morris Williams, 22, told the judge he thought the girl was 18-years-old, but he found out Tuesday that ignorance is not a defense.
Morris Williams' mother wailed as he went off to jail. The judge asked for media not to show 13-year-old Alisha Dean's face in court, but her pictures are all over her MySpace page and they portray a sexy, 19-year-old divorced woman.
"She told me she had just turned 18," Williams said.
Williams said Dean picked him up on the street and after a few conversations they had sex. When he heard she was not 18, he went to her father.
"He was like 'well, she's 13,'" Williams said of a conversation with Dean's father.
Williams said he never did it again, but Dean has done it before with 24-year-old Darwin Mills. Mills was sentenced to five years in prison.
Dean's father wanted Williams to join Mills there.
"One of the reasons for the law is the fact that minors have poor judgment," said Jerry Dean, the girl's father.
Williams' father believes the jail sentence sends the wrong message to Alisha.
"I guess we just sit back and count how many after this," Henry Smith asked after his step-son was sentenced to jail.
Dean's family admits Alisha still stays out late and has yet to delete her misleading MySpace page.
Williams will serve six years probation with the first year in jail. The other five years he will have to wear an ankle monitor. His attorney says he will come back to court to ask again for a shorter sentence.
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So when did we decide the people in office could not do their job, and now we need the public to make laws?
Public hearing to take place regarding Allouez's precedent-setting restriction
ALLOUEZ — It will be up to the residents to decide if an ordinance restricting the number of sexual offenders living in one residence is necessary.
The Village Board voted to refer its proposed registered sex offender density ordinance to a public hearing on July 22 in order to see if there is rationale for such a precedent-setting restriction.
The ordinance states only one designated sexual offender may live in a single residence — which includes a single family home, multi-family home, boarding or lodging houses, apartments and hotels or motels.
"This is about Allouez being sort of a holding tank for sexual offenders who are looking for housing," said Steve VandenAvond, village president.
Village Attorney Dennis Duffy said this type of ordinance is a bit of a new concept, where other communities have either restricted sex offenders completely or placed restrictive zones in their municipality to where offenders may not reside.
The problem with a precedent-setting restriction, he said, is that it may be difficult to defend if challenged.
"A common sense analysis is that you don't put a bunch of these people together in one place," Duffy said. "What you need is something specific so when a court looks at why you think one per household makes sense that you rely on something besides gut instinct on how this works."
VandenAvond said the ordinance acts as a response to a situation Ashwaubenon dealt with where eight to 11 sexual offenders were staying in one hotel.
"It's really meant to address that issue given that we do have a couple of places in Allouez where the Department of Corrections could place sexual offenders in a similar situation," he said. One residence in particular is located near a trail used by families and children, he said.
Trustee Randy Gast said this ordinance should be adopted to protect the village and the fact that it is not a blanket approach like other communities have adopted, it may not be challenged.
Trustee Alan Swatloski said any restriction, including this proposal, may encourage offenders to go underground. Swatloski opposed the motion to send the ordinance to public hearing.
The proposed ordinance would not apply to sexual offenders living with immediate family. However, John Flannery, directed enforcement officer for Allouez, alerted the board there are cases where a father and son living together were both registered sexual offenders.
Before the matter goes to public hearing, the board instructed Duffy to research findings on how to enforce and defend such an ordinance.
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Where the hell do you expect them to live? And if they have a place to get help, that is a good thing. People need to stop playing this shuffling game.
News that a halfway house for sex offenders is leaving Conestoga Township later this week mollified a great many township residents Tuesday night — but they still want assurances such a home won't be established in the township again.
Steve Appel, one of several outspoken residents at the Tuesday meeting of Conestoga Township supervisors, said the community wants "the proper amendments to the zoning ordinance … not to allow transitional housing in our township.
"We would like this process to begin immediately."
But board chairman Craig Eshleman said any ordinance barring certain types of people from living in the municipality would be illegal.
"If you want us to rewrite our zoning ordinance so that it's exclusionary, that's not going to happen," he said.
Close to 100 people packed into the township's meeting room, with more lined up outside, listening through an open door and windows as the wind picked up and dark, fast-moving clouds threatened to dump a rainstorm on their heads.
The rain held off until the discussion was over. No decisions were made by supervisors Tuesday.
The house in question, at 3113 Main St., Conestoga, is owned by Ben Vonderheide, who lives there and leases a portion of the building to tenants.
Former state Rep. Tom Armstrong rented rooms from Vonderheide to use as Barnabas House, a halfway house for sex offenders who have served their time in prison and are adjusting to life outside.
News of the establishment caused unrest in the community, and more than 300 people attended a May 19 meeting to voice their fears that the ex-convicts could pose a threat to children living nearby.
- Just a modern day witch-hunt, nothing more. There is no problem with serial killers living in their midst, but sex offenders who may or may not be a threat?
Although only four men — whose past offenses include rape, aggravated indecent assault and possession of child pornography — are living at the house, reports have suggested it could increase to as many as 30.
But Armstrong announced earlier Tuesday that the facility is being moved to an undisclosed location in Lancaster County.
But residents are worried something like this could happen again.
David Stahl, who owns several rental units near Vonderheide's property, said he already has had one tenant leave "because of this mess."
"I'd like some consideration … and to make sure these people have some safety," he said.
One resident suggested putting the ordinance to a public vote, but Eshleman said he doubted such a vote would be legal.
"You want a referendum to decide who can live in the township? I don't think you'd ever get that in the ballot," he said.
- Nothing but forced exile from a modern day witch-hunt... Remember Salem Massachusetts?
Resident Troy Hahn suggested expanding the distances that must exist between transitional houses and sites such as schools and churches.
"We don't want to exclude anybody, but we also want reasonable safety," he said.
Zoning officer Jim Hindes agreed that the township "can make reasonable limits" to protect sensitive areas.
Hindes said he is working with a township solicitor to define more clearly the existing limits on transitional housing and to "tweak" the ordinance to spell out conditions.
However, he said, a special exception must be obtained from the zoning hearing board to operate a transitional house in the township — something Armstrong failed to do.
The township issued a cease-and-desist order on the premises, which Armstrong, who did not attend Tuesday's meeting, has said he does not plan to appeal.
"If Mr. Armstrong does what he said he's going to do, there's not going to be a problem," Hindes said.
If Armstrong defies the cease-and-desist order, Hindes noted, the next step would be for the township to file a civil complaint with the local district justice, who would determine penalties based on local ordinances.
Southern Regional Police Chief John Fiorill said residents of Barnabas House are all on parole and are required to go to counseling and meet regularly with a parole or probation officer.
"They are being monitored," he said.
When a resident asked Vonderheide if he planned to "continue this crusade" to house sex offenders in the township, the landowner said he has been attacked by his neighbors based on "assumptions that have never been accurate."
- If these are physical attacks, then press charges. It's against the law, even verbal harassment in some cases.
When he agreed to lease the property to Armstrong, Vonderheide said, the former representative said it would be a halfway house for "people who had been in jail," but he did not say they would be sex offenders.
When the news broke, he added, some township residents orchestrated "a witch hunt" without calling him first.
"Nobody called me. Nobody told me," he said. "I'm boxed into this thing that I had nothing to do with. … I have never been involved in the foundation of this Barnabas House."
Since then, he said, there have been threats against him and his property, which several people said they would burn down.
"I don't need this. This is not something that I was looking to do," Vonderheide said. "I just need to be able to rent my apartments."
After the meeting, Vonderheide said he "respects Tom Armstrong's ministry immensely. … I think Tom has a good heart, but sometimes he's not as sensitive to other people's perspectives."
However, he added, "this is not my battle. I've got my own battles."
Armstrong has promised to have the men moved by the end of the week, Vonderheide said.
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A long-troubled former Denver police officer is in more trouble after he was arrested Monday on probable cause of child enticement and unlawful sexual contact at his wife's GNC store on the 16th Street Mall.
Joseph Bini, 39, was arrested in connection with an alleged incident last week at the store in The Pavilions involving two juvenile girls.
Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said Tuesday he could not comment on the case because it had been turned over to the Denver district attorney's office for prosecution.
Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, said the case had been referred to the office late Tuesday, and she did not know the details.
Bini left the Police Department last year after a controversial tenure. In 1999 he put the wrong address on a warrant for a no-knock drug raid. When SWAT officers stormed the home, 45-year-old Ismael Mena, a Mexican immigrant, opened fire on them and was shot to death.
While the SWAT team was cleared of wrongdoing, Bini agreed to plead guilty to first-degree official misconduct, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to one year of probation and 150 hours of community service. He originally faced a felony perjury charge.
Bini was reinstated a year after the shooting.
The city settled a lawsuit by Mena's family for $400,000.
Last year, before he left the police force, Bini avoided charges on an accusation he stole a 3-foot-by-10-foot mat from the Denver Pavilions.
Prosecutors said in May 2007 they could not prove Bini intended to steal the carpet. Security cameras caught him moving the carpet from the Pavilions' hallway to the entry of his then-girlfriend's store.
Between his legal troubles, Bini survived cancer and distinguished himself as a local bodybuilder, before taking a medical retirement last year.
Bini is free on a $75,000 bond.
Joey Bunch: 303-954-1174 or email@example.com
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Like I've said before, these laws are discrimination, and it looks like some people see that as well.
The City of De Pere will examine whether the city could jump on board with Green Bay and Ashwaubenon and establish a sex offender residency ordinance.
Last year Green Bay passed an ordinance that says sex offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of places where children gather, such as schools or parks.
In April, Green Bay's neighbor to the south, Ashwaubenon, passed a similar ordinance with a 1,500 foot buffer.
It would make sense for the next community to the south -- De Pere -- to follow suit, but some city leaders don't want that to happen.
Alder Paul Kegel says everyone has to live somewhere. "We ought to try to make it possible for them to have a fresh start and a good start," he said.
He believes residency restriction ordinances are the wrong thing to do.
"It's a form of segregation," Kegel said, "which I thought we got rid of."
"I think that it's a state issue," Alder Mike Donovan said.
Donovan says excluding sex offenders from living in certain areas should be up to state lawmakers.
"When you do each locality different, you're kind of competing against each other, trying to send the offenders from one community to the next, and that's not the way to go," he expounded.
But as city alders, it's their job to protect the people of De Pere, and they're feeling some pressure from the neighbors.
"I think there is some increasing pressure as each community does this, and someone's going to say, why don't we do it? Why doesn't De Pere do it? And that's a lot of pressure," Kegel said.
Ashwaubenon passed its ordinance based on suggestions it took from the chief of public safety and community members, but alders in De Pere say a sex offender ordinance doesn't seem to be a top priority.
"I honestly have only had one phone call on this issue, only one," said Kegel.
Still, most city leaders want to do something, but feel telling people where they can and can't live is out of their authority.