City tackles pedestrian safety
For the third time in one week in late October, Yuma police were investigating a pedestrian-car accident in which a man was injured after being struck by a car while crossing 16th Street against a red light.
Earlier that week, an 82-year-old Yuma man died after being struck by a car as he was attempting to cross 24th Street near Olivia Avenue. A few hours later, a second pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on 24th Street, this time near 24th Drive.
“Pedestrian safety is weather-related,” observed Police Chief John Lekan during a discussion on the issue at Thursday's Yuma City Council retreat.
“More people are out walking as the weather gets nicer,” he said, which is leading to more potential for pedestrian accidents. In hopes of preventing further tragedies, the Yuma Police Department is launching a community outreach program to raise awareness among both motorists and pedestrians of some basic safety practices.
“Most of the time it's inattention by the driver or the pedestrian,” Lekan said.
Several council members had their own horror stories about not only pedestrians, but bicyclists and skateboarders.
“I've seen kids on bikes and skateboards at night with no reflective clothing and wearing dark clothing so you don't see them until you're right on top of them,” said Councilman Ed Thomas.
Councilman Paul Johnson said he's observed students at Kofa High School crossing Avenue A at 28th Street one at a time, resulting in cars backing up and causing rear-end collisions.
There is an anti-lingering law, Lekan noted. “We're trying to address it through education at the schools.”
To that, Mayor Al Krieger suggested that police officers be posted at some of the problem crosswalks for a while.
He could, Lekan said, but he has a dilemma. His officers are busy responding to nearly 5,000 false alarm burglary calls a year.
“There is a better use of their time for situations like this,” he told the council.
Krieger agreed. “We need to set priorities and this is life and limb. False alarms aren't.”
The current ordinance regulating false alarms was adopted in 1978, Lekan said. It does permit a fine of $25 to the owner or lessee of the alarmed premises for each false alarm in excess of one a month. But there's very little use of the ordinance, he noted.
“I suggest we start over with a new ordinance.”
Krieger said the problem “won't get better by itself. We need to come up with a workable program.”
City staff was directed to work out a plan and bring it to the council for discussion and possible action.
During the retreat, the council also spent considerable time discussing the open meeting law and the challenges that new electronic media play in trying to comply.
Council members told of receiving emails from constituents seeking discussion and their possible opinions on issues, emails that are then forwarded with their comments to other council members. In other situations, they all receive the same email, setting up a potential polling situation.
In such cases, they asked, are they being put into a situation where they're violating the open meeting law of having a quorum discuss an issue that isn't part of an agenda in an open meeting?
“The problem,” responded City Attorney Steve Moore, “is that laws aren't keeping up with electronic media.”
This is an issue of someone else putting council members in the position of potentially violating the law, he said. That's something the city has no control over, except for council members to be cautious.
City Administrator Greg Wilkinson suggested that the council members don't copy the other members. And if the discussion continues, they need to look at who is receiving the emails and put an end to the correspondence.
The problem gets further complicated when an issue has been discussed for some time, perhaps months, before it gets placed on a meeting agenda, Krieger observed. “When it's been an extended period, who knows who has been in on the discussion? It's just a challenge.”
The retreat agenda included an item about a code of conduct to establish how the council and mayor should function with one another, city staff, constituents and others. However, despite several contentious meetings this year, council members did not get into a discussion about the code they had received from Glendale to serve as model.