"There should be a law."
That call has rung out more often than usual in Modesto City Hall since September 2006, when the City Council adopted an ordinance clarifying its ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.
Since then, the council approved seven other municipal laws. A few more are on the way.
Some of the ordinances targeted unexpected trends, such as a rise in metal theft.
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A couple of ordinances resulted from neighborhood complaints, such as the prohibition on Dumpster diving that the council approved in January.
Others cleaned up existing ordinances that weren't working as planned. Councilwoman Kristin Olsen's attempt to revise the city's ban on abandoning shopping carts fits in that category, council members say.
"Most of the ordinances we passed have really been about improving the quality of life in Modesto; shopping carts is along the same lines," Olsen said.
Councilman Will O'Bryant said he can't recall a similar flurry of city lawmaking in the six years he has spent on the council. He gets an early say on the proposals from his position as leader of the council's Safety and Communities Committee, where he pokes holes in proposals that he says infringe on civil rights.
"I have issues with any time we want to invade, or go into, someone's property, their private lives," he said. "We have rights, and it's so easy to sit there and pass laws that violate property rights and civil rights."
O'Bryant carried one of the new ordinances. He pushed for one that instituted rent control in mobile home parks after one landlord pushed up the cost of rent by hundreds of dollars a month over three years.
Councilman Brad Hawn, one of O'Bryant's counterparts on the safety committee, said the cluster of ordinances reflected efforts to keep Modesto codes current and relevant to the city's needs.
"I know there's been a lot of them, but a lot of them have been cleanup," he said. "It doesn't do any good to have an out-of-date ordinance or something that isn't going to be enforceable in court.
"Each one of them has a pretty darn good reason for why they came."
Eight down, four to go
Here's a look at the eight ordinances the council passed over the past 18 months and the four awaiting council approval.
Prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries. This ordinance fixed an earlier version of the same law that exempted nonprofit clinics. Passed unanimously Sept. 26, 2006.
Making it easier for police to punish adults who give alcohol to minors. Police modeled this "social host liability" ordinance after similar ones used by Southern California cities. It enables police to issue $500 citations and other charges when officers see evidence of underage drinking. Passed unanimously March 13, 2007.
Capping rent increases in mobile home parks at 6 percent a year. It includes an industry-supported exemption for park owners who work with the city on voluntary agreements. Passed by a 6-1 vote Aug. 14; Olsen voted against it.
Requiring recyclers to take steps that limit the likelihood of buying stolen metal, such as gathering personal information about their customers. Passed unanimously Nov. 27.
Banning Dumpster diving. It allows police to detain and cite people who forage in waste containers. Passed by a 5-2 vote Jan. 8 with O'Bryant and Councilwoman Janice Keating opposing it.
Increasing penalties for drinking alcohol in parks without a permit. The change closed a loophole that made drinking on public streets a more serious offense than drinking in parks. Passed unanimously Jan. 8.
Allowing police to issue multiple citations on a single ticket. It's an ordinance that clarified past practices. Passed unanimously Feb. 5.
Raising penalties for crimes involving vicious dogs. Passed unanimously Feb. 12.
Requiring stores to hire shopping-cart retrieval serv-ices and creating a hot line for residents to call when they see abandoned carts. Moving to a council vote in the next few weeks.
Creating a city entertainment commission to weigh plans for bars, clubs and special events. Moving to a council vote in the next few weeks.
Allowing drug possession to be considered as a factor in declaring a home a nuisance. This measure passed a committee vote but is on hold.
Prohibiting people from attending street races and events linked with them, such as sideshows. This passed the Safety and Communities Committee last fall but is on hold while further research is done.