Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Constitution? What constitution?


Oelwein Gets Tough On Sex Offenders

Oelwein is one vote away from imposing a new kind of restriction on sex offenders with a history of preying on children. State law now bans sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare. Last January, Oelwein city leaders began talking about an ordinance that would be even tougher. It would prohibit sex offenders from even going near places where children gather. "It went through a couple of readings and it was pulled from the agenda...the thought was down at the state house they were going to address the issue," says Oelwein city administrator Steve Kendall.

However, the issue was never addressed in Des Moines, so Oelwein's city council is taking action. Monday night, the proposed ordinance passed the second of three required readings. If the new ordinance passes, sex offenders will be prohibited from coming within 250 feet of public or private schools, bike trails, public pools, public recreation areas, the public library, and public parks. Those caught risk being fined 750 dollars.

People entrusted to deal with kids every day say the ordinance is a way to help parents feel safe. "Years ago we probably would never have thought about this kind of thing. But in today's world lets not have people worry about what's going on with their kids when they're at school," says Oelwein School District superintendent Jim Patera.

The ordinance looks good on paper, but city officials know it's not fool proof. "I think it's just one more tool to try and help the situation but it's not a silver bullet or anything," says Kendall. The Oelwein city council will take its final vote on the ordinance April 24th.

Many other communities have imposed restrictions beyond the state law. For example, Dyersville bans convicted sex offenders from living anywhere in town. And Marion bans them from living near libraries, parks, trails and recreational centers.

Binghampton NY did something like this a little while back. A few days later they dropped it faster than a hot potato.


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