City council passes cite-and-release ordinance during first reading, now pending second vote

San+Marcos+citizens+stand+outside+the+Council+Chamber+with+signs+advocating+for+a+new+cite+and+release+ordinance+Tuesday%2C+March+3%2C+2020%2C+and+the+City+Council+meeting+at+City+Hall.

Rebecca Harrell

San Marcos citizens stand outside the Council Chamber with signs advocating for a new cite and release ordinance Tuesday, March 3, 2020, and the City Council meeting at City Hall.

Gabriella Ybarra, News Reporter

The San Marcos City Council passed an ordinance encouraging the use of cite-and-release during its first reading on Tuesday, April 7, with four members voting in favor and three opposing it.

The reform will need to be voted on twice in two separate city council meetings. If passed during its second reading, it will be the first cite-and-release ordinance if its kind in the state of Texas.

The ordinance, originally proposed by local advocacy group Mano Amiga, seeks to guide the San Marcos Police Department officers’ discretion, allowing them to issue citations for class C misdemeanors and some cases of class A and class B misdemeanors instead of making an arrest.

Mayor Jane Hughson and council members Ed Mihalkanin and Saul Gonzales voted in opposition of the ordinance, citing concerns over some of the qualifying misdemeanors for cite-and-release, specifically criminal mischief, graffiti, theft of property and theft of services, as all of them involve damage to citizens or their property.

Hughson, Mihalkinin and Gonzales all agreed on the need for increased use of cite-and-release but said they would prefer a resolution, not an ordinance.

“I would fully support a resolution that says to our police department that we want them to use cite-and-release as much as they can, leaving them with that discretion to make the determination, but as much as I would like to see cite-and-release, I will vote against this particular ordinance,” Hughson said.

In a 4-3 vote, the council did agree to remove the word “only” in the ordinance where it lists specific circumstances in which an officer can make an arrest for a cite-eligible offense, as a majority of the council believed it was too limited of officer discretion.

Concerns rose as to whether Council Member Jocabed “Joca” Marquez, a primary supporter of the ordinance, would be present for the vote amid her new work schedule after she announced she was resigning last month, however, Marquez was present during the meeting.

Members of the council received criticism from Mano Amiga and other members of the community for the time it has taken for the ordinance to come before the council which was first proposed in July 2019.

UPDATE


The final vote to confirm the cite-and-release will take place during the San Marcos City Counsel’s April 21 session. The University Star will continue to update this story as details develop.


San Marcos City Council meets every first and third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. over Zoom and can be view on its website. The agenda can be accessed through the Agenda Center on the City of San Marcos website.


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