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Should the City Council re-examine the urban-chicken issue?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | FEBRUARY 15, 2010 7:30 AM

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YES

Urban chickens in Iowa City are not a priority for the City Council, but that doesn’t mean discussion shouldn’t continue.

The council spent a good portion of last year debating the merits of this proposal, but came away with divided opinions. At the moment, only two councilors — Ross Wilburn and Mike Wright — are in favor of continuing dialogue over the subject. The issue in question is whether councilors should alter current regulations and allow chickens in residential areas.

To readdress the matter, the proponents of urban chickens need one more councilor to support further discussion. Let’s hope one does so.

I liken this situation to the controversial special election for the Board of Supervisors. A vocal group was adamant about having the election — and the members succeeded, despite groans from some over the election’s cost.

Likewise, the group in support of urban chickens has a relatively small following, but that shouldn’t negate its impact. Some may worry that any extra time councilors spend on this issue would be time wasted. I can understand and appreciate their opinion.

However, if further public discussion at City Council meetings is all that is necessary, then it should be done. City Council meetings are often filled with monotonous actions and motions. Urban chickens might not reach the realm of importance as a city franchise fee, but it merits further consideration, nonetheless.

Addressing this issue again will move us one step closer to enacting an ordinance or doing away with the proposal all together. Either way, it will be solved and off any future City Council meeting agendas.

Personally, I am against urban chickens. But I am in favor of allowing supporters the time to speak.

Fostering divided debates can only strengthen our community’s open and fair nature.

— by Michael Davis

NO

It seems unnecessary that the debate over urban chickens has clucked its way back as a hot topic in Iowa City.

New Pioneer Food Co-op will hold a pair of public forums in March to educate the public about the benefits of raising chickens in an urban environment. And others argue the council should revisit the contentious topic.

But shouldn’t locals be worrying about more pertinent issues? The urban-chicken debate is a moot point undeserving of the slightest acknowledgment by the city’s elected officials. Why not consider hosting forums on economic expansion (beyond what some claim chickens would do to help Iowa’s economy) or the ever-important safety of Southeast Side residents?

To readdress the laughable issue of urban chickens would be ceding time and effort — better spent on more important ventures — to the redundant opines of a minority group: the urban chickenites.

The council must find three of its seven members in favor of readdressing the urban chicken’s discussion to add the item to its work session agenda. Luckily, the two new councilors are against pursuing the prospect of raising local chickens. Their pragmatism is much needed in an issue of contention that must be cooped up.

Some have argued that our lack of acceptance of chickens is hypocritical, given our society’s affinity for dogs, which can also be messy and noisy. However, this argument is fallacious, and it suggests the only difference between dogs and chickens is a tendency to spread disease. Chickens aren’t domesticated. Dogs are. And dog doesn’t sound appetizing.

Therefore, to address the argument of urban chickens, let’s ask citizens to reflect on the acceptance of chickens in our community. There is none, nor should there be.

The City Council should reject re-examining this unimportant issue.

— by Michael Dale-Stein


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