Thursday, June 4, 2009

Baraboo girls stand up to city council in support of chickens

Fourteen year old Maia and thirteen year old Lydia stood before the Baraboo Administrative Committee on Tuesday night to once again present their case for allowing backyard chickens within city limits. Three months earlier, the girls introduced a draft of a new chicken ordinance which was rejected by the committee. Now the girls returned with an updated version. The following is Maia’s account of how the evening unfolded:

We had an awesome turnout last night at the meeting! There were at least 55 people! Part of our presentation included having members of the community talk about their reasons for wanting chickens in Baraboo. Before the meeting we had 4 people tell us that they would talk for sure. But during the meeting 7 more people spoke on their own accord. They all did a great job and there weren’t any people that came to the meeting just to complain about chickens.

We had met with Alderperson Joel Petty on Saturday and he had a lot of concerns about our original ordinance. Because of that, we added a few more points to it without the help of our City Attorney (who helped us draft the original). Although the changes we made were exactly what Joel asked for, he thought we should have the city attorney rewrite it before he would pass it on to full counsel. And nothing anyone would have said would have changed his mind. 

Alderperson Gene Robkin, who is the chair of this committee, really didn’t want to discuss the changes that we had made to the ordinance at the meeting. He was also dead-set on not letting it pass the committee. So basically, Robkin and Petty have 50 citizens of Baraboo that are very angry at them right now.

After the members of this committee said that they would not move our issue forward, our friend, Anna, really tried to convince them to approve it. What she said was awesome and totally true (that they really should not make this whole process to difficult and redundant). Then (the most amazing part of the meeting!) Alderperson Brett Topham, who didn’t even have to attend because he wasn’t even on the committee, gave a short speech urging the members of the counsel to vote to approve this ordinance and send it on to full counsel. He said that Lydia and I would have to touch up the ordinance before it went to common council, but that it really didn’t need to return to Administrative Committee again. Isn’t it great that he said that? We didn’t even think that he supported chickens!
Those two speeches caused Kolb to motion to approve the ordinance, but then Petty and Robkin refused to second that. The chicken part of the meeting ended there. We were not rejected like we were last time, so we can go back to this committee in one month instead of three. Before that meeting, we will meet with the alders again and show them our revised ordinance that we will work on with the assistance of our city attorney.

Robkin and Petty were both shunned by the group of pro-chicken people standing outside the city building after the meeting, while Topham pretty much became the most popular alderman in Baraboo and lots of people talked to Kolb.

So we will be heading back to that same council on the first Tuesday of July. The mayor is very sure that this ordinance will pass on to the city counsel when we go back in July. I can’t see how the members of this committee will choose to take no action again after 55 people showed up! If nothing else, we had the most interesting and crowded meeting that the city building has held in a long time!

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