Monday, July 20, 2009

Brief Council Brief

Monday, July 20, 2009. By a 4-3 vote, the Monona city council voted 'yes' to retain the 8'-wide sidewalk along the east side of Monona Drive south from Cottage Grove Road to Winnequah Road as recommended by the ad hoc Monona Drive advisory committee. A proposal to build a 6.5' sidewalk was defeated when Mayor Kahl broke a tie to retain the 8' width.

The council also voted 5-1 to 'indefinitely postpone' a vote on the proposed chicken-keeping ordinance. At one point during the discussion, it looked like another tie vote was possible, but it was not to be. Some aspects of the discussion were puzzling as just about everyone on the council said they did not care if other people kept chickens, but were not willing to support this proposal or offer specific amendments. It is possible revised proposal could come back to the council.

Supporters of the 8' sidewalk and allowing chicken-keeping turned out in impressive numbers when I really thought everyone was going to be burnt out on chickens. I think it was 27-0 for chickens and 15-ish to zip for the 8' sidewalk.

The 4-way stop at Midmoor and Greenway was approved. A raise for the Senior Director was also approved as an agreement to put the powerlines underground along Monona Drive from Broadway to Nichols with the city footing the cost for the portion from Femrite to Nichols. MG&E already placed the lines underground south of Femrite at its own cost.


  1. Regarding the chickens:

    Doug says, "It is possible a revised proposal could come back to the council."

    I would say, perhaps we should just let sleeping dogs lie. I, for one, will continue to raise chickens in Monona. I do not anticipate any complaints or enforcement action. Nobody in City Hall wants to even THINK about my chickens, let alone act on them.

    If a "revised proposal" does come before the council, perhaps it should be in a year or two when we'll have more historical data of successful (i.e. no complaints) chicken-keeping in Monona. Also, a cool-down period may be in order.

    Just a few morning-after thoughts.

  2. Dear Monona City Council,

    Next time please let us know ahead of time which way you're planning on voting, it will save us the time of actually voicing our opinions since you don't really seem to care about them anyway. 200+ signatures and 27 people voicing support for chickens (and zero against) and the vote is 5-1 to "indefinitely postpone" the item. 15(ish) people voicing support (again zero opposed) for the wider sidewalk and the Mayor still has to break a 3-3 tie. What the heck? If that kind of popular support for a measure isn't enough to influence decisions, what would?

    Yes, I know that you're our elected representatives, and as representatives you're expected to "represent" us, as a true Republic is just chaotic, but something other than the obligatory (patronizing?) statement of "we like chickens, we really do... but I'm still voting against this" would have been appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Overall, it was definitely an informative (and often entertaining) meeting, as I was able to get quite a good feel on the positions, methodology and decision-making processes by all involved. I will probably start attending more of these, and it's extremely informative with regards to how I'll vote in the next elections...

  3. Our neighbors have chickens...never have I ever been bothered by them. Let it ride for a year or 2.

    To tell you the truth I have much more issue with the barking dogs and the smell of their poop that isn't picked up from a different neighbor's yard. I was out yesterday and the smell about knocked me over!

  4. Doug- Does the 8' sidewalk mean that construction will potentially be delayed because of unhappy landowners? Am I remembering the issue correctly?

  5. Again the issue of the 'public' vs. government is alive and well in Monona. The reason for going to speak and/or register at council meetings is to keep faith with the public need, not to prevail over an elected elite.
    Remember how the 'Bring The Troops Home' were berated by the wisdom of the council...until the referendum was voted and the public prevailed.
    Getting a council that represents the public need is extremely frustrating and requires the patience of Job and the righteous anger of Dr. King.
    I hope Heather Gates keeps getting signatures, but for her election to the council.

  6. After listening to all of the hoo ha on this issue, I have to wonder about all of the wasted time.

    For cryin' out loud, they aren't enforcing anything around this issue at the city level.

    Why are the granola getters so hot to squawk on this topic?

    Instead of DON'T ASK DON'T TELL, I say we think about doing it the "Old Monona" way - live and let live.

    Although, I did hear "old monona" get bashed several times during the passionate pleas for this ordinance.....

    Maybe that is part of the problem here?

  7. "Will 8' sidewalk cause delay?"

    The 8' width is in the approved environmental document, so we just reaffirmed the plans.

    Yes, some of the residents along that part of Monona Drive have expressed unhappiness about widening the sidewalk. They will probably continue express that opposition. Whether there is some way for them to try to delay the project, I don't know.

  8. While I support the chicken ordinance, and was opposed to the Iraq War, I'll have to disagree with the points above about a council doing what a crowd wants, either in person or by referendum.

    Elected officials need to pay attention to the quality of arguements, not the quantity. Regardless of 15 or 200 or 8,000people it's the multiple arguements for, versus the rather weak "it's just silly" that made the rule change smart. The line "everyone I've talked too," should be ignorred at any government meeting since one's company is selective.

    On a national scale you can see some problems with politics by ballot measure, which has nearly bankrupted California. I don't see Monona or this issue as anything that big, but it should show politicians that they should pay more attention to quality over quantity.

  9. I don't think the Monona Council is really all that different than most elected bodies. When they agree with a large crowd that shows up and contacts them, they justify their decision with that. When the disagree, they find all manner of ways to ignore it. To some extent, I can support that in the general sense. Not all large crowds of people are well informed, and we elect our leaders to consider all input and know all sides of an issue. We expect them to stand up to what may seem to be the prevailing public opinion when they believe that opinion to actually not be the prevailing opinion, or ill-informed, or to protect a minority of people against discrimination or not in the interests of the greater good. It is not reasonable to think that just by turning out a large crowd, that crowd can get its way.

    But on the chicken issue, I think the Monona council failed miserably and not because it ignored the in-person citizen input, but because it did not consider the facts. There is no factual reason to have not passed that ordinance. none. Indeed, they listened more to the input of ill-informed citizens. I will always wonder if for a few of them, they did not want to face their friends having voted "yes" on this. This was, I believe, not about chickens.

    But to the extent this has made a few more people stand up, get involved and take notice, that was a good thing. While the chicken issue may be trivial, the council discussion was informative to us in that it revealed some pretty fundamental things about how our individual council members think and make decisions. Maybe the sidewalk discussion did too, but I didn't see it. I wish these individual discussions could somehow be made easily available for people to watch.

  10. The opponents of the chicken ordinance had neither good factual arguments nor any demonstration of *public* support.

    I think elected officials should and do pay attention to both public opinion and the merits of arguments.

    And I'm also thinking of taking up yak-herding in either Ahuska or Winnequah Park.

  11. Choose Ahuska. The yaks might do something the geese don't like.

  12. Emus. That's the ticket. Ask my spousal unit about it sometime.

  13. Heather here:

    Hippopotami in the lagoon!

    People should know that there were eight people who took the time and energy (and nerve!) to collect signatures in support of the chicken ordinance. It wasn't just one person.

    Credit for "getting closer to yes" goes to all those engaged citizens who squawked and ruffled feathers throughout the process. Without the people who were willing to gather signatures, call and email alders, write columns and blogs to dispel misinformation, sign the petition, and show up at the council and commission meetings, the progress on this issue wouldn't have been made. Yes, progress was made! On Monday night, the alders were far from where they started in February.

    And thank you, Doug, for taking the step to begin this process. Without you, none of us would be squawking now (or have a forum in which to squawk)!

    Travis isn't alone in having learned a lot about our leaders on Monday night. And he and MF are not the only ones to feel the vote opened the eyes of many. Mononans that I don't even know have emailed me to say it was a civics lesson that has inspired them to become more involved in the process.

    That ain't chicken feed.

    To the Anonymous who doesn't get why we need something more than Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Imagine this scenario -- someone gets twenty hens and a rooster. Now that there is no ordinance, and therefore no specific restriction on the number of hens, that is certainly possible. With the LAW stating that "agriculture" is illegal, and the city saying "we're not enforcing it," enforcement would be on a case-by-case basis. But the LAW still states chickens are illegal.

    Neighbors get upset at the rooster's noise and/or the size of the twenty-hen coop. The city or police get called. And then what? At the very least, it's a mess for the city, the neighbors, and the chicken-keeper. But worse, for those who want to responsibly keep hens, is that then those who didn’t want to see chickens in Monona in the first place will say, "See. I told you chickens weren't a good fit in Monona." The Don't Ask, Don't Tell could quickly be rescinded, and then chickens in Monona would have to go. The responsible chicken-keepers are then out their investment, their pets, their eggs.

    It could be someone puts a coop three feet from their property line, but less than ten feet from the neighbor's home. It could be that a secure coop isn't built and predators get in, making a loud ruckus as they kill the hens... It could be a number of things that Doug's simple ordinance, had it passed, would have prevented. That’s why the ordinance was a good thing – a far better thing than the “decision of indecision” on Monday night.

    My two (and one-half) cents.