It was a busy agenda on Tuesday, in addition to passage of the 2014 budget, so here goes …
First, the Legislation and Permits Committee voted to reaffirm our bans on chickens and pit bulls in separate votes.
I voted to uphold both bans.
On chickens … I understand the arguments for allowing them, and find most of them quite valid, especially the desire to increase the amount of locally grown food and the positive health effects that brings. That is why I strongly considered voting to allow them with significant restrictions (permitting, etc.). But I couldn’t get past this question: “Would I want even one chicken living next to me?” The answer is, “No.” And, with that, I wouldn’t want to ask others to live next to one either. This would be a different story if we weren’t such a densely populated community, where many residents live mere feet from their next-door neighbor. And then there is the question of enforcement. How would we enforce this? Would we at all? My guess is, we wouldn’t. The proper (or improper) keeping of chickens would be a complaint-driven process, as so many of our ordinances are. We don’t need more of that.
On pit bulls … I wish we had more time to give this issue the debate it deserves. I did some homework before the meeting, and we heard from several people for 30-45 minutes during the meeting before a vote was called. I had to vote — and I cast my mine to uphold the ban first passed more than 20 years ago because of precedent. Simply, our pit bull and vicious dog ordinance seems to be working, and I trust in the people who passed it decades ago – and the city staff experts who think we should continue it. Our city attorney also raised a good question several times to various speakers: “How would rolling back the restrictions make South Milwaukee safer?” I thought that was a good way to frame the debate, and with two young kids at home, that argument really hit me. I couldn’t see how taking that action would indeed make us safer. Of course, I’m open to new ideas, new information and approach on all issues, and I suspect this issue will come up again. If and when it does, I hope we give it the full and deep debate it needs. There are good points on both sides of the debate over “breed-specific” dog ordinances.
Among other actions taken Tuesday night:
- The L&P Committee also agreed to increase many paramedic fees by 4.2%, in line with the medical consumer price index increases over the past two years. (We did not increase these fees in 2013.) Select Health Department fees will also increase 5% in 2014, among other small increases.
- The council also approved a license for a new bar, yet to be named, at what is now Moran’s, 912 Milwaukee Ave. It is expected to open in December.
- And we agreed to move ahead with a concept to rebuild 11th Avenue, between Milwaukee and Michigan Avenues, repaving the street and adding more landscaping and other features to make the street more appealing. This work, if and when funding is approved, will be done early in the season in 2014 — and will require the South Milwaukee Downtown Market to relocate for several weeks. Stay tuned.