Chicken issue should have gone to voters

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By a 3-2 vote Monday night, the Custer City Council struck down a proposed change to a city code that would have allowed chickens to be raised within the city limits, with each property allowed to raise six chickens as long as they were not a nuisance to neighbors and the proper permits were purchased. Two weeks ago a first reading of the ordinance passed 4-3, with Mayor Corbin Herman passing the deciding vote to move the amended ordinance ahead. The close votes means the council was split on the issue, as was the public, if discussion at the meetings at which the topic was discussed are any indication.

There weren’t many people at the meeting where the issue was first broached, with 12-year-old Emily Borkowski speaking in favor of allowing chickens in town and one person in the audience very much opposed to the idea. At the following meeting of the council, supporters for Borkowski came out of the woodwork, and the amended ordinance passed narrowly. Fast-forward to Monday’s meeting, and it was those opposed to having the chickens in town who flooded the council chambers. Valid arguments were made both for and against having chickens in town every step of the way.

Ultimately, we would have liked to have seen this issue decided at the June 4 election. Had the council approved the amended ordinance, it likely would have been referred to a public vote, and the residents of the city (at least those who took the time to vote) would have had the final say on whether or not chickens came home to roost in town. With an issue that was so seemingly polarizing, it would have been the best way for the council to go, in our opinion.

Of course, an argument can be made that this is why we have representative government—so that those elected officials can make the decisions for us and we don’t have to go to the ballot box all the time to vote on these types of issues. And, that’s true. That’s why we elect a city council.

It can also be argued that the voters can still decide the issue. Anyone who really wants the voters to decide the issue simply has to take out a petition and start an initated measure to get it on the ballot. If you have a mind to do so, we encourage you to do it. This seems like an issue the whole town should weigh in on for the final say.