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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

City Chickens and the strange machinations of Grown Ups to determine if chickens are apropos.

At the December 12th City Commission  meeting Caroline Baxter,  a ten year old student, at East Hills Elementary School, by virtue of Recognition  of citizens in the audience  spoke to City Commission, about a  passion hers which is chickens. 

City Manager Jay Craven in an interview with Channel  4 News Click on Detroit said that prior to her  appearance  before them Caroline had written to City Commission about her desire to to speak to them,While written notice  was not necessary, it was polite, and it gave the Commission the  the chance to be better prepared than they appeared to be on December 12th.

Caroline thinks chickens make great pets and she talked about misconceptions people might have about chickens as pets. Her presentation  was fact based and very logical from her point of view. Particularly in regards to drawbacks of  other allowable pets like dogs who bark, weigh more, and  make for bigger clean up.

Caroline Baxter spoke or answered questions for approximately seven minutes. You may see this segment of the meeting by moving the fast forward ball at the bottom of the December 12th City Commission meeting video in an earlier post to the 17 minute mark.

 Upon her conclusion, Mayor Dul admitted he didn't know what our  city's rules (on chickens) are. City Manager Cravens thought they  came under the zoning ordinance. On that point he was mistaken but he had good grasp of what the correct ordinance said omitting the fact that current regulations, classify chickens as poultry or live stock, which are not allowed by City ordinances.

Commissioner Coakley  made a motion that City Commission take the matter under consideration, get the opinion from our City Attorney, and after reviewing  the the ordinances come up with a recommendation for our citizens in this regard.  

The motion passed. 

Mayor Dull closed the topic with "Ok so we can take the matter under advisement and come up with something for next month."

For friends of fowl was seemingly a promising start.

Unfortunately  in the world of grown ups "next month" however does not always  mean "next month." If you earn your living by selling things you quickly pick up on this. point. Next month however is by far better to No or Never.

In retrospect this writer believes that in their haste to promise a more informed "next month" Commission failed to give Caroline Baxter her due  with proper questioning defining the parameters of what she was asking for, discussing ramifications of said, and considering possible alternatives for all concerned. That is what adults get when they go before a City Board or commission.

Any thing less has a name in the adult world. It is called a dog and pony show. It is the job interview where they love you to death but aren't going to hire you because you are so over qualified. In short it is saying No and Yes at the same time which is what 
grown ups do because they think it polite.
Television  has asked, and even  a graduate of the prestigious Yale Divinity School has had to admit a that we are not smarter than a fifth grader.

The truth of  that became apparent at  the December meeting  when  Commissioner Sheer made a series of puns about  chickens which amused himself and Commissioner Coakley. The puns  were later quoted  the verbatim in the Eccentric newspaper. Commission Hardy asked if Carolyn had written her rather excellent presentation herself or had help from her mother. Commisioner McClure remembered aloud about a grandfather, gentleman farmer, who maintained pigs on the premise.

This writer has vivid memories of the hard scrabble asphalt (good for skinning elbows and knees), playgrounds of a Sacramento California grade school where proof was a perquisite. Who had a higher batting average  Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle?  Prove it and out would come the baseball cards.You lose you forfeit your card. You say you  climbed a tree the requisite 15 feet to earn  Cub Scout merit badge ?  You have to prove it and half the class would follow you to the tree in question to watch you do it again.

Carolyn Baxter was asking the commission for  a change  of City ordinances by allowing  all residents ownership of up to five chickens.

City Commission, which has the elected responsibility  to represent 3800  residents  residing in approximately 1500 domiciles did not ask Carolyn how many residents she believed would support her request.

It was a Channel 4 Click on Detroit reporter who asked that Question.
Click on 4 Detroit is a collection of news clips  taken by Channel reporters and available on line.  Carolyn's claim that most residents do not care we believe is true only at first glance. 

Living in Bloomfield Hills requires a certain investment and that is why the City is conservative in its approach to change. 

News accounts seemed to derive a bit  of schaden freud  from a city of stereotypical swells chasing chickens in the backyard.

Both  the Eccentric  and Click on 4 Detroit reported that  City Commission would review and  discuss the Chickens at the January 13th Meeting.  That did not happen.

 As explained in a letter to City Commission, City Manager Cravens, received a  phone call from a resident who was opposed to idea and mentioned other grown up considerations like deed restrictions. The matter is now on hold pending the a hearing of Carolyn's initiative at a neighborhood  association.

Ordinances determine the character and the charm of a City.
We doubt that many of the City's residents moved to the City of Bloomfield Hills for the purpose of raising  or owning Chickens, or are excited about the prospects of chickens  or the  structures required  to house them in many yards. Rightly or wrongly they may feel that such may detract from the City and reduce the value of the  property for which they paid a pretty penny.

The Eccentric quotes Mr. Baxter  Caroline's father as saying, "It would be nice if  the City was even willing to try it (Chicken ownership)  on a limited trial basis.

We think not. We are not a city governed by trial and error.  The 3800 plus residents who comprise approximate 1500 households are governed by ordinances. With a few exceptions we do not have walls or fences in the City. That is determined by an ordinance with  idea being that we are an open community. Ordinances are what protect you from loud music blasting, a large backyard deck that blocks your view of the City's natural features, or this writer using using  the front lawn as an auto grave yard.  In the City of Bloomfield Hills Ordinances are our fences.

There is also another consideration.Caroline Baxter is a serious student of birds. The Eccentric Newspaper quotes her as telling City commission that she has has memorized every kind of bird in Michigan and can recognize them  by appearance. Her dream is to study at the Ornithology lab at Cornell University Here the Eccentric erred  by referring to a Cornell College which is a small but distinguished school in the Midwest. 

The lab of  which Caroline Baxter speaks is actually at Cornell University of Ivy League fame and located Ithaca New York.
If there aren't  legal restrictions of home owner association or  even City ordinances (which  get revamped at will by non resident City Employees these days) a solution  for the sake of  documented scholarship for one Caroline Baxter could be had. 

If that is not possible there is still the rather excellent Bloomfield Hills School System who is  responsible  for the education of the City's school children. Regrettably our City Commission has very little contact  or even a volunteer liaison with the School Board  whose meetings showcase many examples of  student initiated independent study. That is what Model High school is all about. To learn  more about Model High School visit their face book page by clicking here.

While Caroline  Baxter is still in elementary school, Exceptional students place out and move up  to advanced classes in  a variety of subjects.

A family friend of our's son  found his mother's high school French book in the attic one August. That fall he not only place out of beginning French, but later created a bit of a sensation when he celebrated his intermediate status by sassing the instructor in   perfectly pronounced, but  rather vulgar, argot of the Paris slum.



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