may 2010 013

Urban chickens a nuisance? I had four in this coop and no one ever knew…

Well, the chickens have won. Not of course the literal chickens, exiled as pets by virtue of prejudice and ignorance, but the figurative chickens – our local leaders who would rather stand obstinately on a disintegrating platform than take time to reach compromise on an issue that has obviously engaged the electorate.

Ty Unglebower in his piece “Passion of the Chicken” in Saturday’s Frederick News Post, alludes to a greater issue underlying the feathers flying in all directions – although he goes no further than questioning why a seemingly innocuous issue should create such a heated debate. As Michael Tuthill said to the Council on Tuesday “Relax folks, it’s not ISIS. No-one’s getting killed. It’s only chickens.”

Perhaps I can go further than Mr. Unglebower, instead of once again clearing my voice and attempting to explain how environmentally and economically sound a few urban chickens are. Quite frankly I grow weary of having to point out to people who should know better that a farmyard of chickens has more in common with a dog kennel than a few hens in a backyard coop. Or that a bear wandering through a recently constructed subdivision is not looking for a chicken dinner, but trying to find a migratory path now lost to asphalt and tasteful vinyl siding. Let’s just skip all these inconvenient facts, shall we, and come to the heart of the matter.

march 2015 020

Beautiful. And illegal in a community near you.

The fact is it’s not about chickens at all.

No. There are far too many towns, suburbs and major metropolitan cities that have allowed backyard hens without catastrophic consequences to show Brunswick (and Frederick for that matter), that this is a non-issue. New York City. London. Washington DC. Lovettsville and Waterford for Pete’s sake. Nope, it’s [inconveniently] not about chickens.

What it is about, as one “anti-chicken” spokesperson so correctly observed in her tight-lipped speech to the council last Tuesday, is power. And bullying. And the desire of one side to have it “their way” and damn the opposition. (Thus saying, she righteously marched out of the room before the opposition had been given a chance to respond, and is to be commended for both beautifully illustrating her point, and giving those of us left a bit of well-needed comic relief.)

However, it is exactly when bullies squawk and storm out and emotions run high that we ask our leaders to step up, put aside personal feelings, prejudices, friendships and alliances, and seek common ground. The great sadness experienced by many in the room during Tuesday’s meeting – including myself – was that once again, the majority of Brunswick’s leaders failed to make any effort towards such compromise, even though several options were available that would have ‘saved face’ on both sides.

Instead, four councilmembers lowered their eyes and shook their heads, unwilling to satisfactorily explain their position with a stubbornness that smacked of arrogance and ignorance all at the same time.

What this means for chickens in Brunswick’s backyards is obvious to both sides. But what it means for Brunswick as a city desperately trying to revitalize and stay relevant in a more sophisticated world is obvious only to those who understand how crucial good leadership will be in that effort.

So the chickens won…and the bullies…and Brunswick is all the poorer for it. There may come a day when common sense prevails; but in the [no doubt] ridiculously long meanwhile the City will risk alienating newer generations who have quietly been watching this pattern of governance and thoroughly reject it. For them and their families, Brunswick will remain a stopping point only – not a destination.

It is depressing to think that there are those who are happy to hear that.