Jennings to veto Albany chicken ordinance

chickens thumbnailUpdated at 6:30 pm

Jerry Jennings announced today that he's vetoing the Albany backyard chicken ordinance.

The ordinance passed the Common Council by an 8-7 vote. It would take 10 votes to override the veto.

The mayor's office released a statement this afternoon explaining the veto. That -- and reaction -- is after the jump.

Jennings' explanation for the veto

From a press release sent out this afternoon from the mayor's office:

The ordinance as written is a piecemeal approach to a broader issue and does not move the City forward in terms of sustainability, as it does not address the core issues of urban agriculture in general. A more comprehensive plan will identify best practices, and include community input that develops a roadmap toward building a truly sustainable Albany.
The ordinance also fails to address the financial impact of enforcement during these times of budgetary constraints and is silent on the issue of fines and penalties for violations.
Additionally, the ordinance fails to address issues of health, safety and welfare, including:
1. The failure to limit the type of breeds of hens that are permitted within the City.
2. The failure to require an applicant to submit an insect and rodent control plan.
3. The failure to include an anti-slaughtering provision.
I am confident that the Albany 2030 Plan shall present a comprehensive plan that addresses all of the concerns raised above, and will implement a truly sustainable plan that accomplishes the goals articulated by the Common Council, community leaders and all of our citizens."

The full release is embedded below.

Mayor's press conference

Friday afternoon, Mayor Jennings met with the media to discuss the veto. A few quotes from that press conference:

"The city is not ready right now to move forward with this." ...
"We need a well thought-out plan ... an urban agriculture plan, which they do in other cities. ... As far as I'm concerned, if this legislation was going to be passed, it should have been vetted much more than it was."

Re: chicken supporters saying they never heard from code enforcement or other parts of city government about concerns with the plan:

"If I'm a council member, and I put legislation out, I'm going to think about it. And I'm going to answer those questions right up front. If you're serious about it, do it the right way. Listen to people."

Jennings said his office received 50 calls about the issue yesterday. And he wasn't happy with the tone of some of the callers:

"One of the things I don't appreciate is people calling and basically saying, 'We're coming after you now.' People in my office don't deserve to be subjected to some of the calls that were made over the past couple of days. I treated people with respect throughout the process. I don't appreciate people threatening people in my office and saying 'we're going to take the mayor out,' 'we're going to take council members out,' in a very terse way.
And as far as I'm concerned, people should take a step back. And work with us on the 2030 plan. And we'll included whatever we have to include to make this city what it should be. And not just over one issue."

On what the cost of enforcement is:

"[Do you know what the cost of enforcement would be?] No, but if it's one person -- when I'm looking at laying off police and fire and everything else -- that's one person too much. Not having the restrictions in place in the ordinance or the code or the fines or the expectations, that makes it that much more difficult to enforce something. So there has to be more thought put into to it."

On whether there's widespread support for backyard chickens:

"I just got a memo from someone who said they canvased their neighborhood and '90 percent of the people do not want this, mayor, thank you.' I've been hearing that. Because I do walk streets [beyond a few districts]. Some of the council members are confined to their own areas, which is not the right way to govern."

On meeting with the chicken coalition:

"If they want to meet with me, I'll meet with them. ... They should have met with me before legislation was introduced. [They said they tried.] Well, I don't recall that, but that's alright. They're not going to meet with me now. ... I'd be surprised because the headline is (holds up printed-out email, reads from it) 'Shame on you Mayor Jennings. Next step we'll be organized. A massive voter registration. Too many mistakes have been made. We won't just be replacing the mayor -- every myopic representative on the council.' And that's unfortunate that they have to go to that length."

Dominick Calsolaro, the sponsor of the chicken ordinance, was also at the press conference. He said he's going to ask for a veto override vote.

"Despite what the mayor said, I went to neighborhood associations outside my area. Neighborhood associations from all over the city voted in favor of this ordinance -- I think there were something like 15 or 20 neighborhood associations ... from all over the city, that voted in the majority in favor of the ordinance ... So I don't know where the mayor's getting some of this from."

Calsolaro said the ordinance already addressed some of his issues and "[the mayor] has some pretty weak arguments here," citing as an example the use of hens in other places to fight insects. On the cost issue:

"He says there's a cost, but where's the specifics? You have a whole department that can give you the specifics about what's it's going to cost. And nobody came up with any numbers. ... I think he's reaching, trying to find something to veto it, without any concrete evidence."
"To me, it's a disappointment for the city because the people who came out in favor of this were the young urban professionals that we are trying to attract to live into the city. A majority of them were the ones who supported this. And we're telling those people, 'Sorry, don't be here.'"

On the mayor's assertion there wasn't enough research done for the legislation:

"Seattle has it. Dallas allows it. We're not talking minor cities. And the ordinance was based on Buffalo and Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Dallas. I mean, to say there was no research done, I think the mayor's talking out of his backside, to be honest with you."

On whether the chicken coalition had tried to meet with the mayor:

"Mike Guidice tried to meet with the mayor, had a whole package of information to give to the mayor, he brought it to city hall and they refused to accept it. So, again, if you refuse to accept the information, that people did the research and you don't even look at it, and then you say the research wasn't done. Again, like I said, it's very weak reasons and excuses."


Reaction from Mike Guidice and Jen Pursley, the couple whose chickens got this issue going:

Mike Guidice via Twitter: "Don't lose heart. Don't give up. We all know this is about so much more then chickens. Time to take our city back."

Jen Pursley via Twitter: "Either we get a super majority or we wait another year and a half to get our chickens. We'll fix these "mistakes" at the polls." "Moving onward, #albchickens supporters, it's time to start the voter registration campaign. Contact us if you are interested in helping."

We talked with Guidice via phone this afternoon. A few bits:

"I want to respond specifically to the mayor saying there were problems with specific breeds and things like that. There were multiple committee hearings and multiple Common Council meetings and I reached out to him many many times -- about six occasions -- and I feel I was steered around and ignored. And every time I reached out to his office I was denied a meeting with him."
"Where was he at the committee meetings? Where was he at the Common Council meetings? ..."
"And to look at all the phone calls he's getting as a threat ... I think really if we salvaged something from the chicken campaign it's that through social media and consistent involvement we can make a difference in social issues. It's shed some light on the fact that we have officials who are not just ignoring, but undermining efforts."
"I do not see this as a loss. What I see is an opportunity to cast a light on the rhetoric and an opportunity to hold this man accountable."

And an email sent out by the chicken coalition (it appears to be the email the mayor cited in the press conference):

It is with deep regret that we announce that the mayor vetoed the Albany Chickens legislation.
We've never witnessed the citizens of Albany come together on an issue like they did with chickens, and it was truly awesome to watch. Residents from every ward in the city, crossing age, race, and class lines, came together to support the simple desire to keep a small flock of hens in one's own backyard.
Everyone seems to know that this isn't about the chickens. It was a political move to squash the will of the people. It was a big loss for those of us who worked really hard to see this through, but we aren't quitting. Indeed, our work has just begun.
Our next step will be to organize, with others, a massive voter registration campaign. Too many "mistakes" have been made in our city, and it's time to fix these mistakes at the polls. Next election will be about more than just the mayor, it will be about replacing every myopic "representative" on the Council and so much more.
Please contact us if you are interested in taking these next steps with us. And again, thank you to everyone for all of your support around the Albany Chickens campaign.
The Albany Chickens Coalition

Reaction on Twitter

We've collected a bunch of tweets reacting to the veto today.

Earlier on AOA:

+ Albany backyard chicken ordinance passes
+ Of government and chickens
+ Pecking at the Albany backyard chicken issue
+ Changing Albany's chicken laws

Full Jerry Jennings press release

Jennings Admin Press Release - Chicken Bill Statement

chicken photo courtesy of Michael Guidice and Jen Pursely


What a moron. Is he serious? What an idiot. There's a great letter in the Times Union today by Britin Foster of All Good Bakers about this.

some detractors called the mayors radio show asking his veto on chickens because "foreigners" were behind it. If these uneducated assumptions, and others like it, shaped the mayors choice, we have a lot to worry about in this city. Its a pretty sad day for us that we cant join the growing ranks of other, more successful urban places because were stuck entertaining lunatic reasons not to champion things like backyard hens.

I don't give a crap if people have hens, but I was looking forward to him signing it so that this idiotic debate could be over with. Now we have to go through more of it.

Whether you are for or against this particular ordinance, this is a really good example of how screwed up local/all government can be. A group of people went through all the steps needed to make a change in their community, it passed through the elected officials it needed to... and it was stopped by one person who most likely never read the ordinance or met with any of the people behind it.

Woo, government!

Bass-ackwards. It's not just that this mayor is notoriously corrupt and ineffectual. He's deliberately working against the kinds of vision and policy that will move this city forward.

rodent control plan?! wtf?! talk about over legislating. no rodent control plan in place in any other city ordinance i've read. breed restrictions? none on cats or dogs. "this isnt restrictive enough" "we cant afford to enforce this." anyone else see the irony of hose two statements?

nothing more than excuses to deny something the admin cant take credit for. never used to belive in the statement "the man is holding me down" - i do now.

i fully expected the veto, but it's still too bad. i was hoping to have a few hens in the yard.

Paul- you're right. He refused to meet or speak with anyone regarding this issue over the last 6 months, yet he got hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, mostly supporting chickens. The ordinance went through so many revisions, his "concerns/ objections" could have been addressed if he had only brought them up before.
He doesn't care about the issue, he just doesn't want to see citizens succeed in making any positive change in the city. It's an expression of being in charge.

Insect control plan??....aren't the chickens themselves an insect control plan?

And breed control? I can understand that why he wouldn't want any 50 ft. tall super chickens in Albany.

People have become too detached from their food. This press release just goes to prove that point.

What if the chickens unexpectedly shape shift into aliens? That was not addressed in this legislation and I don't know about you, but that really concerns me.

I'm for legalizing chickens, but felt the ordinance was far too restrictive in its scope. I hope this bites the mayor in the butt and Albany comes back with a true urban right-to-farm bill.

The establishment is buying time to tighten their control of peoples' access to food resources so that it can continue it wholesale pillaging of Earth's natural resources. While any true progress is held up in community feedback meetings, planning committees, and legislative procedure, America continues its decline into third-world levels of poverty and poor public health and food access. The 2030 group is a well-meaning coalition of simpletons that seem to think that 2030 Albany is going to have the same technology, infrastructure, and population demographics of 2011 Albany in spite of the rapid progress our young species continues to make in the development of technological augments in the form of automated thinking and working machines.

I was listening to 1300 AM today just after Jennings' show and there was a commercial for a charter school billed as "In the Heart of Where You Work." Disgusting. The city government is systematically making sure that Albany is a non-residential infrastructural nightmare catering to the needs and desires of sedentary suburbanites commuting in personal vehicles. The conference center, the chickens, the persistent racism, even the Stakeholders plan to "convert" 787 to a slightly prettier highway, all ignore the interests of city residents in favor of the interests of wealthy landowners in surrounding environs.

Empire State Plaza, that towering monolith of small-government hubris, is aching to spread its concrete sterility over the writhing fabric of the living city. Jobs in the city are for people with graduate school degrees, and jobs in the suburbs are for people with high school diplomas, so every day the city leaves to toil in the suburbs and the suburbs gather to despoil the city.

Albany must have a government that is working in the interest of Albanians. Not Delmarites, not Colonisians, not Rensselaeri, not Saratogans. Albany for Albanians.

Bad call, Mayor Jennings.

@daleyplanit...I must have been listening the same time as you. Foreigners? A caller playing the ethnic/race card over chicken coops? And the mayor just let it lay there? A very disappointing showing, indeed.

I think the ignorance about animal raising that has come to light in Albany during this process has been shocking, and allowing this just for the sake of addressing that ignorance is almost reason enough to allow hen raising.

The Albany Comprehensive Process did not stop the Planning Board from approving Fort Oranges request to tear down a building for more parking even though the draft vision statement sites "walkable neighborhoods and historic architecture" as resources. The hypocrisy of the mayor is outstanding.

Apparently most of the above commentors have never kept chickens. Whilst I love my birds, I would shudder to think about living in an urban area with my flock, or neighbors with a similar situation.

If you have chickens, you have more rats. That's just a fact.

If you have chickens, you have more smell. That's just a fact.

If you have chickens, there's a net increase in waste. Chicken feces has to go someplace, and that place is the rapidly diminishing landfill in the City of Albany.

If you want organic eggs, go to the Co-Op and buy organic, locally sourced eggs. You can support a family committed to sustainable and ethical growing.

If you want chickens, move out of the City, and embrace the life bucolic.

@Sam: Can you please show us some proof to these facts? What are your sources for this information?

@Jennings: dude, you've lost my future vote if you indeed to plan to run again. You're burned out, time to move on.

Would love to see Ms. Golby run against Jennings using the Chicken Platform.

It seems at least some of Jennings stated concerns seem valid on its face. So I am not willing to accept the 'tweeters' assertion that this "this is about so much more then chickens" without 1) addressing the stated concerns and 2) evidence of the "much more"

@Sam -- anybody raising chickens will also be into gardening or know a whole network of gardeners. The chicken feces would end up in gardens. Not a smidge of chicken manure would go into the landfill.

As for rats and smell....oh, boy, next they'll outlaw my compost bin (which does not smell or attract rats). I live down the road from the Mayor --sure hope he doesn't find out about the "garbage" in my backyard.

Shouldn't he be tanning instead of doing dumb stuff? He's starting to look like a human being again. Too bad he can't act that way.

Hey Sam, I live next to a herd of chickens.

1. There ain't no rats.

2. There ain't no smell.

3. What do you do with chicket poop? You compost it and use it as fertilizer, silly!

4. No comment. yeah, buy some healthy eggs from healthy chickens

5. You have a pretty weird concept of what a city is. Only in America...

time to cross the river, people. Troy is the place for Richard Florida's vision: walkable city, accepting populace, creative class residents.

Good for him. Although I was hoping to have free fried chicken should I come across a stray chicken.

Best quote from our Mayor "I do walk the streets other then where i represent." yeah no kidding. Video at 3:10

I'm moving to Troy.

There's an empty convent in Rensselaer that's just begging to be turned into an anarchist agricultural collective.

@jb so are YOU the elusive chicken-napper?? ( re: )

Didn't know they allow chickens in Troy. Will have to take a walk around there sometime.

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