Updated 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:
Full Jerry Jennings press release
chicken photo courtesy of Michael Guidice and Jen Pursely
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