The push to allow backyard chickens in Albany came to an end Monday as an override attempt of the Jerry Jennings' veto failed to get enough votes in the Common Council .
Mike Guidice, who along with his wife Jen Pursley has been leading the chicken coalition, was disappointed -- and talking about what's next.
The override vote
Here's how the override vote broke down. The override needed to be approved by a super majority of 10 votes (the council has 15 members). A vote of "yes" was a vote in favor of the override. (council members' vote on the ordinance itself):
Yes: Calsolaro (y), Conti (y), Commisso (y), Fahey (y), Golby (y), Konev (y), O'Brien (y), Smith (y) -- 8 votes
No: Bailey (n), Freeman (n), Herring (n), Igoe (n), Jenkins-Cox (n) -- 5 votes
Not present: Rosenzweig (n), Sano (n)
The ordinance had passed 8-7 -- two of the no votes would have had to swing to override the veto. So, Monday's outcome wasn't much of a surprise.
The public comment period ahead of the vote included three people speaking in favor of the chicken ordinance. Two of them were Brenda and John Helm, the Niskayuna couple that was forced to give up their chickens by the town. They're currently pursuing legal action and pushing to protect "micro-farming" rights in Niskayuna. After the vote, Brenda Helm said they didn't think the Albany ordinance make or break their case, but she said they both felt it was important to support the cause. (Interestingly, the Helms come at this issue from what sounds like a libertarian perspective -- we're going to try to follow up with them.)
One person spoke specifically against an override -- a man from the Melrose neighborhood (uptown) who, after speaking with his neighbors, said he believed there was a "silent majority" in the city against backyard chickens.
Dominick Calsolaro, the ordinance's sponsor, spoke ahead of the override vote, asserting his belief that the public does support the legislation. And he criticized the mayor's stated reasons for the veto, including concerns about the cost of administering the permit system:
... but [the mayor] gave no figure. When asked, "How much is it going to cost?" -- you have a department head that knows buildings and codes -- "How much did he tell you it's going to cost the city to do 50 whole permits out of the whole city?" No money. We got an excuse [imitating mayor's voice] "Well if one person loses his job over this..." OK ... I doubt he's going to lose his job over the hens -- he may lose his job over [the mayor's] fiscal mismanagement ... but he's not going to lose his job over the hens.
(If you haven't heard Jerry Jennings' reasons for the veto, here's a clip of him explaining his action in May, along with some easy-to-scan quotes.)
Mike Guidice spoke during the public comment period ahead of the vote, thanking the council for taking up the issue, and called the experience an "eye-opening process."
After the vote, he talked about how he never expected his family's backyard chickens would lead him into local politics. "I think we did good and I think everyone involved in the campaign can be really proud of themselves."
The day Jerry Jennings announced he was vetoing the ordinance, the chicken coalition released a statement criticizing the mayor and calling for voters to "fix" the problem at the polls. Monday night Guidice reiterated that he thinks the city needs new leadership:
[This experience] really opened my eyes up to the necessity of, if we're going to be a city with forward thinking policy, if we're going to be a city that's setting precedent on issues like sustainability, economic development... we're going to need to change our leadership, especially on the executive level. That's just a reality. It's something we're going to have to do. It's not where I started with the chicken thing. But it's something I'm completely convinced of, from seeing the chicken thing through, and really realizing how the executive branch is working in our city.
Toward the goal of getting new leadership for the city, Guidice is now involved in with an org called Albany Votes -- which he says is a non-partisan push to get more people in the city registered to vote and informed about how city government works.
And it all started with chickens.
The Albany chickens saga
+ Jennings vetoes Albany chicken ordinance
+ Scanning tweets on the Albany chicken veto
+ Albany backyard chicken ordinance passes
+ Of government and chickens
+ Pecking at the Albany backyard chicken issue
+ Changing Albany's chicken laws
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