Thursday, November 27, 2008
Mayor defends dog ordinance
By SUE WATSON
Hoyt Johnson appealed to the mayor last week for permission to vaccinate his own dogs.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry refused to grant permission for Johnson to sidestep a portion of the ordinance that requires owners to have their animals vaccinated by a veterinarian.
Johnson had requested to be on the agenda the meeting of November 5, but DeBerry insisted he wait two weeks in order to have his item placed on the agenda.
Given five minutes to make his presentation November 17 by the mayor, Johnson reviewed the history of city dog ordinances since the 1930s.
“In the ’30s money was short and somebody came up with the idea of taxing dogs,” Johnson said. “The ordinance silently passed by and Mayor Brown brought it up again in the 1980s. So it was bypassed again. Now we have it again.”
Johnson said he has always supported vaccination of dogs and gives his dogs their shots himself. He presented some empty vaccine vials and the tags that came with them to the mayor and board of aldermen.
“We have always vaccinated our own dogs for other diseases (besides rabies), too,” Johnson said. “If we don’t vaccinate our dogs and other animals they die.”
Johnson said he thinks the vaccine vials and tags that come with them should be sufficient to establish that the dogs are protected, adding that he vaccinated 24 of his own dogs and some strays as well this year before he learned about the dog ordinance passed by the board of aldermen.
DeBerry noted that the city ordinance required dogs be vaccinated by a veterinarian.
“We can’t waive (the ordinance) for an individual, but if you are requesting to change the ordinance, it can be changed,” the mayor said. “You should provide a written request for the board to change the ordinance. As it stands now you have to do it (pay a fine).”
Johnson asked why the board of aldermen could not give individuals permission to vaccinate their own dogs.
The mayor said he “cannot excuse anyone from the law.”
Johnson said he had already vaccinated his dogs in the spring and did not know about the new ordinance until he got a ticket in the summer.
“This board is not enforcement,” said DeBerry. “The redress of enforcement goes through city court.”
Johnson said he understood and left the meeting.
Next up was Rep. Kelvin Buck, who was not on the agenda.
DeBerry denied Buck’s request to bring up a matter, saying he had to be fair to everyone. Johnson had asked to make a presentation two weeks prior and was required to wait until he made a formal request to be on the agenda, he said.
Later Buck asked for a point of personal privilege and the mayor refused, though alderman Russell Johnson said, “We do waiver from procedure sometimes.”
Next on the agenda was Leona Harris, curator of Ida B. Wells Museum, who wanted to purchase a lot at Hill Crest for a monument.
Harris said the monument would be in memory of Ida B. Wells’ parents and a sibling who died in the yellow fever epidemic.
“We have picked out a spot,” she said.
DeBerry said the museum didn’t need to come before the board to purchase a plot.
Harris said several trips to the cemetery with friends of the museum and with Lois Swanee had been made and the museum wanted to place the monument inside the area where there are mass burials of those who died during the epidemic.
“White and black were buried there,” she said.
Cemetery workers had helped mark off a possible spot, she said.
Alderman Tim Liddy asked if the area in question is marked already as a site of mass burials.
Harris said she prefers the spot they have already picked but the museum can buy a plot.
The mayor again suggested they buy a plot.
Alderman Johnson said it could be risky to put up a monument without knowing where the Wells ancestors were buried.
“Would the marker signify it is a mass grave, not just three people?” Liddy asked.
DeBerry said the memorial could go anywhere but he prefers it not be placed in a spot that could draw controversy “that it could be on someone else’s (ancestors’) grave.”
“There is no documentation where the mass graves are anyway,” he said.
Alderman Garrie Colhoun agreed.
“My only concern is to designate that spot when you don’t know if they are there,” he said. “It is a problem to designate since others are there - hundreds - that are not marked.”
Johnson suggested someone knowledgeable go with Harris to make sure.
“I move to appoint Garrie to work with Harris to find a spot agreeable with everyone,” said Liddy.
“I want you to take a look at what we have and then approve it or not,” Harris said.
Liddy's motion to appoint Colhoun to help the museum explore all possible options passed.
A zoning matter was next in line for discussion. The rezoning of a property owned by Scott Williams was brought up for action by the mayor.
Colhoun argued that the lot in question was already in use as it is, even though the rezoning has not yet taken place.
“A detail shop,” said alderman Nancy Hutchens.
DeBerry said regardless of what was already taking place, the rezoning was on the agenda for action “tonight.”
“They are doing business there, electricity or no electricity,” said Colhoun after someone said the electricity was not on in the shop (located behind the old service station on East Van Dorn next door to St. Joseph’s Church).
Liddy motioned to rezone with Hutchens seconding and the motion passed.
“To clarify,” said Hutchens, “once they go back before the planning commission they have to meet all the requirements for a B-4 zone.”
“I’m not worried about blocking it,” said Colhoun. “I just want them to play by the rules.”
“We have a lot of people open who are not permitted (for business) and we are cracking down on it,” said DeBerry.
In other business, the board of aldermen:
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