Where to even begin? I find myself shaking my head two times in less than a week and asking, “For real? For real, this is where I live? Really, Knoxville is this backward?”
Suddenly, last night’s city council meeting wasn’t about chickens, but about violating the Constitution of the United States of America. Many viewers sat dumbfounded as Nick Della Volpe defended his 5th proposed ordinance change of the evening; an addition to Ordinance 9b, Section 5-107 subsection (k) -Denial, suspension or revocation of permit:
“The Animal Control Board shall have the right to enter the permitted property during reasonable daylight hours to inspect the hen enclosure and condition of the animals in the enforcement of this law, and shall have the authority to enter the property at any time in case of emergency or health threat, and to remove chickens from the premises, if necessary.”
Representative Marilyn Roddy asked Debbie Poplin, Law Director, if other ordinances in regards to other animals had wording like this. Debbie Poplin stated the “emergency” clause was already in place in regards to other animals. But that wasn’t the part that concerned Roddy. Roddy focused on the first 33 words:
“The Animal Control Board shall have the right to enter the permitted property during reasonable daylight hours to inspect the hen enclosure and condition of the animals in the enforcement of this law…”
To this, Poplin responded that there was no other ordinance on record like that. All present were to find out that there was a reason for that.
In a break with City Council protocol, Nick Pavlis, noticing someone in the crowd trying to get council’s attention, invited a man to address council though he had not signed-up to speak. No one recognized the man. He had no affiliation with any person or group present, and what he pulled from his folder surprised us all.
The Bill of Rights sat in his hands. Before he read, he explained that he had had no intention of speaking that night and that he wasn’t that great a speaker, but he had something he needed to say.
He read Amendment #4 which guards against unwarranted searches and seizures. It reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
When he finished reading, he stated, “I can’t believe you forgot about this. I might look like a hippie, but I’m a [military] vet and what you’re saying is an insult to what I fought for.” At that point, a light bulb lit the audience members’ minds and a cheer went up for the stranger. Now, the discussion wasn’t about chickens, it was about defending the 4th Amendment.
Della Volpe’s proposed ordinance change means that animal control, a police entity, has the right to enter a private citizen’s yard without probable cause or former notice to inspect a coop, and if sees fit, remove the chickens. Della Volpe responded to the man’s statement by basically saying that when a person purchases a (chicken) permit, in buying that permit, that person waives their constitutional rights.
Della Volpe’s change to section (k) went to vote. Five council members voted yes. Chris Woodhull, Marilyn Roddy, and Joe Bailey stood strong and voted no. It was mentioned before the vote that the city’s law department could hash-out the wording of the change, but maybe what really should have happened is that City Council should have told Della Volpe to take his amendment change and shove it down his throat.
For remaining strong in the face of adversity, Marilyn Roddy, Chris Woodhull and Joe Bailey are my new local heroes.
Do you think the New York Times will pick this one up? The News Sentinel sure didn’t.
The final vote last night was again unanimous, but nothing is over. The ordinance still needs to go through a second reading, in which time; Della Volpe will continue to come up with more changes to keep delaying the vote unless some of his constituents outside Fountain City Town Hall speak up, but that’s another story. I personally think that the man should be removed from office.
You may recall that Dr. Chad Hellwinckel and a group of citizens started the Knoxville Urban Hen Coalition (KUHC) in February 2009. They have worked very hard at educating Knoxville about chickens. They have been very professional, patient, and diplomatic in all their efforts and especially during the last six weeks of negotiations on Ordinance 9b, Section 5-107.
After last night’s outburst from the crowd, some people did not appreciate the cheers and attributed it to Dr. Hellwinckel’s “group”. As not to create any more confusion as to who may or may not be a part of Dr. Hellwinckel’s “group”, I resigned from the Knoxville Urban Hen Coalition. I wouldn’t want my writing to somehow be misconstrued and thought to be the views of KUHC. I reflect my own personal views, which may or may not be professional, patient, or diplomatic.
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