by Max Brantley
The Coalition to Save the Geese of Burns Park has split the sheets with the city of North Little Rock over Mayor Pat Hays' proposed ordinance to give the mayor power to allow hunting of nuisance animals on three days' notice, without City Council review. The goose coalition, which had committed to raise $12,000 toward the city cost of non-lethal means to control Canada geese in Burns Park, thinks this breaks faith with their earlier agreement. And, though the ordinance in its current form would apply to all animals, is viewed as really aimed at the geese.
The emergency hunt ordinance is on the agenda for tonight's Council meeting.
UPDATE: Mayor Hays pulled the proposed ordinance from the agenda tonight, according to someone who watched the Council meeting. I've been unable to reach anyone to see if he made any announcement tonight about his re-election plans. He'd said he'd announce sometime in January whether he'd seek re-election. Most of the scuttlebutt points toward his retirement.
Read on for both a statement and a letter from an unhappy goose supporter, distributed before the Council meeting:
North Little Rock, AR. (Jan 9, 2012) — Efforts to reach an agreement between the Coalition to Save the Geese of Burns Park and the City of NLR were suspended today after Mayor Patrick Hays introduced new legislation reaffirming and further expanding the city’s right and desire to hunt wildlife within the city’s parks and public lands. The new legislation would allow the mayor sole authority to utilize hunters to exterminate animals on three days’ notice without requiring additional City Council action or public hearing.
“The public came together and spoke loudly against hunting tame geese in our city parks,” said Scott White, one of the founding members of the Coalition to Save the Geese of Burns Park. “Citizens then took it a step further and offered to raise funds to help solve the problem in a humane and effective way. Over $3,500 was raised in only a week and a half. Now, in a bizarre move, the city publicly begins laying the groundwork for even more hunts in the future. The symbolism and timing of this move cripples our ability to raise funds and uphold our end of the bargain. It’s doubtful people will hand over their dollars toward humane wildlife control when they see the city simultaneously arranging to send hunters into the parks on short notice.”
Mayor Hays’ public comments early in the process indicated a hunt may be called in September if non-lethal methods failed and the goose problem persisted. “I think everyone understood lethal methods had not been totally ruled out in the unlikely event friendlier methods failed,” said White. “But, if a hunt may be explored in September, why are we authorizing and even expanding it in January - at the exact moment we’re announcing fundraisers, partnerships, and goodwill on all sides? We needed assurances that humane methods would be given a fair chance to work, and what we’ve been given is the exact opposite.”
The new legislation will be considered at the NLR City Council meeting Monday, Jan. 9, at 7:00 PM. In its original form filed last week(# O-12-01), the new legislation applied broadly to all “nuisance animals,” though Parks & Recreation Director Bob Rhoads said today it could be restricted to cover only geese and coyotes. It’s notable that Parks officials have previously said there are no coyotes in Burns Park, which in part led the overpopulation of the geese which are their natural prey.
LETTER TO THE TIMES
“What does this mean insofar as the donations that were raised to save the geese and implement non-lethal alternatives? Are the geese going to be both, harassed AND shot? People contributed on good faith that the Mayor would be good to his ...promise. Certainly, we did NOT contribute to ADD to the miseries of the geese! Is there some kind of protest in the works? A media or ad campaign? What happens with the fundraising campaign now and where will the monies be applied? I don't want my dollars going for both, harassment and killing. This really makes one sick. Beyond disgusting how this Mayor and Parks people duped everyone. Tantamount to fraud. “ Patty Adjamine.
“My mom says that I am always trying to make sense of things that can’t be made sense of. I was blessed and cursed with a big heart and it has brought me much emotional pain and suffering in life. I am a single parent and I am planning on having a yard sale to donate more money to the Goose fund. I live pay check to pay check and have already donated $100.00. I was planning on pulling some more shifts as an RN at Baptist hospital to contribute even more. I just want to make sense of this. Who the hell does Major Hays think he is? What is wrong with this man? Can someone shed some light on this for me? “