Sunday, November 29, 2009

Council members' discussion on possible dogs in parks referendum

I had a chance to watch the part of the Common Council meeting from this past Tuesday where the dog referendum issue was discussed. A few thoughts as I listened to these "decision-makers" volley this issue back and forth.

1. I was opposed to a binding referendum, believing instead that if these councilors, or the idea's sponsor, Tony Palmeri, were truly concerned about doing the people's bidding (or the voters,' anyway), they should make it a binding referendum. Any time you put an advisory referendum out there you have to wonder what the true intent is. You're going to get the opinion of the voters, so why not do what the majority of those voting want you to do?

2. Harold Buchholz seemed concerned about the cost of having such a referendum. This struck me as odd, since Palmeri wasn't talking about holding a special election. The cost, if any, would be negligible at best because the question would be asked on a ballot that was already being printed. This was kind of a weird position to take, I thought.

3. Dennis McHugh made a short, yet bizarre comment that he didn't think any council should pass an ordinance they can't enforce. Huh? There are oodles of ordinances the city can't enforce unless they have the proof to do so. Since this issue had to do with animals, let's look at all the pets in this city that aren't licensed. Licensing is required by ordinance, but it doesn't seem to be enforceable unless someone gets caught as a result of something else happening. In the area of traffic ordinances, we have speed limits posted on each street but people speed anyway, with only small numbers of offenders getting caught in comparison to all those who speed. How about those rolling, California stops? Better yet, how about those drivers who don't signal when changing lanes, or who stop in front of the white line instead of behind it, like they're supposed to? The cops rarely, if ever, enforce those violations, even when they're done right in front of their faces. Hell, some even commit the same offenses themselves. And the list could go on and on. So by McHugh's logic then, I guess we should do away with all ordinances on the books that can't be enforced unless people do something that causes them to get caught. I suspect that would leave us with a virtually ordinance-free community.

Jess King had an interesting idea that involved making only certain parks available for people to walk their pets in. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that idea, but at least she's open to the concept and is trying to find an option that could appeal to most everyone to one degree or another.

No doubt, this issue will continue to come up, just as it has for years already, until the powers that be in Oshkosh become more pet-friendly and change the law. It seems to be working elsewhere and there's no reason it can't work here, save for the outcrying of pedestrian thinkers, people with certain fears and those who are just opposed to the idea based on principle, etc.


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