September 21, 2010

A victory for Chickens In The Yard.

Fresh eggs, coming soon to a neighborhood near you!
by Nate Rafn
September 21st, 2010

Salem is so close to having chickens, I can almost taste it!

Last night Salem City Council held a public hearing and a vote on Ordinance Bill 19-10, the document that governs the keeping of chickens within Salem city limits. Fourteen Salemites testified in favor of the ordinance, while two spoke in opposition. The crowd at City Hall was substantial, with Chickens In The Yard (CITY) supporters filling most of the seats.

After spirited testimony, the councilors were given a chance to amend the language of the ordinance. The original reading states that anyone in violation of the new ordinance (keeping a rooster, failing to obtain license, etc.) would be charged with a misdemeanor! This outrageous component of the ordinance was swiftly replaced with a lesser violation by City Council. Minor changes were also made to the section about licensing and inspection fees. Councilor Cannon proposed a practical change that would allow chickens to leave the confines of their coop, if kept under the watchful eye of the owner.

Barbara Palermo, of CITY, speaks to City Council.
Lisa Clarke-Burnell, of Neighborhood Harvest, speaks in support of chickens.

With amendments in place, the counsel voted.

Yes Votes

Bennet, Ward 1
Tesler, Ward 2
Nanke, Ward 3
Sullivan, Ward 4
Dickey, Ward 5
Clem, Ward 8
Taylor, Mayor

No Votes

Rogers, Ward 6
Cannon, Ward 7

Councilors Rogers (left) and Cannon (right) listen to testimony.
I was surprised by two things. First, Councilor Dan Clem has been one of the most stubborn opponents of this bill. He claims that his constituents in West Salem are overwhelmingly against chickens. But according to Barbara Palermo of CITY, public record shows that Clem has received far more emails in favor of chickens. Clem shocked many people last night when he changed his mind at the last moment. He said, after hearing the testimony that evening, that he was willing to put trust in the residents of Salem and give this bill a chance.

Another odd moment was when Councilor Cannon gave his reasons for voting no. He said that he believes in protecting property rights, and doesn't care whether Salem allows chickens or not. But he voted no because, according to Cannon, the bill was too restrictive and too complicated. I'm not sure what his rational was for this decision. It may be some deep-seated issue of principal. But if we have no ordinance at all, that is far more restrictive than passing an ordinance that has a few rules attached. It didn't make sense to me.

Council Chambers at Salem City Hall.
What Happens Now

As I understand it, the amendments to the ordinance will be added by city staff, and a final reading will occur sometime next month. Council will vote on the final bill at that time.

For more information about Chickens In The Yard, visit their website at

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