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Monday, April 20, 2009

Ordinance – Like the Ducks – Doesn't Fly

It was my faint hope that an ordinance prohibiting wildlife and waterfowl feeding would pass without amendment at Monday's city council meeting. The ordinance, as written, would have placed a hefty $500 maximum fine on people who feed wildlife and waterfowl in Rapid City.

Alderman Sam Kooiker (Ward 2) successfully amended the ordinance to graduate the fines from $25 now to $500 in 2012. There was nothing in the ordinance preventing the City Attorney or Magistrate from assessing lesser fines. The amendment took the teeth out of the ordinance.

Alderman Bill Okrepkie (Ward 3) and alderwoman Deb Hadcock (Ward 2) displayed a profound lack of understanding of the issue, both citing the fact that a previous council spent millions of tax dollars creating a "duck feeding area" (read toilet) several years ago. They were concerned about the mixed message of building the feeding area and then telling citizens to not feed the ducks.

The message is simple: A previous council stupidly created the rock monstrosity stupidly encouraging people to continue their stupid practice of feeding ducks until they're too fat to fly, which in turn causes them to crap all over the rock monstrosity, which because it's rock, can't absorb their crap or filter their crap before it reaches water we drink. This council, being smarter, is now telling you feeding ducks is now and always was a real bad idea.

I addressed the council and urged them to pass the ordinance without amendment and encouraged them to bring forward another ordinance prohibiting the release of domestic waterfowl into any Rapid City water.

Alderwoman Karen Gunderson Olson (Ward 3) who was out of town on another council excursion, left a message which alderman Malcom Chapman (Ward 5) read into the record. That message was one of the few sane comments made on the issue, explaining the numerous reasons why the ordinance was needed.

But Hadcock really didn't get it. I don't know if she wasn't listening or if she's just not capable of understanding the issue. But she actually said she was worried the ducks' health would be adversely affected if they didn't get their daily dose of man-provided food. A sliver of the problem may have penetrated her skull, because she at least agreed bread was bad for ducks. But then she suggested the city begin providing duck food that wouldn't be bad for them. Note to Deb: It's all bad for them. The dependence on man-provided food is bad for them. Yes, there is such a thing as Purina Duck Chow. It is made for domestic ducks. It it is intended to make farm ducks big and fat so they will taste better with a nice curry sauce. It is not intended for wild ducks, because it will make them so fat they can't fly.

That's the point Hadcock couldn't grasp. Wild animals should eat what wild animals eat in the wild.

If people quit feeding ducks, eventually we will have a smaller year-round population and we'll have room for those who are just passing through.

Aldermen Ron Kroeger (Ward 5) and Ron Weifenbach (Ward 1) both had good ideas about putting up signs to inform the public about the different birds that make a stop at the lake. These signs would also explain why it is important to not feed them. Hooray! There was a lot of talk about how bad it would be if we deprive our citizens the pleasure of duck feeding. But Kroeger and Weifenbach and later alderman Lloyd LaCroix (Ward 4) all saw the value and the pleasure of taking your kids and grandkids to the lake and learning about wildlife.

Okrepkie said he doesn't want to see little old ladies coming to council meetings and "inching their way" to the podium "with their walkers" to complain about being fined for taking their grandchildren to feed the ducks. Politicians who are unwilling to make unpopular decisions may need to be replaced with ones with the courage to do the right thing.

My 4-year-old grandson is just about ready to go out to the lake and begin learning about ducks. It would be nice if I could teach him about the many species of wild ones, rather than explain to him why the city council wasn't smart enough to prevent the cross-bred ones.

The first reading of the amended ordinance was continued for two weeks. Let's hope six of those on the council will take the advice of the wildlife biologists who made their recommendations to the city.

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