Thursday , July 27, 2017 - 5:06 PM5 comments
OGDEN — Chickens might determine who gets elected to the Ogden City Council this year.
The right to raise backyard chickens roused surprising passion during a candidate forum Wednesday evening, July 26, at Ogden’s downtown amphitheater. A total of 16 candidates are vying for four City Council races on the ballot this year, three of which go to a primary vote Aug. 15.
Xiomara Chinchilla, one of six candidates in the At-Large Seat B race, is originally from Honduras but became a U.S. citizen in 2003. Chinchilla said she was in Colorado when a voter called to ask what she thought about chickens.
“And I was like OK, what about it? Chickens? I couldn’t believe my ears,” Chinchilla said. “But it seems like a very hot topic here. And I’m in strong support of you as a citizen to have whatever pets you want and as many chickens as you want if they don’t harm anyone. They provide delicious meals and fresh eggs, so long life to chickens.”
Mary Khalaf, also vying for the At-Large Seat B seat, struck a more serious note.
“I’m pro chicken ... but it’s not really about chickens, it’s about the Constitution. It’s about people who own property and have control over it,” Khalaf said. “When the government can control your food, they can control you. And it really goes back to the American spirit of rebellion. We should be able to have chickens because we’re American.”
Chinchilla and Khalaf are among five contenders hoping to unseat two-term incumbent Bart Blair, who took a more cautious stance on fostering family fowl.
“I don’t think it’s fair to ask people if they’re pro or against chickens,” Blair said, noting that he and Council member Marcia White hold at-large seats and are tasked with representing the entire city. Blair acknowledged that Ogden already has “illegal” backyard chickens “and there are people who do a great job with it. I want to be able to allow everyone the opportunity to have something positive in the yard next door to them and on their street. I believe that’s my role as a city council member, to provide the better good for everyone.”
Nelson Riches, another candidate challenging Blair, self-identified as “a proud law-breaking citizen for the past four years.”
“We keep chickens because they are sustainable for a lifestyle, we have eggs from them, they’re more useful than cats and less noisy than dogs,” Riches said. “With all due respect to Marcia (White) and Bart (Blair), I’d like to ask where they’re getting their information when they say they support the entire city, because in all my campaigning, I’ve only come across two or three people who say they don’t want chickens in the city.”
Marcia White chairs the City Council and seeks a second term. But she faces four challengers in Ogden’s At-Large Seat A race.
“I’m personally pro-chicken, but ... I represent all the people in this city, so the policies we make need to be for the greater good, not just a few,” White told the small amphitheater crowd. “As we look through and try to establish a policy, it has to be congruent with the established ordinances we (already) have.”
The issue came before the Ogden City Council about 10 years ago, White said, with former Council members Caitlin Gochnour and Amy Wicks spearheading the unsuccessful drive to enact a backyard chicken ordinance.
The Ogden Chicken Alliance, a group of advocates working to educate area residents on the benefits of backyard chickens, has been working with city officials to revisit the issue and draft a new ordinance.
John Christiansen, who is part of the alliance, urged Council members to heed what their constituents have to say.
“Citizens are speaking, and they want chickens,” Christiansen said Wednesday, noting his support for warnings, fines, probation and suspension if chicken owners violate future rules and regulations.
The alliance is hosting a “Prepare the Ordinance” event at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 29, at Grounds for Coffee, 3005 Harrison Blvd. The group’s Facebook page urges interested individuals to “stop by, have some coffee and be a part of this important activity.”
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, the Ogden City Council will host a fact-finding session on the issue.
Councilman Doug Stephens, who faces two challengers in the Municipal Ward 3 race, said that after meeting with John and Liz Christiansen, he had a better understanding of what it means to own chickens in Ogden.
“We already have chickens (in the city), and maybe an ordinance would clarify,” Stephens said. “If we work together and go through the right process ... we’ll have an ordinance that will benefit everyone in Ogden on this issue.”
Wednesday’s 90-minute forum was hosted by the Junior League of Ogden and Weber County League of Women Voters. Other questions involved Ogden’s revitalization and diversity. Each candidate was also asked to name an influential woman in his or her life.
The three Ogden City Council seats on the Aug. 15 primary ballot include:
Candidate contact information is available here.
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