Some good things are happening:
- Lowe-White Park is now open. It has new tennis courts, basketball court, nature trails, playground, and a real working drinking fountain and restroom facility. It's open from dawn to dusk.
- The Beautification Committee has been re-activated and will soon be working on initiatives to make our city even more beautiful (and to maintain our city's appearance).
- A Tourism Committee is working to establish goals for the city's tourism department and ways in which we can attract more visitors (especially of the overnight variety).
- A new ordinance to allow A-frame signs has been passed. They were previously illegal, but now there are a set of restrictions that sign owners must follow and a permit process. Information will be sent out to business owners within the next month before the ordinance is enforced.
- The city budget has been passed, which includes a 2.5% pay increase for our city employees and no tax increases for our citizens.
- The city has initiated a facilities assessment and spatial analysis for all city-owned buildings. This will allow us to determine the condition of our buildings, the best way to use each of them, and cost estimates to repair, restore or rebuild them.
- We are close to getting a new city website. Stay tuned for more on this.
- We have a new Alderman! She is Vickie Potter, the wife of Donnie Potter who had to resign for work reasons and recommended Vickie as his replacement. See my next blog post for more on this vote, but we welcome Vickie to the wacky world of municipal government.
The citizen proposal to allow chickens in the city limits died without board action. That means it can be revisited in the future (a "No" vote would have meant one year until it could be reconsidered). The public response was very cool to the idea and only 2-3 advocates made their voices heard at the public hearing and the public comment period during the meetings in which it was being discussed.
I am certainly willing to reconsider an ordinance to allow chickens, but there are 2 large items that need to be addressed before it has any chance of passing the Board of Aldermen: education of the public to convince doubters that chickens can be raised safely, cleanly, and without noise problems, and a solution for the enforcement problem.
If there are enough citizens interested in pursuing a pro-chicken ordinance for Southport, here are some things I can recommend.
- Form a dedicated group of citizens who can help educate our anti-poultry residents about the realities of raising backyard chickens.
- Craft an ordinance (using existing ordinances from other cities as reference) that will be enforcible and practical for Southport.
- Include in the ordinance a provision for volunteer involvement in enforcing the ordinance. We only have one animal control officer and no resources for hiring more anytime soon. Volunteers must be trained and have a full knowledge of both the city ordinance and the care of backyard chickens.
At this time the support for urban chickens seems to be soft, and the number of folks against them is high. If it's ever going to be a reality, at least the above steps should be taken.
My next blog will get down to the nitty gritty on some controversial issues--most notably the proposed port and the authority and influence of the Mayor. I strongly recommend you check it out.
Ciao for now - Ken