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Mayor of Plymouth refused to debate chicken issue

(Op-ed and video provided toNorthIowaToday.com by James Kleven of Mason City, who attended the Plymouth City Council meeting on January 5th, 2012.)

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The newly appointed mayor of  Plymouth, Mark Harrington, called to order the first city council meeting of the new year on January 5, 2012 at seven p.m. at City Hall.  Roll was taken and the tentative agenda was approved. They acknowledged visitors and public forum.

The first item on the tentative agenda was skipped; this was to address the issue to which brought 15-20 townspeople to support their neighbor (raising chickens within the city limits.) The mayor turned the floor over to Mr. Howard, who was trying to discuss changing of the poultry ordinance (to allow raising chickens inside city limits, which is not allowed, but done so by some residents.) Mr. Howard was notified that he was not in compliance with the city ordinance that has outlawed raising chickens. Mr. Howard went to the city council meeting to address the issue, with signatures from 90 of 98 residents in support of changing the ordinance. The city council said they would check other city ordinances to compare and figure out how to write a new ordinance. Mr. Howard did not attend the December meeting, but as of January’s meeting the city had checked with one community to compare ordinances and that was the city of Belmond, IA. The mayor let Mr. Howard speak for less than two minutes before the mayor was on the defense.  The mayor refused to listen, raised his voice, and would not answer any questions.

Mr. Howard and the residents that came in support tried to ask questions only to be told it’s closed, done!  And then the mayor tried to discredit the validity of the signatures, of which he had 129 this time. The Mayor claimed, ”he didn’t know how to change the ordinance” nor the process to do so. “It’s not as easy as you think. It’s a long drawn out process. The matter is closed we have taken care of this. As long as I’m mayor we’re not going around in circles with you. And I’m the mayor.  The matter is finished you are wasting everybody’s time,” The mayor said.

The mayor then adjourned the meeting, only to call the law, retreat to the backroom and abandon the rest of the council which was still seated, to absorb the rest of the barrage of questions, facts and opinions from the now frustrated, scorned, constituents.  At that point the only true discussion of the issue was done and that was with decorum by council member Howie Berman and Jeff Robak, only.  It was after the new mayor had sequestered himself to the back room and closed the minutes.  The sheriff’s office showed up and Mr. Howard was escorted out of the meeting. Democracy in action it was not!

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