What's this Blog About?

Politics in Wisconsin as they roll up to every level... and some other thoughts that may cross my mind are explored here from my lefty point of view. My values shape my opinions. You'll always find them in here. Let's have some fun exploring why Liberal values are American values!

Your comments are both welcome and encouraged!
(The watercolor is called Magnolia Tree for Momma, by Audrey Crawford)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shorewood and Chickens

So some friends of mine started a Google group to get chickens in Shorewood, WI. For those of you not in the Milwaukee area, Shorewood is the first suburb north of the city of Milwaukee. It bills itself as Uptown, Upscale, Uncommon.  Well at least that's what the Shorewood BID has to say.  The website says At the Edge of Town and the Heart of Everything.

Shorewood is a really great place to live, raise children and has one of the best school systems in the country.  Property values are high and have barely dropped...even in this economic catastrophy.  The people who live in Shorewood are the heart and soul of the community. Minorities are not only welcomed, but encouraged to live here.  Progressive values are a way of life.  

The Shorewood soccer and girl scout and band moms I have had the pleasure to raise my family with are by far some of the most dynamic, strong, accomplished and cool women I've ever known in my life, the dads are cool too.  

Shorewood is progressive.  VERY progressive.  Politically and socially this is a wonderful community for a liberal hack like me to live in...  Of course not all people in Shorewood are progressive.  The former chair of the state GOP lives here as well as a fellow from the Heritage Foundation.  The national leader of the abstinence only movement lives here as well as the state head of the anti-abortion movement and a well known conservative blogger too.

This is what I love about my community though!  Even with the political differences here and there, Shorewood neighbors for the most part cherish the back yard barbeques, the nightly walks with neighbors and the safety of living in a community hell bent on 3-4 police squads on duty 24/7 in an area that I've mentioned is 1 mile square.  We raise our children as a village because we all believe it takes a village to raise a child.  I think of Shorewood as a tiny town accidentally plopped into a big city.

So with all of these things that I love about Shorewood comes that saying Uptown Upscale Uncommon.  My love comes from the Uncommon part of that saying.  I've been a resident here for all but a few years of my entire life.  I have Shorewood stories of Atwater Beach with the tram and lifeguards and I remember the go-carts.  In particular I remember moving back in 5th grade and being put into Shorewood public schools after being in Harambee, an all black private school in Milwaukee.  This was the late 70's only a few years after the equal housing wars in Milwaukee and we were perhaps the only black family here.  My father had lived here before and knew it was going to be okay because Shorewood was different and so he moved back.  I remember the kids dragging a terrified and crazy shy young me out to play kickball or go ice skating all day and I remember that none of my new friends even seemed to know I was black. If they did, they certainly didn't care and neither did their parents. 

It wasn't perfect, but no where is and this was damn close.

So this is my life in this community.  A community I love and can't imagine not living in...

When a group of people first started talking about chickens, I had no idea that was even an option in a urban community.  My parents had raised chickens in Neenah and Key West and I'd grown up visiting those places.  Ever since Mr Gutnik had us hatch chickens at Atwater in 5th grade I've wanted to raise them, but because I live here in Shorewood, I'd long since resigned myself to the fact that, that was not an option.

Then the Shorewood Chicken movement began.

I followed for months as it moved through the variety of board meetings and finally this week, I decided to show up and see how it would all turn out.  

The facts about urban hens are a bit surprising!  
  • First did you know they allow people to keep chickens all over the country in large urban settings?  Madison, WI and several other communities around the state allow them in urban areas.  Also, Portland, Seattle, Austin, and New York City allow urban hens! 
  • Most don't allow roosters (and we don't want them here).  Hens will lay eggs without them. 
  • Hens are quiet animals unless scared by predators and then not loud enough to drown out the noise of a poorly trained dog.
  • Hens are clean.  Their waste can be dried and composted because they are vegetarians. Unlike carnivorous dog and cat waste that can leave behind horrible live bacteria in the ground for up to 2 years and so cannot be composted, but is very dangerous.
  • Hens in small numbers socialize with their owners and make nice pets.
  • Hens don't smell (unless you have hundreds of them).
  • Hens are vaccinated before you get them.
  • They eat vegetarian food scraps and so decrease human waste.
  • Hens go to vets like all other pets and when its time their time, they are euthanized just like dogs and cats.
  • They live in a small space comfortably and in an urban setting are kept in a coop that can be closed up to protect them from predators at night (and if they can't see them, then don't squawk.
  • Hens in urban settings bring neighbors together.   Some owners give them to neighbors and teach your own or neighbors children about how their food is raised. 
  • Most cool is the obvious hens lay eggs and you can eat fresh eggs! 
I go to the meeting and what grated on me most was two things.  First a board member asking what we mean by "progressive"...  "I don't know what that word means.", she said.  This is an elected official, in office for at least 10 years who I vote for asking us to define a political term for her...  The other was a woman who threw out that she "moved to Shorewood for the terms uptown and upscale this only gets to the term uncommon".  I don't know how long she's been here, but uncommon is why I live in here.  It is upscale and physically uptown, but in so many ways most of the communities that have those traits are unfriendly, and class oriented. 

A group of people wanted to redo Atwater Beach to the glory of only 20 years ago and Friends of Atwater Beach was started.  We lost our bookstore and the Shorewood Book Coop is well on its way.  When people just wanted to get involved, Grassroots Shorewood, now Grassroots Northshore was created to funnel people into cool progressive projects.  Our high school has done Urinetown and Rent (first high school in the country) in just that past four years.  No one has tried to ban a book here in the 20 years I've lived here; National Coming Out Day is celebrated at the high school with a picnic on the front lawn, bands and comraderie; typically banned books are part of the curriculum for all students.

Shorewood is family, children and community centered.  Just the place where a progressive slow food movement like owning a few backyard hens should be embraced.

I was pretty disappointed when board member Dawn Anderson was at least willing to support looking into a pilot program, and Eckman and Hannewall stopped her in her tracks as if that was a ludicrious idea.  Frankly I was surprised by the abruptness of their approach and dismissiveness of the 20 or so people in the room supporting the measure.

The "facts" they presented are all countered by the scientists, animal specialists, veteranians, city officials and urban hen owners in other communities as out and out false.

There's a lot more to say about this issue and I'll be blogging about it here and there as well. Milwaukee is also attempting to pass an ordinance to allow urban hens and they are having much more success there than here so far.

After the meeting, I thought I was talking to the activists on the issue about how to get a direct legislation petition (referendum) on the ballot.  I was talking to a JS reporter LOL!

So, yes, I'm the Renee Crawford MJS wrote about this week.  Yes, I do want chickens.  Yes, I will continue to work on the issue.  And yes, I'll now be blogging on chickens as well as the many other things I post on when my take is warranted.

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