(or this could be sub-titled The Right of the People to Assemble)
This evening, my husband and I headed in two different directions. No, dear reader, no familial split; just a dual scheduling that sent one of us one way, and the other another.
I have been taking our new dog Ziva to obedience lessons. Let's just say that tonight she was . . .not good. Too much energy. Too much distraction. After listening to me for two or three commands, she became very distracted (what with shoppers wandering through the pet store where the lessons are held) and just would not cooperate. I only hope she can graduate next week!
While I was having fun, my husband went to our local township's zoning board that was holding a hearing. Hence the right to free speech title (and the right of the people to assemble sub-title).
The genesis of this hearing was a request from one of our neighbor's to have a variance from a local ordinance. But, let me go back a bit in the story.
We make multiple walks around the neighborhood every day (because of the dog), and along these walks we encounter and chat with neighbors. This is how we came to learn that Jeff, owner of a lovely standard poodle who is great friends with Ziva, was concerned about birds--specifically pigeons--flying over his patio and dropping aerial "bombs." Turns out, his next door neighbor, Sergei, keeps "homing" pigeons. And he was "training" them to visit Jeff's place to eat the bird seed Jeff puts out.
I am not sure exactly how the ordinance limitation came to be known, but I am guessing Jeff called the township office to complain--or at least to inquire. That's how he likely learned of the ordinance that says you can keep birds, such as homing pigeons, only if you live on an acre or more of land.
When he was informed of the limitation, Sergei applied for a variance. So the township zoning board scheduled a hearing. They posted signs around the neighborhood and set the hearing for August 26. So my husband went, in support of Jeff. My husband's point--if you have a zoning requirement, then only a compelling reason would be sufficient for it to be set aside. What was the compelling reason for Sergei to keep pigeons?
When he got to the hearing, my husband found that he was one of ten people who were neighbors attending the hearing. Only Sergei wanted a variance. All the other neighbors, some living next door to, wanted the pigeons gone.
Well, folks, the pigeons must go. Sergei presented no compelling reason. In fact, he said these were not homing pigeons; they were injured pigeons that he had rescued. (?) One neighbor stood up and said--pigeons are nothing more than rats with wings. (As a parenthetic note, I know someone who used to eat her lunch in Trafalgar Square in London who thought the same thing.)
The zoning board voted, 5-0, in favor of the no-pigeon rule.
Oh, it wasn't a great victory. But it was nice to see freedom of speech and freedom to assemble both victorious. Freedom to own pigeons took a hit, however. But then, it's not part of the Bill of Rights, so I guess that's OK.