Chickens, NDO rule the roost at Chandler candidate debate - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chickens, NDO rule the roost at Chandler candidate debate

May 8th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chickens, NDO rule the roost at Chandler candidate debate
Community
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By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Some clear campaign issues developed during the first debate that separated the candidates for mayor and city council in August’s Primary Election.

First was the push for a non-discrimination ordinance for LGBTQ+ people. The second got laughs, allowing some chickens in backyards of traditional neighborhoods.

The Chandler Chamber of Commerce held the forum on May 3 inside the city’s Council Chambers with former mayor and Justice Court Judge Jay Tibshraeny as moderator.

Incumbent Mayor Kevin Hartke is facing a challenge by Ruth Jones in the Aug. 2 primary, while running for three seats are five candidates: incumbent Matt Orlando, Angel Encinas, Darla Gonzalez, Jane Poston and Farhana Shifa.

Jones did not hesitate with a yes when asked if she is in favor of an ordinance that protects members of the LGBTQ+ community. Hartke read a statement that showed his past support for a discrimination-free society and the non-binding proclamation that he issued but said he is against an NDO.

Tempe, Scottsdale and Mesa joined Phoenix and Tucson last year in passing NDOs.

“I am not currently supporting an NDO because I believe that it’s not the city’s role to determining or discerning micro-aggressions, as opposed to other actions as well as the process that would condone or condemn people’s actions,” Hartke said. “So I believe we’ve not experienced this to a point where that is necessary. And my advocacy is far better than an NDO.”

Hartke said he would use his leadership to stand up for anyone who is experiencing discrimination.

Jones responded: “I think that until you experience discrimination, you cannot say whether or not it’s happened. So while I appreciate a proclamation, I feel that our city needs to have something that protects all of our citizens.

“If our businesses want this, we need to be listening to them,” Jones continued. “And we need to listen to our residents. I’ve spoken with many members of our LBGTQ community and I know that they wish they felt that safe, and they wish they did not feel marginalized.”

The Chamber of Commerce has endorsed passing an NDO, saying businesses want it because many of their workers are concerned about living in a community that does not protect its LGBTQ+ members. Chandler is the largest city in Arizona that has not passed an NDO for that community.

The other issue the two candidates disagreed on was allowing chickens in the backyards of residential neighborhoods.

City staff is currently drafting an ordinance that the Council is expected to consider this summer. It would allow up to five hens on residential properties. Because most homeowner associations ban barnyard animals, the measure would likely only impact traditional neighborhoods.

Hartke said he is in favor of allowing chickens.

“Chandler is one of two cities that does not allow chickens in the entire county,” he said. “I think in today’s world, there is a tremendous desire for people to grow their own food [in] the kind of urban gardening motion movement, as well as raise chickens as a protein source. So I think that that’s it’s something that I believe we should have done a while ago.”

Jones said she would wait at least a year before considering allowing chickens. She said before Council takes that step, it should address code enforcement, which would be tasked with addressing any complaints.

“Currently, we have a problem with code enforcement in our in our traditional neighborhoods,” she said. “As I’ve driven through them, I’ve seen cars in front yards, I’ve seen weeds that were overgrown. So if you’re going to be adding in a farm animal, livestock, to that environment, you’re putting something that’s going to be more difficult on those residents.”

The two candidates addressed other issues that they mostly agreed on, including addressing the police staffing issue, working with the business community, transportation, improving education options for the workforce and the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The debate was mostly civil. Hartke did thank Jones for agreeing with his policies at one point. And when she had gone past the time limit on a rebuttal once, he interrupted her to let her know that. Hartke also exceeded the time limit answering the question.

As the incumbent, Hartke appeared to have a firmer grasp on the issues. Jones struggled at times to provide specifics, especially when asked what the city could have done better during the pandemic. Her answer was “masking.” The city never implemented a mandatory masking policy, so it was unclear what she meant.

The same two issues also divided the candidates for Council.

Orlando, Encinas and Poston all said they support passing an NDO to protect LGBTQ+ citizens. Encinas introduced himself as a member of both the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities.

Shifa said she did not support passing an NDO. Gonzalez said she has not taken a position.

“I’ve been talking to people who are for it, and have been talking to people who are against it,” Gonzalez said, “And I haven’t really seen it or read it to even form my own yes or no, I’m trying to find out and do my due diligence before I come to a conclusion on whether I would vote yes or no on this.”

Orlando said when the federal and state governments refuse to protect a class of people, it is right for the city to step in. Poston said an NDO for Chandler should provide only civil penalties, not criminal. Orlando agreed with that.

Encinas said there is proof that NDOs work, stating, “You know we have over 20 years of precedent nationally that NDOs work and that they are not vehicles to exploit businesses financially or vindictively.”

Shifa was asked specifically if she was for an NDO or against it after giving her answer.

“We cannot legislate people’s heart [with] legislation, if that doesn’t have any enforcement, that’s not going to change the habit of the people,” Shifa said. “So for me, the way the NDO is crafted, that’s not sufficient enough because our U.S. Constitution First Amendment already protects all Americans.”

There seemed to be more agreement on backyard chickens. Poston, Orlando and Encinas said they would vote against it.

“Overwhelmingly, people are telling me that they prefer not to have more chickens in their backyard,” Poston said. “I do you agree with the position that this disproportionately affects our traditional neighborhoods.”

“You know, we can talk about the permit process, we can talk about, we can speak about getting your neighbor signatures,” Orlando said. “If you start doing that, you start putting neighbors against neighbors.”

Encinas says he lives in a traditional neighborhood and is pretty sure one of his neighbors once had chickens illegally. He said he had no problem living next to them. However, he said enforcing the rules would be up to an overworked code enforcement team and he couldn’t support that, saying the potential problems are more than they are worth.

Shifa said if people can have dogs and raise children, she didn’t see a problem with raising chickens.

“So my vote would be yes, because I don’t want to take away the right from those people who have the right, ability, understanding to raise chicken and also I do not want to make others feel that they’re under threat,” Shifa said.

Gonzalez said she could see both sides of the issue and was conflicted. She said she had not yet settled on a final position. When prompted to say how she would vote today, she said:

“I would probably vote no, just because there’s so few people that really want chickens, but that could change.”

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