Our opinion: Right to say ‘no’Published 10:12am Wednesday, August 21, 2013
We commend the Austin City Council for dropping a potential ordinance banning deer feeding throughout Austin. It was a common sense move, not often seen at the local government level, and we salute council members for recognizing the ordinance as another unenforceable, nanny-state policy.
We are sympathetic to residents who came before the council, asking for something to be done about neighbors who willfully left food out to attract deer to their yards. As Mayor Tom Stiehm said, deer often end up causing accidents, injuries and even fatalities when passing through neighborhoods and crossing roads.
Yet other residents and Stiehm also addressed the natural attraction deer have for some residents. There are plenty of homes in Austin bordering waterways and wooded areas where deer can be found, and Stiehm correctly called for variances should an ordinance pass.
Yet therein lies the trouble with an ordinance banning deer feeding — there are far too many questions involved with such an ordinance.
What does purposefully feeding deer mean? Deer often get into gardens, bird-feeders and other vegetation around properties. Should the city cite everyone who willfully plants a garden near known deer areas?
How can the city enforce the ordinance? Several council members said the ordinance could be enforced through a complaint-based system. In other words, your neighbors should call the city and complain if they find deer in your yard. Perhaps most pressing, there is no objective way a city official could judge whether someone had “willfully” set out food to attract deer. There is no law prohibiting a resident from having a barrel of corn or other feed on his or her property, even if such a resident would be foolish not to anticipate the consequences.
There are more than enough nanny state policies on the state and federal level (and the local level, for that matter). To create another one, especially one so full of exceptions and intellectual holes, would have been a poor decision for the city council to make. We salute their foresight in this matter, and we hope our council members continue to use common sense when making decisions for the people of Austin.