To: Rick Baker, St Petersburg Mayor
Dear Mayor Baker:
The St Pete City Council is again on the verge of passing a law against bird feeders. This law has already passed its first reading, and will have its second reading (and probably passage) on the 20th. It is unlike the law which you vetoed last year -- the first and only veto in the history of St Petersburg, as I am sure you are aware -- in that it does not deal with bird feeding directly. Rather it creates certain vague requirements which no one can know in advance if they are violating. What this means is that anyone who feeds birds -- and especially anyone who feeds birds on a regular basis, as I do -- is now at risk of a 60-day jail term or $500 fine. Of course it is pretty clear that the law is directed against myself and my wife, so maybe we are the only ones at risk. But if bird lovers find out about this law, I don't think they are going to be any happier than when they found out about the last one. Below is a copy of the law, which is an amendment to section 19-1 of St Pete city code. The part in capital letters is the language which is being added; the parentheses indicate language which will be removed:
No person shall damage, befoul, or disturb OR ACT IN A MANNER THAT THE INDIVIDUAL KNOWS OR SHOULD KNOW WILL CAUSE ANY WILD OR DOMESTIC ANIMAL OR BIRD TO DAMAGE, BEFOUL OR DISTURB public or private property of another so as to create an unsafe, unhealthy or unsanitary or (physically) offensive condition.
It is not difficult to imagine a worst-case scenario of how this vague law COULD be enforced. For example, if a small number of birds leave a few droppings around where someone is feeding them, this could easily be declared by the authorities as 'unsanitary' or 'unsafe' on the basis that the droppings might carry micribes from which someone might possibly catch a disease. Indeed, there wouldn't even have to be droppings VISIBLE -- all the authorities would have to say is that birds leave droppings and droppings are 'unsanitary', and bingo, that's a violation of the law. But the easiest thing is for a neighbor just to say that droppings -- or birds -- are 'offensive'.
We often hear that we are supposed to be a 'nation of laws and not of men'. The idea is that laws are supposed to let people know IN ADVANCE what they can and cannot do. The vagueness of the proposed law makes this impossible.
On a personal note, I don't know for sure what is motivating the people behind this law, to which I might add that several months ago I moved my feeding activities well away from the houses of the people who brought the initial complaints, and indeed from ALL houses. I do think, however, that one of the motivations for this new law is because of my webpage, www.thebirdman.org, which is ranked by Alexa.com as one of the most popular web pages in the world (in the top half percent of more than 20 million pages worldwide), where I dare to criticize the uncriticizable ethnic group which includes Mr Kriseman, who was the leader in passing the law you vetoed, and probably the present one. There may be other motivations, too, including ignorance about (and prejudice against) pigeons, and a desire for revenge by just about everybody involved in the attempt last year to convict me and my wife of highly technical violations of a St Pete ordinance, their wish for revenge being fueled by the fact that most of them behaved outrageously and I made an issue out of it, and because I was able to block most of their prosecutorial efforts, including (especially) their efforts to run us out of town. All the details of this outrageous set of events are recorded in a section of my webpage entitled "The St Pete Pigeon Flap" -- go to www.thebirdman.org and scroll down the Table of Contents to find it.
Let me make it plain that I am not asking any favors. Rather I am asking only that you prevent a group of people who are quite obviously eager to hurt me from creating a law which amounts to a trap for the unwary, a vague law which prevents people from knowing what they can and cannot do, and thus a law which undermines the whole idea of having laws in the first place. If I suffer, it will only be for losing the opportunity to feed a flock of birds that I have been feeding without incident for years; altho I have no doubt that Kriseman and his supporters hoped that I would fail to notice the passage of the new law, and would use this as an opportunity to send me to prison, where I would likely be raped and -- as the result of my racial views -- probably killed. My concern here, however, is that there will be others in the future who are likely to suffer much more than I by being subject to the whims of neighbors and by being ground up in the legal mill. I hope this is not the kind of St Pete that you are comfortable with, and that you will veto the law if it is passed.
In conclusion, let me pass on to you some thoughts which I have had as a result of this situation:
* It is a sick society that threatens traditional harmless activities with heavy fines or prison.
* It is a sick society in which animals that have been human companions for 5000 years, which have been vital for human communications until only the last century, which have won numerous medals in wartime for their bravery and sacrifice, and which are models of enterprise, intelligence and loyalty from which humans have much to learn, come to be regarded as vermin that should be exterminated.
* It is a sick society in which the police tell you that you are doing nothing wrong, and then suddenly spring a citation on you.
* It is a sick society when a man and his wife are put thru the legal mill at great expense in emotion and time, and fined $150, for doing something they had been doing for years with no complaint, because certain rich neighbors were able to manipulate the police and prosecutors.
* It is a sick society in which a city that has raised a statue in a public park to a famous local bird-feeder decides to outlaw bird-feeding in public parks.
* It is a sick society when a tiny minority is so dominant that they can reach out and stifle any effective criticism anywhere, among even the humblest of people, as they have tried to stifle me on numerous occasions.
Thank you for your attention.
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