Whitehall City Council President Brent Howard had to stifle attendees and council members to end what he described as "inappropriate comments" over a proposed pit bull ban during the May 21 meeting.
The legislation, sponsored by Councilwoman Jackie Thompson, that has pitted neighbor against neighbor, received a second reading.
Her legislation for noisy animals was defeated by a 4-1 vote. She was the only vote for the legislation.
Councilmen Bob Bailey and Wes Kantor were absent from the meeting. Votes against the ordinance came from Chris Rodriguez, Leslie LaCorte, Leo Knoblauch and Jim Graham.
LaCorte, who supports the pit bull ban, told Thompson weeks ago that she couldn’t support the noise ordinance. She felt that residents would think that council was coming after pet owners.
Resident Angela Brown told council that she has dogs, one of which is a pit bull mix. She opposes breed-specific legislation, and offered that she has a fenced yard, insurance, updated vaccinations, and all her dogs are microchipped for identification.
Brown said that if a ban is passed, she is prepared to sell her home and move out of Whitehall.
"If you’re so concerned for safety, where is an animal control officer?" she asked.
Saying that the city would be infringing upon her rights, she added that they need to be aggressive with bad owners, as opposed to responsible ones.
Resident A. J. Roberts reiterated the importance of getting back an animal control officer.
"We used to have a diligent officer. It’s much needed, and it certainly won’t hurt the budget," he said.
His wife was attacked a few years ago by a neighbor’s dog, causing several injuries, but it was not a pit bull.
Janiece Miller, whose grandmother was the victim of a home invasion, shared that she witnessed two big fights involving teens this week. She encouraged council to spend more time on those safety issues.
Miller owns a pit bull, and says that she is responsible, following all laws set by the state and county.
Amy Slaga, whose dad and dog were involved in an incident April 27 when three pits owned by Roy Bryson got loose, accused Thompson of being a racist. Bryson is African American.
She said that neighbors who are white own pit bulls, and do not have proper fencing. She asked council to do an investigation on Thompson.
Emily Lowe, the girlfriend of Roy Bryson, said that she doesn’t feel Thompson’s effort is racially based. She did point out that another dog was loose in her neighborhood just after the April 27 occurrence, and no one called the police.
"We love our dogs and think of them as children. We have complied. Put those who fight them in jail," concluded Lowe.
Thompson retaliated by personally attacking all four men on council.
"They have spread malicious gossip about me and my legislation. Their actions remind me of a bunch of mean girls, a bunch of high school bullies, who have been given free reign to harass their opponents," Thompson said.
She also stated that she has filed a complaint with the ethics board.
Thompson continued to display gruesome photos of a child mauled by a pit bull in the home of a Whitehall relative three years ago.
She also expressed her disappointment in the mayor and lack of support.
Howard quashed further comments by Thompson.
Wolfe said, "I do not pass legislation. I do not defeat legislation."
Councilman Jim Graham said, "Government works best when citizens participate," and thanked attendees for input.
There were no comments from anyone supporting the ban.
In other business, an alternative ordinance with stricter enforcement and education-based regarding vicious/dangerous dogs sponsored by Bailey, did not receive its anticipated first reading.
City Attorney Mike Shannon is in the process of making some amendments. It will be ready at the next council meeting.
Shannon also announced that the city has reached a settlement with Village Network, a treatment facility on Poth Road. They will be allowed to provide academic classes, and village Network has agreed not to sue the city. Council adopted an ordinance that will no longer allow business offices or treatment facilities as a permitted use in the industrial Park. Village Network is grandfathered.
Council also adopted a resolution to assess property taxes for maintenance the city has had to perform. An administrative fee has been added, and property owners will now be charged $250 for maintenance and mowing services. The four homes recently torn down by the city total $26,160 in assessments to cover the cost incurred by the city.
Zach Woodruff, community resource coordinator, announced that Scotts Miracle-Gro Kids are volunteers who do projects throughout the summer. They will be at the senior center on June 21 to prepare six garden plots. The plots, 8 feet by 16 feet, have already been designated to various groups, including the senior center.
The next council meeting will be June 3 at 7 p.m.