I have seen many emails sent to this council concerning the ad hoc committee and how it has been stacked to ensure a 4-3 vote to leash dogs on the beach all spring, summer and part of the fall. I think that is very true and obvious to everyone on all sides of the issue.
However, I would also like to point out that the committee is stacked in terms of expertise as well. There is not a single dog professional, or dog expert of any kind on the ad hoc committee. How in the world is it appropriate to form a committee to deal with the animal control ordinance provisions relating to dogs and not have a dog expert on the committee? It might be appropriate if the entire committee was composed of non-experts and they were inviting experts in to speak to the committee on their areas of expertise. But the committee doesn’t plan to invite any speakers because “there is no time.”
The committee does have a few “experts” though. There is an ornithology expert, there is someone who has been a Plover monitor since the 70’s, there is an attorney, (all voting for leashing the dogs of course.) But there isn’t a single person with either professional or competitive dog experience or expertise on this committee. There isn’t a dog trainer, or someone who competes with their dogs, or a dog daycare owner, or a vet, or a vet tech, or even a dog sitter or a dog walker. The council was offered names of people with those types of qualifications who were willing to serve on the committee, but of course they were rejected.
So how is the ad hoc committee even going to address dog-related issues? Well, that was clear from the second meeting when one member of the committee stated that voice control doesn’t work because she has trained her dogs really well but they still run away from her a couple times of year. Seriously? That’s the only type of discussion it takes to decide voice control can’t work? Personal experiences of members of the committee? One person’s experience with their own “well-trained” dogs who just have this bad habit of running away occasionally is going to be the standard? No professional opinions?
Of course there WON’T be professional opinions or suggestions because 1. there ARE no dog professionals on the committee, 2. because the committee is determined to meet an unrealistic deadline and has no time to call for professional testimony and 3. the majority of the committee is already convinced that dogs need to be leashed during the spring, summer and part of the fall, so why waste time asking for another opinion?
Speaking of professionals, there is a lawyer/council member on the committee, Councilor Donovan. There isn’t a lawyer on the DOGS side. There are plenty of people in the DOGS group who are lawyers. Names of those people were also offered and rejected for the ad hoc committee. So instead of a balance, a lawyer on both sides, we have councilor Donovan presenting his interpretations of legal issues as THE LAW. There is no one on the committee to call him on that, to counter the “voice of authority” that he is using to convince the committee that what he says is black and white and not subject to challenge or interpretation. There is no one to offer an alternative legal interpretation – of which there are plenty.
I am proud of the members of the committee that ARE on the “dogs side.” They are doing a great job in difficult circumstances. I bring up the composition of the committee not to disparage them but to point out the fact that this committee is stacked. And it is stacked in more ways than one – both in numbers and in composition. This committee is an embarrassment to this town. It is clear, not only in terms of the numbers of votes but in terms of expertise, that the purpose of this committee is to present the council with the results it wants and to do it in such a way that the voice of the majority is not heard.
Fortunately the majority that voted in December will also be voting again in November. And THAT vote won’t be so easily ignored.
Councilor Blaise: No response
Councilor Benedict: No response
Councilor Caterina: Response 1/13/14:
Hi, Catherine – I appreciate your input. I think that we all need to let the committee do its work and not prejudge the outcome. I have no idea what they might devise, but I remain hopeful that a spirit of give and take prevails.
Scarborough Town Council
Councilor Donovan: No response
Councilor Holbrook: No response
Councilor St. Clair: No response
Councilor Sullivan: No response