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Despite councilman's offer, anti-deer hunting group to proceed with referendum efforts
Opponents of a new urban deer hunting ordinance won't abandon efforts to get the city's first-ever referendum before voters, despite an offer from a city leader -- and the program's top supporter -- to let the Cape Girardeau City Council do it for them.
Councilman John Voss attended the Tuesday meeting of Keep Cape Safe, with what he calls a "compromise" proposal. Voss pledged to try to persuade the council to put the matter on the November ballot. In return, if he was successful, Keep Cape Safe would not submit its petition, or withdraw it if it had already been submitted. Voss said his reason for this proposal was to avoid having the issue appear before voters in two elections.
"At first blush, I felt a surge of relief," group organizer Stephen Stigers said. "So many of us were working so hard, gathering signatures and putting in so much time and money. It sounded wonderful to not have to pursue the referendum and voters still having a chance to decide."
After the meeting, Stigers and other members of Keep Cape Safe -- an offshoot of Cape Friends of Wildlife -- met and discussed Voss' offer. Stigers said they wondered why Voss was approaching them now after months of sometimes heated debate about the program that would allow an archery deer hunting season in the city limits later this year.
Stigers has his suspicions that it has something to do with saving face: "He sees we are winning, that more folks are agreeing with us. They would rather have control and say they put it on the ballot rather than us putting it on the ballot and have their bad ordinance overturned."
Attempts Wednesday to reach Voss by telephone and email were unsuccessful.
On Wednesday morning, Stigers had conversations with Voss and Mayor Harry Rediger to discuss the proposal. Stigers understands that many are tired of dealing with such a heated issue that has divided the community. Still, he said, he believes it's in the best interests of those who are concerned that the program is unsafe for them to move forward.
Keep Cape Safe wants to make sure to have the required 2,446 signatures collected and certified in time to have the ordinance suspended until it can be put on the ballot. The city's charter calls for disabling any ordinance after the signatures are verified until voters have a chance to weigh in. The group says it has already collected more than 1,000 signatures and expects to gather more than it needs at the primary election polling places Tuesday.
While he may have suspicions about motives, Stigers was quick to say he believes the council is made up of honorable members who are trying to do the right thing. Still, he said, "at best they're looking inconsistent. We would be happy to see the ordinance rescinded and put behind us. But I think we have to do the right thing and stand up for our principles."
Rediger said he knew of Voss' proposal and that he welcomed the idea. Rediger, who was one of three who voted against the hunt, said he did not think Voss would have had any trouble getting the necessary votes to put the matter on the ballot. The issue was given final approval by the council July 16. The city's charter says the council can call an emergency meeting if it is considering an election and pass an ordinance in one night if at least five of the seven council members agree. The process usually takes two meetings.
The certification date to get the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot is Aug. 26. While Keep Cape Safe can't complete the monthslong process in that time frame, the council could. Rediger said the issue will likely be discussed at the council's next meeting Monday night. He doesn't know if an ordinance will be on the agenda yet or what form that may take. It could be just a discussion item, Rediger said.
"I don't know where it's heading at this point," Rediger said. "We'll see."
401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO