Deer hunting will be decided in April special election

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

And now it goes to voters.

After nearly a year of often heated public discourse, it will take a special election that marks the city's first-ever referendum to decide the matter of whether a bowhunting deer program will be implemented within the city limits.

The Cape Girardeau City Council voted 4-3 against repealing the ordinance that it initially passed in July with the same tally. Because it was an emergency reading it would have required five votes to succeed. Council members John Voss, Mark Lanzotti, Meg Davis Proffer and Trent Summers voted against rescinding the ordinance that would have implemented a hunt this fall. Mayor Harry Rediger, Loretta Schneider and Kathy Swan voted in favor of recalling the program.

The very next bill, which came as the clock ticked past 9 p.m. as part of a chock-full agenda, was to put the issue before voters, which is charter-mandated in light of the initiative petition that was submitted to the city with the signatures of more than 4,000 registered city voters asking for the repeal or a vote.

The special election, with a tab of about $25,000, will be in April.

But on Monday night, the group that gathered those signatures during the August primary made another appeal to the council to end the debate over an ordinance that its members say isn't safe and the program itself inhumane.

Stephen Stigers, the head of Cape Friends of Wildlife, urged the council -- as his group has for months -- to abandon the plan by repealing the ordinance, which he said would save taxpayers the expense of an election and the public from more discussions that even he has found tedious.

"We're all tired of it," Stigers said. "I'm so tired of being in the spotlight. I just want it to be over with."

If the council were to agree, Stigers offered his group to provide leadership in helping research better ways to battle what some say is an overabundance of deer that ruin lawns and contribute to motor vehicle accidents.

After the repeal failed, Councilman John Voss, the program's chief proponent, took Stigers to task, saying that he was disappointed that the group has been so unwilling to compromise. Voss attended a Cape Friends of Wildlife meeting in August, offering to try to persuade the council to put the matter on the upcoming scheduled November ballot if the group would withdraw its initiative petition if he was successful.

"I came into the lion's den and was flat-out rejected," Voss said. "So for you to lecture us about the cost of an election when it could have been put on the November ballot disappoints me. This issue could have been done in 34 days with no extra cost to taxpayers and instead it will be three or four more months."

But Rediger, Swan and Schneider all sided with the group. Swan said she felt the program did not have enough safety measures. Rediger said he still was uncomfortable with the acreage sizes set out in the program that would allow hunting on private property. The ordinance was tweaked several times, finally approved for three acres, a level that could be reached by contiguous landowners. The proposal would also have called for hunters to be older than 18 and to hunt from an elevated position.

According to the charter, the council's vote not to repeal the ordinance starts the clock on a vote. The vote is not to be held fewer than 30 days and no more than 120 days from the date of the council's last action on the issue.

Judy Graetz, the woman who brought the issue to council last year, was again on hand Monday night. She asked the council to put the issue before voters.

"Please let this final stage of democracy play out," she said.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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