Emotions ran high at Monday night’s City Council meeting in response to a planned deer cull in Ann Arbor, scheduled to begin this week.
The meeting was housed temporarily in the chamber of the Washtenaw County Administration Building due to renovations in City Hall. Members of the public packed the room and spilled into the outlying hallway, many brandishing signs expressing their opposition to the city’s plan to kill a portion of Ann Arbor’s deer population.
In September, City Council approved a cull of up to 100 deer in response to concerns about the city’s growing deer population. The move has prompted controversy over the past several months, culminating in legal action and several protests.
During the period for public comments at the meeting, some speakers accused Councilmembers of irresponsibility, arguing that public opinion and safety regulations have been ignored on this issue.
Ann Arbor resident Sabra Sanzotta, a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by Ann Arbor Residents for Public Safety against the city to halt the cull, expressed her frustration with the council’s decision to move forward.
“I see you don’t care much about facts, or public safety,” Sanzotta said. “Our council has been bought and sold — cheaply.”
Barry Powers, the attorney representing Ann Arbor Residents for Public Safety, referred to the lawsuit in an especially tense exchange during which he moved beyond the area given to public speakers, approaching council.
“If you start this cull in the face of the Constitution, you’re all violating your oaths of office,” Powers said.
When Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) requested that Powers return to the podium as he delivered his speech he refused, stating the room belonged to the public, and was met with applause from the crowd.
“What do we want? Stop the Shoot!” the crowd chanted between each speaker. “When do we want it? Now!”
Other residents speaking during public commentary used less pointed rhetoric, but nonetheless questioned the need for the cull and said their concerns for public safety were not being fully addressed.
Ann Arbor resident Ellen Rowe told the council that although deer are an occasional nuisance in her backyard, they are integral to Ann Arbor’s habitat.
“The idea that City Council could overturn firearm laws behind closed doors without citizen input is unconscionable, as is the short turnaround time between the announcement of park closing plans and its implementation,” she said.
“Ann Arbor should be a leader in developing nonlethal means of controlling nuisance deer, and while it may take money and several years to create such a plan, it would set standards and protocols around the country,” she added.
In response to the concerns, Briere pointed out measures the city has taken, including the distribution of postcards to residents near where the cull would be active, modifications to school bus routes to keep schoolchildren away from culling areas, and the use of GPS by cull shooters to verify a 450-foot safety radius from all residential properties.
The cull is currently slated to begin Wednesday, barring any legal action stemming from the lawsuit filed earlier this week.