TAMPA — Ybor City chickens have escaped the political chopping block — again.
The Tampa City Council on Thursday declined to do anything about a wild flock of poultry that drew a loud, strong throng of supporters to City Hall to ask council members not to disturb the 1989 bird sanctuary ordinance that protects the chickens.
Council members listened. And they noted that a recent city survey of chickens living in the historic neighborhood has plummeted from 89 to 29 in just a few months.
Hawks were the likely culprits, although Neighborhood Enhancement manager Sal Ruggiero admitted neither he nor his staff had ever seen a raptor "take out a rooster."
In the end, council members decided it wasn’t a problem that needed fixing. Chairman Frank Reddick’s motion to temporarily amend the ordinance to allow humane egg collecting and, possibly, relocating injured roosters and domesticated birds dropped off from outside Ybor, went nowhere.
"I have never received complaints about it until now. It’s part of Ybor City and its fabric. Like the smell of roasting coffee… I think it should be left alone," said council member Guido Maniscalco.
Just a few months ago, several residents showed up at a council meeting with tales of an exploding chicken population that threatened to infest the popular entertainment district.
On Thursday, one person spoke against doing nothing. And she appealed for an end to the spat.
"I’m really tired of this silly divide that we’re having. And I’m literally exhausted by roosters dueling it out between 4 and 7 every morning," said Stephanie Harrison, who said something needed to be done.
She found little appetite among council members to take up her cause. The yellow-clad Ybor Chicken Society had been papering council members with emails and appeals for weeks.
Ybor chicken supporters said the chickens were a form of natural insect control. They talked about how one crossing their path brightened their day. How tourists were charmed by the clutches of hens and chicks wandering the streets. And they pointed to nature asserting its role with the hawks culling the population.
Council member Charlie Miranda agreed.
"I think it’s a glamorous thing to have," he said, recalling the early 1990s when Ybor was known for "prostitution, drugs and tumbleweed."
"It has to have something more than just the buildings," Miranda said.
Reddick wasn’t amused. Referencing an earlier discussion at the meeting about low-income residents soon to be displaced from the Tampa Park Apartments, which border the western edge of Ybor, he repeated an activist’s observation that more people appeared concerned about chickens than people.
"You got people who value chickens more than they value a human life. I think that’s a damn disgrace," Reddick said.
Later, when a woman asked if a ordinance tightening noise restrictions downtown was a back-door way to kill Ybor chickens, Reddick had enough.
"The chicken issue is dead."