Counting chickens detracts from repair of Ybor’s image

Stop and think a second.

Think about what you associate with Ybor — clubs, historical district, stores, food, drinking, Guavaween and chickens.

Wait. Chickens? Free-roaming chickens?

That’s right.

Ybor City has been rife with controversy since it proclaimed itself Tampa’s premier destination for partying in the mid-’90s, transitioning from historical landmark to party central. Sure, there are trendy shops and sidewalk cafes, but clubs have become the area’s staple.

To the dismay of the City of Tampa, Ybor’s clubs have superseded its other businesses. The city recently took an interest in making Ybor more family-friendly and a desirable place to live. And just when it seemed the city was making some progress, chickens appeared and disrupted what the city says is needed change.

“(The chickens) were here first,” City of Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said.

With that, I agree.

Few doubt that chickens have been in Ybor for years. According to yborcitystogie.com, chickens have inhabited Ybor since the late 1800s. Considering that chickens have been in Ybor for more than 100 years, and the majority of businesses have been there 25 years, the chickens should have squatters’ rights. Why, then, do some oppose chickens living where they have for a century or more?

The opposition is spearheaded by Ybor City business owners who say the chickens are noisy and smelly. Trapper Mike Martinez, hired by business owners, has been assigned to monitor the chicken population and has done so by tagging each chicken he encounters.

Martinez said he suspects that businesses owners are poisoning the chickens because he keeps finding dead chickens with no clear indication of cause of death. Business owners, Martinez said, have even asked him to eradicate the chickens from Ybor.

Why are the chickens causing such a fuss among business owners? If patrons and the mayor seem content with the status quo, it is hard to imagine this becoming an issue.

Business owners claim the chickens are hazardous to public health. In an age when it has become acceptable to bring dogs to curbside cafes, I do not see how this issue is any different.

Should the city focus its efforts on moving the animals to farms in Hillsborough or other counties? It seems to me that Tampa would be better served by instilling a feeling of security among Ybor visitors instead of spending money on moving chickens.

Despite a decrease in violent crime since 2001 on Seventh Avenue, there is still a perception that Ybor is home to untold criminal activity. Rather than make a concerted effort to promote a truly safe Ybor, the city has permitted business owners to hire Martinez in an effort to monitor the chicken population.

Iorio says the chickens belong, but she permitted Martinez to count the chickens and bring negative publicity.

One possible explanation as to why she sat idle while business owners hired Martinez is her fear of upsetting those seen as necessary to Ybor’s revitalization.

Iorio is doing the city a disservice by trying to please all parties. While she could not prevent Ybor business owners from hiring Martinez, she should have reached an agreement with them to prevent negative publicity Ybor can ill afford.

Ryan Blaney is a senior majoring in English.

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