Chickens Win Big on Election Day

Dear Friends,

The election winners in the City of Boone last night were . . . wait for it . . . CHICKENS! Of all the surprising and encouraging election results in Iowa yesterday, what happened in Boone tops the list. To be clear, no chicken’s actual name appeared on the ballot. But the right to responsibly own backyard hens was a pivotal factor behind voters’ decision to elect three new council members.

April Burch

Yup. Chickens have yet to win the right to vote, yet they sure made a difference in Boone this week . . . chickens and the fact that voters are tired of ineffective government, poor management of tax dollars, and politicians ignoring the life-and-death issues affecting more and more of us.

April Burch is one of 40-50 Boone residents who keep backyard chickens. I’ve seen April’s coop. It’s immaculate, spacious, and if I ever end up homeless again, I want to live there.

“Our flock has been an absolute blessing for our children,” says April. “Our kids have been through a lot in their young lives and what they call ‘chicken therapy’ has really helped them flourish and feel grounded here.”

Meme circulated in Boone prior to yesterday’s election.

For chicken advocates, the pivotal moment happened when a Boone police officer circulated a meme based on Gorillas in the Mist. It showed a rooster in place of the gorilla, and April in place of Dian Fossey, who was killed standing up against corrupt government officials complicit in poaching gorillas.

“The meme was shocking and carried a very sinister and implicit threat,” says April. “It felt like the officer was trying to silence us, maybe to keep us from appearing in front of the city council that night.”

On October 16, the group was scheduled to attend the Boone City Council meeting in response to 650 Boone residents who had signed a petition in favor of allowing chickens. The pro-chicken group’s request was quickly rejected by council members.

Josh Mandelbaum

The dismissive way the pro-chicken people were treated combined with the threatening meme led April to one conclusion: “The way the councilmembers and mayor treated us wasn’t reflective of our town’s spirit. They looked down their noses at us and wouldn’t even consider a compromise. They were brash and mean, and the officer was even threatening. I’d had enough, so I recruited a friend, Dean Erickson, to run against the mayor on a write-in campaign.

Though his name wasn’t even on the ballot and the write-in campaign was announced less than three weeks before the election, Erickson received 25% of the vote. On a write-in campaign! That energy helped translate into victory for three other reform candidates. 

Election results across Iowa were similarly positive. In Des Moines, renewable energy wizard Josh Mandelbaum won against a well-financed former city councilman. “Voters want someone to stand up for them in the ongoing water-quality debate. They want someone who’s going to create a more walkable, bikable city, too,” says Josh.

In Pleasant Hill, Ross Grooters squeaked out a victory for a council seat. I first met Ross during the Occupy Wall Street movement. Since then, he’s continued his unabashed efforts as a proponent of many progressive causes.

Kate Larson

In Dubuque, Kate Larson ran to replace the only woman on the city council, Joyce Connors, who was retiring after 16 years. “This is a working class ward with a lot of diversity in race and incomes,” Kate told me. “I won because I’ve been standing up for issues people care about, especially during my four years on the Parks and Recreation Commission. We worked really hard to run a positive, people-powered campaign, and that’s why people turned out and were excited about it. Turnout was 18%, compared with 8% two years ago.”

I’m still trying to process all that happened last night. I’ve heard of upbeat election results in Ames, Iowa City and Muscatine. If you’ve got details on what transpired in your community, let me know.

Going forward, here’s a big question: What, if anything, do these results say about the 2018 General Election? Kate says, “Last night’s results reflect an awakening. Progressive candidates winning shows momentum that will definitely keep going through the midterms.”

Let’s not merely hope that happens, let’s make it happen. As April Burch showed in Boone, one person —  ok, one person and a handsome flock of chickens — can make a huge difference.

Please like & share:

12 thoughts on “Chickens Win Big on Election Day

  1. Linda Vilmain

    It goes to show the chicken issue brought up issues of council members not listening to many and making decisions on just a few. Looking in from outside the city of Boone, it appears citizens are ready for a change. More than just chicken people voted and many more could have voted if they would have taken the time. The people have spoken.

  2. Boone Resident

    Not one candidate ran only on the “chicken issue” which is why this article is laughable. You all wanted change? Be careful what you wish for.

    1. Ed Fallon

      Here’s what I wrote to intro my column:

      Chickens have yet to win the right to vote, yet they sure made a difference in Boone this week . . . chickens and the fact that voters are tired of ineffective government, poor management of tax dollars, and politicians ignoring the life-and-death issues affecting more and more of us.

  3. Boone Citizen

    This article belies the hard work and commitment of the actual candidates running here in Boone. This IS NOT about chickens. The real story is about grassroots commitment of candidates who really care about their community. Anything divergence from that reality is shameless self promotion.

  4. Sandy madden

    I agree some of the councilmen were rather arrogant. They fail to recognize they were being watched by many.

    1. Boone Citizen

      Ms. Burch was not on the ballot. Chickens were not on the ballot. The election was about making Boone a better place to live. The idea a whole city election was about chickens is an insult to our residents. It’s an embarrassment. The REAL story is about local under-dog candidates who put their hearts and souls into fighting for their community. Ms. Burch should have stepped aside and allowed THAT story to be told.

  5. Greg Piklapp

    Also failed to mention the apology April accepted back in Oct for the posting in the first place and no mention of feeling threatened at that time. Sent you screenshot via Facebook Messenger Ed. Any questions, contact me anytime.

    1. April Burch

      About this apology… I have not received any apology from either of the officers involved. Just to set the record straight.

  6. C.D. Jenkins

    Oh Ed. Your party politicking really shines through here. April Burch a victim? Hardly.

    Did you know April lied to city officials about her chickens? She stated that she had them before the ban, which was a lie. She has created a culture of fear in her own neighborhood with her threatening demeanor. I find it entertaining that you dedicated so much time to her charades. She’s a phony as pleather.

    Take notice Stines, Byrd, and Stecker. If you want to be one term councilmen/women, listen to April Burch.

    1. April Burch

      This is quite laughable. I’m friends with just about everyone in our neighborhood. Two of our neighbors even submitted heartfelt letters to the Boone City Council in support of our family and our chickens. We have a lot of fun in our neighborhood and we support each other.

      I also find it humorous that I’m receiving these exact same messages via Facebook from an individual whose entire profile is a lie. I have nothing to hide. According to the Ames Tribune in 2015 (http://www.amestrib.com/news/boone-approves-amendment-concerning-chickens-residential-areas), the Boone City Council doesn’t even know *when* chickens were “banned” or why. There’s also zero evidence of any such ban in the formal record of ordinance changes all the way back to 2003.

      In case you didn’t notice, the people of Boone sent a pretty clear message rejecting the kind of intimidation and baseless defamation tactics you (whoever you are) seem to enjoy. Might be time to let it go and move on already. We’ve got a bright future ahead of us and a lot of work to do.

      1. Boone Citzen

        Exactly the issue April. You were not on the ballot. Our new Council members have work to do. Not you. You are not a puppet master.