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Council bill is for the birds, and a huge distraction, too

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As our city struggles to solve an escalating public health crisis involving thousands of human beings who have no homes, the City Council fretted at its meeting Wednesday about birds that do have homes.

On the table was Bill 51, introduced by Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, which would require Oahuans who own 10 or more pet birds to buy permits, obtain the permission of their neighbors and allow the city to inspect their homes.

Despite public testimony running 20-to-1 against, the bill unanimously passed first reading and was sent to committee for further consideration.

And once again, Council members proved that their greatest talent is giving life to Ronald Reagan’s old joke about government: "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

Fukunaga said she introduced the bill in response to complaints from some of her constituents about noise and odors from birds kept by their neighbors.

She said a person’s right to own birds in the double-digits should be contingent on "community buy-in."

Bird lovers countered that it’s a minor problem, at most, and that Fukunaga’s proposed solution is heavy-handed, poorly written and likely to cause more problems than it solves.

The bigger concern is the Council’s lack of any sense of priority or proportion in addressing our municipal ills.

The Council just recently refused to fund the Caldwell administration’s request for more staff to deal with the many urgent problems related to widespread homelessness.

Do Council members who decreed that the homeless weren’t worth more staff resources now seriously think it’s important enough business to create a bureaucracy to go barging into homes to count parakeets and sniff their droppings?

There are many city and state laws already on the books regulating dogs and cats, poultry and peafowl, pigeons and game birds, noises and odors, and assorted other real and perceived nuisances.

Surely one of these would cover any significant public health and safety problems caused by pet budgies — except the city constantly complains it lacks the resources to enforce the existing regulations, much less new ones.

Citing scarce funding, the city has cut back on animal control services such as those provided by the Hawaiian Humane Society.

Despite laws regulating poultry, parts of Oahu have become overrun by feral chickens — a bird problem that most residents would agree is of far greater concern than too many pet finches.

Fukunaga’s bill specifically excludes poultry and would do nothing to address the chicken insurgency.

It’s a waste of community energy when the Council gets people all worked up over side issues of little consequence when there is so much unfinished work to be done on matters of significantly more gravity in our lives.

Reach David Shapiro at or

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