The common metaphor to describe an unnecessarily aggressive approach — using a sledgehammer to drive a nail — occurs to us when considering the Baker City Council’s recent debate about roosters.

We think the Council’s ultimate decision, to reject a proposed ordinance that would have banned roosters within the city limits, was the right one.

We’re not downplaying the citizen complaints about crowing roosters that prompted City Manager Fred Warner Jr. to bring the ordinance to councilors in July. Certainly the city has an obligation to try to respond to such complaints.

But this particular problem already had a potential solution by way of an existing city ordinance dealing with “unnecessary noise.” Section 97:07 of the property maintenance ordinance reads: “No person shall make, assist in making or permit any loud, disturbing or unnecessary noise which either annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, safety or peace of others for a period of five minutes or more in any fifteen minute period except as exempted for construction activities.” A subsection more specifically deals with roosters, as it defines as a violation “The keeping of any bird or animal which by causing frequent or long-continued noise shall disturb the comfort and repose of any person in the vicinity.”

But the City Council, by approving the first two of three required readings of the proposed ordinance banning roosters outright, provoked a not-surprising outcry from residents, some of whom don’t raise fowl but who consider the rooster’s distinctive call an audible symbol of small-town life.

One opponent presented a petition with 175 signatures during the Council’s Aug. 14 meeting.

Councilors, to their credit, respected this response — a relatively unusual show of solidarity for a City Hall proposal.

We hope the episode will remind city officials, when they’re considering ways to respond to residents’ complaints, to take a thorough look at existing regulations before proposing new ones that are broader than they need to be.

From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.

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