Rallied by a call by a former mayor, approximately two dozen local business members and members of the High Desert Tea Party descended on the Hesperia City Council meeting Tuesday night -- and failed to sway them.
As of March 15, 21 years after President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, what constitutes a service animal is defined for the first time -- dogs and, in some cases, miniature horses.
Except in Hesperia: At their March 1 meeting, the city council voted to retain the original non-definition in Hesperia, so long as the animals are accompanied by a doctor's note certifying their status as service animals. The council was throwing their support, effectively, behind resident Danni Moore, who uses a pair of rats to head off her seizures.
Former mayor and current planning commissioner Bill Jensen was one of a handful of residents to speak out against the ordinance on March 1, along with his brother Don. After the council voted 4-1 to pass the measure, Jensen, co-founder of the High Desert Tea Party, sent an e-mail out to local Tea Party activists on Monday aftenroon, asking them to attend Tuesday's meeting.
"Why are we proceeding when there's an overwhelming voice against it?" Don Jensen asked. A show of hands showed almost two dozen people at the meeting were there to oppose the ordinance. "I don't know what's going to walk into my business tomorrow or into a restaurant."
"Which business gets to be the guinea pig?" asked Don Parkman, a 2010 city council candidate who also owns a commercial cleaning company. "Is it my business?"
"In this economy, I think it's a really bad idea to implement new regulations," said Yvonne Woytovich, CEO of the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce. "I think that the ordinance as written is detrimental to Hesperia and would ask you to reconsider."
"People who have service animals have them for a reason," said Pat Kohut, who volunteers with Moore at the Hesperia branch library. "They are imperative to their care."
"In 2010, with no input from Congress, the Obama administration arbitrarily decided to change 21 years of settled law," said Dave Holman, a 2010 Hesperia city council candidate, who cares for a hemiplegic brother who is completely paralyzed on his left side. "Shame on all of you here for standing with the Obama administration to strip the civil rights from your fellow Americans."
Moore, whose rats were the impetus of the measure, said the city's new ordinance did not permit service animal owners free rein in the city's restaurants and businesses: "Any service animal that touches another patron or food should be asked to leave."
In the end, the city council was not swayed from their previous position.
"I'm glad I'm not on Barack Obama's side," said Mayor Pro Tem Russ Blewett, "because that would pain me greatly."
"I believe this ordinance unduly submits this city to undue peril," said Councilman Bill Holland, the lone vote against the measure at the March 1 meeting.
The council reaffirmed their previous vote, with another 4-1 majority and Holland as the only dissenter.
According to city attorney Eric Dunn, Hesperia is the only municipality in California that he knows of to pass such an ordinance.
The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on April 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Avenue.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.