Aldermen seek to legalize ‘new sport’ — pigeon racing

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A pigeon flies in its loft in Two Rivers, Wis., at the home of the president of the Two Rivers Pigeon Racing Club in 2008. | Jaslyn Gilbert/AP file photo/Herald-Times

If three Northwest Side aldermen have their way, Chicago would officially sanction pigeon racing as a sport.

At the behest of his Northwest Side constituents, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) introduced an ordinance at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, lifting the Chicago ban on pigeon racing.

The ordinance was co-sponsored by Aldermen Ariel Reboyras (30th) and Nick Sposato (38th).

“Pigeon racing is a sport that receives no attention in the United States but is deeply loved in Poland. A number of the Polish residents in my Ward have brought that love to their new country and would like to bring the sport to Chicago. Unfortunately our current laws forbid this,” Villegas wrote in a text message to the Sun-Times.

“So, being the upstanding citizens they are, they have worked with my office to try and change the law. While the sport is relatively new to me, I am grateful that these men and women were ready to work within the laws and begin to spread the word about the sport they love. I look forward to scheduling hearings so all Chicagoans can learn about this new sport together.”

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) speaks at a gathering of Belmont Cragin Community residents and leaders last year. File Photo. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) speaks at a gathering of Belmont Cragin Community residents and leaders last year. File Photo. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Under the ordinance, the Chicago ban on pigeon keeping would be lifted if the owner “is a member in good standing of a recognized national not-for- profit professional organization or its local affiliate that requires a minimum standard of care for the keeping and recreational use of pedigreed rock doves.”

RELATED: Pigeon breeders blast city ban as ‘terrible cruelty’ — but some neighbors fed up

Each pigeon would have to registered with the national organization. There would also be “periodic certification” of pigeon enclosures, aviaries or sheds.

Enclosure “shall be of sufficient size and design and constructed of such material that it can be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition, the ordinance states, with “at least one square feet of floor space for each mature pigeon.”

All feed “shall be stored in such containers.”

Villegas moved to lift the ban on pigeon racing, at a marathon Council meeting dominated by discussion of a parade of honorary resolutions.

The meeting started at 10 a.m. and didn’t even get to official business until 2 p.m.

When they finally got down to business, aldermen authorized $6 million more in settlements tied to alleged police wrongdoing; authorized sidewalk cafes to operate year-round when weather permits and outlawed “prostitution-related loitering.”

Championed by West Side Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), the ordinance empowers Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to designate areas of the city where hookers could be ordered to disperse for an eight-hour period before moving on to other forms of loitering.

Ervin has called it a first step toward an even broader anti-gang loitering ordinance to replace the one overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly 20 years ago.

Aldermen also agreed to narrow the focus of a groundbreaking “panic button” ordinance aimed at shielding Chicago hotel workers from sexual harassment.

The new version redefines employees who must receive mandatory panic buttons as those who “clean, inventory, inspect or re-stock supplies” in hotel guest rooms or restrooms.

The change would also cover hotel employees who don’t normally clean rooms, but are reassigned to do so. Those who re-stock mini-bars also are covered. The ordinance is scheduled to take effect on July 1.

The Council also agreed to raise the grand prize limit for Queen of Hearts raffles that public and private schools use to raise money from $500,000 to $2 million. The total value of all prizes in a raffle would quadruple — to $4 million.

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