July 11, 2007

The geese got cooked

Whether you love, hate or are indifferent to the geese population in Union County one thing is for certain, the county lied about managing the problem. The freeholders dealt with the geese the same way they deal with most every public issue; by not dealing with it much beyond a photo op.

Although geese mate for life and dote after their young, since 2003 the county has been employing a company which swoops in while the geese are molting and can’t fly away, the birds are then picked up at random, leaving other members of their group behind. The geese are then brought to a slaughter house and the meat is distributed to a soup kitchen.

Taxpayers need to be made aware that the approximate cost to slaughter the geese is $336,850 to date. A cost comparison of instilling more humane efforts of goose control as compared to killing the geese is long over due.

The claim made by the freeholders that all alternatives to killing the geese have been exhausted is an outright lie. There was never a comprehensive plan to manage the problem. If there was, then the county can’t prove it. An Open Public Records Act request seeking documentation of what methods were tried and all records that were keep regarding their efforts was returned with a brochure about managing geese populations from the US Department of Agriculture. There were no internal logs, or memos kept by the county as to how the goose problem was dealt with.

The only internal paper trail of the county addressing the geese problem are press releases featuring freeholders that happened to be up for reelection in a particular year. These include a photo of a freeholder with a shovel planting high grass in Rahway Park. There was the motorized toy boat that would zip around the lake and that would be the cure. These releases all claimed that the county had the geese problem well in hand.

A press release regarding the use of boarder collies as a means of goose control dated April 2001 featured all 3 campaigning incumbent freeholders and the Sheriff. Stated Freeholder Mingo “a significant drop in the number of geese and their unhealthy droppings has been achieved”; Sheriff Froehlich said “Border collies are extremely effective in geese control…”; Freeholder Mirabella said “….our concerted efforts will keep the flocks of geese from spoiling our parks and golf courses…”;
Freeholder Ruotolo said “The dogs arrive and the geese just fly away, the geese stay away when the dogs leave. They eventually return, but in smaller numbers each time. The program is working.”

Fast forward to March of 2004 and a Worrall news article quotes Freeholder Estrada “everything that we have tried up to now has been unsuccessful”. The county manager stated “these methods proved to be ineffective on a large scale.”

The public has a level of trust in our elected officials and would like to believe that they would tell the truth. The county had been telling the public for years that they have implemented a strategy of dealing with the geese and that their strategies were working. They have pictures to prove it. Why would we believe otherwise? Now, after the fact, the county says killing is the only means possible to control the geese populations. Should this now be believed?

The reality is that there was never a comprehensive plan in place to deter the geese population until the county instituted a plan to slaughter the geese yearly. And we will never see a photo and press release with campaigning freeholders rounding up the defenseless molting birds to be sent to their death.