Editorial: Let’s not grouse about new rules

In one fell swoop, the San Luis Obispo City Council cracked down last week on noisy parties, outdoor smoking and feeding ducks — cumulative decisions that prompted some squawks about overregulation.

We won’t applaud the council’s actions too loudly — we don’t want to get a ticket — but for the record, we support toughening regulations on outdoor smoking and loud parties.

We all have the right to breathe clean air and to enjoy reasonable peace and quiet, and we believe these new regulations will help achieve those goals.

But was the city overstepping its bounds by making it illegal to toss a crust of bread to a duck? Was that the final (cheese) straw that will earn the city of SLO the dubious title of Killjoy Capital of America?

We don’t believe so.

Governments at all levels are restricting activities that once seemed fairly innocuous, but are now linked to a host of harmful consequences. While it may come as a surprise, feeding waterfowl and other wildlife falls under that category.

Here, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, are some of the problems it can cause:

Food handouts can result in large numbers of birds crowding into small spaces, increasing their susceptibility to diseases.

Migratory birds can become sidetracked by generous handouts, to the point that they alter or even abandon their migration cycles.

As wild birds become tame, they lose their fear of people, cars and even airplanes, putting them in dangerous situations.

People — especially children — can be injured by aggressive wildlife.

Bread, popcorn, French fires and other leftovers are not good for the animals; such foods are hard on their digestive systems, obstruct their airways and cause other physical problems.

Bird droppings can pollute lawns, parks, golf courses and waterways.

The contamination problem has been especially worrisome in San Luis Obispo, where high bacteria counts in San Luis Creek have led to health warnings and a cleanup order from the state Regional Water Quality Control Board. Bird droppings are suspected to play a part in that pollution.

If the city doesn’t take steps to reduce contamination, it could be ordered to do an extensive testing program to further pinpoint the cause of the pollution, at a cost of more than $1 million.

That’s an expense the city can ill afford.

Under the circumstances, we believe the city is justified in banning the feeding of birds, though we are glad to hear that the city plans to stress education over punishment.

While it may be initially tough to abandon practices that have been permitted for years — whether it’s having a smoke out on the sidewalk or tossing some table scraps to the birds — in the long run, these changes will improve the city’s quality of life.

And that’s nothing to grouse about.