Weekend Edition: A modest proposal

James Bornemeier

James Bornemeier

A suburban Minneapolis man who had a long-running dispute with two neighbors over feeding deer opened fire on the couple … hours after their son was arrested on suspicion of threatening to burn down their house …
— The New York Times, May 8, 2014

Background: The grossly over-large deer herd on the Island has been a problem for years. The ravaging of plants and shrubbery, the auto collisions and, of course, ticks and Lyme disease have all been debated and examined ad nauseam.

We at Deer Talk, a recently formed Island-based nonpartisan deer think tank, believe that ticks and Lyme disease are by far the most pressing local deer issue.

We also have sadly concluded that the tick-and-Lyme disease debate has become ossified, brought to a standstill by ever-more polarizing points of view. Progress on this issue seems further away than ever.

Furthermore, Deer Talk believes strongly that the tick-and-Lyme disease debate has obscured a larger and more fundamental deer issue: the possibility of rising civic unrest as neighbors become enemies for holding opposing deer attitudes. Hellos are being replaced by shouted epithets and coarse hand gestures. Bumping into one another, literally, at the IGA, can become fractious encounters with vicious verbal salvos flying.

We at Deer Talk do not want to get too far ahead on this issue. But we are tortured by the possibility that if we do not act now, we will have to live with the consequences when deep-seated opposing deer attitudes drive Island citizens to the breaking point.

Do we really want to keep our collective heads in the sand on this matter? Deer Talk knows the answer to that one. We cannot sit idly by and then be shocked by some disturbing act. As the Boy Scouts so presciently have reminded us for generations: Be Prepared.
Proposed Steps: Deer Talk sees the following as essential steps to ensuring that deer-attitude provocations are held in check.

•  Eight elite fire and police personnel be chosen to form a Deer violence control strategic Weapons and Assault Team (DWAT) unit. These individuals would undergo special training in deer-attitude interventions, hostage negotiation and special firearm handling and perform regular drills to prepare for civic unrest, be it one-on-one situations or medium- to large-scale groups squaring off in adrenalin-laced confrontations over differing views of 4-poster feeding stations or other hot button deer issues. $10,000 times 8 = $80,000.
•   Special camo uniforms and insignia be designed for the unit. $356 times 8 = $2,848.
•   Purchase of a DWATmobile. This is essentially an armored personnel carrier to be kept at the dump when confrontations escalate to dire levels and Kevlar vests are deemed insufficient protection. $250,000.
•   Annual refresher DWAT training to keep team members at the top of their game. $5,000 times 8 = $40,000.
Costs: Startup: $332,848; annual: $40,000. Yes, these are eye-popping numbers. But Deer Talk believes that opposing deer-attitude confrontations will only increase over time, both in frequency and level of violence. We need to take proactive steps now.

Payment Methods: These are listed in ascending order of probability, that is, the last one is deemed by Deer Talk as most probable.

•    Up-or-down referendum. This would be, in Deer Talk’s opinion, a major waste of time and money. Not going to pass.
•    Bond issue: A tantalizing possibility but would have to overcome lingering Town Board doubts over the appropriateness of this financing vehicle.
• Apply for grants from foundations and philanthropies. Another promising source of funds, but requires massive paperwork and there’s no guarantee of success.
• Island benefactor. This is not as crazy as it sounds. Deer Talk has approached several wealthy Islanders and found a surprising willingness to at least engage in conversation about funding the DWAT team. Oddly, most of these individuals live on Dinah Rock Road. Who knew?

Conclusion: Deer Talk anticipates snickering, backlash, opprobrium, hate mail and you name it to this serious, forward-thinking proposal. But we also believe it is the right thing to do at the right time: Before somebody gets hurt.