John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The mayor says citizens are "irritated by people who speak a different language" and have "different manners."
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (past editions):
MOSQUES, IN MOSCOW
In Moscow, you can snub an entire religion and not have it blow back on your political career. Mayor Sergey Sobyanin is doing just that in his battle against "excessive" numbers of migrant workers, many of whom happen to be Muslim.
Sobyanin recently declared that he would not allow any new mosques to be built in his city, quite a change of pace from his other pastime of ruining gay-pride parades. The city only has four mosques, but that's plenty, according to the mayor, who believes new ones won't be needed once Moscow's estimated 2 million unregistered foreigners are "dealt with." Here's more of his reasoning, via RT:
“It has turned out that the praying Muslims are not at all Russian citizens and they are not Moscow residents. They are labor migrants. There are only 10 percent of Moscow residents among them and building mosques for everyone who wants it – I think this will be over the top."
Sobyanin went on to say that the average Moscow citizen is "irritated by people who speak a different language, have different manners, with aggressive behavior," and then quickly added he wasn't trying to make an argument on "purely ethnic" grounds.
Needless to say the city's Muslims are not happy with the ban. The Russian Mufti Council has promised to fight it, saying it's sending a request to build a new mosque to President Vladimir Putin himself.
BUILDING-DESTROYING BIRDS, IN AUSTRALIA
Officials in Yarra Ranges Shire, located to the east of Melbourne, are pulling out the big guns to deal with flocks of small birds. The problem is Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, which to normal pet owners are funny little feather-friends but to Yarra Ranges homeowners are awful, biting, poop-happy vandals. For the past few years cockatoos have been on a destructive tear, destroying properties by pecking away facades, pulling out roof nails and chewing through outdoors furniture. According to one councilwoman quoted in the Herald-Sun Leader, "They don't just stop at wood, they go for powerlines and mortar from tiles." Another councilman called them a "damn curse."
Now Yarra Ranges is trying to make it a crime to feed the animals. A new law would make it a finable offense to set out birdseed even in one's backyard. This prohibition would affect people in Kallista, The Patch, Mount Dandenong and other wonderfully named parts of town; anybody who wants to actually own a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo has to apply for a permit (that rule goes for peafowls and galahs, too). The ban will theoretically help reduce the bird-based infrastructural damage, and with luck give a break for the city employee who maintains the "Reducing Cockatoo Damage" webpage (helpful tips include scaring them at night with lights and "some shooting").
THE IRISH FLAG, IN FLORIDA
Irish descendents in Florida got a shillelagh to their freedom of personal expression recently when a local council cracked down on the display of their old homeland's flag. The problem began when the owners of Culhane's Irish Pub, located in Atlantic Beach, decided to fly the tricolor outside their doors to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. That prompted a visit from code enforcement in February, which issued them a citation and gave a 24-hour ultimatum to take the flag down. "Shocked," Culhane's part-owner told First Coast News. "This is America, the land of every nationality."
What's the beef here? It so happens that Atlantic Beach has an old law on the books forbidding the use of non-United States flags for commercial purposes, according to the Daily News. (As to why it's OK to use the American flag to shill stuff, it's because it's not considered a prohibited "pennant" or "banner.") After receiving much unflattering attention from international media, town officials decided to revisit this regulation and temporarily lift the ban. Now the flag is out of storage and tacked up again on the pub, where it will oversee legions of beer-chugging masses on St. Patrick's.
Top photo courtesy of Dieter Karner on Flickr.