Pet pig to be evicted from home in Hurst but stay for holiday

By Ellena Fortner
The Star-Telegram (November 29, 2000)

Whether his house is made of straw, sticks or bricks, Eli the Vietnamese potbellied pig cannot stay. In a 4-2 vote Tuesday, the Hurst City Council decided that Eli, who has lived with Cynthia Wynne for six years, violates a 1990 animal control ordinance that prohibits livestock on lots smaller than an acre. The council rejected a proposal to make exceptions for potbellied pigs.
"How can you not let me keep someone who is a part of my family?" Wynne asked the council before breaking into tears. "Eli doesn't affect anyone's life but ours."
The grape-eating, Dr Pepper-loving, 225-pound swine was brought to the council's attention when a neighbor complained.
"I think this is tragic," said Councilman Richard Ward, who along with Councilwoman Anna Holzer voted against letting the ordinance stand.
"Just because he is a little different type of pet doesn't mean he isn't lovable," Ward said.
Wynne, who was considering what to get Eli for Christmas (last year's popcorn tin was a smash), said she is considering legal action on behalf of the family pet, who has lived with her since he was 10 days old. He stays in Wynne's enclosed back porch, which is heated.
In the spirit of the season, the city promised not to take action until after the holidays.
"We are going to give them time to find a new home for him," Police Chief Tim Wallace said.

Twist in Pig Tale
After the Hurst council reverses its support of Eli, owner wants election.

By Ellena Fortner
The Star-Telegram (February 15, 2001)

Eli the pig is putting pork back into politics after the City Council decided that this little piggy needs to find a new home. Eli's owner, Cynthia Wynne, said Wednesday that she will pursue a referendum to keep her Vietnamese potbellied pig after the council reversed an earlier vote that would have allowed Eli to stay. Eli bumper stickers, shirts and guest appearances from famous pig owners are possibilities.
"Eli is part of my family, and we are willing to fight to keep him," she said.
An election to determine the fate of a swine may be a first, said Melinda Nickless, assistant director for the elections division of the Texas secretary of state's office. "It is going to be hell, just like any other election," Nickless said. "Ballots, workers and campaign treasurers will all have to be located."
Last month, the council voted to grant amnesty to Vietnamese potbellied pigs in the city as of Jan. 1. But on Tuesday, the panel voted, 4-2, against the proposed change on a second reading, with Councilmen Charles Swearengen and Henry Wilson changing their votes.
"I don't think we should pass a special-purpose ordinance for one person," Wilson said. "We need to look at the entire city as a whole, not one individual."
Last week, Wynne submitted more than the 600 signatures needed to call an election to amend the 1990 animal control ordinance that bans livestock on lots less than 1 acre. The amendment would classify potbellied pigs as "exotic pets" instead of livestock.
The council will review the request during its Feb. 27 meeting. The referendum could coincide with the May 5 municipal elections. Wynne said she may run for council.
"They let everyone think it was a done deal, and then they turned around and took it back," said Wynne, who adopted the pig when he was 6 days old.
Eli was thrust into the spotlight in November when next-door neighbor Roberta Womack filed a complaint with the city. During Tuesday's meeting, Womack said she was concerned that the 225-pound pig would bring down her property value.
Neighbor Dorothy Spence said Eli has not caused a lick of trouble. Besides a penchant for Dr Pepper, popcorn and sweets, the 6-year-old leads a clean life, she said.
"People keep calling him a hog, and granted he is a pig, but he is a special pig," said Spence, who has lived next to the Wynnes for about 20 years. "If you didn't know he was there, you would never know he was there."
Resident Jesse Lakota said a pig does not belong in a neighborhood regardless of its behavior.
"I have been off and on a farm for a long time, and we never brought our livestock and cattle into town with us," Lakota said. "I don't want to see the city start down that road. Six months from now, someone will be calling a Shetland pony a pet and want to keep it."

Eli the Pig Hogging Attention as Hurst Election Nears

By Ellena Fortner
The Star-Telegram (April 22, 2001)

HURST - Eli the pig, his back coated with black, wiry hair, pushes popcorn around with his fist-size snout. He slurps Dr Pepper from a dog bowl, then falls with a grunt on his immense side to sun.
He doesn't know, or care, that he is making pig history.On May 5, Hurst voters will decide whether the Vietnamese potbellied pig, all 175 pounds of him, can stay at home with owner Cynthia Wynne.
Eli is considered livestock. Wynne wants voters to declare him a pet.
"As long as he can eat, sleep and sun his self, he doesn't care what happens in politics," said Wynne, who circulated a petition to get a pig measure on the ballot. "It matters to us, though. We love him. He is part of our family."
Eli will not go down in history as one of the nation's great politicians, but he appears to be breaking ground as the first pig to spark an election, at least in Texas. He is also generating a huge increase in pig jokes in Northeast Tarrant County. After all, politics and humor go together like, well, bacon and eggs.
Example: Pork-barrel politics reach a new low in Hurst.
"There is a great deal of humor in Texas politics, mostly centered in the Texas Legislature," said Etta Hulme, cartoonist for the Star-Telegram. "Politicians are funny because everything is exaggerated. In their own minds, everything is black and white, but everyone else sees it differently.
"Eli caught my eye because it was so amusing," said Hulme, who dedicated a cartoon to the pig.
Not everyone thinks that the pig is funny.
Roberta Womack, who reported Eli to the city, opposes easing pig restrictions. She formed the political action committee Hurst is for people, not Hogs!!
"I just want them to abide by the rules," Womack said. "I don't see any reason we should change the law for a few citizens."
Eli gained political prominence because Texas is an initiative state, meaning that people can petition to get any topic on a ballot. Wynne collected more than 600 signatures to put a proposed change in the Hurst animal control ordinance up for a vote.
The 1990 animal control ordinance classifies potbellied pigs as livestock and bans them from lots smaller than an acre, such as the Wynnes'.
Residents can vote on whether potbellied pigs should be considered exotic pets exempt from acreage requirements.
Like his cartoon counterparts, the pig's fame has spread. Radio stations have taken up the cause. Bars have hung "Save Eli" signs. Eli was the hot topic in March during the national Pet Pig Congress in Reading, Pa. The organization advocates responsible pet pig ownership.
Wynne "has a lot of people out there rooting for her," said Mary Ann Miller, who attended the conference. "It was all people could talk about. The way he [Eli] and his people are handling this is inspirational."
Some people have suggested that Eli run for office, perhaps state agriculture commissioner. He would not be the first nontraditional candidate to appear on a ballot.
Jesse Ventura, of World Wrestling Federation distinction, is governor of Minnesota. Will Rogers, Jesse James and other famous names often appear on ballots nationwide. For years, Mickey Mouse, Elvis Presley and Santa Claus have racked up votes as write-in candidates.
"Many people have been elected when people didn't know anything about them but their name," said Allan Saxe, whose book about Arlington politics, Politics of a Texas City, is due out in August.
"When it is two people who are unknown, the famous name resonates in our minds," he said.
But a famous name does not guarantee success. Democrat Gene Kelly could not dance his way around Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the past U.S. Senate race.
Libertarian Buster Crabb, who never played Flash Gordon, was unable to get elected to the Texas Railroad Commission in 1994.
Now comes Eli, the most famous pig since Babe went to the city.
Despite his portly appearance, Eli is expected to be the strongest voter attraction, Councilman Richard Ward said.
The election includes two contested council races.
"I think Eli will be a major issue in this election. I think people will come out and vote," said Ward, who took his grandchildren to visit Eli. "I think people really care about Eli and care about Ms. Wynne keeping her pet."
Plus, a little jocularity helps boost voter turnout, Saxe said.
"If people could have a little more fun with the ballot without making it a farce, I think more would come out," he said. "It might stimulate some voter interest."

Voters Guide City Elections

By Elena Fortner
The Star-Telegram (April 23, 2001)

HURST - Eli the pig has staged a clean election. The black and white Vietnamese swine has not been seen slinging mud - nor playing in it.  Eli and his owner, Cynthia Wynne, are fighting for expanded rights for Hurst pig owners. Wynne collected more than 600 signatures to add a measure to amend the Hurst animal control ordinance to the May ballot.
"This is not just a question of Eli, but a question of our choices," said Wynne, who got Eli six years ago. "Everyone should have the right to have the pets they want."
The 1990 ordinance allows livestock, including pigs, to be kept only on lots larger than an acre. After a neighbor reported that the Wynnes, who live on less than an acre, had a pig, the city informed them that they were in violation of the ordinance. The amendment would classify Vietnamese potbellied pigs as exotic pets and lift the acreage requirement.
An opposition organization, the Hurst is For People, not Hogs! committee, is campaigning against the measure. Committee Treasurer Roberta Womack said no matter how cute some people think Eli and his kin are, the pigs do not belong in the city.
Will the election give Eli a taste for politics, power and government pork?
"I don't think he wants to do anything but eat, lay in the sun and wait for his next Dr Pepper," Wynne said. "He doesn't have any political aspirations."

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