Who Knew? Zoo Board Members Are Knowland Park Supporters!

A warm welcome to our Zoo Board Member supporters! As many of you know, we have had such a flurry of people joining us that we have hardly had time to do more than keep adding the email addresses to our database. But recently, going through the list in preparation for our campaign, we discovered that zoo Board President Steve Kane and Board Member B. Reid Settlemier, among others, had signed up as Friends of Knowland Park supporters! Mr. Settlemier had signed up with an email address that didn’t happen to include his last name, but an automatic vacation message let us know who he was. What a great development! Maybe this indicates a change of heart? Fortunately, there is room for ALL the members of the zoo board and its foundation board to join up—room even for the zoo CEO, Dr. Joel Parrott, to sign on and help save the Park–because we have always run a completely transparent campaign.

But seriously… The parcel tax measure – 11th hour political shenanigans

We’ve now finally found a copy of the zoo’s proposed parcel tax ballot measure, which the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to place on the November ballot. It was first discussed at a secretive retreat back in June, detailed documents from which were not available on the county website. We only heard about it from a news report: Mercury News Article

Despite numerous requests, no one we contacted at the county after we read this news story could tell us anything or give us a copy of the measure or the materials distributed at the retreat. Then it was placed on the ballot at the 11th hour by the supervisors, at their last public meeting before the deadline, as we reported late last month (see http://www.saveknowland.org/2012/07/27/public-cost-for-grandiose-zoo-expansion-rising-now-alameda-supervisors-want-to-add-to-your-parcel-tax/) . The measure, if passed, would allow the zoo to do pretty much anything it wants with the more than $112 million-plus the tax would raise over 25 years—in fact, it explicitly says that as long as it is used for any of the extremely broad things listed, the zoo can delete or add or ignore any of the specific projects mentioned as examples, since the tax goes on after the projects mentioned may be completed.

To see the draft ballot measure (the zoo has not yet filed the final version, probably to minimize the time the public will have to view it before arguments against are due for the voter’s guide), go to http://www.acgov.org/board/calendar.htm  and click on July 24, Regular Meeting, Item 73A attachment.

What You Can Do

We need your help to aggressively oppose this money grab. Time after time, the public was reassured that the expansion development was a “done deal,” all taken care of, no worries about public funds amidst the biggest financial crisis in decades. Now we find out that once again, politicians and zoo executives are working behind the scenes to make us pay again and again, and to destroy our own Park in the process.

In the latest development, the zoo is writing to selected environmental groups that these funds wouldn’t be used for the expansion. But that’s more of the same shell game politics. Even if these particular dollars don’t pay for the new interpretive center and bay view executive offices, even if these tax dollars aren’t used to pave over the existing wildlife habitat in the park, they will simply be used to free up others for that purpose. It comes to the same thing.

Volunteers needed: Please email us at info@friendsofknowlandpark.org  if you can volunteer. We are working on flyers and should have something posted shortly that can be printed for use in letting people know about the issue. Even if you only have a little bit of time, working together it adds up to a lot.

Remember, the brave women who led the efforts decades back to save San Francisco Bay from being filled in by the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t save the bay overnight. They worked for years and years and faced many setbacks. These are long-haul battles, especially when we are working against opponents (or secret supporters?) as intransigent and arrogant as the zoo’s executives seem to be. We keep hoping they will come to see that it would be better to work with us on a compromise everyone could support, rather than simply insisting on having everything their way—especially since they are counting on and affecting public resources.

The most important thing is to talk to your friends and neighbors who vote! Explain to them why you oppose this measure—it’s bad for the environment, but also just sleazy politics at its worst. 

Ruth Malone is a resident of Oakland since 1983, a founding member and co-chair of Friends of Knowland Park and a longtime Oakland neighborhood activist. Since 2007, she has been working to educate and organize environmentalists, park users, and community members to protect the park. In her day job, she is a professor of nursing and health policy at University of California, San Francisco, where she helps students study the links between health and political, social and natural environments, and conducts research on the tobacco industry and its efforts to thwart public health efforts worldwide.

Ruth Malone’s Reflections Blog offers a combination of reflective essays and updates from the Protect Knowland Park Campaign, linking the fight to protect Knowland Park to broader environmental and ethical issues.

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