As you know, for years we have been asking the city for copies of the documents the zoo is required to submit annually under its management contract with the city – namely, a “capital improvement budget, spending plan, actual expenses and schedule describing its projected development for the current budget year and for the next 2 following years.” The zoo has never produced any of these materials. Instead, it periodically produces retrospective feel-good reports couched in broad general terms, so it has been impossible for citizens to see how the zoo planned to or actually did spend its money – despite the fact that it gets a large amount of public funding every year from the city, the county, bond measures and the East Bay Regional Park District. And despite us raising this issue over and over, the city was apparently never willing to do anything about the fact that the zoo did not ever file the required annual reports and ignored its contractual obligation to do so.
Could this finally be starting to change? Following yet another public records act request by a Friend of Knowland Park, a response was received from the city office of Parks and Recreation stating that no records in that department nor any records available at the City Auditor’s office were responsive to the request, but promising that:
“Beginning this calendar year 2013, the Office of Parks and Recreation will be requiring that the Zoological Society provide all reports agreed upon in the agreement between the East Zoological Society and the City of Oakland .”
Since this expectation has been explicitly part of the zoo’s management agreement for decades (along with other provisions the zoo has repeatedly ignored with impunity) this seemed like a ray of hope. Perhaps the fact that the zoo lied about Measure A1 and its real purpose (as discussed in the last post here: http://tinyurl.com/cpes5w3) has begun to make a few city staff or elected representatives notice that the zoo doesn’t keep its promises. Then again, perhaps not.
The zoo’s fiscal year ends in the third quarter, so the 2012 report should have been submitted no later than March 1. However, to date the documents have still not been provided to the requesting citizen. How much more is the city willing to let the zoo get away with? Let’s hope this isn’t an April Fool’s joke and that maybe after all these years they are actually going to expect the zoo to be genuinely financially accountable to the city rather than just patting councilmembers on the head, sliding them campaign contributions and talking loudly about baby animals and children!
Your financial help urgently needed!
Folks, we are at crunch time. We have bills to pay for the ongoing legal advising we have needed as we monitor through public records act requests the responses of the state and federal environmental regulatory organizations to the constantly-changing zoo development plans. Somehow, by scraping it together, getting small grants here and there, and through the overwhelming generosity of so many of you, we have managed to keep going all these year – but we don’t have any current grants and the post-holiday lull has emptied our coffers. You’ve never let us down before–we know we can count on you, so we’re putting out the call here and now: We really need every supporter of the Park to dig deep right now and send whatever you can manage to help keep us going. We need to raise at least $2500 before the end of the month, so please send whatever you possibly can.
As you know, these state and federal regulatory agencies must approve the zoo project before it can be built – because threatened species and rare plant communities exist on the site the zoo insists it must have. And there are legal requirements for their decisionmaking. To date, the zoo continues to deny that the special chaparral plant community that will be affected by the interpretive center is actually a statewide rare plant community, and they continue to insist that bulldozing and building dozens of structures on 50+ acres will have basically no impact whatsoever on the threatened species that live on the site.
Our legal team has been great – they have always given us a discounted rate because they know we are a grassroots group, and they have written off more than $10,000 of expenses from the lawsuit because they believe so strongly in our cause. But we can’t expect them to continue to review documents and advise us for nothing. Please help us get caught up again by sending whatever you can TODAY. Make checks to CNPS (California Native Plant Society, our partner organization and fiscal sponsor) and mail to our treasurer, Lee Ann Smith, 111 Shadow Mountain, Oakland, CA 94605. All donations are tax-deductible.
CNPS members in the East Bay have been our steadfast partners in this fight when other organizations quavered at challenging the zoo. And remember–no matter how this battle is eventually resolved, it’s not over until it’s over. CNPS is one of the toughest and most savvy conservation organizations in the state and they stand up for their principles. That’s why Point Molate in Richmond is still there and not a casino operation right now – due to the dogged determination of CNPS and our other partners, the California Native Grasslands Association, to fight alongside the grassroots people there who cared about the place and refused to give up even when some leading environmental groups were ready to capitulate. Well, long after some groups had written off Point Molate, CNPS, CNGA and the grassroots activists won that fight and saved the place from development!
(For those of you who may not have heard about that conservation fight, there is a good description of Point Molate in the latest issue of the Bay Leaf, the East Bay CNPS newsletter, which can be viewed online at www.ebcnps.org.)
Knowland Park’s wild creatures and native plants have just as much right to be there as those at Point Molate did. They are making their nests, dens, burrows and other homes now for their young as they have done every spring since long before this ill-conceived amusement park plan was hatched by zoo management. They have no idea that the zoo’s bulldozers threaten their homes and habitat. But you do. Help us be their voice by mailing a check today – and by telling others about what will be lost if we give up this fight.