Friday, August 03, 2007

More Zoo Nonsense From the County Council

Kathleen Quilligan covered yesterday's county council meeting where the decision on whether or not to spend $500k in economic development money on the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo exhibit (I'm not kidding) was discussed.
In May, Council President Paul Moss, who also serves on the board of the zoo, asked council to consider the possibility of giving $500,000 in CEDIT money to the zoo for its African Journey exhibit. The total cost of the exhibit, expected to open in 2009, is $10.5 million.

Making the decision more difficult is the estimated 32 percent reduction in CEDIT dollars because of the city's 2006 Southwest Annexation, which took about 13 square miles and 25,000 residents from the county.

Thursday, Councilman Cal Miller asked what road projects would be eliminated or delayed should council appropriate money to the zoo. Highway Director Bill Hartman said conversion projects, reseal projects or drainage projects could all be affected.

Am I the only one that finds this to be a blatant conflict of interest? A sitting member of the zoo board is openly using his position as council President to lobby for zoo funding at the taxpayers' expense. Keep in mind that our zoo has never received taxpayer money. This is an outrage and frankly I find it quite shameful. I had this to say about the original story that broke in May:
This is a bad idea. The first thing every politician says about our zoo is that it is, and always has been, privately funded. This is a major fundraising point for the zoo as well. How many people will rethink donating money to the zoo if they realize their tax dollars are already going to support it? Even zoo director Jim Anderson admits as much.

Of course setting this precedent means the county (and city) will begin to subsidize the zoo more and more. The Council knows this is a concern so Moss is trying to convince us that won't happen

Nelson Peters had this to say about the council's plan:
“We did consider (the zoo allocation), but felt priorities were things we could not put off and want to include on the 2008 budget,” said Commissioner Nelson Peters.

Peters should be commended for rejecting Moss' idea.

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