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Letter to the Editor: Measure A1 Benefits Zoo Animals and Children

East Bay resident Vicki Gutgesell writes in.

-By Vicki Gutgesell

Misinformed opponents of the Oakland Zoo's expansion project are attempting to derail Measure A1 although A1 has nothing to do with this project!  By law funds from A1 must be spent on animal care including shelters and enclosures, educational programs for children, and maintaining zoo affordability and public safety.  NO funds from A1 can be used for zoo expansion in Knowland Park.  An Oversight Committee will ensure that funds are spent solely on projects listed in A1's expenditure plan.

The zoo receives less money from the city of Oakland each year while operating costs increase.  If A1 fails there will be less money for animal care, especially aging animals which require expensive veterinary care.  Deferred maintenance on aging infrastructures will be further delayed.  Educational programs for children will be decreased.  Entrance fees will increase.  Simple as that.

I have volunteered at the zoo in animal management since 1997 and see firsthand how much these funds are needed.  Please vote YES on A1.  The animals and children depend on us.

Laura Baker October 26, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Unfortunately, Measure A1 DOES permit the zoo to use funds from it for expansion. The fact that it has to use them for animal care and education is not mutually exclusive for using them within the context of the expansion. Specific words in the measure include "expand, develop, construct" and "develop the conservation center" and finally, the last part of the Expenditure Plan states that the zoo may add or delete projects as it chooses. READ THE MEASURE! The only legally binding language is what is put into the measure. The Oversight Committee cannot replace open government laws that the East Bay Zoological Society doesn't have to follow because it's a non-profit private corporation. If the EBZS were a Special Tax District, it would be required to list contact information for the directors and they'd be required to be available to the public,provide financial information, give notice to their board meetings, provide an agenda for the meetings, and the minutes to those meetings. Check out the zoo website and see if you can find anything about the California Exhibit, the Zoo Master Plan, their IRS return? Nada! We need to give our money to organizations that embrace transparency and good government. Do your research, become informed.
Mimi Pulich October 26, 2012 at 07:04 AM
What the Oakland Zoo director says about Measure A1 gets a lot of press, and many zoo supporters don't question what he says. But what what's written in Measure A1 is what will prevail if it passes, and the measure says its funds can be used to expand the zoo. There are 2 questions that undecided voters should consider. Given how many options the zoo has, why has it chose a site for its expansion that will destroy the habitat of native animals and plants? If the zoo can afford to spend $72 million on an expansion, why does it need our tax money to sustain basic operations? This article in the East Bay Express sheds light on the zoo's finances. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/oakland-zoo-operators-violate-election-laws/Content?oid=3372071
V October 26, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Thank you for your article. As a non-partisan voter, with interest in neither side, I am trying to make an informed decision. In your commentary you suggest that measure A1 does not permit expansion of the zoo and cite limits on what the funds should be spent on. However, as I am reading the language of measure, there indeed are points which do permit expansion of the Zoo. Whether it is the intension of the operators to expand or not, cannot be inferred from the measure - however the provision does appear to exist. One of the above comments does indeed point out the sections. As I understand, if there is no intention to expand, that brings both sides closer towards an agreement in intention - all that remains is translating it into the text of the measure (which perhaps might be tad too late at present). I notice that there are additional concerns - most of which the supporters of A1 cite are non-issues. If indeed they are non-issues, then again, it should be a simple matter of correcting the text of the measure and reaching a consensus. As I see, the opponents do agree on several points. I tried to search for a contact email for the Zoo on the supporters website as well as on the Zoo website as a perspective which educates me as a voter as to why the opponent concerns are non-issues. However, I am still to find one. Till then, I can only conclude that there are opponent concerns which remain unresolved - and the measure should not receive my vote.
Vikram October 26, 2012 at 11:32 PM
As I read the measure, the rebuttal to the arguments against measure A1 simply cite the points on which the opponents agree, but do not address any of the concerns which are being raised by the opponents. (the rebuttal says - "Read the official wording yourself". I did, and the wording seems consistent with what the opponents to the measure say). If the supporters seem to agree with the opponents outside the text of the measure, please help me understand why it is so hard to reach a consensus in the wording of the measure. Till someone can help provide me with more information as to why the concerns of the opponents are not valid issues - I share the idea that I will be voting a NO on measure A1.
Vikram October 28, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Just in case anyone is following this thread, there is also a similar discussion http://dublin.patch.com/blog_posts/yes-on-measure-a1-for-education-animal-care
Anita October 29, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I keep trying to understand why proponents of Measure A1 keep saying that the funds can't be spent on expansion, when the phrase "constructing, expanding, remodeling, renovating..." is right there in the text of the measure. And if they need to ask us for money for animal care, why are they planning a $72 million expansion? If Measure A1 won't pay for the expansion, who will? Elsewhere, the Measure reads , "Moneys...shall be used exclusively first, to pay for the costs of the election...." Does this mean that it can be used to pay for the SIX glossy flyers I've received by mail? They are what put me off in the first place. There must be money to pay for all that advertising. Zoo, please use that for animal care. My parcel tax money should go for schools, libraries, and public safety.
Vikram October 29, 2012 at 06:38 PM
There appears to be a fair bit of history which isn't evident simply by reading the measure. As you note, there does seem something missing which leads to your question. The discussion in the earlier link (a similar dublin.patch.com posting) I linked to, does provide more information to parse through which provides some context of the ongoing differences between the Zoo and the Save Knowland Park Campaign.

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