LA Zoo Debate Turns Ugly At City Council Meeting

06/25/2013 02:26 pm ET | Updated Aug 25, 2013
  • Rick Orlov Los Angeles Daily News
Getty

In one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's last efforts to shed the city of its non-core services, his proposal to turn over marketing at the Los Angeles Zoo to its main fundraising partner ran into potential snags on Monday.

The City Council's Budget and Finance Committee split evenly over a proposal to move forward with a memorandum of understanding turning over the marketing of the Zoo to its main support organization, the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association.

City Councilmen Tom LaBonge and Bill Rosendahl supported the change, which included a commitment to spend $2 million in marketing of the Zoo.

Two others, Councilman Paul Krekorian and Paul Koretz, said they wanted to delay the agreement for at least 60 days until a business and marketing plan was submitted -- drawing a heated response from Zoo Director John Lewis.

"We have been over this time and time again," Lewis said. "We have been asked to come up with a report on what we need to do. And, when we do, we just keep getting piled on. I think we need to get to this and end this debate.

"We have been over this and we tell you what the needs of the Zoo are and those never seem to get addressed."

Both proposals are scheduled to go to the full City Council on Wednesday.

However, city workers said they were pleased with the proposed delay as recommended by Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller, who said the city should have a business and marketing plan in place before approving the memorandum of understanding.

The concern is that GLAZA could enter into contracts for concessions or other facilities that could be locked in if the city decides to reject the business plan.

LaBonge said he believes the proposal with GLAZA is the best way for the Zoo to have a public-private partnership while reducing what the city has to invest in keeping it open. As is, the Zoo has had to raise admissions each of the past five years to cover rising costs.

Villaraigosa has been pushing the agreement as a way to reduce city expenses for the Zoo at a time when spending for all but non-core functions of police, fire, sanitation and streets were in jeopardy.

rick.orlov@dailynews.com

@Rickorlov on Twitter ___

Also on HuffPost:

Baby Animals At The LA Zoo