GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009

Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Lawsuit over planned LA Zoo elephant exhibit reinstated

A high profile lawsuit to stop Tom LaBonge's new elephant enclosure at the LA Zoo was reinstated by 2nd District Court of Appeals last week.

Actor Robert Culp ("I Spy") and real estate agent Aaron Leider filed a lawsuit in August 2007 to stop the building of the LA Zoo's $40 million exhibit, the "Pachyderm Forest" which the City Council had originally approved in 2006. Culp's lawsuit in summary states that the expensive project does essentially nothing to improve the living conditions for Billy the Elephant, and is a huge waste of taxpayer money.

A higher court had thrown this lawsuit out, which may have been the impetus behind Councilman Tony Cardenas's attempt to kill the project and take the associated funds from it in 2008. The City Council at that time once again passed the exhibit, citing the cost to the taxpayers of mothballing the project. Mothballing would result in an outright loss of approximately $11 million. Now that the suit has been reinstated, the entire Billy the Elephant drama will likely resurface in City Hall before the end of the year. Expect Cardenas to lead the charge again as LaBonge struggles to keep the project afloat while the City's finances grow ever worse and bankruptcy looms. In other words, more drama to distract us all from the big picture.

No, we're not saying that Billy's plight isn't important. It is terribly important, as is all practice related to animal welfare. Unfortunately, what happens to Billy is a convenient something-else for the City Council and Mayor to use to distract us from the fact that they have still done nothing to handle the City's financial ailments. Rest assured that the fervor over Billy's plight has been and will continue to be used by elected officials to move the their own agendas forward and those of their highest political contributors. So don't fool yourselves on the motives behind Cardenas's or LaBonge's actions. It's all about the money, the power, and the perceived "legacy" of an elected official. It's also about the LA Zoo occupying Griffith Park land without Griffith Park oversight. Finally, it is about the opportunity this issue provides, and how it is used.