Guest Opinion - Why Elk Grove should not expand its borders much less sponsor a zoo

By Michael Monasky | 

The average elevation of land above sea level in Elk Grove is about 35 feet. The Sacramento area shares a dangerous trait with New Orleans; both are prone to perilous flood risks. I live near Elk Grove Creek. During the last storm that dropped nearly six inches of rain in one day, my street became a lake outside my home. The capacity of the creek only a block away was not enough to control its raging waters that night.

Yet builders of sprawling homes like mine insist on employing armies of lobbyists, lawyers, speculators and financiers to line the pockets of our hapless local politicians. Some of these loyal foot soldiers populate the membership of the board of directors of the counterfeit Sacramento Zoological Society. In this case “zoological” is a malapropism for superficially informing children about animals while entertaining their parents; it has nothing to do with zoology per se. If it were a legitimate endeavor, the visit to a zoo would be more like a trip to a natural science museum.

In fact, the 18 member zoo board is ordinarily represented by three lawyers from local white-shoe firms, three employed in finance, six public relations employees including a drug lobbyist, and others without any evidence of training or education in the natural sciences of animal caretaking. Admittedly the board has an emergency room doctor, and a dermatologist, and the executive director knows how to handle snakes (or has hired someone for that task.) There’s a city superintendent, a docent and a volunteer, too, but there’s no evidence that anyone but the hired help know-how, or do anything, to care for these caged animals.

Pure and simple, this is a business expansion decision by the zoo board and the city of Elk Grove. Listen to the propaganda from Capital Public Radio and hear the mayor promise, along with Sacramento City Council member Katy Valenzuela, that the project will guarantee extension of light rail to that area to mitigate traffic congestion expected from the Wilton Rancheria Casino and now the zoo.  In the Q&A section of the zoo website, the board promises a million visits per year and 250 jobs. Ka-ching. Dollar signs in politicos’ eyeballs.

About 10 years ago the city of Elk Grove walked away from the South Sacramento County Habitat Conservation Plan, refusing to play ball in limiting construction projects that sprawl further southward into riparian territory. The Sacramento County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) recently approved hundreds of acres of land for incorporation near Elk Grove’s southeastern perimeter.

These areas remain perilously in the flood plain, at high risk of inundation when an errant atmospheric river from the mighty Pacific Ocean makes landfall. Instead of infilling and protecting what it already has, Elk Grove is sprawling carelessly into the muddy moat of the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta (as it has already.)

Moving from flooding and city planning back to zoos, I must add my own personal observations when taking my children, and now grandchildren, to the zoo. It’s always been a sad occasion for the animals. My children would invariably ask why the tiger is so dispirited, the giraffe so depressed, the monkeys so irritable. Between the cotton candy and gummies and their questions about animal welfare, I’ve grown weary of such visits. My grandchildren now seem to prefer the natural history museum to the zoo. They say it’s because they learn something there, and they don’t see heartbroken animals.

Perhaps one day soon animal zoos will, like animal circuses, become extinct. In that case the city of Elk Grove should go back to the drawing board.

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

Thank you Mr. Monasky for shining your flashlight on the zoo and its 'nocturnal' negotiations with our crack squad of public money spenders.

Instead of sharing with us the number crunching that needs to be done with our money, our electeds have instead focused on selling the project to us through the media. Forget the details Joe Q. Public--let us decide what's good for the community and just go along with it.

But as Mayor Singh-Allen proclaimed on one local TV station, "it's about the animals". Animals my donkey ass! By the time this zoo goes to hearing, the only decision left will be the design of the billboards and how big to make the City-financed logo.

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