With Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh Allen's City Council's consistent 5-0 votes, the zoo relocation is a done deal

Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen has led the effort and heavily influenced her City Council to approve the relocation of the Sacramento Zoo to Elk Grove, saying the economic benefits of the $400 million project will be enormous for taxpayers. | 

If there is one thing consistent about the Elk Grove City Council, everything that appeared on a 2023 agenda was approved by unanimous votes, most of which were 5 - 0. 

This finding came from examining the regular 2023 Elk Grove City Council meeting minutes for public hearings and action items. The Elk Grove City Council conducted 21 regular public meetings with published minutes, not including the secret meetings without posted minutes.  

Not surprisingly, every public vote taken by Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and her city councilmen was unanimous. With the reception of seven votes during the year, six based on absent council members and one recusal (Councilmember Kevin Spease), all 70 votes were unanimous.

Some of the action items and public hearing votes were routine matters. However, included in those unanimous votes were the city's annual budget, installing more tourist-oriented signs, awarding taxpayer money as economic incentives, a few land planning matters that generated community opposition, and matters related to the proposed $400 million relocation of the Sacramento Zoo to Elk Grove. 

For years, the Elk Grove city council has approved any matter on their agenda with few exceptions. This pattern is nothing new, as this story from 16 years ago demonstrates. 

A 2023 demonstration of the city council's conformity came during a land planning matter that generated opposition. While Councilmember Kevin Spease feigned indignation with the applicant, he nonetheless joined his colleagues for a unanimous approval.  

Additionally, when Mayor Singh-Allen convened her councilmen for their annual retreat last March, that conformity to the mayor was further institutionalized into the city council's governance. Conformity was encouraged, and dissent banished.  

Among those 70 votes last year, the most significant for Elk Grove's future came during the January 25 meeting. During that meeting, Mayor Singh-Allen and the city council voted unanimously to spend $800,000 toward the relocation of the Sacramento Zoo. 

That happened after another unanimous vote of support for the zoo relocation two years ago this month. In February 2022, the mayor and city council approved the $9 million purchase of 100 acres in the Southeast Policy Area. 

Next week, the city will hold a public workshop on the environmental report for the zoo. The environmental review and workshop follow the city's commissioned feasibility study that greenlighted the project.

Step by step, Mayor Singh-Allen places pieces of the project on the agenda. Given Elk Grove's long history of unanimous voting and compliance under Singh-Allen's watchful eye, the city council will obediently conform as each piece of the project appears. 

Aside from feigned concern by Spease (see second video below) and maybe Councilmember Darren Suen, Singh-Allen has her votes and the project's guaranteed approval with the support of council members Rob Brewer and Sergio Robles, whom she helped get elected to the office.

Regardless of the financial feasibility of the project, when it appears on the agenda, approval is guaranteed. The zoo is a done deal.  

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Renegade said...

This project may well bankrupt this city. It will certainly cost EG taxpayers a fortune, not only to build but also maintain. This MUST be put on a ballot for voter approval.
Private funding in the $100 millions is needed for this to be successful. Show me the money!

Sid Vicious said...

You forgot to mention they unanimously supported and comforted Council member Sergio Robles after he was popped for a DUI by Elk Grove Police!

D.J. Blutarsky said...

The City has already admitted in the feasibility report that the zoo will require a City (taxpayer) subsidy. But I believe we can cast our financial fears aside--there's already a steady cash stream available that takes the prize for Best Sleight of Hand.

We are in the first fiscal year budget since the Measure E sales tax increase was approved by the voters. While not specifically mentioned in the ballot language but certainly approved in the budget, it seems that 20-25% of the City's anticipated revenue from Measure E is arbitrarily being squirreled away for unspecified "economic development projects".

When the current budget was approved, the City estimated that Measure E would generate an additional $21.3 million in annual revenue. Take about a quarter of that which is being stashed in the slush fund, and you have what I believe is the City's minimum committed annual subsidy for the zoo. So in essence, when the voters approved the "quality of life" Measure E tax, little did we know we are paying for a zoo as well!

The economic benefits of the zoo will surely be debated long after the chimps go to bed for the evening, but now we know why the City Council gets so giddy when a new restaurant or store opens in town--it keeps that Measure E cash flowing and seems to be the primary economic development strategy the City has.

It can be argued that the Measure E ballot language was misleading, particularly when it used the created traffic congestion to justify the tax increase by promising reduced emergency response time (I'm waiting for wings on the police and fire vehicles). But to not inform us that we were also voting to subsidize a zoo may very well be one of the greatest sleight of hand moves the City has ever made.

The City of Fresno placed a sales tax measure on their ballot specifically to support the zoo. Voters knew what they were buying with their hard earned money and approved it. Kudos to Fresno for transparency. In a few months the Mayor and City Council campaign flyers will start landing in our mailboxes promising greater transparency and fiscal responsibility as usual. The blue bin is the recycle bin!

Juan Trippe said...

To the point made by D.J., even if the city allots 25% of $24 million each year from Measure E, or about $6 million to the zoo, it probably won't be enough.

Randy Bekker said...

What has not been mentioned is the money going to the county. Isn’t that suppose to be ending soon? On top of measure E monies Elk Grove just paid its way for the Zoo.

Steve L said...

Every single vote taken by our council was unanimous last year? If no one on that council can think independently of staff recommendations or the mayor’s agenda, then what is their purpose at all? Discussion, advocacy and dissent are ideals that make America different from 3rd world countries. How disappointing. Seemingly forced conformity in governance is tyrany. Where’s our democracy? Where are opposing points of view, other factors, avenues not considered? Let’s see some 3-2 votes that show members of this council are thinking outside the box. Otherwise, just let the mayor rule. Actually, I guess that’s what’s happening now. Embarrassing!

Josie said...

Yes, Mr. Bekker I can think of many avenues Elk Grove can use to increase revenues to pay for the Zoo. Some could be increase service fees (such as those on parking and construction permits) as well as fines, taxes, and the cost of accessing city assets. Cities could also determine the cost of services and then establish a cost-plus pricing model to generate additional revenues. There are so many ways out there that the City hasn't tapped as yet. Of course there is the biggie, INCREASE property taxes! Cities MOTTO....Just send us the money!

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