Thursday, August 31, 2017

City Council wants Zoo Board to open meetings to the public.

The Jackson City Council questioned whether the regular meetings of the Board of Directors for the Jackson Zoo should be public.  The Jackson Zoological Society by-laws bar the public from attending these meetings.  Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks took the lead in raising the issue while the rest of the City Council and Mayor Lumumba chimed in with their support of Mr. Banks. 





The Mayor and City Council urged the Jackson Zoological Society to change it's by-laws and open the board meetings to the public.  The meetings are held every two months.


Kingfish note: Full disclosure: I serve on the Board of Directors for the Zoo.  I can not provide any further information because Board members have to sign a confidentiality agreement. However, it is my opinion that the meetings should be open to the public.  The city owns the actual property and is responsible for its maintenance.  Nearly half the budget is provided by the city. The taxpayers' share of the budget increases when the zoo is included in the state bond bill.  There is a disconnect between the community and the zoo.  It is also my opinion that the closed meetings have helped create the disconnection.  The by-laws should be changed to follow the Open Meetings Act. 

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

If we want the zoo to survive, which I do, it has to move locations. I am a Jackson resident and do not feel comfortable sending my wife and kids down there. It belongs at Lefleurs Golf Course. I know several wealthy individuals that will not give until moving is on the table. Junior League needs to take this project on.

Anonymous said...

KF: If the Zoo stays where it is, it will continue to wither and die, until it becomes just another burden on a failed city.

The only hope for a Zoo on a go forward basis (that I can see) is to integrate one into a commercial entertainment complex: water park, outdoor performance venue, hotel, etc. Something out on the Reservoir or somewhere that people will actually want to go.

Does the Board have any long term strategy for keeping this thing open? Or do they think things will just magically get better one day?

Anonymous said...

Why in the world would directors of the Jackson zoo have to sign a confidentiality agreement? Good grief! That is completely FUBAR. It's not exactly state secrets being discussed. I've served on the board of directors for several arts organizations in the city and I can assure you we never discussed the need for a confidentiality agreement. Seems like the powers that be at the zoo are on a power trip.

Anonymous said...

The Zoo needs to be move on Lakeland Dr by Smith Wills. This is the only place left where it can survive. It should have been moved 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

I think the proposal to move near children's museum is fantastic and most of the large donors are NE Jackson families... they have 0 interest in moving outside of the city per junior league.

Anonymous said...

The location, landscape, and infrastructure for a zoo at Lefluer's is just too perfect, but we're talking about a TON of State and municipal money to build something of that scope.

I think we're closer to no zoo than we are to a new zoo.

Anonymous said...

I love how the Zoo is positioned strategically off of W. Capitol St. and near the old airport. It causes one to feel like they are further and further from civilization with each step. It truly is an other-worldly experience.

Anonymous said...

I agree the Jackson Zoo needs to move by the Children's Museum. That is a prime location. At this point west Jackson is just not where it needs to be to support a Zoo. I will rather take the chances of moving it than losing it. West Jackson has a declining population, declining infrastructure and a declining tax base. The city councils need to put their ward aside and focus on the city as a whole. Everyone is all over the place right now the focus need to be on crime, infrastructure and education without those 3 in place the city will not prosper. With those 3 the city will not have no other choice but to thrive that way you will have more middle class to move into the city.

Ben said...

This might not be a popular opinion, but I think it should be allowed to fail rather than continuing to draw financial support from a failing and mismanaged city. Jackson can't afford it, plain and simple. It's a relic from more prosperous times for the capitol.

Anonymous said...

All of these comments about the need to "move the zoo" obviously have no idea what they are proposing.

Which among you are willing for either the city, the county, or the state - or for that matter any combination of them - to fork out more that $100 MILLION to make this idea materialize?

Obviously, the city can't do this. They can't even pave the street that runs along the area (Museum Drive) so they obviously can't fund the over a hundred million dollars needed to take care of this pipe dream.

If the state even thought about doing it, the screams that would arise under the Capitol dome would break the new glass roofing recently repaired. No way the state should spend this money here, forgetting all the other needs that would - and should - have priority.

Don't even begin to suggest a bond issue. That's real money also, just hidden. Kinda like buying a new car on your credit card and thinking how great it is to get a new car for free. Until the bill comes in next month. Besides terrible economics, it just isn't going to happen.

So, forget about this idea of moving. Besides the cost, how do you think the idea of replacing the developed Lefluer's Golf Course with a zoo would go over? Just because there appears to be a lot of land around the Children's Museum, its all in use now by facilities that people are using regularly. Think they won't scream and holler loud as well?

The real issue in this post, though, is the secrecy of the Zoo Board. Confidentiality Agreements for Board members? That's B/S. Using our tax dollars for their support, not allowing anyone to attend board meetings, and not allowing board members to speak about what is going on?

Hell, the city ought to reallocate the money presently being given to the zoo and use it for other purposes that are widely needed. And the state ought to cut out any more dollars being hidden in the bond bills by Beth Clay, the zoo's highly paid lobbyist. At least until and when they open up their operation to transparency like other publically funded operations are required to do.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, good reasonable discussion by our "new" Mayor and all the city council members (including Kenneth). WITH OF COURSE, one exception. Must notice that new councilwoman Virgie Lindsey - a longtime supporter of the Zoo Society (the non-profit) and an opponent of openness and transparency when related to the zoo - did not open her mouth.

All members of the council, and the Mayor, speaking up trying to 'advise' the zoo society to change their approach and let bring in some sunshine. Hell, even Kenneth approached the reality and pointed out that the contract could be not renewed when it expired next year. (Failed to consider that it probably has a termination clause, but that's asking for a lot of thought process.)

If the city is going to provide as much of the budget as it does, in addition to being expected to maintain all the infrastructure needs - they ought to demand that the zoo society make several changes:

1) Open the meetings to the public
2) Get rid of that stupid 'confidentiality agreement' that they make board members sign. If a board member is appointed by the city, they should be able to speak out about issues related to the operation; otherwise, what difference does it make for the appointees.
3) Require that at least half of the Exec Committee be city appointees; I'm sure that just like all other similar boards, the Exec Comm of the board is where decisions are actually made.
4) Make sure that truly competent individuals are appointed by the city; in the past, too many of the city appointees were nothing but patsies for the existing society board members.

This ought not wait until next year; the city is making up its budget for the year as we speak/read here. The zoo is probably wanting over a million dollars from the city for operating expenses during 2017-18. Either they make these changes, or they get no city dollars. Easy decision (the Golden Rule - he who has the Gold, Makes the Rules.) If they don't want to recognize the fact that the city not only owns the property, maintains it, and provides most of the funding,then let them take their "society" and start their own zoo.

Anonymous said...

Kinda funny that the City Council seems more concerned about the money that's going to the animals at the Zoo than the students at JPS.

$JustSaying said...

Sad to say but there are almost no options left that will save the zoo, the accrediting agencies are slowly removing their support,necessary staff is being lost and public support has been lost. The costs to move and rebuild are prohibitive, all this being said means we will witness the closing of the zoo in the near future.

Anonymous said...

$100 Million??? - I am certainly not willing to "fork out" that much- I don't think we have(or can borrow) that much

F mickns said...

Folks. That undeveloped and undeveloped land (Smith Wills, Ross Museum, Fowler Park, golf course) is the most valuable commercial property in the state, based on traffic count among other things. , worth hundred of millions of dollars. It is in the natural growth path of all of the otherwise land locked hospitals west of I55. Plans have investigated to build a tunnel under I55 to connect the hospitals as a service drive ( implausible you say? What about the airport airline taxiways that cross the interstate
in NY , Chicago and LA?). We didn't get CostCo because the state gave 10's of millions of tax breaks for CostCo to be built in Madison. I believe that if you move Zoo that is certainly not the place. If this state wants a public zoo, upgrade the Zoo you have. Just my opinion b

Anonymous said...

F minkens, most everything you say, and your analysis are good. Except, of course, your answer as to why we didn't get CostCo. The state would have 'given' - provided is a more appropriate work, but what the hell - to put Costco at Smith Wills. What stopped it was our Secretary of State, who thinks he should be in charge of everything when he tried to raise a deed provision (that could have been dealt with by the legislature) and a few rich folks in NE Jackson residential area who didn't want the traffic that it would bring to the area. Of course, trying to cater (grovel??) to those potential contributors is why Gilbert decided to inject himself into the discussion.

But - to the point - moving the zoo to that area is not good land use, but as has been noted is financially not feasible. So for all the zoo lovers that think the only way they would attend is to move it somewhere they like, its not happening - either to this land or any other.

Anonymous said...

But, the subject here is open meetings. I'm almost certain that, if challenged, the powers would be told they have no authority to bar the public from these meetings regarding a public entity and public body.

Anonymous said...

Any board that advises or oversees any taxpayer funds should be required to have open meetings with the exception of hiring or firing employees directly under their control.

Moving the zoo to the Smith Wills/Riverside area is not feasible for the reasons 7:30 pm mentioned and for the same reason it was not a good location for Costco. The Secretary of State made the right decision and it's not to protect " friends", it's because he has enough sense to know that protecting residential tax bases in any city is critical especially a capitol city where the government owned property reduces taxable land. One has only to study other states which succeed to get how critical it is to have a strong state capitol with a strong residential base. And it important to the hospitals that serve the entire state to have residential areas nearby in which hospital employees can live in easy proximity.

If you want a zoo, it should be a State supported zoo . If you want to relocate it, it should be within easy access of I-55 or I-20. I frankly haven't looked at it, but in other locations, creating an attractive corridor to directly to a zoo seems to work and might be more economically feasible for us as well.

Anonymous said...

Bye Bye Zoo....it was nice back in "the day"

Anonymous said...

Either move it or close it. Closing it probably makes the most sense with the access to other zoos with a days drive, although I would hate to see it shut down. Take the property, make some modifications, and use it for a jail.

Anonymous said...

I've read here for years how the Zoo won't last much longer, is terrible, afraid to go there, etc. Could it use some improvement? Of course, I don't know anything that couldn't. But the facilities are a damn sight nicer than many other zoos. And if you're afraid for yourself or your kids or whoever, don't go. That's such a tired, coward sentiment. It's tiring. Should you go cruising in West Jackson at midnight? No, probably not a great idea. But afraid to go to the Zoo, which closes at 4? If you're afraid of that, how do you even get out of the door to do anything?

Anonymous said...

Keep the zoo where it is and create a corridor road right off I-220. I will not repeat what others have stated but the money is not there to move!!

Anonymous said...

The problem at the zoo is the current upper management in place and all the secrets and mismanagement. People would support the zoo if they saw any hope of it changing and becoming viable again. Over the years you keep hearing study after study and more money spent on these studies but nothing ever happens. Let's talk about the elephants. For over a year the board said they discussed removing the elephants from the zoo. Nothing was said to the public until 72 DAYS before their departure. Here was a perfect opportunity for the board and the zoo to have a capital campaign and raise the money to keep the elephants. But once again secrecy prevailed and the zoo was exposed when the reasons for removing the elephants were not valid as they claimed. The zoo no longer has not only elephants but lions, orangutans, sea lions, cheetah, camels and other various animals. This is why the zoo has lost support.

Anonymous said...

7:47 - There is already a 'corridor road' to the zoo 'right off I-220. I think the sign refers to it as Capitol Street (or is it Capital). Straight shot. Go armed.

And while Frank Mickens whines about how Jacktown suffered discrimination and the state didn't want Costco there, we need to consider the modern relevance of a zoo, anyway. This is not 1955.

Anonymous said...

What animals are left in the Jackson Zoo? The people of Jackson has been using zoo animals for dog food for many years. Who wants to go to a zoo that does not have any animals and where you have to dodge bullets getting there?
The zoo is history. At least move the remaining animals, all three of them, to another zoo while they are still alive.

Anonymous said...

In a city like Jackson a zoo is an expensive extravagance. Jackson should focus on the basics like infrastructure, public safety, and economic development before it spends another dime on that zoo. A lot like folks on public assistance spending hundreds of dollars on their hair and nails while the water bill goes unpaid (snark intended).

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In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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