AirTalk for September 28, 2012

Greater LA Zoo Association terminates contract talks to operate Los Angeles Zoo

Visitors arrive at the main entrance to

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Visitors arrive at the main entrance to the Los Angeles Zoo in Los Angeles, California August 12, 2011. The Los Angeles City Council voted today to pursue plans leading to a possible privatization of the zoo, an idea described by its chief advocate as ``the only model'' available to the cash-strapped city if it wishes to keep the attraction open. City officials say the change would save nearly $20 million over the next five years but opponents of the plan question the savings and warn that privatization could mean steeper ticket prices for the zoo's 1.5 million annual visitors and less transparency when it comes to animal welfare.

After being involved with the Los Angeles Zoo for nearly 50 years, the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) has ceased discussions with the City of Los Angeles regarding the establishment of a long-term contract to continue working with the city's zoo and botanical gardens.

GLAZA President Connie Morgan sent a letter to City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana informing him of the GLAZA Board of Trustees’ decision on Thursday. In the letter, Morgan outlined what is needed to optimally operate the facility, but declared, “The City has failed to provide detailed explanations, information or documentation of the City interpretations that would present barriers to our achieving a suitable governance structure [to successfully operate the zoo.]”

For nearly five decades, the private, non-profit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), founded in 1963 has funded exhibits, plant and animal species conservation, capital projects, and education and community outreach programs at the Los Angeles Zoo, an international leader in the preservation of endangered species and a conservation center for the care and study of wildlife. GLAZA also builds and invests endowment funds and operates five essential departments on behalf of the Zoo, including development, publications, membership, volunteers and oversight of the Zoo's food/retail concessions. There are currently 73,000 GLAZA member households representing more than 300,000 adults and children, the largest membership base of a cultural organization in Los Angeles, and a volunteer corps of over 700.

How should the City of Los Angeles respond to GLAZA’s cessation of contract discussions? What is the best suited management structure for the zoo considering the financial challenges face by the City of LA?

Guests:

Connie Morgan, president, Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA)

Miguel Santana, chief administrative officer, City of Los Angeles

Dov Lesel, assistant city attorney with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office


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