Last Wednesday, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved turning over management of the zoo to a non-profit organization, a spin-off of the philanthropic Dallas Zoological Society. I supported this decision and think in the longrun it’ll improve our zoo.
However, I didn’t like the fact that this was rushed through, and several councilmembers also voiced their concern that this proposal was moving too fast. The council had only been briefed about the matter the week before. The mayor and others argued that this idea has been floating around for a decade, I suppose implying that we had gotten plenty of notice. But an idea floating around in the ether is far different from a concrete proposal, and a week is too little time to really digest such a significant change to one of our largest assets.
The proposal suggested that the city retain ownership of the zoo property but that the zoological society manage day-to-day zoo operations and assume ownership of the animals. The city would pay an annual flat fee (adjusted for inflation) to the zoological society for managing the zoo, and the society would pick up expenses beyond that.
As I reviewed the proposal, I kept thinking of possible problems (that’s what I do when I review city proposals — I look at them very critically and try to find holes or problems or unintended consequences that need to be fixed; blame it on the lawyer in me). I was pleased that almost every concern was addressed. Continue reading