All right, let me start this off by saying that it has been years since I’ve been to the Dallas Zoo, it has been awhile since I’ve talked with Angela Hunt, I don’t have any personal interest in Jenny the elephant or her future home, and I haven’t had time to read every single post, story and comment that has been devoted to this issue. But after directing you to these links to what the DMN reported today concerning relocating the 32-year-old Jenny from the Dallas Zoo, what DMN columnist Steve Blow had to say about Hunt’s meddling with Zoo decisions, and what the Dallas Observer’s blog and readers had to say, I would like to say this: Wow. Leave it to a lonely, aging, soon-to-be-shipped-off elephant to spark more passionate concern among Dallas citizens than the typical city fiasco.
I encourage you to read the stories and formulate your own opinions, and I encourage you to do the reading even if you don’t give a flip about elephants. Because the commentary says a lot about Hunt, about Blow, about a few of the other city council reps, and about what at least a segment of the population thinks about how the city is being run.
This time, the indictment against Hunt seems to be that she’s meddling in the Zoo’s affairs, and she needs to get back to her district and take care of problems there; never mind that the Zoo is owned by the City, loses money every year and probably needs to totally revamped, sold or closed if — as Mayor Leppert is always espousing — the city needs to be run like a business. So what’s the big problem with a city council rep — any city council rep — questioning what’s happening at a city-owned and -operated facility, even if it’s not in his or her district?
I hope that’s what happens every week at the convention center (and, of course, the new convention center hotel), the city golf courses, the water department, the police department, and on and on. These are city properties, and we elect city council reps to do more than blindly sign paperwork pushed under their noses by city employees. I’m sure those things check out fine most of the time, but we all make mistakes, and I feel confident that city employees occasionally don’t see the big picture, don’t have enough time to do the job right, or simply screw up from time to time — without Hunt checking into this elephant deal, who’s to say that didn’t happen here?
And as for whether this issue is big enough for city council attention and action, what’s really needed at the city is someone with enough time to grab a gigantic magnifying glass and spend his or her term looking in every nook and cranny of the city budget for accidental waste, bozo spending and who knows what else — with hundreds of millions of our tax dollars being committed every year by the council, what’s the harm of looking at it as if it was our own money? Because, of course, it is. And buried deep in the Observer’s blog is the suggestion, by Hunt, that she’s doing exactly that.
What happens with Jenny, I’m happy to leave in the hands of Hunt, the Zoo and whoever else is interested. But the fact that a city council rep is taking the time to become involved in a city issue of this type — as opposed to limiting his or her involvement to begging for free concert tickets or parking for free at D/FW airport — is refreshing to me.