By Aaron Blevins, 10/04/2012
Organization is still open to the possibility
Talks between the city of Los Angeles and the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) to have GLAZA privately manage the zoo have stopped, but it is possible that the discussions are just in hibernation.
Representatives of the organization announced last week that they had halted the discussions with the city to manage and operate the zoo long-term — mostly because the city couldn’t provide policies and regulations that allowed for a “community partnership model,” GLAZA president Connie Morgan said.
“For us, right now, we’ve closed the door … but we haven’t locked it,” she said.
Morgan said GLAZA was looking to enter into a partnership that mirrored the agreements set up by the county for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. However, documents that outlined the operations and governance never came, she said.
“We were looking for that, and for some reason, the city [didn’t provide them],” Morgan said.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the two entities had negotiated through 95 percent of the issues related to the privatization, but legal issues arose on how to structure the governance of the zoo.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get beyond that hurdle,” he said.
Representatives from the City Attorney’s Office were not available by deadline, but reports suggest that the issue stemmed from the city’s charter, which had different labor standards than Los Angeles County.
“What we need to have [is the ability] to govern the zoo and make decisions,” Morgan said, adding that the City Administrative Officer’s Office was helpful throughout the process, but the documents were never received. “That’s why we decided it was fruitless to keep talking.”
The zoo privatization talks lasted throughout the summer, and began when the city started analyzing the possibility of an alternative management structure in May 2011. City officials believed that a GLAZA partnership would help the city’s general fund, increase the operational efficiencies of the zoo, improve fundraising and give the zoo greater operational flexibility.
Currently, the zoo operates as a city department, and had an operating budget of $17.5 million in 2010-2011. Of that budget, $6 million was subsidized by the city’s general fund.
“The troubling thing is that we’re facing some difficult times. We’ve done a lot to control our costs, but our future is still difficult,” Santana said, adding that he hoped the partnership would allow the zoo to be self-sufficient. “Now, the zoo’s going to have to survive on its own at a time when the city is going to be struggling to make ends meet.”