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Z Grapes, Zeh Are Really Sour

Posted by Rick · October 7th, 2004 · 4 Comments

Sour Grapes, over at Famous Fresno, has apparently thrown off it’s support for cultural activities in Fresno. As the election nears, it’s become de rigueur to attack the ballot measure to help the Chaffee Zoo: Measure Z. Perhaps fearful that siding with the Zoo is too mainstream, Famous Fresno decided to jump on the little red bandwagon.

After all, something as popular in the public consciousness as the Chaffee Zoo can’t be allowed to go unscathed. Not by people who promote culture, anyway!

As husband of Denise Chaffee, Doc’s daughter, I feel compelled to speak up about the Fresno Famous position. I’m not sure why given the level of intelligent discussion on the topic presented there already, but, be that as it may…


This post constitutes a “first reaction” to what I read on their site. I had planned to post the comment there, but unfortunately their website has limitations that allow only “bravo! good job!” or “you stink!” kind of comments; nothing much beyond that will fit. (Incidentally, I also already picked up a copy of Community Alliance, which I read fairly regularly, and plan to blog a response to the article about the Chaffee Zoo written there; as I have not read that article yet, that will have to wait a few days. So there will be a more in-depth response to anti-zoo arguments posted later.)

As to Measure Z, Fresno wouldn’t be the first town smart enough to institute a small tax to fund it’s zoo. I once did some research for a technology proposal I wrote for the Chaffee Zoo and learned that many if not most zoos — including the San Francisco Zoo and the San Diego Zoo — benefit or have benefited from tax money in addition to private donations. On top of that, at the time I did that research, the Chaffee Zoo’s half-a-million visitors per year paid the lowest ticket costs — and those other zoos were getting millions more in tax dollars than the Chaffee Zoo has ever gotten.

I know a drunken picnic is more fun than looking at a bunch of monkeys jumping around in a modern exhibit, but you just don’t learn as much. Besides, look at a monkey wrong and he’s not going to pick a fight with you. If he does, you’re safe outside the cage. Perhaps instead of busting the johns in the restrooms, the Fresno PD could just leave well enough alone, let the monkeys solicit there and we can avoid the need for taxing ourselves a penny on every $10 we spend.

You want nice big parks? Start fighting to put some where they can do a bit more good. Maybe instead of one large park locked into an otherwise dying area of town, we can build a more attractive zoo to enhance the area and help turn around some of that decay. We can simultaneously spread more, but smaller parks, so the rest of the city is improved. This makes sense, also, because it’s a lot easier to move a park than it is to move a zoo — and cheaper. The zoo is a potential jewel for the community and should not be allowed to die. The solution to the park problem isn’t to kill the zoo; it’s to build more parks! And I guarantee you, zoos are a lot rarer and more interesting than parks.

But what I’d really like to know is when was the last time some of these people lamenting the loss of Roeding Park actually visited the darn thing.

The Chaffee Zoo and the animals in it have needs. Measure Z will help with many of them.

You’d think people who claim to support culture in Fresno wouldn’t be quite so myopic. And who says our zoo won’t ever be a world-class institution? Do the folks at Famous Fresno even know anything about what our Zoo used to be known for, how far it’s come, and what Doc’s accomplishments were?

I didn’t think so.

Categories: Fresno-Clovis

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 nick meyer // Oct 8, 2004 at 8:30 am

    Rick I knew if I waited long enough we would find something to agree about. Very well written piece here. I was speaking to the YES ON Z people at a City Of Clovis function two weeks ago and we can rest assured that measure Z will pass without fail. There is too much forward motivation going to stop it.

  • 2 Rick Horowitz // Oct 8, 2004 at 8:41 am

    Well, you just never know, Nick. Unthinking people who vote based on emotional, unsupported, gut-based “arguments” aren’t limited to the Republican party, as I believe Bob has pointed out more than once. 😉

    FresnoFamous is one thing, but Community Alliance reaches a wider group of activist people. (For those who don’t know, Community Alliance is pretty much to the hardcore left-wing what Bill O’Reilly is to the hardcore right-wing.)

    I do find it ironic that the same magazine that carries an article titled “Marxism: It’s Relevance in Today’s World” fails to see the irony in promoting an anti-zoo-initiative position.

  • 3 Jarah // Oct 8, 2004 at 10:25 am

    First, I’m sorry you couldn’t post your full response. We don’t pay for the commenting so they limit us to 1,000 characters.

    I find myself unable to rebut your monkey prostitution argument! Nevertheless, the park is used by thousands of people- some of them poor and drunk- and I think shrinking the park area is a valid concern.

    For me, that is the least compelling of the arguments against the measure, although it does highlight how the Measure Z campaign has not exactly been forthcoming about their plans for the zoo.

    The biggest problem as I see it is the oversight of the tax dollars the measure would generate. I think it unwise to give a as-yet unformed 9-person board control of $95m over 10 years. These people will be political appointees, beholden to no one. Sure they say all plans will be discussed in public hearings, but the public has no check on the board members, so what incentive will there be to listen to the public? Will the zoo start serving freedom fries like they do in the Pelco cafeteria? I think it’s a valid question- we have no idea how this money will be spent.

    Further, I don’t think Fresno can support a large, safari-type zoo. If people are not willing to support the zoo- only 7,000 families are members- maybe it should be scaled back, not built up. Maybe we need a park with fewer, but better exhibits. I don’t think taxing people is the appropriate response to declining interest in the zoo, and I don’t think I should have to pay more taxes so that other people can go to the zoo for free.

    I’m confident that those campaigning for the zoo tax have nothing but the best intentions; lack of support for the tax does not translate into a lack of respect for the contributions of your wife’s family.

  • 4 Rick Horowitz // Oct 8, 2004 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Jarah. I want to point out — not so much for you as for readers who may see some of my comments at “attacks” sometimes — that I appreciate the support of FresnoFamous in linking to Unspun™. I intend no disrespect towards any of my new friends over there.

    As I promised, an in-depth article responding to the arguments against Measure Z is in the works. (I’m working feverishly to edit it, so that hopefully it’s not quite as long as the Community Alliance article.)

    I’ve also been on the phone all morning talking to various people, including the Public Affairs Director for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, as well as local Chaffee Zoo people.

    So those of you interested in this discussion, stay tuned.

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