Posted on February 21, 2006

The Future of the Detroit Zoo

Kimberly Craig & Dave LewAllen, (Detroit), February 20, 2006

Detroit’s financial mess has put the Detroit Zoo on the endangered list. City council members said their vote was not to close the zoo, but some felt they were being bullied by a state deadline and lawmakers who look down on Detroit.

Council member Barbara-Rose Collins said the state’s deadline for the city to sign over zoo operations to the Zoological society boiled down to disrespect. Many council members felt they were being bullied into handing over zoo operations without an agreement they were comfortable with.

Some city council members said they were largely opposed to giving $10 million in capital improvement funds to the society and paying almost $1 million a year for insurance and security without getting any of the revenue.

City council members said they also wanted to have a say in who would be hired as the director.

Council member Martha Reeves said, “Whoever runs the zoo should have an understanding with the city council. And it was not clear what the actual agreement was, it was never completed.”

Collins said, “The symbolism is that Detroit is a black city and that we’re unable to govern ourselves. So we need an overseer, the state legislature, or what have you, to step in and tell us what we must do and how to do it.”

She said she will not sign off on an operating agreement until it protects Detroit’s interests and the state should not try to force them with a funding deadline.

“That is a racist attitude. I resent it very much. I’m trying not to let it color my judgments, but we’re not a plantation, blacks aren’t owned by white folks anymore,” said Collins.