(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 23, 2013)
Bipartisan spirit did not prevail at the Jan. 9, 2013 County Commission meeting when Republican Commissioners refused to consider discussion on the appointment of a new member to the Oakland County Zoological Authority, and instead approved a fifth Republican to hold the seat.
City Manager Alex Allie gave notice of his resignation from the Authority on Aug. 28, but Democratic Board Members were not told about it until the Jan. 9 meeting. Allie resigned because while he is still the City Manager, he no longer lives in Oakland County.
Chairperson Mike Gingell, a Republican, is in charge of appointing members to that committee, with this appointment breaking a non-official policy of allowing the minority party to have at least one member on the five-person board.
Gingell skipped over the alternate, who had a history with the Authority by attending previous meetings. He also ignored the possibility that Democratic Commissioner Dave Woodward, who represents Royal Oak or Helaine Zack, who represents Huntington Woods, might have insight into the zoo’s oversight. The Detroit Zoo’s address is in Royal Oak, with property stretching over the city line into Huntington Woods.
At the Jan. 9 Board of Commissioners meeting, Democrat Marcia Gershenson criticized the process and asked that an objection be made and for a discussion to occur before the appointment be approved. Zack seconded that motion, but each member of the Republican majority at least two Democrats voted against discussion and upheld Potts’ appointment.
“I think this should have been interviewed,” Gershenson said. “I know there are a lot of other people that were interested in this. There’s some serious votes coming up and I don’t think it was appropriate for this not to come to GG [General Governance Committee] and to do interviews.” She also said she was concerned that Allie’s resignation letter came on Aug. 28, but that it was not brought forward until the Jan. 9 meeting.
Gingell pointed out that appointments are made by him and do not need to go through the committee process.
Zack, who also represents Ferndale among four other cities, was unhappy with being left out of the process. “As everybody knows I’m from Huntington Woods and the animals are in my community and the zoo is in my neighborhood, and it’s very important to me, and I worked very hard on the Zoo Authority getting it on the ballot,” Zack said. “We did have the City Manager from Huntington Woods as an appointee and an alternate of Alex Cooper from Huntington Woods, and they’re a great team… I didn’t know we were making this appointment. Alex Cooper, the alternate who has served us very well is very committed, would have loved this appointment had he known that it was open and I just feel that there should have been some more open communication in the process and I would have really liked some input to this appointee.”
The Authority is tasked with being the watchdogs of the tax money that is collected for operating and maintaining the Detroit Zoo as a regional cultural attraction. One issue they face currently is the fact that several communities in Wayne County, which has their own Authority, have been diverting funds from the voter-approved millage for zoo funding and using them for their Downtown Development. Journalist Bill Laitner of The Detroit Free Press explains this controversy in his article at http://www.freep.com/article/20130121/NEWS05/301210077/?odyssey=tab|mostpopular|text|ENT04.
In other Detroit Zoo News, M-Live reports that for Valentine’s Day patrons can attend a program to learn about how animals at the zoo “do it.” Find out more about this romantic program, for adults aged 21 and up, at http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2013/01/detroit_zoo_valentines_day_eve.html.
Below is a video taken from the stream of the Oakland County meeting. To watch a higher quality video of the entire meeting, visit http://www.oakland.michiganliveevents.com/2013/01/swearing-in-ceremony-board-of-commissioners-meeting-wednesday-january-9-2013-at-530-p-m/.