Oak-Grassland Interface at Knowland Park photo: Mack Casterman

As November approaches, EBCNPS’s work to oppose Alameda County Measure A1 (The Oakland Zoo Parcel Tax) is heating up. We have been attending meetings with voter groups, working on media outreach and posting regular updates on the saveknowland.org website.

EBCNPS’s interest in this measure centers upon our goal to protect Knowland Park, Oakland’s Largest and biologically richest public park from destruction. The park is home to two rare plant communities (valley purple needlegrass grassland and maritime chaparral), mountain lions, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, many species of birds and bats, reptiles including the threatened Alameda whipsnake, and many other wildlife species. Due to the measure’s wording, funds from Measure A1 could be used for the zoo’s proposed $72 million expansion development into public park land in Knowland Park (Oakland’s largest wildland park).

The Oakland Zoo is claiming that it needs the money from this measure to provide basic services and care for its animals and to fund educational programs for local schools. How can the zoo be planning a $72 million expansion when it apparently doesn’t have the means to care for the animals it already has?

Furthermore, at a recent Piedmont League of Women Voters Forum, Oakland Zoo CEO Joel Parrott admitted that the Zoo is spending $1 million on its campaign to pass this measure! This certainly does not seem to be the cash strapped organization that is being presented in the ballot measure, and one has to wonder, if the Zoo has this kind of money to throw around on a campaign, do they really need more money from Alameda County tax payers?

 

Here is a brief list of EBCNPS’s concerns about the measure:

Measure A1 is an irrevocable 25 year tax that:

Could be used to fund a $72 million massive zoo expansion into public park land in Knowland Park (Oakland’s largest wildland park)

Measure A1 allows taxpayer funds to be used broadly, even to build a 34,000 square foot restaurant, gift shop, visitor center and office complex. This development would pave over and destroys ecologically rich wildlife and native plant habitat. It would displace a rare plant community used by many species of native wildlife, including threatened Alameda whipsnake.

Gives millions of dollars in tax revenue to a body that isn’t publicly elected.

This hastily-crafted measure would create a troubling precedent of taxing residents to fund a private operator. The nonprofit corporate board running the zoo has no publicly elected members and is not required to follow state public open records laws. A 25-year tax for a privately-run operation, with no true public accountability, is unacceptable.

Zoo already gets public funds from multiple sources and there are too many other needs that are higher priority.

The zoo already takes in millions of dollars in public funding, including Oakland city funds, dedicated hotel taxes, East Bay Regional Park District funds, bonds money and a multimillion-dollar State Parks grant. Schools, libraries, and many other public programs and services should take priority for new taxes – we can’t fund everything at once. Zoo executives are saying they don’t have enough funds now to care for the animals they already have, so why are they planning on building a huge expansion, which will further increase their operating costs?

Creates burden for low-income seniors.

Low-income seniors who want to apply for an exemption from paying this tax would have to apply each and every year to the zoo operator, creating an additional burden and requiring them to submit their personal financial information to a private entity with no accountability to voters.

Measure A1 is Opposed by:

East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Friends of Knowland Park, Alameda Creek Alliance, California Native Grasslands Association, Resource Renewal Institute, Ohlone Audubon Society, Oakland Rising, The East Bay Express, and many other individuals and organizations that care about protecting our precious parklands.

For more information about our campaign, visit www.saveknowland.org

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