Public hearing on future of Detroit Zoo becomes shouting match
It was suppose to be a public hearing about the future of the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit City Council’s efforts to save it.
But today’s hearing in the 13th floor auditorium of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center has been anything but that.
It became a hearing where mostly Detroiters came en masse to tell the council not to turn over the zoo and to vote against proposed water rate increases and other measures that they say will hurt poor residents.
The hearing has been marked by heated exchanges between council members and residents, cat calls and arguments over a host of subject -- including a handful of comments about the zoo.
It even included a back-and-forth exchange between Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers and a local community activist, Agnes Hitchcock of the grassroots watchdog group the Call’em Out Coalition.
Conyers admonished the crowd and Hitchcock for being disorderly and disrespectful.
“Our children are watching, we have to respect other people,” Conyers said.
She was shouted down, however, by some in attendance who peppered her and the rest of the council with cat calls. Several council members even left the dias in an attempt to give the audience time to cool off.
The council was schedueld to vote today, after the public hearing, on a proposal to turn over the daily operations of the zoo to the non-profit Detroit Zoological Society. The city would retain ownership of the zoo and all its assets, the zoological society would essentially be the zoo management.
The council initially voted down the proposal, 7-2, when it came for a vote nearly two weeks ago. But since then, revisions have been made to the transfer agreement that have swayed several council members to either change their vote or at least strongly consider approving the deal.
The proposal needs the approval of at least five of the nine council members. So far, it seems the revised agreement has the support of at least that many council members.
But getting to the actual vote may be tricky. If the council continues to be interrupted and berated, they may choose to put off the vote until their next scheduled voting session on Friday.
If there still is no vote at that point, the matter could be pushed to the council's following scheduled voting session next Wednesday, unless a special session is called.
What is there really to say? *shakes head*