Forget about homelessness, crime, education, gridlock, potholes, police, grafitti, sanitation, sequenced traffic signals, affordable housing, or making L.A. more business friendly. Instead, in these last stagnant and unremarkable days before the election tomorrow the hot-button issue that’s polarized the mayoral candidates is pachyderms ó specifically the elephants of the Los Angeles Zoo. In one corner is Jim-MAY “Seize The Day After Tomorrow” Hahn who favors keeping the elephants in L.A., and in the other corner is ‘Tonio “Say My Name Say My Name” Villaraiblahblah who wants to ship them out to a sanctuary up Northern California way.
Disclosure: I work at the Zoo, but my bottom line is that I’m all for doing whatever’s best for the Zoo’s elephants ó†whether that’s keeping them or moving them. Sanctuaries are a great solution in many cases, but they’re not the automatic be-all/end-all. And contrary to the knocks taken from animal rights activists, the elephants are in great hands at the Zoo, which has an animal keeper staff and administration terrifically dedicated to caring for all its creatures.
Whoever the mayor is after Tuesday and whatever the decision that’s ultimately made regarding the elephants after that, in the meantime my recommendation is that ‘Tonio shut that flapping hole between his nose and chin and take the time necessary to educate himself rather than preemptively undermining the Zoo and its management like he did when he answered KNBC reporter Doug Kriegel, who asked him whether the Zoo’s elephant exhibit should be shut down: “Well,” he said, “as mayor of the City of Los Angeles, I’m certainly going to work toward that goal. I think we need to move the elephants out.”
Hell, if Jim-MAY can be quoted respectfully defering to Zoo chief John Lewis with “I’m going to listen to the zoo director, an excellent professional in this area,” ‘Tonio should at least be able to extend such professional courtesy as well.