LB Animal Shelter Advocacy: An Appreciation And Caution To Ignore Promises, Judge Actions, Keep Pressure On And Practice "Trust But Verify"
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(April. 21, 2019, 2:50 p.m.) -- Former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D, NY) was fond of commenting: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts." Below are some facts worth facing:
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1. To date, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and the incumbent City Council have never agendized a Council item to discuss or take voted action to implement "no kill" practices at LB's animal shelter. For years, any Councilmember(s) or the Mayor could have agendized "no kill" policies for discussion or implementation but none did so and none have indicated they plan to do so.
2. City management April 16 "study session" wasn't agendized to discuss "no kill" policies. It was labeled a 3:30 p.m. special meeting to "receive and file a presentation on the City’s Animal Care Services." A "study session" is the type of proceeding at which the LB City Attorney's office limits Council motions to "receive and file" (take no further action at that time.)
3. City staff's Power Point presentation never used the term "no kill."
4. City management concealed its Power Point slides until minutes before the study session. No Councilmember(s) objected to the concealment, which wasn't required by law and prevented the public from preparing responses to management's presentation.
5. After opening the "study session" over ten minutes late, Mayor Garcia and Council members consumed nearly an hour praising management's presentation before hearing from the public. In addition, Mayor Garcia restricted public testimony by cutting speakers (without Council objection) to 90 seconds each, later 60 seconds.
6. City management announced what it called a "Compassion Saves" policy that recites goals similar to, but differs in practice from, "no kill" policies.
7. Councilwoman Suzie Price and newly hired animal shelter manager Staycee Dains engaged in a public colloquy of ways in which city management's "Compassion Saves" policy differs from "no kill" policies.
8. LB's Councilmembers, elected to set policy, are effectively letting non-elected city management set policy through its newly hired animal shelter manager.
The Mayor and Council can be expected to continue to try to control what happens next, but what's happening now is because of what No Kill advocates did, and what happens next depends on what No Kill advocates will do next. The record shows that No Kill advocates have been on the right side of the facts and the right side of history.
What LB City Hall did on April 16 -- grudgingly, belatedly and still allowing evasion -- wouldn't have happened without the unflinching advocacy of Patricia Turner, PhD, and LB "no kill" advocates. Dr. Turner did what hadn't been done before. She methodically obtained facts under the Public Records Act, unflinchingly cited them, urged changing the status quo with "no kill equation" measures and -- in a game-changing stance -- told LB politicians they'd be held politically accountable for what they did or didn't do.
In 2014, Dr. Turner's group (initially called "Stayin' Alive Long Beach") endorsed.then-Mayoral candidate Robert Garcia, but when he didn't deliver as he'd led them to believe, they began publicly criticizing him.
Stung by the criticism, Garcia tried to hand animal shelter issues to LB's City Auditor. This backfired when the Auditor's performance audits validated a number of No Kill's criticisms of animal shelter management. The shelter's manager, an individual LBREPORT.com believes accomplished much despite budgetary and other constraints, was given another management assignment.
City Hall sought to shift attention to a City Auditor-suggested animal shelter "strategic plan," a future non-legally-binding document to be created by management. Mayor Garcia created a non-binding "animal care visioning Task Force," effectively guided by management, supposedly to guide management creation of its "strategic plan."
In a petulant response to no-kill advocates' criticism, Mayor Garcia declined to include any audible/visible no-kill advocates on his "Task Force." The Mayor's strategy backfired twice, when the Task Force collapsed its credibility by letting management run its meetings, and further backfired when one Task Force member revealed that she supports no-kill policies.
No Kill advocates continued ramping up the pressure, coming to each week's Council meeting and using the period for public comment on non-agendized items to urge the Mayor and Council to agendize actions on animal shelter issues.
When the Mayor/Council failed to act, no kill advocates (independently of Dr. Turner) held an unprecedented demonstration (in a rainstorm) outside the Mayor's January 2019 "State of the City" speech. When the Mayor's speech misstated an animal shelter factoid, no kill advocates publicly called him out.
In early March 2019, management held a public meeting to discuss its forthcoming "strategic plan" but indicated Town Hall style public comments weren't scheduled. No Kill advocates showed up in force, ignored management's "strategic plan" topics and (with meeting organizers' consent) were allowed to speak...and most called for changes and implementation of no kill policies. LB elected officials weren't present, but newly-hired animal shelter manager Staycee Dains was and heard an earful.
Those five years of unrelenting grassroots advocacy, not non-leadership by LB's Mayoral/Councilmembers, are what led to the April 16, 2019 City Council "study session" that produced management's recitation of "no kill" goals but still lacking commitment to no-kill practices.
Although no city staffer or the Mayor or most Councilmember(s) uttered the words "no kill," Councilwoman Suzie Price -- much to her credit -- did so. Councilwoman Price initiated an intellectually honest colloquy with newly hired shelter manager Dains on how "no kill" differs from city management's "Compassion Saves" policies. To hear their colloquy, click here. (10:36, MP3).
What's next? We urge LB animal advocates of all stripes -- No Kill advocates and others thus far silent, or agnostic or resistant -- to apply to the LB animal shelter's new management the principle articulated (in a different context) by former President Reagan -- "Trust, but verify" -- and by all means: keep the pressure on for change.
In our opinion, what's happened in the context of the animal shelter is a reflection of a broader public desire for reform. LB taxpayers in multiple contexts are no longer willing to accept rule from above. They want their City run with the consent of the governed. What a concept.
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