In Los Angeles, the budget crunch is getting so tight that it's forcing decisions on issues that have festered for years. In this instance, it's an elephant in the room — a literal one named Billy. Activists, including Lily Tomlin, have pushed a "Free Billy" campaign for years, deploring the miserable life of elephants in zoos. They may be about to get their wish, as funds for a planned Pachyderm Forest exhibit at the LA Zoo are becoming extinct. Billy may soon be heading to a sanctuary in Northern California, joining other retirees.
A Wall Street Journal report says the city is facing a shortfall of $300 million in the next budget year, putting crossing guards, libraries, and elephants all on the endangered list. The City Council is exploring privatization of the zoo, for instance, a step already taken in Seattle. The Pachyderm Forest, already partially completed, may be another victim of the new austerity.
And when will this kind of decide-and-die mentality reach Puget Sound? So far, we seem to be in the denial phase of the cycle. Inspired by the November voting for transit, parks, and the Market, the mood at our City Hall is more one of trying to get projects enacted before the famine arrives. More streetcars. Taxing districts for Puget Sound cleanup. Nice big new Convention Center twin to keep the current one company on slow days. A nearly-new Husky Stadium and Key Arena. Cost-no-obstacle solution to SR520 as it traverses Montlake and the Arboretum. Lots more cops.