I was up in Boston earlier this week, so of course I heard lots of talk about the Henry Louis Gates/Officer Crowley controversy. But the second-most talked about news item was one of the most appalling examples of the "Washington Monument strategy" I've ever come across.
Massachusetts lawmakers provided $6.5 million in their latest budget to help fund the Franklin Park Zoo. That figure represents about half the zoo's annual budget.
Gov. Deval Patrick rescinded $4 million of that sum as a line-item veto. That led Zoo New England to send out a press release saying they would not be able to keep their doors (or gates?) open past October. As a result, zoo officials said, they would have no choice but to kill many of the soon-to-be homeless animals.
Gov. Patrick's spokesman complained that the zoo was spreading "inaccurate and incendiary information."
And yet, the zoo's ploy worked. State legislators quickly pledged to make good on the $4 million by overriding Patrick's veto. Undaunted, the zoo released a revised, yet completely unapologetic, statement:
Zoo New England offered a revised statement after public outcry erupted over the first, saying there are "no plans for the Zoo to euthanize any animals in the collection as a result of the budget cuts." In the revised statement, it laid the blame for any future euthanizations of zoo animals squarely on the shoulders of Massachusetts politicians, who would control the zoos if they were forced to close.
In a paragraph full of bold text and underlining, Zoo New England said that, should the zoos shut down and control of the animals fall to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, state lawmakers "would be faced with the prospect of choosing between two options for the animals that could not be placed: caring for these animals for many years to come or euthanizing them."