Sunday, March 09, 2014

Missile gap

Ron Forman says we are in danger of losing an arms race.
If it doesn’t pass, Forman warns, New Orleans will inevitably be eclipsed in a kind of tourism arms race by destinations that continue to invest in bigger and better facilities. “We would probably hang on a few years, but eventually, we would decline and not be the attraction we are today,” he said.
Uh oh. Can't afford to fall behind just at the moment that we're all pretending to restart the whole Cold War.  How can we not meet the challenge of Vladimir Putin's aggressive zoological exploits?
In preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Vladimir Putin visited a Persian leopard sanctuary when suddenly a six-month-old cub attacked two journalists. Known for his action in the face of danger, Putin leaped into the fray like an agile cat and subdued the cub by calmly cuddling with it. The journalist suffered minor feline-related injuries. According to the BBC, after the heroic event, Putin said, “I like animals, it seems I have a feeling for them.”

The Persian leopard went extinct in the Caucasus region of Russia in 1970. In 2009, Russia established a captive breeding program in Sochi National Park in order to reintroduce the leopards in the wild. Putin visited the park in an attempt to demonstrate the positive environmental impact of the Olympic Games, which environmentalists have decried as damaging habitats.

Putin is no stranger to the animal kingdom. In 2008, he assisted a group of scientists in tracking and tagging an Amur Tiger. In a similar 2010 expedition, he put a tracking collar on a polar bear. Putin has also ridden horses shirtless, wrestled dogs in the snow, stood next to undisturbed reindeer and flown a flock of Siberian cranes to winter habitats in a glider.

Obviously something has to be done. As luck would have it, Ron Forman is ready to do something... he's not telling you exactly what. But he does know that the best thing to do in any national security crisis is to throw money at it first and ask questions later... way later.
Unlike the last time Forman asked taxpayers for money — back in 1986 to build the aquarium — there has been little public discussion of what the institute plans to do with the extra cash. And that’s despite plenty of time for debate: Audubon’s existing millages won’t expire until 2021 and 2022.

What’s more, the ballot question arrives as City Hall grapples with how to pay for a seemingly endless list of other priorities: a local jail in need of reform, an understaffed police force, public schools that could always use more support and many others.

As much as the Audubon Nature Institute serves as a public resource and tourism draw, it is also a private entity that charges for access to its attractions, pays more than half a dozen executives six-figure salaries and has rarely faced the kind of scrutiny other agencies do over how it allots public dollars.
And, of course, now is not the time to start applying any such scrutiny to the well-compensated executives of this publicly subsidized non-profit. We've got an arms race to win. 

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