Culver City Observer
June 19 - 25, 2008
by Stephen Hadland
Animal Control Officer Approved for 24 Months
The Culver City Council, facing budget constraints and an outcry on public notice, voted by a 3-2 margin Monday night to implement an animal control officer (ACO) for 24 months on a "pilot program."
Councilmember Andy Weissman. expressed the view that proper public notice wasn't given and several members of the public noted that the staff report wasn't even available on the city's web site until late Friday evening.
Councilmember Christopher Armenta rejected the pleas from members of the public to hold off discussion on the ACO. Council member Mehaul O'Leary voted with Armenta to continue the hearing.
Armenta, in moving to add $129,000 to the city budget for one ACO, stated "It's the most important issue of the campaign" as well as his belief that it is "fundamental service" that the city should provide. In seconding the motion Silbiger said that in his campaigning "that every house has a dog" and that when we approve the ACO it will be "as important as starting our Martin Luther King Day Celebration." The Vice Mayor went on the say that there was too much financial information given in the report and found it unnecessary.
After close to 90 speakers, cards and emails were heard or read, the council was ready to debate the issue. The comments broke down into three general areas, those that were concemed with a lack of notice, those that wanted an animal shelter and those that wanted an ACO and shelter. Those that discussed the animal shelter were unaware that it since it was not on the agenda it could not be discussed or considered by the council.
Weissman said that the "report does not say what we do not know about the costs." He went on to list hidden costs that were not included in the report such as supervision, who is going to prosecute the citations, the increasing cost of fuel, and where would the temporary shelter be located.
Mayor Scott Malsin, like Weissman, mentioned that he and his family have pets and some were adopted as strays. He was the most vocal about not having an ACO because of the additional burdens on staff and costs. He also commented that the report did not make the case for a full time ACO. As a compromise motion he asked to fund a full time ACO from the Los Angeles County that failed to get a second.
Near the end of the four-hour debate O'Leary agenda offered a substitute motion that was virtually identical to the original motion except it referred to the new position as a "pilot program" which would last for two years beginning at the hiring of a person for the position. Silbiger queried O'Leary on his substitute motion answered in earlier questions for a pilot program. The motion passed by a 3-2 vote. Several speakers spoke about the conditions at the Carson Animal Shelter where the county currently houses any animals picked up in Culver City. One speaker called the conditions an abomination, and deplorable. Unanswered was the question of where Culver City will house the dogs and cats the ACO picks up.
City Manager Jerry Fulwood citied nearby cities that had ACO's without a shelter and in all cases the costs to those communities exceeded $300,000.
Near the end of the council meeting with an almost empty chamber, the 2008-09 budget was presented for approval with minor corrections. Silbiger attempted to add an additional employee to the budget as a Council Staff Person to do research and errands for the council. This met with a comment by Armenta that it may not be the right time to discuss the issue. The three remaining council members sat in absolute stunned silence to the thought of someone else doing their work.