EBR council opts to not back bill to make moving zoo illegal

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Just two days before a bill making it illegal to move BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo will go before state lawmakers, the EBR metro council shot down a push to publicly support the proposal Wednesday night.

Councilwoman Chauna Banks says she is not surprised.

"It's basically the same but every opportunity that I have to bring more accountability to the BREC commission via the metro council, I'm going to do it," Banks said.

The opportunity she chose got pretty heated at times, including Banks airing her frustrations with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, after a representative with the group urged council members not to support the idea.

"Tell me how you think you're doing the right thing," Banks demanded of the representative. "I'm pissed off."

BREC commissioners unanimously ended an effort to relocate the attraction last month after several voices swelled against the plan. Some council members now say supporting the bill is unnecessary since the decision has already been made.

"The zoo hasn't moved," said Councilman Buddy Amoroso. "The public has spoken and the public wants it where it's at."

Other council members say they cannot sign on to the state deciding local matters, saying supporting this measure sets a dangerous precedent going forward.

"As much as I was against the moving of the zoo, as far as function of government, I can't be supportive of this item," said Councilman Matt Watson.

"What happens if there's some tennis courts that are dear to a neighborhood? We can't go and micro-manage everything that BREC does," Councilman Dwight Hudson added. "That's not how we're set up."

Now that the commission has asked the public to fund a study to renovate the zoo at its current location, Banks says her concern is having money funneled into the zoo only to possibly have it move in the future.

"In the last ten years, this is the second time that there was a threat to move the zoo from its current location," Banks warned. "If you think about it, what good businessman or philanthropist is going to be willing to invest in a location that is not stable?"

The bill will go before the House committee on Friday. It is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Carpenter (D) Baton Rouge.

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