by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
In today’s News and Record, there’s a fascinating article about the North Carolina Zoo and its problems with state bureaucracy. The zoo wants to move to a public/private partnership model, much like many other zoos across the country. The model would free the zoo from a lot of the red tape that slows down its operations and makes it difficult for the zoo to grow and adapt.
The article quotes Rod Hackney, PR manager for the zoo, and his comments are telling.
“You send anything to Raleigh, and it disappears for six weeks,” says Rod Hackney, public relations manager for the zoo. It took six months to get approval to replace the zoo’s strollers.
“The big issue is that running a business doesn’t fit well within the state bureaucracy,” Jones says. “There are many levels over decision-making that include people who aren’t in the best position to make some of these decisions.”
Often, even with money in the bank to pay for a project, the zoo must wait months or as long as a year for state approval.
“We’ve had money in the bank for two years to add restrooms to the Solar Pointe picnic area, and in those two years, we’ve lost money that we could have gotten in renting the space,” Jones says.
Once a project is approved, it must go through a bidding process, even if there really is only one or two suppliers for the product they need.
“When we wanted to bring the ‘Dinosaurs’ exhibit, we had to follow the requirement to get multiple bidders,” Jones says about the exhibit, which featured animatronic dinosaurs that roared and moved. “Sure, there are cheaper dinosaur exhibits out there. But they’re lousy. People with no knowledge of what we do get into the debate. It took almost a year to get everything approved for the dinosaur exhibit, and we almost lost it altogether.”
I love the NC Zoo, and I want it to thrive. The best way for that to happen is for it to be freed up from state bureaucracy.