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Didn't the Ed Boks fiasco teach the mayor anything?

Didn't the Ed Boks fiasco teach the mayor anything?
By Daniel Guss Daniel
Guss is a writer and animal rescuer in Sherman Oaks.
03/31/2010

AUTHOR John Powell famously said that the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

As we approach the one year anniversary of the resignation of Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks in April, it doesn't appear that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has learned much from his huge mistake. He hired a high profile animal shelter general manager without consulting the stakeholders, namely rescuers, shelter personnel and nationally recognized leaders in progressive animal welfare.

Five years ago, the Mayor's Office invited dozens of rescuers and advocates to the palatial home of Kathy Riordan, the long-serving Animal Services Commissioner and daughter of Richard Riordan. Unfortunately, the gathering was not to discuss who would replace the previous general manager, Guerdon Stuckey. It was just to introduce us to his successor Ed Boks, whom the mayor already hired without the benefit of public input.

That errant decision brought Los Angeles havoc in spades. Some of the highlights of Boks' tenure included the canceling of critical spay/neuter programs, unopened shelters and clinics, the uproar over the "Hooters for Neuters," the six-figure settlement of a sexual harassment case, and sundry other folly.

And, of course, immense and needless suffering and killing of animals.
With Boks now gone for nearly a year, the mayor's only communication with animal advocate stakeholders was a poorly constructed survey distributed by CityGate Associates, the mayor's consultant for the current general manager search. Villaraigosa, who has shown this same disdain for his own Animal Services Commission appointees and shelter personnel alike, has also failed to consult the nation's leading experts on progressive animal welfare.
One must wonder why.

Some, including this rescuer, believe that the current general manager search is just for show. Villaraigosa, some suspect, is going to offer the job to one of the two assistant managers under Boks (both of whom were hired by Boks) despite their public declarations that they are not applying for the cushy, perk-laden, six-figure job.

Did Villaraigosa learn nothing from the Boks fiasco? He would do well to heed Powell's perspective now.

When James Hahn was mayor, he promised that Los Angeles would be a `no-kill' city, or one that doesn't do mass euthanasia of unwanted pets, by 2008 - a date many people felt at the time was projected needlessly far into the future. Still, it was forward-looking and something to shoot for.

In order to make that happen, though, Hahn needed (and Villaraigosa needs now) a progressive-minded shelter leader, recommended by those who are the nationally recognized leaders of progressive animal welfare. Among them are Nathan Winograd, Bonney Brown, Susanne Kogut, Rich Avanzino, Robin Starr, Brenda Barnette, Ledy Van Kavage, Abigail Smith and Mike Fry.

The problem is, Hahn didn't hire someone of this caliber when he was mayor. Villaraigosa didn't do it either and he appears to be primed to make the same mistake again, to everyone's and every animals' detriment.

Villaraigosa should not only consult with these leaders, he should actively try to recruit one of them to take the job, and snatch victory from the jaws of another impending disaster in the city's Animal Services Department.

The nation's progressive animal advocate leaders are out there. If only Villaraigosa would ask for their help.

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