Mayor blind to disasters under Boks
BY MARIE ATAKE
EARLIER this month, two years after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed me
as a commissioner on the board of Los Angeles Animal Services, I gave him my
I had no other recourse than to leave this volunteer position because Jimmy
Blackman, the mayor's deputy chief of staff, pressured me to "be quiet" (or
else) about serious problems at LAAS and its animal shelters. To preserve my
integrity and my pledge to help animals, I proactively chose the "or else"
Villaraigosa denies such intimidation and publicly dismissed my well-supported
concerns with the same disregard he has treated his first two years in office.
The public controversy over LAAS was heightened on Aug. 21, when the mayor
issued an unexpected press release, boldly proclaiming, "Mayor Villaraigosa
announces animal services as number-one public animal adoption agency in U.S."
LAAS not only isn't the top animal-adoption agency in the U.S., but it is not
even "No. 1" in Los Angeles County.
After KABC's (Channel 7) "Eyewitness News" featured a story on my resignation
last week, in which three other city officials echoed my concerns, Ed Boks, the
controversial LAAS general manager hired by Villaraigosa in 2005, suddenly
changed that claim to "fifth in the nation," which is also questionable.
Such a sudden shift speaks volumes not just about the mayor, but about Boks
Boks came to L.A. after New York City unanimously denied him a contract renewal
after just two years there. On Feb. 19, New York Magazine looked back on Boks'
brief New York stint, writing, "So what happened? Animal workers unanimously
point to former Animal Care and Control Director Ed Boks, who served from 2003
to 2005. One alliance member snipes, `Boks' programs had catchy names, but they
had no substance and weren't sustainable."'
Had Blackman done his homework on Boks for the mayor, he would have anticipated
the sleight of hand that Boks might bring to Los Angeles. For instance, on Aug.
31, 2002, Boks misrepresented his credentials in an article in The Arizona
Republic, claiming he "worked his way through ... Wayne State University." The
school says he dropped out.
Most recently, Boks tried to sell the L.A. City Council on an innovative plan
created by a rescuer to start a program that would put parolees to work helping
to train pit bulls. Not dangerous parolees or pit bulls, mind you; just the ones
with great potential.
Instead of going through the proper channels, Boks circumvented the LAAS
Commission on which I sat, the Personnel Department, the employees union, the
City Attorney's Office and even the City Council itself, which railed against
Boks and ultimately put the idea on a back burner.
There are dozens of other examples I could cite here, such as the still-unopened
spay/neuter clinics paid for by taxpayers via Proposition F; claiming a "no-kill
month" in March while actually killing more than 600 animals; the lack of
foreign-language outreach to the communities that need it the most; the nearly
100 shelter-job openings that remain unfilled as of today; and his ill-advised
use of the city's Web site to promote a bikini contest at Hooters.
Or the spray-painted elephant "art" exhibit that Boks permitted, for which he
later had to publicly apologize.
I presented to Blackman a list of Boks' incidents compiled by a group of
concerned citizens. The list was 10 pages long. He dismissively flipped the
pages and said that he was aware of the issues but didn't care. Blackman's
disregard for the list was echoed by Commission President Tariq Khero. Blackman
did not even keep the list. Without reading it, he would not know if he was
indeed aware of every issue it addressed.
This is the deputy chief of staff to Villaraigosa, a paid city employee who is
supposed to help the mayor better serve our city.
If I had one last chance to speak with Villaraigosa, I would quote the Ed Boks-like
character in "The Music Man": "Either you are closing your eyes to a situation
you do not wish to acknowledge, or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster
Marie Atake is a former L.A. Animal Services commissioner and founder of
Forte Animal Rescue, www.FARescue.org .
Missy Woodward of Critter Crusades interviews Marie Atake, founder of Forte Animal Rescue and a Commissioner for the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services. Please visit