Planet of the apes
Is it fair to ask what’s wrong in Say-town when the AG intervenes on behalf of a few gibbons, but a City auditor who requests a little paper accounting of our local playgrounds is shown the door?
Three of the Primarily Primates 12, removed last spring from the non-profit sanctuary for “retired” research and entertainment animals after TX Attorney General Greg Abbott concurred that their living situation was unacceptable, have returned home following much legal wrangling to the rehabilitated Primarily Primates Inc. facility just northwest of town. There they’ll enjoy extended cageroom, more privacy, and tunnels, courtesy of new managers Friends of Animals.
The lone gibbon left behind at PPI last spring was not available for comment, but, said Friends of Animal President and PPI board Chairwoman Priscilla Feral, reuniting the quartet “was more important than anything else.”
As part of the settlement, the other nine apes will remain at South Carolina’s International Primate Protection League, and two adolescent chimpanzees (who, like their homo sapiens sapiens cousins don’t like their identity mojo disturbed during their formative teen years) are now permanent residents of Chimps, Inc. in Oregon. According to Lynn Cuny, executive director at Kendalia’s Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, Primarily Primates has also agreed separately to let WRR keep the animals that were transferred there last year, but PPI is still in a suit to repatriate primates relocated to the Chimp Haven sanctuary in Shreveport, LA. Current PPI primate census: 327.
Following a lengthy Sunday exposé in the X-News, a baker’s dozen-plus of non-complying playgrounds should get fixed, what with it being a campaign year (the term-limits train, as promised, has left the station; it stokes its engines and hires engineers as we type). Sure, the kids might tag its seemingly endless column inches “TL:DR,” but we enjoyed every syllable, from the insinuation that City Manager Sheryl Sculley brushed the issue of missing audits under the shredded rubber, to the possible scapegoating of Parks & Rec Director Malcolm Matthews, whose 11th-hour Council (monkeyshine) testimony on the thoroughness and regularity of SA playground inspections presaged Auditor Pete Gonzales’s bitter resignation.
But wait, says a non-quotable City Hall source: The playground audit, tardy though it may have been, was completed before Gonzales began his campaign, and 10 of those allegedly treacherous playgrounds were fixed before the E-N story went to press. Three more are being fixed even as we type. The remaining two, we’re told, are plagued with the entertainments Queque found so diverting in our youth, but are now deemed only slightly preferable to letting kids skip between landmines: seesaws, merry-go-rounds. The 2008 audit, BTW, found that the Joske’s Pavilion play area at Brackenridge is hopelessly passé, while HemisFair Park suffers first and foremost from an “outdated design.” p.s. According to the National Recreation and Park Association, grass is no longer an acceptable playground surface. Sigh.
This source, you might guess, falls into the “Gonzales was overstepping his bounds” camp. “He’s an auditor,” s/he said with some measure of exasperation. An accountant whose job was to watch the budget, not go digging into any subject that caught his fancy.
In any event, if our Super-duper City Manager has been wronged, Queque feels sure E-N Editor Bob Rivard will set matters right with a column extolling the virtues of our leadership and excoriating his under-editors for rushing the story to print when nary a child has been hurt nor a lawsuit filed. (“I’m not any more worried about it now than before,” City legal eagle Michael Bernard told the daily. “If we have a claim, we’ll deal with it.” Fight Club, anyone? But, objects our Deep Throat Lite, the last time SA was sued for a playground injury was 11 years ago, a proverbial black eye that resulted in a $2,500 settlement.) E-N columnists Jaime Castillo and Cary Clack have piled on (with Ken Rodriguez rumored to follow), but the Mayor delivers a sharply worded riposte in the MashUp.
Lord of the flies
Those playgrounds might see more action this summer than in the past four years. The City’s decision to multiply the lowest enrollment fee by a factor of four for the popular and wildly affordable (one follows the other in this town, where 23 percent of families with children under 18 fall below the federal poverty line) Kid Quest summer program has resulted in an almost symmetrical drop in enrollment.
Hold it right there! objects our same source. Maybe, s/he suggests, if enrollment is down it’s because the X-News first reported that fees had jumped from $5 to $250, essentially comparing discount apples to organic oranges. It’s true the full-pay rate is now $250 for the first child in a family, but parents who qualify for the lowest bracket will pay only $20. During the impending dog days (otherwise known as, And just what are my kids supposed to do while we work full-time?), Kid Quest provides an entire summer worth of educational activities and hot meals. For only $20-250. A subsidy, yes, but the sort of subsidy that supports, i.e., welfare reform.
Critics objected just as loudly to new paperwork requirements to get the lower rates: If you’re paid (under the table), say, or as an independent contractor, you may not have a w-2 to demonstrate your income. Who do these bureaucrats think they are, the IRS?
In any event, the rosters, which last year reached 6,000, were looking a little light as of press time, especially in money-challenged SAISD, but enrollment got a boost this weekend and may yet fill up thanks to the efforts of COPS and Metro Alliance, who threw a tantrum worthy of a sugar-jacked 4-year-old last week, causing the City to lower both its sliding-scale thresholds and its paperwork requirements. You can still sign up your kids through June 13. Get more info at
sanantonio.gov/sapar/kidquest.asp, and follow the jungle-gym gymnastics on the Curblog. •