Zoo To Wine and Dine Elected Officials Again, Despite Protests from RFT's Favorite Alderman

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The Saint Louis Zoo recently mailed out letters to local elected officials inviting them and their families to attend a free breakfast reception, parking and passes to the zoo's paid attractions.

The free day for politicians on August 8 follows a similar event the zoo hosted last year.

The zoo depends on a zoo-museum tax on St. Louis City and County property owners for millions of dollars in funding each year, and zoo director Jeffrey Bonner has defended the reception as a way to thank elected officials for their support and show them how the zoo uses its tax dollars. Bonner also says the money to fund the event comes from Friends of the Zoo -- a separate fundraising arm of the zoo.

But that doesn't sit well with Town and Country alderman (and former mayoral candidate) John Hoffmann, profiled in a Riverfront Times' feature story last October.

When Hoffmann received an invite last year to the zoo party, he quickly fired off a letter to the Post-Dispatch arguing that elected officials shouldn't get any special treatment. "I cannot figure out why hundreds of local city politicians, friends and family members should be getting free food and other considerations," wrote Hoffmann to the paper, which later followed up with an article that also questioned the free event for politicos.

Given the bad press he helped stir up last year, Hoffmann was surprised then to receive a card in the mail the other day inviting him to once again attend a free day at the zoo.

"I just received my invitation for the August 8 event. The only difference this year from last year is that the zoo is inviting you to bring an extra guest, from five to six total people," Hoffmann writes in a letter to Riverfront Times.

Continues the alderman...
I continue to believe that this is a waste of money. Politicians should have to experience the same joys as the general public does when visiting the zoo. Some of these joys are paying $11 to park and $10 a person for a pass to ride the Zoo Railroad and see special shows, not to mention paying for food.

So the zoo is giving away over $100 food and services per local officials. I can not believe for a second this is what Friends of the Zoo members thought their money would go to then they made a donation to the zoo. I would like to think people making donations to the zoo would hope their money went to feed zoo animals and not feed local politicians and five of their guests.        
I don't know if this would settle the score, but perhaps Hoffmann could get back at the zoo by charging its staff and employees for a tour of another local wildlife attraction: the deer preserve known as Town & Country.

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