City Council Once Again Considers BARC; Once Again Does Little To Nothing

City Council delayed voting again on extending the contract for Gerry Fusco, the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care's interim chief. Council members Ronald Green and Pam Holm asked that the vote be tabled. (Green told Hair Balls earlier this week that he hadn't read the contract yet). The $135,000 contract would extend Fusco's stay through January.

But in a general discussion about the contract at today's council meeting, council members Ed Gonzalez, Sue Lovell, Toni Lawrence, Anne Clutterbuck, and M.J. Khan said they're in favor of the contract. Councilwoman Melissa Noreiga also showed her unwavering confidence in the "change agent" plan by saying, "I don't have a better idea, so I'm going to support it."

Council members Wanda Adams and Jolanda Jones said previously that they were against the contract; Jones even described it as a "Band-Aid solution to an emergency room problem" in an article for African-American News & Issues.

The council also heard today from consultant Margaret Robinson, who read highlights of the "2009 Multi-Stakeholder Initiative," prepared by MCV Consulting. (Attention Houston consultants: Get yourself some of this BARC action -- it's a freakin' goldmine!).

Here's a capsule summary of the council's response:

Noreiga: Expressed incredulity over the portion of the report where it states adoptions had been suspended because BARC ran out of toner for the copy machine that prints adoption certificates.

Khan: Was impressed by the hard-working volunteers and employees he saw when he visited BARC last week. Wondered why on earth there had been personnel complaints. Said he was bothered by the fact that some critics have been trying to dig up dirt on Fusco. Asked if the people who are "complaining" the loudest have actually visited BARC recently.

Peter Brown: Also impressed by the hard-working volunteers and employers when he visited BARC Tuesday, but described the actual building as "pretty much dysfunctional"; said some of the kennel areas looked "like something out of the 16th century." Wondered if BARC could be converted to a quasi-public organization, like the Houston Zoo. Said the poor signage outside the BARC grounds "almost screams 'Welcome to BARC, we don't care about BARC.'"

Clutterbuck: Emphasized the importance of spaying/neutering in decreasing euthanasia rates. 

Lovell: Concerned about how to sustain the "momentum and the goodwill" Fusco has helped BARC achieve over the last few weeks. Wondered if BARC could phase out long-term housing of animals, and partner with non-profit shelters for animal housing.   

Gonzalez: Hoped that Fusco would have some say in hiring/firing. Said it would help to hire someone with an animal shelter background, like no-kill advocate Nathan Winograd, to perform a full assessment of BARC. Failed to note the irony of saying this even though Winograd visited BARC less than two weeks ago after private citizens raised $8,000 for him to perform a "snapshot" assessment.

Lawrence: Suggested raising pet registration fees to $5 to help BARC funding. Asked what the city's going to do for the next bureau chief that it didn't do for former Bureau Chief Kent Robertson. (Robertson held a similar position in Dallas and quit BARC after about a year and a half to go back to his old job). 

The discussion this morning was great. We're just hoping the council will actually get around to voting on the contract before Fusco's six months are up.  


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