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Panda Bears, Mammoliti and Raymond Cho…What’s The Story?

In November’s President’s message for MetroActive I commented on commented on the $20 million that George Mammoliti had budgeted to bring a pair of Pandas from China to the Toronto zoo for 5 years (read the message).  It just didn’t make sense to me and well smelled really, really fishy.  Apparently, I’m not the only one that thought poorly of the details of this initiative.  At first glance it seems to me to be an example of several possibilities, extremely poor negotiations and/or irresponsibility and/or a waste of tax-payers money.

Well a couple of weeks after my post the cost of housing the two Pandas at the zoo has dropped to $8 million.  Before you think the gravy train is over, consider this.  What if you were to hear that for the first time, $8 million to rent two bears for 5 years.  That’s a lot of bamboo shoots my friend.  Something still doesn’t smell right.  If it truly costs that much, then why are we even thinking of bringing the Panda’s here?

I just can’t get that fishy smell out of my nose.  So, I started snooping around and guess what?  Toronto City Councillor Raymond Cho for Ward 42 Scarborough-Rouge River is also the Chair for the Metro Toronto Zoo (Chairman for at least two consecutive terms).  I found some interesting information about Cho:

1. Though he’s the councillor for Ward 42 he lives in another ward (how can that be right?)

2. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Cho_(politician) “On August 13, 2004, the Toronto Star reported that Cho spent nearly all of his allotted councillor expense fund, one of the highest on city council. While there was some speculation that some of this money was diverted to Cho’s failed bid to run in the federal election campaign…”

3. According to Wikipedia (same link as above), Cho was an unsuccessful New Democratic Candidate (NDP) in the 1988 federal election. He later drop his affiliation with the NDP and became a member of the Liberal Party.

4. There is a you tube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCl9IMrmL4U) showing Cho speaking at council about bicycle initiatives with an interesting comment to the video that points out Cho has four cars parked in his driveway all the time.  Somehow doesn’t seem like someone who’s living what he’s preaching.

I’m not sure what Cho’s relationship is with the Panda Bear initiative or his relationship with Mammoliti.  Other than Cho being the Chairman of the Toronto Zoo where the Panda Bears are to be housed I don’t know how all this is related, but something tells me there MAY BE more to this story.  So rather than me speculate and make assumptions I’d like for someone to look into it.  This might make for an excellent case study into how municipal politicians decide on how to spend their time, our taxpayer dollars, and make decisions.

If we’re going to stop the gravy train we need to hold accountable those that are making the decisions.  Do we have an independent committee from council (with non-council or council-affiliated members) that looks at situations like this?  Maybe we should!

Don’t you want to know what’s going on with our city?

What do you think?  Do you know anything more about this that you can share?

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One Response to Panda Bears, Mammoliti and Raymond Cho…What’s The Story?

  1. […] It all started back in November when I learned that George Mammoliti was pushing a whopping, astronomical, unbelievable $20 million budget to rent two Panda Bears from China for 5 years on behalf of the Toronto Zoo.  You can read my initial comments in November’s President’s message for MetroActive (read the message).  This got me asking questions that lead to some research and uncovered of some interesting information that included Toronto City Councillor Raymond Cho (read the post). […]

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