Just as an interlude before I get back to County Vector Surveillance, here are some facts about plague in CA and the US from the United States Center for Disease Control. Facts that prove the chance of getting plague from a ground squirrel in Santa Monica is as close to zero as ecological statistics would allow.
From the Center for Disease Control Website:
Plague will probably continue to exist in its many localized geographic areas around the world, and plague outbreaks in wild rodent hosts will continue to occur. Attempts to eliminate wild rodent plague are costly and futile. Therefore, primary preventive measures are directed toward reducing the threat of infection in humans in high risk areas through environmental management, public health education, and preventive drug therapy.
Epidemic plague is best prevented by controlling rat populations in both urban and rural areas. Control of plague in such situations requires two things: 1) close surveillance for human plague cases, and for plague in rodents, and 2) the use of an effective insecticide to control rodent fleas when human plague cases and rodent outbreaks occur.
Public Health Education
In regions such as the American West where plague is widespread in wild rodents, the greatest threat is to people living, working, or playing in areas where the infection is active. Public health education of citizens and the medical community should include information on the following plague prevention measures:
Eliminating food and shelter for rodents in and around homes, work places, and recreation areas by making buildings rodent-proof, and by removing brush, rock piles, junk, and food sources (such as pet food), from properties.
Surveillance for plague activity in rodent populations by public health workers or by citizens reporting rodents found sick or dead to local health departments.
Use of appropriate and licensed insecticides to kill fleas during wild animal plague outbreaks to reduce the risk to humans.
Treatment of pets (dogs and cats) for flea control once each week.
(My Comment: That is, you look before you kill, and if plague is happening, you use flea powder. The cost of trapping a few Palisades Park squirrels four times a year and testing the fleas would be a couple of thousand dollars, tops. Other diseases can be surveilled as well, such as Hantavirus or rabies.)
CDC: Human plague in the United States has occurred as mostly scattered cases in rural areas--an average of 5 to 15 cases a year. In the United States, the last urban plague epidemic occurred in Los Angeles in 1924-25. About 14% (1 in 7) of all plague cases in the United States are fatal.
Most cases in the U.S. receive some antibiotic treatment during their course of illness and deaths typically result from delays in seeking treatment or misdiagnosis.
My Comment: In all of the United States, there are 5-15 cases a year and 1/7th die. That is, about 1-2 people a year die from plague in the entire country, and most cases are in rural settings. So, in any year, you have a 1/300,000,000 chance of dying of plague, about 20,000 times less chance of dying in an auto accident.
For that, Santa Monica is required to pay $150,000 to find ways of killing squirrels to prevent a non-existant peril?
There has been ONE urban case of plague recently, and that was in Los Angeles. But it was caused by handling the meat from an infected rabbit in Kern County.
CDC: On April 17, a woman aged 28 years received the first diagnosis of plague in Los Angeles County, California, since 1984.
The woman was hospitalized with fever, septic shock, and a painful right axillary swelling; blood cultures grew Y. pestis. She responded to treatment with gentamicin and levofloxacin. Although symptoms were compatible with bubonic plague, the diagnosis had not been suspected because the patient did not report traveling outside her urban Los Angeles neighborhood. Later, health-care providers learned that the patient had handled raw meat from a rabbit that had been killed in Kern County, California, and transported to her home.
An environmental investigation in Kern County revealed evidence of die-off among jackrabbits and cottontails; rabbit carcasses collected in the area yielded Y. pestis. PFGE patterns of isolates from the patient and rabbits were indistinguishable.
Therefore, Plague is not an issue; if it were, surveilance and insecticide are the tools, not killing. If there are other risks, it would be incumbent on the County to do an assessment, or for the City to do it, if necessary, as a rebuttal. There is no rationale to continue an 80-year old tradition founded during years of high plague activity, and continuing indiscriminately with no risk assessment.
As I stated before, Santa Monica is not the real villain here, the County is. The City is timid and lazy, which led to ignorance. Ignorance, in this case, led to more timidity.
They are timid because they made no real attempt to question or oppose the county regarding the reasonableness of their order to kill. Staff did not “seriously” question the County on legal or scientific grounds, and certainly not on moral grounds. Elaine Polachek did, half-heartedly, question Vangordon on the legality and the magic number of 2-3 squirrels per acre, but said nothing when Vangordon made her generalistic replies.
Members of Council, namely Ken Genser and Kevin McKeown did raise all these issues and staff dropped the ball. Then, after the killing was going on and I pointed out that Vangordon said there was no penalty for ignoring her order to kill, Mousey Marsha Moutrie invented an undefined “Liability” theory to continue the killing, which sets the unquestioning precedent for endless future killings.
They are timid because the City Manager, Lamont Ewell is timid; he decided to kill them immediately in February to get their numbers down fast, as per the County order, rather than use the trap-and-kill method originally planned for February. Then he decided to kill them this time again—quickly--because he heard there were two squirrels with plague found somewhere in San Diego County.
They were timid because they killed in secret—or at least tried to. I have found two others emails that further demonstrate the extent the City went to hide the killing. Indeed, in February, according to the print media and the emails I received as part of my public records request, they were killing them even when Councilmember McKeown was trying to get a stay of execution from Acting Director Jonathan Fielding, not knowing the killing was already going on.
This time, in August, they decided not to tell their own Parks Commissioners or anyone else from fear of PETA and I assume, ADL and ALF.
They were lazy and ignorant because staff presented almost exactly the same report each time the County ordered the killings. The only change was in the one dated January 3, 2006, where they mention the Animal Advocates.
City staff never did much scientific research regarding the ground squirrels despite the fact that two academics were throwing tons of scientific evidence and legal theory demonstrating the City could oppose the County on legal grounds and scientific grounds.
The City may have been timid, lazy and ignorant, but the County is ignorant, lazy and a bully in the worst way.
Every effort to save the squirrels, from the timid questions from Elaine Polachek, to the strong effort by Kevin McKeown, and the scientific and legal questioning of both the City and Vangordon by two academics, were met by a stone wall erected by Gail Vangordon and Jonathan Fielding. Of the two Vangordon is easily the worse.
She rejected all legal arguments and scientific evidence with casual contempt, ridiculing the academics and persisting in her bullying of the City with the sole argument that she and her staff has a total of 80 years experience in killing ground squirrels and they know best to determine what squirrels are to be killed and when.
Vangordon email, January 10, 2006:
“Section 116130 states in part, "the department, the Board of Supervisors of each county, local health officers, or inspectors appointed by any of them may inspect all places for the purpose of ascertaining whether they are infested with rodents and whether the requirements of this article are being complied with."
Vangordon states, "This wording is, and has always been, interpreted by our department to mean that the existence of "an infestation" (of rodents, including ground squirrels) is a determination we, as inspectors, make based on parameters we have established as a result of 80 years of enforcement and abatement activities."
Well, here she does not even bother to use the term 2-3 per acre, it “is a determination we make…based on 80 years of enforcement and abatement activities.” No room for science here for Vangordon.
(My note: Palisades Park is 1.5 miles long--about 8,000 ft--and consists of a total of 26 acres of land.)
In a letter to Santa Monica City Manager dated March 23, 2006, Fielding says, "If the populations at the park do not reflect an acceptable level of 2-3 ground squirrels visible at any one time per acre, we will reevaluate the options available to city." Notice he is talking about the whole park, not sub-areas of the park.
Since the park has 26 acres, 2 to 3 squirrels per acre would be 52 to 78 squirrels.
In that same letter he states, "Unfortunately, the suppression efforts employed over several days commencing on February 6, 2006 were less than adequate in reducing the visible ground squirrel population to an acceptable level. An inspection conducted on February 13, 2006 provided evidence of 69 active burrows and a visible ground squirrel count of 68. These numbers significantly exceed the initial counts performed on March 1, 2005 which indicated 47 active boroughs and 38 visible ground squirrels in the original letter of suppression."
Well, it appears that Fielding cannot add. Again, he is talking about the whole park and not some defined sub-area. In 2005, there weere only 38 visible ground squirrels, yet the County ordered suppression. On February 13, after Ayers did his poison gassing, there were 68 squirrels spotted and he said that was not good enough. Or, it shows he didn't know what he was talking about, which is just the area of the bluffs.
In neither case did the inspections reveal a population density exceeding the acceptable limits set by their own criteria of 2-3 visible ground squirrels per acre. This is why I call Fielding an idiot and the city too profoundly timid to challenge his numbers.
(Of course, their June 1, 2006 inspection revealed 175 visible ground squirrels which did fit their definition of infestation, but does not explain the rationale of the 2005 order of suppression nor his statement that the gassing, a month before, was not good enough.)
OK, what is going on here?
The County, as represented by Vangordon and Frood, is ignoring what the County said, as represented by Fielding, and is imposing even more arbitrary and restrictive criteria that leave no recourse except to kill squirrels wherever and whenever they want. They are arbitrarily applying their own criteria of 2-3 squirrels per acre only to the acreage they choose, that on the West side of the Palisades Park fence.
Vangordon to Polachek on August 14, 2006:
"Depending Lefty’s success, Michael will schedule an inspection and conduct a count of visible squirrels. If the numbers fall within the standard that we use, that is, 2-3 visible at any one time per acre, then he will determine the park to be in compliance. Just remember, that standard applies to the individual "hotspots" and not to the overall acreage of the park."
So, not only is the number 2-3 arbitrary, but so is their measurement of space. Given their definition, whenever and wherever they see 4 squirrels, it is a “hot spot,” an “infestation.” All this is just opinion, arbitrary numbers with no science or risk assessment.
How can one argue with Vangordon’s logic? She makes up an arbitrary number of squirrels based on a state recommendation, not an ordinance, then deliberately distorts even that by arbitrarily determining the size of the area involved. That is, she can gerrymander any area geometry she wants in any way she wants, allowing her to order anything she wants, any time she wants, because she says so, and Fielding will support her even if he doesn’t know what is going on.
Another way to look at it, is if there are 175 squirrels visible along the 8,000 ft park, Santa Monica's infestation would then be defined as having one visible squirrel every 46 ft. Since the acreage on the West side of the fence is about 1/2 acre, she wants to kill them until there is only one squirrel visible in the entire bluff area of 8,000 ft. An obvious impossibility, but even more, completely arbitrary.
Over the next few weeks I will point out specific e-mail and letter content that will utterly prove without a doubt, that the County as represented by Gail Vangordon, Michael Frood and Jonathan Fielding is both ignorant and a bully.
One issue I want to bring up is a document, a County “Application - Restricted Materials Permit” signed by Joe McGrath as the applicant, dated February 7, 2006, that allows Lefty Ayers to use poison gas (fumigants) “Throughout the City of Santa Monica,” until December 31, 2006.
This document allows Ayers to use poison gas anywhere in the City, and also allows Ayers to use poison to augment his trapping efforts beginning in August of this year. Some wildlife experts contend that entirely too many ground squirrels are gone to be accounted for by trapping alone. Try finding a ground squirrel in the Park now.
Another interesting document, again a County Application – Restricted Materials Permit, signed by Ayers, requests that he be allowed to use Aluminum Phosphide gas in “Various Locations in Los Angeles County.” Does Ayers expect to get a lot more work in LA County (He lives in Kern County)? What would be his referral sources? Remember, his poison gassing did not do the job in February. I am sure he knew it would not work as all the burrows could not be plugged, but, heck, it was an easy $9,700.
Is there a relationship between the County and Ayers? I don’t know, but maybe a new request for documents is in order to find out. Of course, if Lefty wants to tell me, I'll print his response exactly as he tells me.
I will show you where she claims the principal purpose of the eradication order was the prevention of plague and therefore, arrives at the figure of 2-3 squirrels per acre is based on a state recommendation—not ordinance—that says that in areas where there is plague, more than 2-3 ground squirrels per acre would be considered “excessive.” The state never uses the term “infestation.”
In fact, there is no definition of infestation either on the state or County level; Vangordon makes that very clear. An “infestation” is determined solely at the discretion of Vector Management’s field investigators.
Regarding them, she states "our inspectors have an average of 15 years of experience with a cumulative of over 90 years in the field of rodent management and vector born disease surveillance. My staff are career professionals who are well qualified to make informed judgments. The state codes we enforce are not outdated, they are intentionally broad to permit application under various conditions by properly trained, qualified and responsible individuals whose actions are continually monitored by supervision and upper management.” (This would exclude Fielding who seems to be entirely clueless in the supervision-thing.)
When challenged that the criteria of 2-3 per acre is only a state recommendation for areas where plague has already been found, she responds that plague is not the only concern, but the control of infestations is the County’s concern and they define that, “based on 80 years of experience.”
I would say that 80 years of experience (since 1925) in killing is hardly a qualification for understanding anything but killing, especially when most everyone else is asking to save the squirrels’ lives.
Plague—the term used by the County and borrowed by the City—has nothing to do with why the County is ordering the killing of squirrels. That word is for the media’s consumption, a Republican-type scare tactic.
So why are she and Frood doing it and why is Fielding supporting her?
Well Fielding is supporting her because he is a know-nothing CEO who routinely and unquestioningly supports the actions of underlings rather than asking the relevant questions asked by many people in emails and letters addressed to him. His generalist letter quoted in my last post, is a verbatim repetition of Vangordon, not any sort of reasoned response.
Concerning the other two, I will later offer a well-supported opinion that these are little people who get a great deal of pleasure in getting Santa Monica to squirm every other year, and perhaps get a secondary satisfaction out of killing. There is no scientific basis, no State or County definition of infestation, and no reason to apply a plague-area recommendation of 2-3 squirrels per acre to a non-plague area. Vangordon and Frood do this for the sheer pleasure. AND, Frood directly lies to the City and Animal Advocates, threatening to come into the City and poison the squirrels themselves.
These are two bullies, nothing more, nothing less, while Ewell and Fielding are the Two Stooges with any number of government employees vying to be the Third.
In an effort to prevent an outbreak of the plague, Santa Monica is ordered to kill off its squirrels
~ By DAVID DAVIN ~
There has only been one case of the plague in California in the last 80 years, according to Paul E. Bruce, regional program coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States. “The reasoning they have given for the killings is so obscure it’s almost ludicrous.”
Mayor Holbrook disagrees. “Look,” he says, “I’m the last person that wants to put down these little animals. But if we didn’t take some action, what kind of leaders would we be? I cannot ignore an order from the county when they say it is a public health issue. I have a mandate to protect the public.”
(Muzika Comment: Protect the public from what or whom, Bob? Vangordon from the County says they never do risk assessments. NEVER!! She said that's how they've been doing business for 25 years. AND. she said, no one has ever questioned them except for Santa Monica. Even the idiot head of County Health, Jonathan Fielding, says plague in an urban setting is very rare and not a matter of increased concern even in a plague area.
BOB Holbrook was the ONLY Councilmember to vote no against a motion to direct City staff to explore non-lethal ways of controlling the ground squirrel population. So when he says he is the last person who wants to kill them, he is flat out lying.
Bob also sent me an email saying he was that last one who wanted to kill them one day after I sent him an email that Animal Defense League and Animal Liberation Front activists were spotted in Santa Monica, probably looking over the squirrel situation. Seems Bob remembered how the ADL and ALF punished former LAAS General Manager, Jerry Greenwalt, who lives in Santa Monica. I think Bob didn’t want that happening at his house, so he told a good lie.)
Edward Muzika, a former candidate for Santa Monica City Council and activist, has closely followed the issue since 1998, when he first learned that the city would gas and poison the squirrels. He suggests other factors are at play. “The mayor said to me that cliff erosion was also a concern,” Muzika says. “I think that’s what he’s truly worried about, not the plague.”
Nevertheless, the county has ordered Santa Monica to control the squirrel population. But that does not automatically mean the city has to kill squirrels. “There are viable alternatives,” argues Bruce. “Given that the risks are so low for the diseases … there is time, it seems to me, to explore other options.”
That is what Muzika and others are trying to organize, pointing to an earlier initiative by Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown that had the city try the Birth Control Project, run by Animal Advocates. “This was being effective – there was a 30 percent reduction in active burrows,” Muzika says. “That was the quota, a 30 percent reduction. Animal Advocates had met that quota, then the city decided that wasn’t good enough after all.”
For his part, McKeown says that he tried to show the city that an alternative was viable, but now that the killings have resumed, there is little he can do. He will try again, he says, to convince the city that alternatives should be pursued, because, “trapping and gassing squirrels seems like obvious overkill. If your dog has fleas, you don’t kill your dog.”
(Muzika's Comment: Richard Bloom said that Kevin’s analogy did not fit, because you can’t pick up the squirrels and dust them, so he rejected that solution. He did not ask Kevin or staff why the State of California or the County themselves, recommended the use of flea powder to control the plague's causal vector--the flea, even in plague areas, not killing squirrels.
Come on Richard, you don’t have to catch the squirrels to flea powder them, the bait station does it automatically when they came and go. AND, if you spread insecticide on the ground, it kills the fleas there; you don’t have to wait for them to jump aboard a squirrel. You flea-powder the whole house and yard, not just the dog.
County: You must kill the vermin, so sayeth the Law.
City: I do not want to kill them, they do no harm.
County: Do as I say, it is the Law. The law is backed by the words of the state and the memory of the state which goes back 1,000 years to the time of the great plague.
City Council: But they do no harm now. The plague is long past, a simple drop of serum cures the plague. It is no worse than an infection. These squirrels do not carry the plague. We can test for that. Now Serin gas, Anthrax and Dirty Bombs are our bane.
County: Do as I say or evil will befall you. This is our way; this is the Law. If you do not do as I say, you will be punished as per 116125. You need not kill all; save two or three so that they propagate and again bring joy to the people.
City: That makes no sense, for we will have to kill again and my people will not tolerate that. Besides 116125 carries no penalty for not obeying. The idea of killing sickens us.
County: Then you must harden you hearts and kill them in secret. One must be discriminative when obeying the Law. The people’s ire must not be raised lest they rise up and destroy you. Even if we cannot punish you for violation of 116125, we will come in and with swift sword kill them all ourselves.
City Council: But the Law is no good; our knowledge transcends the Law. Science says they can do no harm, and leaving only two or three is too harsh for it causes unnecessary suffering and robs the people of their joy.
County: The Law is good; the Law is just; the Law protects you from pestilence.
City Manager: Then we must kill the vermin no matter how much pain it causes for the Law says so. Let us think how to destroy them and assuage the anger of the people.
Staff: I know, let us invoke the Law and tell the people that if we do not kill, we will all be punished. The County will comes in and with swift poison kill all but three. But their sword is mighty and they do not discriminate, and others may be killed, Ney, even our children and pets. We will call it a Public Health Emergency.
Advisor: They cannot do this; there is a greater Law, the Federal Rodenticide Act which protects us from their will and their sword. And, Public Health Emergency is a phrase, a term, it is not real.
City Attorney: This may be true, but if we do not kill the vermin we are open to Liability.
City: What Liability?
City Attorney: Foolish ones, you do not understand the Law. Some day one of the vermin may have plague, or rabies, or crotch rot and give it to the people and they will lay us low for we have not protected them. We, the legal eagles, call this Liability. Liability protects enforcement of the Law.
City: Is that not far fetched?
City Attorney: Yes, but the threat is real, albeit very small.
City: Then we will kill no matter how much pain it inflicts on our hearts. The Law is clear. We cannot be punished for violation of 116125. The County cannot come in with swift sword. But still, there is Liability.
Mayor: Besides there are our precious cliffs. We must protect them by turning Swiss Cheese into Muenster.
City Attorney: Wink, wink.
City: You are our Counsel, we will not question your judgment, for you protect us from the folly of following the love for all creatures we have in our hearts.
City Attorney: Yes, it is good.
County: Yes it is good.
I've modified this post somewhat. I should not have attacked Bob as I did. Council and staff are equally guilty for Sqirrelgate, but not nearly so guilty as the County's Vangordon--who we will look at later.
But staff and Council show an amazing lack of knowledge of all aspects of the issue, especially the medical and legal aspects. I just can't image why everyone is so thick here. What is behind the ignorance? Is there a plot by Republicans to save the City from wildlfe? Is it laziness? Is it timidity? I certainly do not know.
According to a record of the June 15, 2004 Council meeting (http://marla.cagreens.org/pipermail/dmr-annc-freq/2004-June/000453.html), City Councilman Bob Holbrook recalled how the debate over squirrels came up in the 1998 election, dubbed by some the "squirrel campaign."
"Everyone was upset about euthanizing squirrels, you know, they're kind of fun little animals. It got kind of heated," Holbrook said, adding the issue is more serious than it may appear. "It's the kind of thing that sounds crazy, but they had the, whatever it is, the organism that causes, or virus that causes plague."
Mayor Richard Bloom expressed concerns. "I don't think that there are other practical methods (of controlling the squirrel population), based on my understanding, but there's certainly no harm in asking the County to reconsider," Bloom said. "I do believe this is a serious issue, and let me be clear on that. I think that the control of rodent populations and furtherance of controlling the spread of disease is a very real and serious issue.
It is a real and serious issue, why didn’t you look into it Richard or demand staff look more deeply. They roll out the same report everytime the squirrel issue comes up.
You, like Holbrook, had absolutely no understanding at all—and still don’t--and based all of your opinions on what staff told you, and they based all their opinions on what the County told them, even about them invading Santa Monica and spreading poison bait all over the Park in violation of the Federal Rodenticide Act (FIFRA, 1996).
The fleas may not be the only problem. "There's another huge issue here," Holbrook said. "It's the bluffs. And one of the reasons they're falling is they're full of holes.
"They're like Swiss cheese out there."
The plight of local ground squirrels was discussed earlier this year as part of a $10 million plan to help shore up the eroding bluffs. Part of the problem, officials said, were thousands of tiny tunnels burrowed through the bluffs, weakening them and helping contribute to future slides.
Ground squirrels were the culprit.
Well, well, well. Is this the real reason Mayor Holbrook went along with the lie that the squirrels were a health hazard—save the bluffs, screw the squirrels?
It has nothing to do with health for you, does it Bob? It has nothing to do with liability, does it Marsha? It is all about property. Disease is the excuse to kill, the excuse staff waves in the face of all animal activists and Councilmembers and Commissioners who oppose the killing.
Long live the public health emergency!
Well, the emergency is exposed as a fraud, and Marsha creates a new reason to OBEY--liability. (I hear this second hand, she never communicated this theory to me.) Of course, liability is a scam because she does not explain the liability in any rational terms. Is there any real examination of liability, or does she just announce it? Plague? Come on. Look at the stats.
Lamont Ewell, exposed as a timid, little old lady who jumped the gun and pulled the trigger in February and again in August, told Phil Broch "several times" that Marsha Moutrie was going to respond to my charge that Santa Monica was home free legally with respect to the County. Broch was told Marsha would be responding to me by email or letter. That was over a week ago. Still nothing. Guess Marsha is still doing research to support the credibility of her new "liability" theory.
The staff brings out a report every year or two about the Palisades squirrels, whenever the County the City to kill them, or whatever internal entity wants them killed to protect the bluffs. It is the same report each time. Sometimes it is four pages, sometimes five. It makes staff look as if they examined the issue for Council freshly, when they did not. They recycled the same report. Go through the staff reports on the squirrels on the Internet. Don't make me do all the work.
From that same Council meeting:
Though City Hall hopes the county will cooperate in finding a way to deal with the squirrels, staffers said health authorities in a recent warning said if City doesn't act fast, they will spread poison themselves. (Council never heard this before or questioned the County could or would do it? Yes one did, Kevin. He said the City ought to be willing to go toe-to-toe.)
That possibility has many concerned, because the county doesn't employ the special "bait tunnels" that City Hall has used in the past. That method attracts squirrels, who then pick up the poison and carry it back to their resting spots. County officials, staffers said, use what's called a "broadcast" method where poison is essentially scattered about, putting other small, bluff-dwelling animals at risk.
Are we all stupid here? The County is going to come in and spread poison on the ground around all the cats, dogs, tree squirrels, and children, and the City is going to accept that liability? Is this Marsha's idea too? No one checked on the legality of what the County threatened, or that City staffers said the County was threatening to do?
It’s been eight years since the City said the County would use broadcast poison baiting if the City did not kill the squirrels. Yet, no one checked to see if the threat was real or the threat of lawsuit was real. Why?
Why were not the scientific and medical aspects of the County order not investigated? There is a modicum of questioning by Polachek of Vangordon on this issue, but instant acceptance of Vangordon's theorized science and analysis of legal issues.I am sure when it comes to a property issue, Marsha could cite case after case regarding City liability down to a dime.
Am I missing something?
In an August 20, 2006 email to Ed Muzika from Mayor Holbrook, after Animal Liberation Front activists were spotted in Santa Monica, Holbrook says:
“The last thing I want to see happen is squirrels being destroyed.”
Holbrook in his 2006 Meet and Greet campaign kickoff according to the Santa Monica Mirror:
“We have to resolve the homeless problem and do something about the traffic and parking problems,” Holbrook said. “And yet we spend hours and hours and hours talking about the ground squirrels.”
Holbrook says hiring Ewell was his greatest achievement.
Both “forgot” to tell their own Parks Commissioners about the squirrel killing already under way and are complicit with staff’s decision to keep the killing secret.
February 2006, Lamont Ewell:
“As a person who loves animals, my goal is to avoid ever having to reduce the populations of squirrels in this manner again,” Ewell said.
Yet, in August he does order the squirrels killed again after giving Lawrence Ayers a $19,000 contract and him a $5,000/week Santa Monica Police/Park Ranger security detail.
Holbrook was the sole no-vote against the City spending more time examining ways to handle the County order to kill the squirrels, but apparently is O.K. with Recreation and Parks spending $150,000 to comply with repetitive County orders to kill squirrels, AND giving Lefty Ayers and additional $19,000 kill contract AND, providing Ayers with a $5,000 per week Santa Monica “Secret Service-like” detail.
How is that for fiscal responsibility?
Can anyone in their right mind believe anything Holbrook tells them?
The City’s Open Space Management head, Elaine Polachek, told Animal Advocates that the City has spent $150,000 in man hours and vendor fees in attempting to comply with County Health’s repetitive orders to kill the squirrels in Palisades Park even while the City was researching non-lethal and cost-effective solutions.
This must be taken in the context that Michael Frood, County inspector, was saying the County would sue the City and also that he’d come in and poison the squirrels himself using broadcast baiting. At the same time, Gail Vangordon at the last minute, emailed Polachek that she had never used the term “emergency,” but had said the squirrel situation was a “condition that needed to be addressed.” She also stated the County could not and would not sue the City.
By this time, Ayers had already received $9,700 for his failed poison gassing in February (Gassing doesn't work if you can't plug all the holes, such as the ones coming out the side of the cliffs), and was then contracted for $19,000 more services for August/September of this year, both being short-term solutions.
On the other hand, the City gave Animal Advocates $4,200 for a five month pilot project that was successful according to criteria agreed upon by the County, namely a 30% reduction of active burrows at a 1/7 of what Ayers is getting for the County demanded, short term abatements.
Then the County changed its collective mind and reneged on their agreement with the City and Animal Advocates, and reverted to the old and impossible 2-3 visible squirrels per acre criteria, and it is here that Ayers re-enters with another $19,000 short-term solution.
Therefore, $13,900 had already been spent by the City to kill the squirrels to satisfy Vangordon by July 15, 2006, but a new round of poisoning was demanded by the County in its order to kill the squirrels “immediately.” (Second Notice, dated July 25, 2006 from Gail Vangordon to Elaine Polachek stated, “we must require that immediate steps be taken to suppress the existing ground squirrel and flea populations.”)
By the way, the use of broadcast poisoning in public areas is prohibited by the Federal Rodenticide Act (FIFRA, 1996). Not only was the County bluffing about a lawsuit as a means to scare Council and the City into complying with their ridiculous order, but they were also bluffing (lying) about their intent to invade Santa Monica to exert Vangordon’s will.
Ayers is getting $80/hr. (49 hours a week) for an estimated 4 weeks of work, and $5.50 for each squirrel killed. The estimated project length is 4 weeks, costing an estimated $19,182. However, if he hasn’t killed enough to satisfy Michael Frood, Ayers can stay on the job for an additional 3-4 weeks at an additional $3,900 per week plus killing fees until Frood is satisfied. Does Frood get a kickback from Ayers? Makes me wonder.
Man, is this costing the City big bucks!!!
AND, good old Lefty says this is going to happen every 18 months to 24 months. This is because no long term program has been implemented to permanently reduce the squirrel population over a time frame that the County has found acceptable.
Poisoning will never work as a long term solution. The population will always rebound just as it did after five rounds of poisoning since 1992. Each time an exterminator was called in to the tune of $7,400 to the $30,000 Ayers is getting this year.
AND the City appears to have spent much more than that, $150,000 in fees and man hours implementing these repetitive lethal solutions to comply with what appears to be County mendacity in the form of martinet Gail Vangordon and her henchman, Michael Frood, defended by County Health’s bumbling Jonathan Fielding.
Therefore, City Council was financially and morally justified in seeking a long-term, non-lethal approach to curbing the Palisades squirrel population.
I just found this June 18, 2004 article form the Santa Monica Daily Press. Councilman Genser suggests City should disobey the County order and tell THEM what the City is going to do. Marsha Moutrie wakes up from her sleep and says the City had better obey the County order, but does not state why. Too bad the City Attorney could not tell Council what the reasons and liabilities were.
Article says County Health threatens to come in and poison the squirrels themselves. This is the same lie Mike Frood was telling City staffers and witnessed by many. City officials (unnamed) says the County, when they come in, will use broadcast poision--that is, just throw it on the ground so Fido can eat it too.
Even I, as naive as I was in 1998 and heard this, didn't believe the County would invade the City and spread poison on the bare ground. Can't believe City "Officials" were more naive than I.
Yet, Gail Vangordon email says the County will not sue the City, it is not a health emergency, but a concern, and never mentions the County coming in and poisoning.
Vote for Genser. I am moving back to Santa Monica to vote for him.
Santa Monica Daily Press
June 18, 2004
TURNING TAIL; SQUIRRELS HAD BEST BE MOVING ON
Health officials demand that SM poison ground squirrels; Council begs to differ
BY JOHN WOOD
Daily Press Staff Writer
CITY HALL A contentious dispute over whether Santa Monica's ground squirrels should be poisoned to prevent outbreaks of the bubonic plague has pitted local leaders against Los Angeles health authorities.
The City Council this week voted to look into alternative ways of dealing with the local California ground squirrel population.
Officials from the Los Angeles County Health Department twice recently demanded Santa Monica kill off its resident ground squirrel population, saying if City Ilall doesn't do the work, they will. At issue are the many ground squirrels living inside the Palisades Bluffs, above the Pacific Coast Highway.
"If your dog has fleas, you don't kill your dog," said City Councilman Kevin McKeown, kicking off a divisive, hour-long debate on the dais.
NUTS ABOUT SQUIRRELS
Perhaps the most ardent supporter of the ground squirrels was Councilman Ken Genser, who suggested City Hall disregard the county mandate.
"I don't know what the county would do, but I think if we're serious about trying to solve the problem, and maybe not following the order strictly, I think we should maybe not be so much asking the county but telling them what we intend to do, and leaving it at that," Genser told his colleagues.
"There is a human dimension to this," he added. "I know, certainly for certain individuals in my family, the squirrels are a very important part of their recreation. And I think they bring a lot of pleasure to a lot of people in this community."
McKeown said he hoped to avoid disobeying a county order, but emphasized he feels strongly about saving the squirrels. He pointed to Riverside, Santa Barbara and Ventura, and said City Hall should follow their method of treating the squirrels for fleas, rather than killing them outright.
"(The county keeps) coming back to us, every year or every other year, and asking us to kill all the squirrels in Palisades Park - and that just feels wrong," said McKeown, who brought the issue to the council. "If there's a way to do this without going head to head with the county, I would go toe to toe."
City Attorney Marsha Moutrie warned the council not to do anything deliberately against the county order, adding their mandate is several weeks overdue.
"Whatever you decide we should do we need to do it promptly, because this is now a second notice from the health official," she said.
SPAY THAT BUGGER
What will happen next is unclear.
Though City Hall hopes the county will cooperate in finding a way to deal with the squirrels, staffers said health authorities in a recent warning said if City doesn't act fast, they will spread poison themselves.
That possibility has many concerned, because the county doesn't employ the special "bait tunnels" that City Hall has used in the past. That method attracts squirrels, who then pick up the poison and carry it back to their resting spots. County officials, staffers said, use what's called a "broadcast" method where poison is essentially scattered about, putting other small, bluff-dwelling animals at risk.
Lefty Ayers appears to have landed a permanent $30,000 a year contract to be the City's Rodenator.
Santa Monica Daily Press
July 21, 2006
BY CAROLYN SACKARIASON
Daily Press Staff Writer
PALISADES PARK — City Hall’s latest plan for the resident squirrels here: Trap them, gas them and feed them to the birds.
It’s not a pretty picture, but a necessary plan, according to city, county and pest control officials. Because the squirrels carry fleas which can lead to bubonic plague, they are considered a health threat, officials said. And because Palisades Park is overrun with the rodents, City Hall has been mandated by the Los Angeles County Health Department to kill them. If City Hall fails to comply, it could be sued.
In January, City Hall was served a summons from the county health department regarding non-compliance with the health and safety code. City Hall was ordered to kill the squirrels or face legal action. The squirrels were poisoned with aluminum phosphide, which began on Feb. 6 and lasted for four days.
Immediately following, a pilot program aimed to control the rodent population without killing them was introduced, according to city officials. The education and birth control program created by Mary Cummins from Animal Advocates called for the treatment of remaining squirrels for fleas to prevent disease, installing signage to advise against feeding the animals and distributing immuno-contraceptives.
But in the eyes of county health inspectors, it hasn’t worked. During a routine inspection in Palisades Park last month, they found the ground squirrel population well above acceptable numbers. (Muzika Note: Remember, the term,“acceptable levels has been questioned by everyone, including the City.)
As a result, county and city officials met last week to devise a plan to reduce the squirrel population this summer.
“The park is in violation and something has to be done,” said Gail Van Gordon, supervisor of the county’s Vector Born Disease Surveillance Unit. She added that her staff presented options to Santa Monica officials and highlighted plans that have worked in the hundreds of other areas the county health department oversees. (Muzika: I wonder if one of the County Staff recommendations was to use Lefty Ayers as the exterminator.)
City officials have apparently reverted back to their original plan, which was developed by Lefty Ayers, who owns Heritage Wildlife Management, a pest control company based in Kern County.
Ayers didn’t use that plan in February when he helped eradicate the squirrels in Palisades Park. He said that because of the pressure from animal rights activists and the media, he instead placed fumigation tablets in the burrows, and the humidity turned it into gas, which killed the squirrels.
“We were forced into it because the people were saying ‘don’t do this, don’t do this,’” Ayers said of when he attempted to carry live animals in traps out of the park.
His traps are larger than most manufacturers —24 feet by 24 feet by 8 inches tall — to prevent overcrowding. (Muzika: Lie, the traps used were typical 36” diameter poison bait station devices. When Dr. Longcare complained to her in a letter about the 24 ft traps, she sneeringly laughed at him to Elaine Polachek from the City).
LOST THAT LOVING FEELING
After the first round of squirrels are killed, city officials and Ayers hope to avoid having to do it again. Ayers and city staff are currently researching studies that indicate an immuno-contraceptive vaccine could reduce the squirrel population without killing them. (Muzika: Well, what do you know, Ayers again.) The squirrels would be trapped and injected with the vaccine, which would inhibit the female’s ability to give birth. “Once the population is down, it looks like the city will help me research it,” Ayers said, adding the vaccine would last 1 1/2 to 2 years. “But it’s very labor intensive and costly “ (Muzika: Well Lefty, you say costly and every 18 months to two years--humm)... if people just stayed out of it, it will be two years before we have to do something again.”
Ayers will meet with city officials by the end of the month to determine the next course of action. City Hall has budgeted $30,000 to reduce the squirrel population, said Elaine Polacheck, City Hall’s open space manager. Polacheck said Cummins’ plan unfortunately didn’t pan out like her staff had hoped. It was supposed to be a one-year pilot program, but lasted just five months.
Well, it seems Ayers, known to everyone in the City and County as Lefty, has a lifetime contract with the City for all future squirrel eradication and control projects, ranging from Rodenator napalming to contraceptive at a much higher charge than other vendors. Animal Advocate’s contract was for $4,200, not $19,000 as Ayers is receiving, plus the $9,700 he got in February of this year.
And, Lefty said this would happen again in two years.
So, Lefty has a guaranteed contract for $30,000 for every two years and will collect $30,000 just for work in 2006!!
Let’s check Lefty out, shall we, the RFP the City sent out, and the bids actually returned.