Enviro, politics could block unique Sacramento museum

July 15, 2013

By Katy Grimes


A wealthy Sacramento couple has offered to make one of the largest private donations in Sacramento history to create a natural history museum for the city. Naturally, an animal rights activist and city officials are freaking out.

Paul and Renee Snider want to donate their extensive personal collection of mounted polar bears, lions, rhinos, dik-diks, and other animals, some of which are rare, and build a nearly 180,000 square foot museum to house them. The museum would also be the new home of the California Auto Museum, which desperately needs an updated building.

But it appears the Sniders are being thwarted by the Sacramento Planning Commission, along with an animal rights activist who finds the project distasteful, despite the decades of charity work the Sniders have done for the Sacramento area.

And that’s the problem. Radical activists and the government officials who listen to them would rather kill a privately funded project than let thousands of others enjoy it.

The animal rights activist and Planning Commissioner

At a planning commission meeting last week, animal rights activists got the ear of Planning Commissioner Kim Mack, and challenged whether the city of Sacramento should approve the museum with the Sniders’ game animals in the same building as classic cars.

The Sniders have asked the city for permission to buy the land for $1.25 million, and will pay to build the new museum building.

“Some members of the commission confined their comments to discussions about the design of the new museum, while others opined on the necessity of reaching out to the community regarding the content of the new building,” the Sacramento Bee reported. “Mack addressed the issue more directly. ‘I think that bringing stuffed endangered species into the mix is dangerous to the reputation of our community,’ she said.”

Mack, a politically active Democrat, has close ties to Mayor Kevin Johnson, and helped run his first campaign for Sacramento mayor. Mack also managed a grassroots support effort in the region for the first Obama presidential campaign.

Mack has also been involved with Johnson’s Sacramentans for Accountable Government effort to put a Strong Mayor Initiative on the ballot, essentially giving Johnson more power.

When Mack was a City Council candidate, she took heat because emails in support of the Strong Mayor Initiative were sent to people on an email list that originated from an Obama campaign list. Mack came under strong criticism for providing the Obama campaign email list to the Sacramentans for Accountable Government group.

And then, after losing in the city council primary, Mack was appointed to the Sacramento Planning Commission by Johnson.

It pays to have friends in high places, regardless of credentials.

The animal rights activist behind the effort to kill the museum is Jennifer Fearing, a well-known Humane Society radical, and California senior state director for the organization.

“Destroying wild animals for the thrill of the kill, for trophies, and for bragging rights is anything but good for the world,” the letter to the planning commission from Fearing said, as reported by the Bee. “We share Renee Snider’s awe of the ‘beauty of wildlife,’ but feel that awe is best shown through shooting them through lenses, not gun barrels.”

“The two-page letter also says the city would be selling valuable riverfront property too cheap, and suggests the attractions at the museum would be unlikely to draw many visitors,” the Bee said.

“A hybrid auto/dead animal museum seems unlikely to generate enough foot traffic over time to be sustainable. We also question the rationale for the city selling this property for $1.25 million — which seems an exceptionally low price for such valuable property,” Fearing said.

Fearing and the Humane Society are behind many of the anti-gun, anti-hunting bills in the California Legislature. One of their bills, AB711, would have unnecessarily banned lead ammunition for all hunting in California, but was killed in the committee process. Fearing and her cohorts are responsible for the recent ban in California on bear hunting with dogs, hunting using trapping, and the name change of the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Fish and “Wildlife,” which most people questioned.

The Sniders

Several years ago, Paul and Renee Snider had offered to build a smaller history museum on the campus of California State University Sacramento, but were forced to give up that idea when members of the CSUS faculty became unhinged at the idea, and heavily protested the offer.

However, and quite ironically, it was CSUS officials who had previously facilitated the permission from the government of Tanzania needed for the Sniders to hunt exotic animals in that country.

Oh what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive.

Paul and Renee Snider are well-known as Sacramento’s first couple in charitable giving. There isn’t a charity in town unfamiliar with their selfless kindness and generosity. Renee Snider has been on the Board of Directors for decades of the River Oak Center for Children, where I first met her. The Sniders have donated millions of dollars to River Oak Center, helping to provide group homes, education facilities and care facilities for children needing behavioral health and mental health services.

I’ve been to the Sniders’ home and have seen the amazing museum wing with the animals on display. I sat on a local charitable board with Mrs. Snider. They are very generous and good people, but are being maligned by people who have no idea who they are, or of the many charities to which they give their considerable money and time.

Katy's picture of Jerry Brown's PlymouthThe auto museum

The California Auto Museum is worth a visit. It has fantastic collections of cars, but could use an updated, climate-controlled building. The last time I visited, I saw Gov. Jerry Brown’s old 1974 Plymouth Satellite, from his first term as Governor of California in 1975, and took the nearby picture of it. These days, Brown has plenty of Capitol police escorts to drive him around.

Despite the kindness and generosity with which the gift of the museum is intended, because some froth at the mouth at hunting and hunters, the enjoyment so many others could be killed. A history museum and a new auto museum would be wonderful for Sacramento, and could be a place of learning as well.

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