L.A. in economic shambles but can spend $1 million for a parade?
PHILIP SCOTT ANDREWS/AP
It seems stunning that the conversation even has to happen.
A business would laugh at such a thought. Businesses have to make money to survive. Only in government can such a conversation actually occur. And guess what? LA's top politician didn't see a problem with it.
After LA decimated Orlando in game five of the NBA finals to win the championship, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed the idea of spending $1 million in taxpayer dollars to fund half of the parade. After all, the Lakers are the 2009 NBA champions. Why wouldn't the city pay for the parade?
Well, maybe it's the 11 percent unemployment rate. Or the pay cuts that city employees are staring at. Perhaps it's the massive layoffs that could happen in the near future. Or the $529 million deficit. Things like that.
The Five Oh
These small items aren't lost on the Los Angeles Police Protective League. The president of the organization, Paul Weber, doesn't get Villaraigosa's gung-ho approach to spending city money on a parade.
"At a time of financial crisis, when the public expects -- and quite frankly should demand -- city leaders to be good stewards of every tax dollar, it is foolish for elected officials to favor spending 1 million tax dollars on a three-hour parade," Weber said in a statement. "We have great hopes that the NBA and the Lakers, which made millions during the playoffs, will step up and help fund this celebratory civic event. Everyone loves a parade, but we feel strongly in this case, the Lakers or other private funds should pay for it."
And the Coalition of L.A. City Unions doesn't like the idea either. They represent 22,000 workers and the coalition believes a taxpayer funded parade wouldn't set well with their members.
"We're looking at massive layoffs and pay cuts and serious reductions in services and we just don't believe the taxpayers should be paying for a parade when the Lakers, a for-profit enterprise, are quite capable of funding the whole thing," said a spokesman for the organization.
Change of heart
Mysteriously, Villaraigosa has changed his mind. Perhaps it's that governor's race coming up. No, he hasn't formally announced he's running and there's talk now he may not run. But if he did, it might just be tough to explain the parade to the millions of California citizens who aren't Lakers fans.
He's not shutting down the parade. He's just looking into financing the costs to the city in alternative ways. Like through donations.
The LA Times reports this morning that he's found some.
"Sources told The Times that two media executives and several other people stepped forward to help the city pay for its share of Wednesday's scheduled parade celebrating the Lakers' 15th championship," reads the LA Now blog.
"Nearly half of the $900,000 the city needs to provide for police and traffic control has been donated by Casey and Laura Wasserman, Jerry and Margie Perenchio and others, said sources close to the Lakers."
While spending $1 million in taxpayer dollars on a parade while the city is falling apart may seem outrageous, at least there is some sanity in L.A. City officials concede that serving booze at 11:00 AM might just be a bad idea. So, they're nixing the alcohol.
"In the interests of a wholesome and safe celebration of the Lakers' championship victory, the Coliseum will not sell any alcoholic beverages during Wednesday's victory rally at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum," said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, chairman of the Coliseum Commission.
Villaraigosa has a press conference scheduled this afternoon with Lakers player Derek Fisher and the L.A. Police Chief.