Taxpayers Won't Pay a Dime for Parade

Private funds will pay for police and traffic control

By John Cadiz Klemack
|  Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 6:03 PM EDT
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Parade Price Tag

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LA will celebrate the Lakers championship Wednesday with a parade.

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It's official: taxpayers will not have to pay one dime to party-it-up and celebrate the LA Lakers' NBA Championship win.

City Council President Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday during an emergency motion that private donors have ponied up the dough to help pay for the event.

Union officials representing Los Angeles Police Department officers and some other city employees had criticized the city for planning to spend around $1 million on a parade at a time when layoffs and furloughs are being debated to close more than a $500 million budget deficit.

Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League -- the union that represents LAPD officers, said the city has no business spending taxpayer dollars on a parade in a time of budget crisis.

"We believe that at this time when the city has declared a fiscal emergency, it's not appropriate to be furloughing civilian workers, closing down city facilities and curtailing city services to residents ... and then holding a parade," Weber said.

Barbara Maynard with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions said the Lakers should consider paying more money toward the celebration.

"We are grateful that the Lakers will pay for a share of the parade's costs," Maynard said. "However, given that the rest of the bill will mean the loss of up to a million dollars in services for Los Angeles residents, such as recreation programs for youth in city parks, we call on our champions to do more."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday he was working to generate private donations to defray the cost of the celebration, which is expected to cost about $2 million, with the Lakers paying half the tab.

The Los Angeles Times reported that nearly half 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, citing sources close to the Lakers.

Casey Wasserman owns talent management and sports marketing firms. Jerry Perenchio is a former chairman of Univision Communications.

Several City Council members said they also wanted to see more private contributions to the celebration to prevent the use of taxpayer dollars.

"Sunday's win was great for the Lakers and Los Angeles, and we should certainly celebrate their victory," Garcetti said. "However, given the city's budget crisis, now is not the time to spend taxpayer dollars on a parade."

Councilman Dennis Zine said a celebration at the Coliseum is acceptable, but the parade should be scrubbed to prevent a repeat of the riotous behavior of some fans who took to the streets outside Staples Center Sunday night.

"I think a parade offers hooligans an opportunity to be destructive again," Zine said. "I don't see any kind of a win if a major stretch of road is blocked off for this parade and it's infiltrated by the thugs and the gang members that are in the community."

Zine had said he felt the Lakers organization should offer to pay more of the cost for the parade.  "If the Lakers can pay Kobe Bryant $24 million a year, they can afford to pay for the service to protect their fans.  Don't get me wrong, Kobe's a great player, but if they can pay him that much, they have the money to pay for police protection."

Wednesday's Laker celebration is expected to begin with an 11 a.m. parade from Staples Center to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where a rally will be held.

But there's one thing the rally will not include -- 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.

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