By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Let 'em Drive Sports Cars
Last October, this column told how Los Angeles Marathon president William Burke, during his Labor Day weekend vintage-sports-car race, managed to stick the city with over $357,000 in event expenses. Of course, he had help from the dunderhead City Council that agreed to pay the costs after Burke's proxy, Councilman Richard Alatorre, promised they would be less than $5,000.
The naive among us might have expected Burke someday to return the gesture by which the taxpayers unwittingly supported his costly, specialized-audience car event. Perhaps by doing the city an expensive favor in return.
Someday, maybe; but not today. Certainly not when it comes to Burke's willingness to repeat his 1996 offer of free public transportation on Marathon Sunday. This eased the Marathon's usual evil traffic that year and made the air more healthful for runners. So the MTA board proposed to repeat the plan this year - but Burke would have none of it.
In a February 20 letter to MTA transit planner James de la Loza (cc'd to all council members and county supervisors), Burke acknowledged that in 1996, the "Marathon's sponsor, American Honda Motor Co., paid MTA approximately $135,000 to provide transportation on Marathon Sunday."
But, Burke continued, "Since then, we have elected not to do this and I want to go on the record that to my knowledge no one at this organization has requested this effort that you are currently undertaking. While we greatly support alleviating traffic throughout the city and improving air quality on race day, we cannot support this effort at this time because of the economic impact."
Note that Burke appears to be speaking for not just his own closely held and implicitly very profitable marathon company, but for Honda Motors as well. The implication is that any funding Honda hands over to the MTA for free transit won't accrue to Burke's profits: That's what he must mean by "economic impact."
Of course, $135,000 is only about a third of what the city paid last September in unreimbursed DOT and LAPD expenditures. That, you'll recall, was for the old-car race that snarled downtown Los Angeles for close to a week. It also pumped a small industrial revolution's worth of leaded hydrocarbon fumes into the downtown air. Compared to that operation, a Marathon day's stalled L.A. traffic doesn't really add up to much pollution for runners' lungs, does it?
And anyway, it's not as though William A. Burke were the chairman of the Air Quality Management District, with an anti-pollution reputation to protect, is it? What's that you say? He is?
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