By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Then, on July 9, just days after the Jackson memorial, Villaraigosa’s political appointees on the city Planning Commission also backed the hotly criticized Convention Center scheme, under which its widely recognized green outer wall, at 50,000 square feet, would become one of the biggest billboard surfaces in California.
Newly elected City Attorney Carmen Trutanich had alerted the Planning Commission last week not to act until he determined whether the AEG scheme was ethically and legally permissible, but Villaraigosa’s appointees ignored him. The deal cut with AEG would force tens of thousands of motorists stuck on the 10 and 110 freeways to view huge ads. Trutanich wants the deal halted while Trutanich determines whether the sudden vote by Villaraigosa’s political appointees on the Planning Commission were ethically and legally permissible.
Now, Councilwoman Janice Hahn appears to be joining AEG’s unofficial political team, calling for a “study” to show how much in extra taxes the city reaped from visitors to the Jackson event — echoing talking points put out by Carol Schatz, who runs a downtown business lobbying group.
AEG’s potential Jackson profits are not lost on City Councilman Dennis Zine, who vociferously slammed what he says is $3.8 million in city worker overtime, lost hours and donating of normal work hours, all burned up by police and other city workers to honor Jackson.
AEG raised eyebrows when it lashed back at Zine, with Tim Leiweke declaring that Zine was out of line — an unusual muscle-flexing scene by Leiweke.
Impromptu and unscientific polls on Facebook and other social media sites show that Angelenos emphatically do not want to pick up this tab. As Zine’s office announced, “The event was held at their location, they are the promoters, and they are the ones who stand to profit.”
Yet a fascinating scene unfolded when Villaraigosa’s spokesman Matt Szabo Twittered the media, trying to spin the event as costing taxpayers only $1.4 million, not nearly $4 million. The Los Angeles Times accepted that low figure and published it without question.
Szabo calculated only the overtime, ignoring the reality that city workers burned through thousands of normal workday hours over several days. “How many calls got dropped?” Zine asked during a radio interview, of badly stretched emergency systems.
Whether the dropped tasks involved street-service workers, traffic coordinators, sewer workers or cops, the work they left on their desks might also cascade into a series of overtime issues as they try to catch up.
Councilman Rosendahl believes the Jackson memorial should not be marred by a debate over cost, saying, “AEG has done very well by our city over the years. The city has given them extensive support, and it would be a positive thing of AEG to work with us.”
Yet any typical L.A. resident who sought to hold an event that forced street closures and caused big strains on city services would be required to apply for a permit that could hold them liable for policing, street closure and clean-up costs.
According to Villaraigosa’s office, AEG did not even file this permit. The end result, sticking taxpayers with the tab, is “just plain wrong,” says neighborhood council activist Jack Humphreville.