L.A. Coliseum Commission to Consider Self-Destruction After Rave Scandal: Mark Ridley-Thomas Calls For Discussion on Dissolution | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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L.A. Coliseum Commission to Consider Self-Destruction After Rave Scandal: Mark Ridley-Thomas Calls For Discussion on Dissolution

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Fri, Dec 9, 2011 at 3:44 PM

click to enlarge When ravers met politics.
  • When ravers met politics.
It was one almighty party -- a two-day rave that pulled in 160,000 people, saw 60 arrests, and witnessed more than 200 medical emergencies. And it was the last memory for a 15-year-old girl who soon after died of an ecstasy overdose.

In the wake of the controversy over 2010's Electric Daisy Carnival it became clear that the promoter was way too cozy with the people who manage the day-to-day operations of the publicly owned L.A. Coliseum. A former official reportedly took more than $1 million from companies doing business with the venue. Its general manager quit and was later alleged to have used his position to get rare perks, including a car.

Now L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is proposing that the Coliseum Commission, which controls the venue and ultimately acted as boss to those alleged characters, consider dissolving itself:

In a letter to Commission president David Israel obtained by the Weekly, Ridley-Thomas asks that discussion over possible dissolution be put on the body's next meeting agenda, which has happened.

He writes:

... It is now clear the structure is incapable of ensuring the present and future viability of the Coliseum.

He calls for ...

... discussion of whether the composition and mission of the Coliseum Commission must be altered -- or whether the Commission itself ought to be replaced with a different form of governance.

The move comes to light after the Coliseum Commission voted this week to put off on deciding whether to hand over day-to-day control of the Coliseum complex, which also includes the Sports Arena and adjacent facilities, to USC, which has a little football team you might have heard of that happens to play there.

Ridley-Thomas told the Weekly that addressing the Commission's makeup and structure wouldn't necessarily have a bearing on the USC deal: Even if the proposal to have the school take over management is approved, the Commission would still have ultimate authority over the property.

click to enlarge U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The body is made of three gubernatorial appointees, three L.A. city appointees and three L.A. County supervisors, including Ridley-Thomas.

It is run under a state "Joint Exercise of Powers Act" that gives California, City Hall and the county of L.A. equal say in running the place.

However, one of the problems with that is that the buck stops nowhere. The commission meets once a month, and Coliseum management has always appeared to run the show. So much so that you end up with the kind cozy relationships and perk-mining reported the last year.

Commissioner Rick Caruso, the biggest critic of holding raves at the venues, quit the body this fall. Rumored to be a mayoral hopeful, Caruso cited conflicts stemming from his role as a USC trustee at a time when the school is trying to make a deal with the Commission.

However, he also noted in his resignation letter that "the public's trust in the Coliseum's operations has been seriously eroded," and he suggested ...

... that the Commission should be phased out and run by a single entity management structure that operates in its place, whether that is the state, county, city or a private organization. The Joint Powers Authority structure is inefficient and unquestionably has contributed to the recent fiscal and management breakdowns.

Asked about the possibility of a bureaucratic kamikaze mission, Commission President Israel told the Weekly that the joint powers structure is too complicated to dissolve and that doing so would be "a foolhardy way to proceed:"

What I support is what's going on right now -- an effort to modify the lease with USC. We've made a lot of progress.

Ridley-Thomas, for one, says that if it ever comes down to choosing one of the three joint-powers parties to run the venue, L.A. County would be in the best position:

The state wants out. The city is financially strapped. And the county seems to be the only entity left standing that's solvent or sturdy enough to handle such a transaction.

But Israel argues "one entity can't do it. It's so complicated to do."

He says the USC deal will accomplish the same goal without having to dive into the legal quagmire surrounding the Commission's makeup: "I think this is the way to get that done," Israel said.

County counsel Andrea Sheridan Ordin writes in a letter obtained by the Weekly that it would take approval of all three joint-powers parties -- the city, state and county -- to dissolve the Commission, which is otherwise authorized to run the venues through 2054.

She says it's also possible that the state legislature could create a law to disband the body, though that could be challenged in court.

Ordin writes that the joint-powers authority granted to the Commission also allows an entity such as the county to take over management if the other parties agree. It also allows the Commission to contract out management with a private entity (such as USC), she says. In those scenarios, however, the Commission would still exist and would still have ultimate authority.

In any case, Ridley-Thomas wants something to be done:

The situation with the Coliseum is so untenable. Something has to give, and responsible Commissioners will have to address this issue and come to grips with the anachronistic nature of the structure.

I'm essentially saying lets stop beating around the bushes. We're obliged to have this conversation sooner rather than later.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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