[UPDATED] City leadership has been bold when it comes to pressing issues like cat declawing, so it's no surprise that two Los Angeles City Council committees on Monday took up the issue of who should cover the $3.2 million bill for policing the Michael Jackson memorial at Staples Center -- the city or Anschutz Entertainment Group, the event organizer reaping millions in revenues based on the late star's content -- and passed the buck to the City Attorney.
The city is apparently going to wait some more while it poses the question of whether City Attorney Carmen Trutanich will follow through with his threats to take AEG to court over the costs and for an alleged but undisclosed criminal matter, according to KNX 1070 AM Newsradio. Downtown Councilwoman Jan Perry reportedly argued that it would be hard to come to an agreement with AEG as a cloud of legal action looms and that if the City Attorney backs off, it might be possible for the multi-million-dollar company to "donate" money to cover the bill.
Sounding a little like Blanche DuBois, Perry said, " ... We rely on the goodness and kindness of AEG, and whether or not they want to have a discussion with us about this." The public safety and budget and finance committees want to know where the City Attorney stands because AEG is not likely to make a move "while there is a threat of
prosecution hanging over its head,'' in Perry's words.
Perry claimed that AEG was actually taking up "donations" to cover the city's memorial costs but stopped doing so after Trutanich began threatening the company with legal action.
As we've reported, AEG has reaped millions from Jackson's legacy, including a $60 million sale of his last Staples Center footage to Sony for the blockbuster concert film This Is It, for which AEG also has a 10 percent stake in profits. The July 7 memorial was held for 17,500 free ticket holders and a few dozen dignitaries at Staples Center. The city's costs came in the form of police and officer overtime. Authorities were expecting as many as one million fans to line the area outside Staples, a crowd that didn't materialize.
The memorial was staged as a 90-minute television special that was seen by 31 million people worldwide.
The city previously argued that the memorial was good for area business -- to the tune of $4 million. But LA Weekly last week debunked that notion. On Monday we reported that the figure was seized upon by City Hall as an ass-covering benefit to business despite its cloudy origins.
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Now Perry is arguing that AEG could "donate" money to cover the costs of policing its show. But only if the City Attorney backs off. The original council mandate was to discuss pursuing AEG for the expenses. The vote was to anser the questions: Is AEG responsible for these costs and, if so, should the city send it a bill, via the City Attorney or otherwise?
How these questions have been spun into a possible AEG donation is an amazing sleight of hand. Perry, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other council members have been the beneficiaries of AEG's fundraising largess in the past, so you can read between the lines.
While the money is pocket change for a city facing a $400 million deficit, the issue is whether residents should go with one less firefighter because a big entertainment company set to reap millions from Jackson's legacy wanted to put on a TV show, partly on your dime.
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