Awww! L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says the darndest things when he's caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Dogged CBS LA investigator David Goldstein asked the mayor why, so deep in a budget hole, the city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain a million-dollar touring yacht at the Port of Los Angeles.
Villaraigosa's adorable reply:
"It's not a yacht. It's a boat."
The problem is obviously not a semantic one -- but hey, if he wants to play that game, we'll bite.
After hours of hard-hitting Internet research (Ask.com, Yahoo Answers, the works!), we've determined that the Angelena II is, by all common-sense standards, a yacht. According to the Port's website, the Angelena II is 73 feet long. And according to Front Range Insurance Group: "Generally, 'boats' are considered to be 26' and smaller, and 'yachts' are 27' and larger."
A yacht is also defined, in most cases, as a leisure vessel instead of working vessel. So I guess it's up to the taxpayer to decide if "public-relations tours" are of a leisurely or laborious nature. Here are some of its former passengers, via Goldstein:
• Banning High students
• Members of the Morongo Indian Tribe
• Screenwriters from Universal Studios
• YWCA cruisers
• People from the exclusive Jonathan Club
• UCLA students
• Dozens of the mayor's interns
A press release on the Angelena II's fancy new fuel system paints a more noble portrait of the yacht's ridership:
Purchased by the Port in 1988, the 73-foot Angelena II is used to highlight the capabilities of the Port facilities with customers, constituents, public leaders, foreign dignitaries, media and stakeholders. The Port provides several hundred tours annually on the Angelena II, which takes a maximum of 40 guests for 60- to 90-minute tours that highlight the value of the Port. In 2011, the Port hosted more than 4,000 visitors on Angelena II tours.
However you define it, the costs of maintaining this million-dollar city pet are dizzying.
CBS reports that "Over the next couple of months they will be spending close to three quarters of a million dollars on upgrades." And the Port says, "Installation and repair work is being done by city workers, including electricians, carpenters and others." (Essentially the most expensive labor force that taxes can buy.)
The Port of Los Angeles likes to pretend it's free of responsibility to the taxpayers, as it generates its own profits. But just because it's not directly leeching off the city's general fund doesn't mean it's not a public agency. The now-defunct L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency tried to use the same argument -- until Governor Jerry Brown called BS and buried it alive.
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Nope -- it's the people's port, and the money it generates could just as easily go back to the people as to yachts/$200,000 parties.
Much like said party, this appears to be another of Villaraigosa's expensive, delusional outreaches to Asia. He tells CBS:
"[Yacht passengers have] gone to see why the Port is such an important part of this administration's priorities. We have got to promote trade. That's why I was in China, Japan and Korea."