Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Did Michael Jackson's Death Help the L.A. City Economy?

Well, the Mayor is back from Africa where he went with his new girlfriend, Channel 5 news person, Lu Parker, just one day after he was sworn in for a new 4-year term, promising to be that best mayor he could be, or words to that effect. Well, as if things did not hit the fan hard enough when Villaraigosa left Los Angeles by the events following the death of Michael Jackson, sendimg everyone and everything into near-critical mass with police assigned to just about every activity that occurred after the pop singer died.

The whole series of events seemed to culminate in the memorial tribute last week at the Staples Center. The cost for the police and all the city services that the taxpayers have to cover amount to nearly $4 million dollars. Some have put the cost at about $1.4 million but that's really just the cost for police salaries used on these activities. Matt Szabo, the Mayor's spokesman and cover-up artist, tried to justify the expense as a city obligation last week and not something that should be paid for by the people who caused it. He did not make sense in the radio interview. He made a good try but it is not possible to make sense of it.

Legally, there's not a real good basis for the city to charge anyone. There was no contract, there's no law on this to make it a chargeable item, and there's just the idea that the events brought money for the city by tourists. JANICE HAHN, Council member was totally nuts in saying that the costs that the city spent for this were actually GOOD for the city. She is just out of her mind if she applies her math skills in that way.

To take that any further, if you can have more of these celebrities dying and huge events happening, how would the city come out ahead? HAHN says it generates huge amounts of money for the city, so it was worth it. So are we spending $4 million or $1 million of city expense and then it all comes back to the city? She has to be just deluded beyond help.

Let's say people spent at hotels and for meals and renting cars or whatever they do to spend money, how much of that is HELPING the City taxpayers when the salaries of the city workers is paid up? There's your $4 million or the $1 million spent as tax dollars for the workers and the city services. Now where does THAT money come back to the city treasury?

True that there's lots of money to be made on the people, but WHY is the city supposed to supply the employees and services for SOMEONE ELSE, a private sector person or company to make money? The city still has the bill and the private businessmen are walking away counting their money and smoking their cigars, and maybe they say to the city, "Thanks for the help."

Does that make any sense? Janice Hahn is as nutty as often or more than she is noteworthy in her comments. This event has her totally looney.

The expenses that seemed to use endless supplies of police and other city workers and services served to totally boost the Staples Center publicity for the event. It was broadcast around the world, had famous entertainers and the casket of Michael Jackson there, too, after the Hollywood Forest Lawn funeral was held at 8 a.m. that day.

Did you know that the Staples Center, operated by AEG, charged the television crews for the risers that they set up in front of the Staples Centers? $50,000 or more, depending on locations. The final haul was estimated to be about $500,000.00 for the risers. Everywhere there were making money off the Jackson death. The event was recorded and you know there is going to be a dvd for sale. Already there is a tour as a tribute to Michael Jackson, with the money, of course, figured out to be worth it all.

The whole circus - and the real circus, Ringling Brothers, performing at the Staples Center had to be postponed a day for the memorial event.

The costs were not legally recoverable (so far) from AEG or the Jacksons or anyone, so the city was just SOL. Council member Dennis Zine was adamant in his claim for the city to be reimbursed for the money. He had some really comprehensive figures for the city services used up and also noted that the police were not able to respond to other work if there were there, so some things had to wait, although these might not have been emergencies, but the work was done in preparation and in assigning 3,500 extra police to the estimated throngs that were going to show up.

Then the police and event organizers announced that the Staples Center would not be accessible for anyone for two blocks around without a ticket to enter the area, so this was what I think explained a lot of the falloff in the people who were expected to be outside. Like the Academy Awards, you can't get in, but you can see the arrival of stars, but not here. You were not even going to be able to see anything, not even the building from where they were cordoning off the area. So why bother going? The way the I.D. bands were handled made it seem like a hopeless task for anyone wanting to slip in or counterfeit the bands. And so very few went out on the street since it was all going to be on television anyway, and the weather was hot to make hanging out in the street something not too enjoyable.

In order to try to recover some of the money spent by the city , a website was set up to collect donations from fans (or anyone) for the Michael Jackson Memorial expense. It collected a total of about $17,000.00 at one point last week, hitting $35,000.00 when it was shut down last Friday. The whole site initially crashed when there were so many visitors that the site, specifically announced on news shows across country, couldn't handle it and that was it for about a day. Matt Szabo, while speaking for the Mayor's office in Tony's absence, announced this website as a means of collecting donations to the city when he was interviewed on the radio last week.

The mayor really was excited about AEG after he said that the city had a responsibility for the event and expenses and babbled on about how the city is not going to charge for a funeral since this is a "World Class City." He said that AEG (owner/operator of the Staples Center and organizer of the "memorial" for Michael Jackson) is not going to be asked to pay any expenses. Mayor Tony was so agitated that he said he disagreeed with his staff and he thought that that idea of asking for donations was ridiculous. Obviously that idea did not come from him and it seems Jan Perry thought of it as a means to get some sort of recovery of costs.

The Mayor was typically full of his self-importance and presented several specious examples of why is was right for the city (that still is about a half-billion in the red on the city budget, by the way) to absorb these expenses. Maybe his trip made him forget such small details. The Mayor ranted on and on about AEG and the good that they have done for the city and money that was brought in by them. He did not mention that most of the money goes into the pocket of AEG ("Anschutz Entertainment Group") and AEG's owner, Phillp Anschutz.

In case you don't know, AEG and Anschutz were big contributors to the Mayor's campaigns, and have associated groups that paid for many of the trips that the Mayor has taken, have contributed to many of the ballot measures that the Mayor supported, and gave lots of money for the Yes on Prop. 1A measure to raise taxes which would have meant that taxes planned for sporting events would not be imposed. AEG did not want to see any taxes put onto their ticket prices, preferring that individuals pay them directly, it appears.

Well, Tony came back into town very arrogant and very rude to his own staff who have tried on many times to save his butt from many of his situations and statements. Dumping on Matt Szabo I suppose it is tolerable by Matt as a dedicated staffer in the Mayor's office who gets a pretty good salary to take the heat- he just didn't expect that the heat was going to be coming from his own boss.

The whole analysis made of the situation by Tony in the speech was, to use one of Tony's words, ridiculous. Absolutely and completely. He has no idea of how to make an analogy of any proper relevance or having any connection with the truth. Armed with the facts, just about all of the pitch Tony made can be dissassembled for the coverup that it is.

Next week, Tuesday, the City Council will deal with the motions and reports that have been requested by various members in connection with the Jackson memorial and related events and expenses. At this time, only CM Dennis Zine is speaking out on the need to pursue the matter and get AEG to cough up the money for the work that they had the city put out.

As I mentioned before, CM Janice Hahn was totally in support of letting the city hold the bag on the expenses, justifying this event as one that brings the city lots of tourists and money. That was really something that would be difficult to assess in terms of real dollars. It really seemed that she was in on something on Friday, like hearing what Tony was up to on his way back from Africa with Lu Parker, and Hahn wanted to be loyal to the Mayor. A huge mistake as her contrived assessments and conclusion were difficult to quantify and prove, and entirely useless in restoring the dollars to the City treasury to pay for things like salaries and services.

As politicians, the CMs want to keep their jobs. Naturally, since it pays an outrageous sum ($15,500.00 or so per month) and they really don't do much they are held responsible for in the end. But they need to vote on measures and the votes will tell you where they are.

Dennis Zine has been very diplomatic under the barrage of criticism that the AEG people and Zine haters have heaped upon him. Nuch Trutanich, City Attorney, seems to be deterimined to find out the facts in the situation to see what money can be recovered and the rest of the CMs except Hahn, have taken no public position, typical of their weasel approaches to important issues. But when it comes time to give out plaques to their friends, you just can't shut any of them up. Tune in on Fridays for the awards presentations that hold up the meetings if you want to see what I mean.

Well, there's more to the story and I need to end it now as I began this when Tony finished his news conference Monday and most of the news has already covered a lot of what I wrote here. So much for any "news" aspect, but the idea of the PEOPLE of the city getting the short end of the stick because Tony does not want to upset his friends who expect him to do favors is the point.

I mentioned elsewhere that the AEG people, probably Anschutz himself, and Tony talked about this and Tony promised to call off dogs and leave AEG alone. I am afraid that is not an acceptable solution for the people of Los Angeles. Someone might introduce the Mayor to the concept of "fiduciary duty" and mention that he totally fails on that account. And the financial history of AEG contributions is worth another couple of paragraphs to sum up that very serious monetary involvement in influencing government, but needs to wait if this item is going to be posted this week, already Wednesday now.

Too much power, too much arrogance and too many bad choices all leaving the city still in tough straits moneywise. That pledge of Tony's about being the best for L.A. lasted what? Almost a whole day? Hard to imagine that things would be more strained when he returned and that Tony would mix up the people he's supposed to represent.