California quizzes Jackson costs

July 12, 2009 12:00 am

, LOS ANGELES, Jul 12 – Disgruntled Californians, their state broke and in budget meltdown, are asking why taxpayers should foot the bill for Michael Jackson’s million-dollar memorial last week.

While the largest state in the union has long reveled in its glitzy image as a home to the stars, some officials, faced with a deficit expected to stretch to 24 billion dollars within two years, are keen to pinch pennies.

Los Angeles councilman Dennis Zine has called for a review into how the city’s resources were used during Tuesday’s Jackson memorial at the Staples Center.

The event, watched on television by hundreds of millions across the world, required the deployment of thousands of police officers, emergency services and a SWAT team that reportedly transported Jackson’s casket.

Zine called for the probe to determine whether the event’s promoters or producers might provide "reimbursement to the city to replenish the public safety and other critical funds."

He claimed the actual cost of Jackson-related events for Los Angeles may be as high as four million dollars, and urged the memorial’s promoters — such as AEG — to pick up the tab.

He has called for a separate probe to investigate why 50,000 dollars were apparently spent on boxed lunches for police officers from a vendor 80 miles (130 kilometers) away.

His sentiments were echoed by the Los Angeles Times, which in an editorial said "it makes sense to call on AEG, which ran the show and owns the facilities, to foot the 1.4-million-dollar bill," although, it added, the claims need not have been made on the day of the event.

Such calls have prompted a local political bun fight.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office said the estimated cost of four million dollars was likely too high.

"The flaw in the councilman’s estimate is he assumes — absent the Michael Jackson memorial — that there would be no officers in the streets of Los Angeles," said Matt Szabo.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn has called for an investigation into how much the city made because of Jackson fans flocking to the city

Los Angeles is "probably going to make a lot more money than it spent," local media quoted her as saying.

"We are going to see tourism jump. People now want to come to Hollywood Boulevard, they want to go to Michael Jackson’s star, they want to buy flowers from the florist to put at his star, they want to get on the tour buses that go to his home in Holmby Hills."

With California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger warning that the state must scrimp or citizens could be "placed at serious risk because essential public assistance services are no longer being provided," Los Angeles has resorted to requesting handouts from fans.

In a statement on Wednesday, the mayoralty said it had collected 17,000 dollars in online donations before its system crashed.

On Friday evening the total had reached 35,000 dollars.


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