Could L.A. city officials rain on a Lakers victory parade?
But with cash-strapped Los Angeles looking at the possibility of laying off municipal workers or forcing them to take unpaid days off to counter a budget deficit, some at City Hall are uncomfortable with the parade’s price tag, which could exceed $1 million.
"We can’t afford to cover the costs,” Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes Staples Center, said this afternoon. “How could we make a decision about people’s jobs and then sponsor the parade?” Shouldn't the Lakers and the NBA pay for that, she asked?
Council members have been wrestling for years with a proposal for reducing the size of subsidies the city gives for special events, such as street fairs and 10K runs. A new proposal to do that is pending and could receive a final vote next week.
But it would not go into effect until after the best-of-seven championship series between the Lakers and the Orlando Magic. The Lakers lead three games to one, and after Sunday's 5 p.m. tip off in Orlando it could be all over.
Representatives of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is in Rhode Island at a conference, did not respond to a request for comment.
Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who heads the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, struck a more conciliatory tone, predicting that the city would ultimately absorb the cost of a parade.
“I don’t think we have a choice,” Parks said. “This is one of those things that happen once a decade.”
“There’s going to be a major celebration in the city, and the likelihood is the city is going to absorb the bulk of those costs,” he went on. “The city isn’t going to have time over the next few hours to negotiate a contract with the Lakers or anyone else.”
The last Laker parade, in 2002, was given the green light after city officials estimated that it would cost $1.1 million – a sum that included police protection, traffic officers and cleanup crews.
Parks said he already expects the parade to occur Tuesday, with the procession moving down Figueroa Street from Staples Center to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
For the last week, Parks and his colleagues have been reviewing a proposal to require many city workers to take 26 unpaid days off over the next year – a scenario that would force many government offices to close every other Friday. Dozens of layoffs are also scheduled -- a situation that could change depending on the outcome of negotiations with the city’s labor unions.
With so little money for basic services, a handful of unions sent a message this afternoon that the city can’t afford to celebrate right now.
“City employees have been asked by their employers to take a massive pay cut,” said Barbara Maynard, spokeswoman for the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents roughly 22,000 workers. “And we do not believe it is appropriate in this economic climate for taxpayers to be funding a parade.”
-- David Zahniser and Phil Willon at L.A. City Hall
Photo: A house in Echo Park decorated for the Lakers Sue Horton / Los Angeles Times