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Villaraigosa says Lakers parade needed in tough times

June 16, 2009 |  4:41 pm

Vill In these tough economic times, a victory parade for the Lakers is needed more than ever, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said today.

“At a time when the unemployment in the city is 12.5%, and 21,000 people have lost their homes due to foreclosures, it is important for us to celebrate this great day,” Villaraigosa said in a news conference at the Lakers practice center in El Segundo.

He said some of the city’s wealthiest residents and an Indian tribe had contributed $850,000 to cover the city’s police, fire and public works costs for Wednesday’s parade, while the Lakers and Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Staples Center, will ante up the $1 million in production costs.

“We’re going to come together as a city at a time when we need to come together,” Villaraigosa said. “The reason why so many people from the private sector came forward is because they know this town deserves to revel in itself for a day. We need it.”

Villaraigosa identified the private donors as Casey and Laura Wasserman, Jerry and Margie Perenchio, Haim and Cheryl Saban, Eli and Edythe Broad, Joe and Sharon Hernandez of Melissa’s Fruits and Vegetables, Ed and Gayle Roski and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in Highland, Calif.

He did not reveal the amounts being donated, but aides said the money will be funneled into a private fund and then formally donated and approved by the City Council.

"We intend to do everything we can to minimize the cost to the city,” Villaraigosa said. “If we hadn’t had a parade, you’ve have had a whole bevy of other people criticizing. How could we do that?”

The Lakers generate an annual economic benefit of about $150 million for the city, and a parade will add another $15 million, Villaraigosa estimated. He noted that without a formal celebration, the situation can get out of hand, as it did Sunday night after the Lakers' championship victory.

“We saw on the other night people came without a parade and look what happened," he said. "I think it’s better that we organize it.”

He said he would not be declaring the day off for city employees.

“If I declared a day off, I’d get beat up for that. People are going to take off whether I declare a day off or not. Some will say they were sick, others will take vacations. Still others don’t have a job and will be there.”

The mayor and Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said looters and vandals from Sunday night will be pursued, and a news conference will be held to publicize their photos and offer rewards for their capture.

Bratton said gang officers were reviewing security video and media images to identify suspects who caused damage in downtown Los Angeles. There will be “zero tolerance for any misbehavior,” Bratton said.

Some 1,700 officers, according to law enforcement sources, will be on hand, some working undercover. Extra jailers also will be working.

At the news conference, Lakers guard Derek Fisher called for the public to act responsibly and think of others.

“When we win, we enjoy it. We like to celebrate. But we have a responsibility to do it in a way that's respectful to other members of the community,” Fisher said. “We don’t want to have one person or one small group of people ruin this opportunity to have a great day."

-- Richard Winton in El Segundo

Photo: L.A. Times

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