Rave controversy spills into Los Angeles City Council race
The controversy over raves at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the consulting work of a top Coliseum official who oversaw events at the venue quickly spilled into the reelection campaign of Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who serves on the Coliseum Commission and has said the events should be permitted because of the economic benefit to the community.
The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that an administrator who helped oversee the 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival was a paid consultant to the company that produced the event. Parks has joined a majority of commissioners in the past in defending the raves at the Coliseum since the Electric Daisy Carnival there last June, which resulted in 118 arrests. A 15-year-old girl who attended the event died of a drug overdose several days later.
Todd DeStefano’s arrangement with the promoter, Insomniac Inc., was cleared by Commission General Manager Patrick Lynch, who said he had run it past the attorney for the commission. DeStefano, who recently resigned his post to pursue a career as an events promoter, told the Times there was “no conflict of interest.” Both the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and the state Fair Political Practices Commission announced Wednesday that they planned to investigate the dual employment of DeStefano, who helped supervise security and emergency services at the rave.
Forescee Hogan-Rowles, who is challenging Parks in his bid for a third term on the City Council, has criticized Parks for defending rave events at the coliseum and has said the noise and trash have created a nuisance for residents of the 8th Council District. Her spokesman said she believes any future raves should be canceled until promoters can ensure illegal drugs will be banned and mitigate the events’ effect on neighbors.
On Wednesday, Hogan-Rowles called on Parks to return a $500 contribution from DeStefano, who has also contributed to other council members, and a $250 contribution from Pasquale Rotella, the chief executive of Insomniac Events Inc. Her spokesman, Steve Barkan, alleged that Parks “puts the interests of his campaign donors ahead of the safety of teenagers, and ahead of the concerns of coliseum neighbors.”
Parks rejected that charge and said he had no intention of returning the contribution: “We are going to run our campaign; we already have an advisor, so we don’t need the opponent as an advisor.” The councilman also received $1,500 in contributions from DeStefano when he ran for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2008.
Parks also did not back away from his support for the events, which he said are “legitimate concerts,” and said he feels comfortable with new safety precautions that have been put into place since last year.
He noted that one of the headliners at the 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival was wil.i.am, who performed this past weekend with the Black Eyed Peas during the half-time at the Super Bowl: “Why is [will.i.am] appropriate for 111 million people to watch a National Football League Super Bowl, but is inappropriate to come to the Coliseum?” Parks asked.
“Legitimate business has a right to thrive in the city of L.A.,” he continued. “A business that brought 4,000 jobs in this community, most of which came out of this community—and, an analysis shows, $33 million for a two-day event—are the kind of things that we should be encouraging in our city, just as we encourage events that we may not all agree with at our convention center.”
The economic analysis was cited by Insomniac Inc. during a recent presentation to the Coliseum Commission on why the Electric Daisy Carnival should return to L.A. next summer.
About 185,000 people attended the Electric Daisy Carnival, which sold tickets for $75 to $85 last year. The event drew attendees from around the country and the world, Parks said, adding that there appears to be a "generational" gap: “Just because it’s not your music—doesn’t mean it’s not other people’s music.”
“It’s clear it’s an international event, so I don’t know why we would stick our head in the sand and say ‘This is an international event’ and because I wouldn’t buy a ticket and go, we shouldn’t let other people buy a ticket and go,” he said.
Parks dismissed Commissioner Rick Caruso’s call for Lynch’s resignation—a call that Hogan-Rowles echoed—stating it was a “personnel matter that we shouldn’t be talking about in the newspaper.”
“If you harm his ability to stay employed or get re-employed—all you are doing is creating a liability and a lawsuit for the Coliseum Commission,” Parks said. “This kind of showboating of demanding that somebody loses their career or their employment is not appropriate in a setting of government employment.”
Asked about the pending investigation by the district attorney, Parks said the D.A. clearly had countywide jurisdiction, but noted that DeStefano’s employment arrangements were examined by attorneys to the commission.
“I’d have to assume that those things were done in the open air, and I would assume that advice was followed,” he said. “It’s my understanding that it’s being thoroughly investigated and that’s what we should allow to occur.”
-- Maeve Reston