Steve Lopez: Who's to blame for problems at Dodger Stadium?
“I’m not into the finger-pointing thing,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Friday morning with his buddy, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, at his side in a downtown news conference.
Fortunately, I am in the finger-pointing business.
McCourt, who suddenly wants to scan license plates and hire everybody but the U.S. Marines and the National Guard to shut down violence and unruly behavior at Dodger Stadium, wouldn’t be in this mess if he’d given a hoot about fan complaints in the past.
Instead, he began this season without a permanent security chief in place, and the severe opening-day beating of a Giants fan on March 31 now has him in full PR swing.
Does McCourt really need ex-LAPD chief Bill Bratton and a New York-based security firm to tell him he’s got a bunch of drunken, unruly fans in the seats, in the parking lot and in the surrounding neighborhood, or did McCourt just figure there was mileage in using Bratton’s name?
Did he really need the beating in the parking lot to make him realize he ought to be working more closely with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who now promises a police-state environment at the stadium?
And if Villaraigosa is a guest of McCourt at so many Dodger games, why couldn’t the mayor see the problem himself? Was it because there’s not much violence in the most expensive seats in the park, which the mayor often got for free, or in the luxury boxes?
Beck said McCourt is going to pay the costs of the extra LAPD officers, as if anyone else should bear the responsibility. How long do you give him, though, before McCourt jacks up prices on concessions to cover the costs?
On a related point, McCourt actually said at Friday’s news conference that he’s been working with residents of surrounding neighborhoods on a “regular basis” since 2004 to address their concerns about litter, public urination and drinking on their streets. If that’s so, why do so many residents feel ignored, and why were they telling me earlier this week that their complaints have fallen on deaf ears ever since McCourt upped the parking fee to $15 and drove hooligans into the neighborhoods.
Asked what the Dodgers could do about alcohol-fueled rowdies, McCourt actually said, “I don’t think it’s the sale of beer that’s a problem, per se. It’s the abuse of that privilege.”
Then why not cut off the spigot a little earlier in the game, and why not do a better job of tossing the obvious drunks out of the park?
Instead, the Dodgers have several promotions on the calendar in which food and beverages will be half price. On the promotion, there’s an asterisk, and you figure that means alcohol will be excluded, right?
The asterisk was used as an exclamation, as in “Including alcoholic beverages.”
I kid you not.
At the same news conference, Villaraigosa asked the assailants of the Giants fan to turn themselves in. If that goes well, maybe he can hold a press conference asking tax cheats to pay up and delinquents to immediately return to school.
One last bit of finger-pointing: Looking at the Dodger lineup, this is a team that might end up driving a lot of people to drink. So can those of you who can’t control yourselves please stay home and punch the television instead of someone’s skull?
We’ve got a minor league businessman running a major league team, and it could be another long season.
-- Steve Lopez
Photo: Frank McCourt. L.A. Times file.