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Villaraigosa hopes private donors will end Lakers parade controversy

June 16, 2009 |  7:41 am

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is hoping to put a simmering controversy -- how to pay for a victory parade for the newly crowned NBA champion Lakers -- behind him today.

There has been an outpouring of criticism from labor unions and residents over the city's plans to spend $1 million on a parade at a time when officials are laying off workers. 

But sources told The Times that two media executives and several other people stepped forward to help the city pay for its share of Wednesday's scheduled parade celebrating the Lakers' 15th championship.

Nearly half of the $900,000 the city needs to provide for police and traffic control has been donated by Casey and Laura Wasserman, Jerry and Margie Perenchio and others, said sources close to the Lakers.

Villaraigosa, along with Laker Derek Fisher and LAPD Chief William J. Bratton, will hold a news conference this afternoon to announce the financing for the parade. 

"The city of Los Angeles is proud to welcome home the world champion L.A. Lakers with a victory parade and a safe, orderly place to celebrate this historic win," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "Lakers fans and all Angelenos deserve an opportunity to cheer on their hometown heroes. ... We will do everything in our power to minimize this celebration's impact on our city's finances and ensure that private donations replace taxpayer funding for this event." 

Casey Wasserman is the grandson of former Universal Pictures Chairman Lew Wasserman. Jerry Perenchio is the former chairman of Univision Communications.

The Lakers and Anschutz Entertainment Group, which own Staples Center, have agreed to cover more than $1 million in parade production costs. The parade is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Staples Center and travel to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

Villaraigosa initially promised that the city would foot half of the parade's $2-million cost, which includes renting the Coliseum.

However, that idea was greeted with a Bronx cheer Monday.

Local radio talk shows were flooded with callers saying that a recession was no time to use city money for the parade.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League urged the Lakers to pick up the entire cost.

Given imminent city layoffs and budget cuts, police union President Paul M. Weber said in a statement posted on the group's website, "it is foolish for elected officials to favor spending $1 million tax dollars on a three-hour parade."

-- Sam Farmer and Sam Quinones