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Council candidate questions city's decision on Cirque du Soleil deal

August 18, 2009 | 12:16 pm

A state lawmaker who hopes to replace Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel in the San Fernando Valley is taking aim at the city’s decision to loan $30 million to a venture that is bringing Cirque du Soleil to Hollywood.

Krekorian-mailer Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank) sent voters a campaign flier over the weekend that juxtaposes two images: a ticked-off looking firefighter with 5 o’clock shadow, and a juggler in suspenders riding a unicycle. “Which is the better use of our tax dollars?” the mailer asks.

“This city is already walking a tightrope without a net,” the mailer states. “This is not the time to be wasting taxpayer dollars on acrobats and circuses.”

Council members voted for the loan earlier this month, saying the money would come from the federal government, not the part of the budget earmarked for public safety. At the time, Councilman Eric Garcetti said the performances would boost tourism in Hollywood over the next decade.

Former airport commissioner Chris Essel, another candidate in the Sept. 22 special election, accused Krekorian of attempting to mislead the public about the loan.

“Either Mr. Krekorian doesn’t understand that these federal loan dollars cannot legally be used to hire firefighters or he is intentionally deceiving voters to earn political points,” she said in a written statement issued by her campaign.

Essel, a former Paramount Pictures executive, did not say in her statement whether she supports or opposes the loan. Instead, she warned that without a plan for job creation at City Hall, “deals like this will always be riskier than they should be because the merits were not fully vetted.”

Candidate Tamar Galatzan took a more outspoken position, saying the Cirque du Soleil loan is “probably not something” she would have voted for if she were on the council.

“I can’t imagine that tens of thousands of tourists are going to come see it when it’s been in Vegas for the last 10 years,” said Galatzan, a Los Angeles Unified School District board member.
Under the terms of the loan, Cirque du Soleil would stage performances at the Kodak Theatre for 10 years.

The production must create at least 858 jobs, according to the terms of the loan, which was solicited by CIM Group – the operator of the Kodak – and issued to TheatreDreams LA/CHI.
CIM Group declined to comment this morning.

Garcetti is on vacation and was unavailable.

Ten candidates are running to replace Greuel in a district that stretches from Sherman Oaks to Sunland-Tujunga in the San Fernando Valley. Krekorian’s mailer is posted on the Ethics Commission’s website.

--David Zahniser