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Will the Michael Jackson Memorial Cost Taxpayers?

Michael Jackson, Memorial, Police, Staples Center John Moore/Getty Images

How much is the Michael Jackson memorial event going to cost people in taxes?
—Michaela, Sylmar

Most of the obedient serfs close to the memorial aren't saying how much it will cost citizens—and that includes public safety folks who, I could have sworn, work for us.

However, a city official tells me we're looking at this costing Los Angeles $3.5 million. And rising. For a city that is operating on a deep deficit.

Still, to dedicated fans, that cost may sound reasonable; as Al Sharpton is so keen on reminding us, we're dealing with an icon who apparently needs his own postage stamp and national holiday.

However, you may be chapped to learn exactly how much the Jackson family and promoter AEG will be benefiting from this outlay of public funds...

We already know that 11,000 fans will pack the Staples Center tomorrow. But less well known is that the Jackson family reportedly commandeered an additional 9,000 seats for its own private guests. So, much of the security surrounding Jackson's "public" memorial tomorrow is actually, in essence, security for a private party for the Jacksons and their friends.

Oh, I'm sorry, did I say party? I meant respectful, dignified memorial costarring a runner-up from Britain's Got Talent.

Before you pile on to cluck at my lack of respect, I'm not alone. I have backup.

"We have city employees getting pink slips because the city dollars are not there," points out L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine. But even though city officials have asked AEG to pick up some of the public costs, the company has declined, Zine tells me. AEG did not respond to my requests for comment.

"You would think AEG would say, 'We're the ones who did this, we could have had a private ceremony and not a major public memorial.' AEG is a big entertainment company. They're going to get international coverage and tons of publicity from this."

And just what kind of city effort are we talking here?

  • At least 1,400 police officers to keep the peace
  • Workers from the Department of Transportation to arrange and enforce street closures
  • Still more workers from the Department of Public Works to keep the area clean and operating
  • Fire and rescue specialists, just in case too many rabid fans moonwalk into one another out in the streets

If you're wondering if the city might decide to stand up for itself eventually, you're not alone. Zine says the city attorney's office is looking into the public outlay of funds and may take unspecified action. (Also, the city is now asking for tax-deductible donations to help cover the cost.)

And just in case you still think it's disrespectful to the dead to be discussing money like this, a note: According to Zine—who got this information from an official at the Los Angeles Coliseum—the Jacksons briefly mulled doing their memorial there. And they also were considering charging for the tickets.

(Originally published July 6, 2009, at 2:57 p.m. PT)

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