Los Angeles can pay for its own damn star-studded spectacles, thank you.
So says Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who returned from vacation last week to find that the councilwoman acting as mayor in his absence urged people to donate money toward last week's Michael Jackson memorial, which cost the city an estimated $1.4 million, most of that going to the L.A. Police Department for overtime expenses.
"This is a world-class city, and we provide fire and police protection, period. The idea that we would charge the family for a funeral is nonsensical," he said during his first public appearance today, calling the website set up by his office to solicit donations "ridiculous."
With that being said, the website (which was good for about $35,000 from civilians' pockets) stopped accepting money at 1 p.m. on Friday, according to Villaraigosa's spokesman, Matt Szabo.
It was acting Mayor Jan Perry who thought up the donation idea while Villaraigosa was traveling in South Africa. But it was Councilman Dennis Zine who was especially hot under the collar when he thought about cash-strapped taxpayers being held responsible for the expenditure in these economically iffy times.
Estimating the cost to be more like $3.9 million, Zine demanded that Staples Center owner AEG Live pick up the tab (which it did, along with the Jackson family, for what went on inside the arena).
AEG Live president Tim Leiweke subsequently accused Zine of grandstanding at a very inappropriate time.
Zine has motioned a full review of what the memorial cost the city. Meanwhile, looking on the bright side, Councilwoman Janice Hahn has introduced a motion to commission a report on how much money the city made by hosting the memorial.
Both issues will be discussed at a meeting July 21. But in the meantime, the boss is back, and he thinks the City of Angels can hold its own when it comes to marking someone's passage to the pearly gates.
(Originally published July 13, 2009, at 4:10 p.m. PT)