Villaraigosa: City Should Pay Jackson Memorial Tab - NBC 6 South Florida

Villaraigosa: City Should Pay Jackson Memorial Tab

"The idea that we would charge the family for a funeral is nonsensical," he said



    Villaraigosa: City Should Pay Jackson Memorial Tab
    Los Angeles' mayor said events like Michael Jackson's memorial help make the city "world-class."

    In a surprising turn-around, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said it’s the city's responsibility to pay the safety and security costs associated with the Jackson Memorial at Staples Center.

    "This is a world-class city, and we provide fire and police protection, period," Villaraigosa said at his first public appearance since returning from a weeklong vacation.

    He blasted a suggestion that the family of Michael Jackson, the owners of Staples Center or Los Angeles residents should foot the bill for the singer's memorial ceremony.

    "The idea that we would charge the family for a funeral is nonsensical," he said.

    During the mayor's absence, his office created a Web site through which residents could make donations to help defray the costs of the event. About 1,800 people logged on and made donations totaling about $35,000, mayoral spokesman Matt Szabo said last week.

    But Monday, Villaraigosa said setting up a donation Web site was a "ridiculous" move.

    It was unclear whether the mayor would order that the money be refunded.

    His spokesman, Matt Szabo, who had repeatedly promoted the Web site on the mayor's Facebook and Twitter pages during and after the memorial ceremony, said the city was no longer soliciting donations from the public.

    "The Web site ceased collecting donations on Friday, around 1 p.m.," he said.

    Szabo said the idea of asking the public for donations originated from Councilwoman Jan Perry, who served as Acting Mayor during the memorial ceremony because both Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti were out of the country.

    "It was announced by Acting Mayor Jan Perry the Friday before the memorial that she wanted to collect donations and she gave out her e-mail address," Szabo said. "(The following) Monday, her office asked for donations to be mailed in. The bottom line is our office then moved to support that effort with an on-line contribution form. That's how it went forward."

    According to the mayor's office, the cash-strapped city incurred about $1.4 million in costs in the aftermath of the singer's June 25 death. That includes about $1.1 million spent by the police department, primarily for overtime costs of officers deployed to various locations, including the Staples Center memorial, the Jackson family compound in Encino, Jackson's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the rented Holmby Hills estate where the singer was found unconscious.

    City Councilman Dennis Zine has blasted the use of taxpayer money during a budget crisis to pay for the public memorial service. He estimated that the city actually spent about $3.9 million on Jackson-related services.

    He introduced a motion last week asking for a detailed review of city resources used during last Tuesday's event at Staples Center. But Councilwoman Janice Hahn introduced a motion asking for a full accounting of revenue the city collected as a result of the ceremony, suggesting that the event likely generated more money than it cost thanks to the number of Jackson fans who traveled to the city in the days after his death.

    Both motions will be debated July 21.