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Holden Says L.A. Port 'Blew $100,000'

June 30, 1988|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Councilman Nate Holden, saying the Port of Los Angeles "just blew $100,000" on a failed attempt to stage a triathlon, on Tuesday called for a "thorough review" of the port's role in the effort and suggested that the City Council may want to look more closely at how the port spends its money.

In a motion to be considered by the City Council next week, Holden called on the city administrative officer, the city attorney and the chief legislative analyst to "prepare a detailed report" of the port's involvement in the proposed Oct. 2 triathlon. The motion said the report should look into the roles played by the Board of Harbor Commissioners, the port's administrative staff and the mayor's office, and should determine what led to the port's "abrupt withdrawal from the project after providing $100,000."

The Board of Harbor Commissioners allocated the $100,000 as "seed money" for the triathlon last August, set up a nonprofit corporation to organize the race and hired a public relations firm to raise an additional $200,000 in private donations. Last month, the nonprofit group began running out of money, and fund-raisers were having little luck attracting corporate contributions. Ezunial Burts, the port's executive director, then cancelled the event, saying the port was unwilling to further subsidize it.

"They just blew $100,000 on the event when they had no commitments" from private contributors, Holden said in an interview Tuesday. "They were throwing good money after bad. Can you imagine?"

A port spokeswoman said Wednesday that Burts had no comment on Holden's proposal. "We have not seen the motion," said spokeswoman Julia Nagano.

Harbor Commissioner Ira Distenfield said the port welcomes "any suggestion from anybody" about the port's marketing strategy, but said he had "a little bit of a problem totally understanding" why Holden was concentrating on the triathlon. The triathlon, proposed by the port's marketing director, was intended to attract international attention--and hence new customers--to the port, but Distenfield said it was just one component of a larger marketing effort.

"In a port that has a budget of more than $300 million, I don't know if this could be construed to warrant a City Council investigation, but then I try to look at things with a positive light," Distenfield said. "If I was going to guess, I would say the triathlon will come off. The fact that it will not come off in '88, but rather in '89 or '90, means we will have used our experience in '88 to make it a better event when it happens. . . . I would only accept the investigation in the hope that the results will make an event in '89 or '90 more successful."

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