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Commentary | PERSPECTIVES ON ELECTION 2000

They Should Pay Their Own Way

Democrats should follow the example of the 1984 Olympics and not depend on the city for subsidies.

August 10, 2000|RICK TUTTLE | Rick Tuttle is the controller of the city of Los Angeles

Like many Angelenos, when the Democratic Party chose Los Angeles as the site of its 2000 convention, I was proud of what this choice symbolized: that Los Angeles was back from all the tough times we went through in the 1990s. I also was happy that the organizers and the "movers and shakers" of this great city planned to follow in the footsteps of our greatest public event in the 20th century--the 1984 Olympics--which was done at no cost to the taxpayers and ended up having no leftover debt.

What happened between the announcement last year that the Democratic convention would be put on without taxpayer subsidy and the situation we face today? Apparently not enough, because in June the host committee came to the city and said, "We need $4 million to make this event work, or we"--the city of Los Angeles, that is--"risk embarrassment."

As the city's controller, as an active Democrat and as one who believes a promise is a promise, I publicly opposed the granting of the $4-million subsidy. However, the request by the host committee was legally approved by a narrow vote of the Los Angeles City Council with the active support of Mayor Richard Riordan. Contracts were amended, and the outstanding letters of credit were paid, allowing the first $2 million to be released. The remaining $2 million is to be held until after the convention and paid only if there is a deficit.

As an elected official representing city taxpayers, I urge the L.A. host committee and the Democratic Party to avoid this deficit.

The opportunity I see here is for a final fund-raising effort, before and during the convention next week, that would close this $2-million gap. A fund-raising event at this time could tap into the excitement of the convention. For the host committee, this would be a chance to show this city's best face. For visiting Democrats, contributing to meet the expenses of the convention would lift the damper on the convention caused by the deficit and also would be a point of pride.

Some Democrats might prefer to give directly to their party or its candidates to help finance the coming fall elections. But I can think of few donations more useful to the party and its nominees than those that would leave area voters and taxpayers with a positive impression of the Democratic Party. Do Democrats really want to end a great convention by saying they can't make ends meet?

It would be so much better to be able to celebrate the success of the convention by thanking the city for its willingness to help, but telling it that the remaining $2 million of the $4 million that was approved are no longer needed. Dare I say it, perhaps if the fund-raising is truly successful, even the $2 million that has already been given to the convention could be returned. Now that would be something to celebrate.

The Democrats and the Los Angeles host committee have an opportunity in the next few weeks to meet their fund-raising goals and free themselves from dependence on Los Angeles taxpayers. I urge them to seize it.

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