“This was always part of the game plan. It’s the right time for Mr. Anschutz to find an exit strategy.” — Tim Leiweke, CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, on the global sports and entertainment company being put up for sale days before final city approval of the Farmers Field/Convention Center deal in downtown LA.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he has “known about this potential sale for some time,” but felt no need for the public to know because he’s got a “commitment from both” Leiweke and Anschutz that the NFL is coming back to LA and the deal “will not affect my support for moving ahead with Farmers Field and the Convention Center site.”
Councilwoman Jan Perry, the mayoral candidate and point person for the deal, is just as sanguine, saying: “Whoever steps into the shoes of the previous owner would have to fulfill all the responsibilities and obligations as the current owner. The city has been well-negotiated and well-protected.”
Throughout the mad rush to exempt AEG from state environmental law, to short-circuit the city approval process and to make this just about football and not a major investment in LA’s future, Leiweke and AEG representatives have rested their case as an issue of trust.
With generous public subsidies, AEG built the the spectacularly successful Staples Center and then added the hideously artificial LA Live with its struggling hotel-condo towers and lived up to all their promises, the AEG team argued over and over.
Trust AEG — that was why their transit plan is nothing but a bunch of unenforceable goals, why their commitment to pay all workers the “living wage” amounts to only an 80 percent target with a $25,000 penalty if it isn’t achieved after five years of operation, why everything in the development agreement is vague and left to be worked out after the fact.
Yet, the City Council is set to rubber-stamp it in nine days, surrendering all power to AEG, a company that is going to cash in handsomely on the value added by its masterful manipulation of the process with the help of the politicians it bought.
Consider how they got their CEQA exemption by throwing millions of dollars around the state Capitol for lobbyists and to fill the coffers of dozens of politicians.
Among the 40 or so recipients identified back in early 2011 were Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, $10,100; Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, $8,100; Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, $5,300; Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, $4,000; Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, $3,600, and the Moorpark Republican team of Sen. Tony Strickland $10,500 and Assemblywoman Audra Strickland $7,300.
AEG bought off environmental groups and charities like the Midnight Mission and Salvation Army, turned this into a chance for LA to turn its white elephant Convention Center that devours $45 million or more a year into a smashing success and transform downtown into a digital billboard paradise for millions of tourists housed in 5,000 new luxury hotel rooms.
What’s horrifying about this, revealing just how deep the corruption runs in the leadership of the city, is that AEG didn’t hoodwink anyone into buying this deal if Leiweke and the mayor are to be believed — admittedly a big “if” to be sure.
This was always part of the game plan!
In the light of AEG’s scheming to cash in on huge bonus the “Events Center” provides, the development deal needs to be thoroughly scrubbed by independent lawyers and experts from out-of-town who have no connection to any of the interests involved.
This isn’t like any deal ever put together before. It was written by AEG itself with some minor tweaking by city bureaucrats who have no experience in matters of this sort.
It isn’t good enough that AEG and its successor gets all the profits and the people of LA get all the bills. That’s what has been wrong with the deal from day one.
The Convention Center will still be a massive drain on the general fund. Nearly all the infrastructure costs and support services needed to keep this from being a “carmageddon” fiasco on game and event days will be paid for by taxpayers. All the profits from dozens of digital billboards trashing the vista and night sky go to the owners and so does all of the profits from operations and most of the tax revenue.
Someday when those involved in this dirty deal are free to talk honestly and openly about what has transpired, we will know the truth about one of the greatest scandals in city history, the Great Farmers Field Ripoff.