The University of Southern California(USC) and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commissioner Curren Price, are continuing what has become a petty retaliation effort against Councilmember Bernard C. Parks by attempting to force him out of the annual Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza he founded nearly 12 years ago at the Coliseum. USC and some commission members have been at odds with Parks, since 2011 when he very publicly disagreed with the school’s plan to take over the publicly-funded Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena. Parks contends that the lease agreement signed by USC and the commission last year is a one-sided deal, giving the school most of the benefits, while giving the community little to nothing in return.
Several reports in the Los Angeles Times have validated Parks’ concerns. In an apparent response to Parks’ position on the lease, USC is working with Commissioner Price to put on a Fourth of July fireworks show without Parks, the man who created the event and has continued to secure funding for the free event each year. As the lease was being structured to limit public access to the Coliseum and Sports Arena, Parks won the battle to make the facilities available to the community for each and every Fourth of July. Though USC bills itself as a good community partner, it has never shown any interest in assisting with the event until now.
In fact, the show, which is now a community staple and has grown to draw about 50,000 people, was previously treated with disdain by some Coliseum Commissioners. E-Mails leaked from the board last year show how commissioners schemed several times, unsuccessfully, to link Parks’ Fireworks show to the financial scandal at the Coliseum that broke in 2011, involving electronic music promoters. In one e-mail, a former Coliseum official states: “Of course, others(commissioners)may wish to make more of a linkage between Mr. Parks and the… promoters.”
Another e-mail by the same former official references an attempt to stick Parks with a bogus $40,000 fireworks bill manufactured by the commission. “… We have now completed the task of putting this back into play with (Parks’ Office),” the former official wrote. And in perhaps one of the more explosive e-mails discovered, a former commissioner refers to Parks as the Nazi character, from the “Hogan’s Heroes” television show, “Colonel Klink”. When certain members of the commission weren’t attempting to smear Parks, they were going after a woman’s charity organization supported by his wife.
While struggling financially, the commission somehow found the money to hire an attorney to find an alleged illegality with the way the charity organization used an alcohol license at the Rose Garden in Exposition Park during a scholarship fundraiser. Alcohol Beverage Control found no wrongdoing– without even questioning a single member of the charity organization. There’s no word on how much public money was used to hire the attorney. The only media outlet to show interest in the story was USC’s own “Neon Tommy”, the school’s digital news website.
USC has consistently stepped into the fray against Parks, who earned a Master’s Degree from the school in 1976. Parks’ office learned early during the 2011-2012 city redistricting process that a USC representative approached Mercury Public Affairs consultant Fabian Nunez for lobbying support to move the school and some of the surrounding areas, including the Coliseum and Sports Arena, out of Parks’ district. In 2012, then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed the redistricting proposal supporting USC’s wishes, though there was never any public testimony that called for the repositioning of USC.
Price, a recent mayoral appointee to the commission, is probably best known for supporting the removal of 200,000 jobs from the Ninth District in the redistricting process and then, running successfully for the seat. Usually candidates advocate for keeping jobs in their district before running for an office. But, this was not the case. Price testified in 2012 that it was, “appropriate” to– in effect–turn much of South L.A. into a poverty pit.
Two groups representing the South L.A. and Korean Communities have filed suit against the city over the redistricting process, claiming that the boundary lines were drawn illegally; with race as the predominant factor. A Times editorial called the entire process, “redistricting done wrong”. The city has set aside $300,000 of taxpayer money to fight the suit. Summary judgment in the case is scheduled for May.
“This is a new, sad era in the city’s history,” Parks said. “Instead of actually earning accomplishments, we’re dealing with a herd of elected officials who have become accustomed to claiming the hard work of others– whether it be moving a boundary line here or putting another name on an event there.”
Without alerting Parks, Price met with two groups that Parks’ Office works with to put on the show, KJLH Radio and the gang intervention group, Unity One. Both groups were shocked that such a blatant approach was made while ignoring the 6 year relationship and the overwhelming success of this event. Both groups have been planning to continue to work with Parks.