Our state is currently facing enormous economic challenges, so the pressure to avoid cuts and explore new ideas to generate revenue is at the top of the legislature’s priority list. Some ideas are certainly worth exploring, while others are not. One such idea that should not be entertained is the idea that selling public state property to private interests at fire sale prices is a responsible part of the solution to this challenging economic puzzle.
One of the most recent attempts began with legislation to sell the Los Angeles Coliseum, which would terminate the Coliseum commission. Abolishing the Los Angles Coliseum Commission will take away the input that the public has in governing this dynamic, historic, world-class facility. The current structure appropriately provides representatives from the different public stakeholders: the state, the county and the city, all of which have an interest and an investment in the facility for almost a century. I call it responsible public accountability.
In his May budget revision, Governor Schwarzenegger has also advanced the notion of selling the Coliseum and other state assets. Given that it is not exactly a seller’s market right now, I’m not sure that actually winds up creating the benefit the governor says he hopes to see.
The historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has too much public history and importance to be simply sloughed off into the first private hands that grab for it to do with it what they will. Southern California has lost far too many landmarks to put another one–especially one with the storied past and exciting potential of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum–at risk.
The Coliseum is already a profit generating center for the public, bringing in more than $3 million every year in rent and parking fees. Secondly, we need to remember that any sale now would be at recession level bargain basement rates that would ultimately serve to shortchange the public. It’s the public who deserve to reap the benefits of its early investment in a facility that has grown to be the home of many multicultural events: two Super Bowls, two Summer Olympics and a World Series.
Profits from the Coliseum have been reinvested back into capital improvements of the facility, part of a $100 million dollar renovation effort to make the Coliseum safer and more enjoyable for fans. We are confident these improvements will absolutely lay the groundwork to have an NFL football team in Los Angeles. The Coliseum’s relationship with USC, a longtime loyal client, has proven mutually beneficial. The opportunity to develop both an NFL team and maintain our relationship with USC will result in the
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum reaching its full potential in both programming and in generating even more public revenues.
California is the home of many successful private-public partnerships, and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission has been and will continue to be one such success story. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and its Commission should not serve as a political football.
Even with the best intentions, selling the Coliseum is still a raw deal for the public. Our state, our county and our city are going through the same tough economic challenges sweeping the nation, and we do need to be creative in finding new revenues and ways to pay for the vital services the public depends on. But we should not accept every offer that comes along without giving each one a long hard look.
As this process moves forward, I’m going to make sure the people of Los Angeles get to take that long hard look–and that we make sure the public’s interest–and one of our finest assets–is protected.
Assemblyman Mike Davis represents the 48th District, which includes the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He is a member of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media.