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LA to foot the bill for Jackson memorial

LOS Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is trying to quell an escalating debate over who should pick up the estimated US$1.4 million tab for police, traffic control and other services related to Michael Jackson's memorial service.

Villaraigosa, who was vacationing in South Africa a week ago when more than 17,000 fans flocked to downtown Los Angeles to watch the public memorial, asserted on Monday that the city will pay. He said he will not ask the Jackson family or AEG Live, the owner of the Staples Center where the event was held, to help the city recoup its expenses, and he lambasted a city Website set up to request donations.

"This is a world-class city, and we provide fire and police protection, period," Villaraigosa said during his first public appearance since returning from his weeklong trip. "The idea that we would charge the family for a funeral is nonsensical."

Despite his comments, the City Council was expected to take up the issue when City Attorney Carmen Trutanich reports on the costs of the event. Trutanich launched an investigation into laws to force third parties to pay the municipal costs associated with unexpected events such as the Jackson memorial.

Villaraigosa said that major events such as the memorial occur frequently in Los Angeles and other big cities. New York and Chicago do not ask others to cough up cash, he said.

The mayor called the city's donation Website, which raised US$35,000, "ridiculous." The site stopped operating on Friday afternoon. It was unclear whether the money would be returned to donors.

The issue took on political overtones last week when several council members asked who was going to foot the bill at a time when the city faces a US$530 million budget shortfall and layoffs.


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