Lakers parade to be paid for by donors |

Lakers parade to be paid for by donors

Associated Press

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is defending the decision to stage a victory parade for the NBA champion Lakers and says it’s important to celebrate even at a time of high unemployment and home foreclosures.

Villaraigosa said Tuesday that private donors have kicked in $850,000 of nearly $1 million in city costs for Wednesday’s parade and rally. The Lakers and AEG, which owns Staples Center, are paying for another $1 million in production costs.

“We intend to do everything we can to minimize the cost to the city,” the mayor said at a news conference on the Lakers’ practice court in El Segundo. “If we hadn’t had a parade, you’ve have had a whole bevy of other people criticizing.”

Villaraigosa identified the private donors as Casey and Laura Wasserman, Jerry and Margie Perenchio, Haim and Cheryl Saban, Eli and Edyth Broad, Joe and Sharon Hernandez of Melissa’s Fruits and Vegetables, Ed and Gayle Roski and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

The mayor and other officials had sought donations after critics blasted the idea of using city money when Los Angeles is considering layoffs to close a half-billion-dollar budget gap.

Wednesday’s event begins at Staples Center and ends at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The parade comes at a time when the Los Angeles Unified School District – second-largest in the nation – faces a $596 million budget shortfall for the 2009-10 school year. The Los Angeles Board of Education voted in April to lay off as many as 5,400 teachers and support personnel for the upcoming school year.