Jackson costs debated

LOS ANGELES - Disgruntled Californians, their state broke and in budget meltdown, are asking why taxpayers should foot the bill for Michael Jackson's million-dollar memorial last week.

LOS ANGELES - Disgruntled Californians, their state broke and in budget meltdown, are asking why taxpayers should foot the bill for Michael Jackson's million-dollar memorial last week.

While the largest state in the union has reveled in its glitzy image as a home to the stars, officials, faced with a deficit expected to stretch to R190billion within two years, are keen to pinch pennies.

Los Angeles councillor Dennis Zine has called for a review of how the city's resources were used during Tuesday's Jackson memorial at the Staples Center.

The event required the deployment of thousands of police officers, emergency services and a SWAT team that reportedly transported Jackson's casket.

Zine called for the probe to determine whether the event's promoters or producers might provide "reimbursement to the city to replenish the public safety and other critical funds".

He claimed the actual cost of Jackson-related events for Los Angeles might be as high as $4million (R32 million), and urged the memorial's promoters - such as AEG - to pick up the tab.

He has called for a separate probe to investigate why $50000 were said to have been spent on lunch boxes for police officers from a vendor 130km away.

His sentiments were echoed by the Los Angeles Times, which in an editorial said "it makes sense to call on AEG, which ran the show and owns the facilities, to foot the $1,4million bill," though, it added, the claims need not have been made on the day of the event.

Such calls have prompted a local political bun fight.

A spokesperson for the mayor's office said the estimated cost of $4million was likely too high.

"The flaw in the councilman's estimate is he assumes - apart from the Michael Jackson memorial - that there would be no officers in the streets of Los Angeles," Matt Szabo said.

Councillor Janice Hahn has called for an investigation into how much the city made because of Jackson fans flocking to the city. - Sapa-AFP

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