A political spat over who should steer a Fourth of July fireworks show played out Wednesday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, as two Los Angeles City councilmen vied for control of the annual event.
But the commission decided against simply handing control to one councilman or the other, asking instead for ways to bring the two sides -- and possibly more -- together as sponsors.
“We should work very hard to get this to be a co-sponsored event,” said commission member County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
The commission voted for its staff to return with ideas for a shared event. Ridley-Thomas asked them to lay out what each sponsor would commit to do.
Earlier this week, Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who founded the Fireworks Extravaganza more than a decade ago, accused the University of Southern California and Councilman Curren Price of trying to force him out of the holiday event after Price proposed a Coliseum fireworks show and fair of his own.
In a blistering press release issued late Tuesday, Parks called it “petty retaliation” against him for opposing a deal that handed the university control of the Coliseum last year. He argued that since he took that stand, the university had “consistently stepped into the fray” against him.
Parks also took an apparent swipe at Price, saying that “we’re dealing with a herd of elected officials who have become accustomed to claiming the hard work of others.”
In reaction, Price countered that it was “only logical” he would now start producing the fireworks show, as the elected representative of the Coliseum area. The Coliseum used to be part of the district that Parks represents, but now falls in the area represented by Price after redistricting two years ago.
“It’s highly irregular for a Council member to believe this is his event and he should be in control of it even though it isn’t in his area,” Price told reporters Wednesday. He later added he was disappointed by the accusations Parks lobbed in his press release, calling him “misspoken” and “misguided.”
At the meeting, Parks' son and chief of staff contended Parks should keep hosting the event because of his long stewardship of the Fireworks Extravaganza.
“I think he more than deserves the right to continue to put on an event that he founded,” Bernard Parks Jr. told the commission.
Commission member William Chadwick called the dispute “very troubling” and asked why the two offices couldn’t jointly sponsor the community event, since there were no major differences between the proposals.
The commission ultimately prodded the two sides to do just that, asking its staff to return with ideas for a shared event. Ridley-Thomas added that other sponsors could join in as well. There will definitely be a Fourth of July event, Ridley-Thomas said -- the only question is who will be sponsoring it and how.
USC did not weigh in on the dispute at the Wednesday meeting. Earlier this week, David Galaviz, USC executive director of local government relations, said the school had only spoken briefly with Price about the Fourth of July event and had not been contacted by Parks about his plans.
The school's previous involvement in the event was “negligible” because it didn't manage the Coliseum in the past, Galaviz said.
Ill will between university officials and Parks has surfaced in the past: In a 2012 email to a Coliseum official, USC Vice President Todd Dickey wrote that "it will be nice to be represented by a council person who actually cares about us!" when told that the stadium's Exposition Park area would no longer be in Parks' district. The Times obtained that email via a Public Records Act request.
Last year, the city devoted $60,000 to the Fourth of July event, according to Parks' office. Price spokeswoman Connie Llanos said their office would seek outside funding to whittle down city costs.
But the war of words might make it hard for the two councilmen to work together, as they are now being prodded to do.
After the Wednesday meeting drew to a close, Price told a cluster of reporters, “There are lots of other more important things we should be working on.”