Reporting Dave Bryan
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The taxpayers’ tab for Occupy L.A. has reached an estimated $2.3 million, and officials say there’s more to come. The new figures have sparked a debate at City Hall about who’s to blame for the costs, and whether it was really necessary to spend all that money.
A report by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana says more than half the estimated costs were a result of police overtime. “Of the total cost, about $1.2 [million] is for L.A. police overtime,” says Santana.
The report comes at a time when the City of Los Angeles already faces a $72 million budget deficit.
City Councilman Dennis Zine says the millions in Occupy costs likely mean even more budget cutbacks.
“We already had the $70 million, and this adds on to that” says Zine. “So what you’re going to find is either more furloughs for city employees, fewer services for city employees. It impacts every tax payer, every business in the City of Los Angeles.”
Occupy L.A. activist Carlos Marroquin claims city officials are inflating the numbers and using protesters as a scapegoat for L.A.’s budget issues.
“Part of the numbers in the budget, they’re supposed to include events like this, emergencies” says Marroquin. “So it is irresponsible for them to try to blame the occupiers, Occupy L.A. for their shortfalls.”
Marroquin points out that many city officials rolled out the welcome mat for Occupy L.A. early on. “We were welcomed by the city council,” says Marroquin. “They passed a resolution for us to be here.”
Councilman Zine says that was a mistake. He insists the protesters should not have been allowed to violate city laws by camping out overnight. “When you give the welcome mat and say ‘stay as long as you wish, enjoy yourself,’ it sends the wrong message,” says Zine. “And now we’re paying the bill for that message.”
City Hall park remains closed nearly one month after the LAPD cleared out the Occupy L.A. encampment, which had lasted two months. The park will be closed indefinitely, as it is projected to take some time to restore the park to its condition prior to the demonstration.
Remaining repairs and cleanup include restoring landscaping, repairing the irrigation system, and removing graffiti. Costs for the restoration are estimated at $400,000, bringing the total taxpayer bill for Occupy L.A. into the $3 million neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the Occupy L.A. movement marches on. Organizers have reached an agreement with the Tournament of Roses to march at the end of the 2012 parade in Pasadena.