Leiweke Issues L.A. Challenge

AEG President Tim Leiweke thinks it’s going to take much more than a police presence to get an estimated 1,500 homeless people off Skid Row in Los Angeles, and if county supervisor Mike Antonovich didn’t know that before, he sure knows it now.

Leiweke marched into a meeting of L.A. business movers and shakers October 5th and informed them that they needed to reach for their checkbooks and give to support organizations that provide drug treatment and housing if they wanted to put a dent in the problem.

But he saved his choicest words for Antonovich, a longtime supervisor representing part of the San Fernando Valley, who has not lent his support to a proposed facility in his district called Hope Gardens, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Antonovich shamed himself by failing to stand up for a plan to move 250 women and children off skid row and into Hope Gardens, Leiweke reportedly said.

“How in God’s name,” the Times quoted Leiweke as saying, can Antonovich get behind people who are saying “not in my backyard? That’s a shame.”

He told the business leaders that it was “time to step up”and “dig a little deeper.” He reportedly told them waiting on the government to solve the downtown housing problem could mean waiting a long, long time. And with AEG’s L.A. Live sports/entertainment complex coming up on the horizon, no doubt Leiweke isn’t willing to wait forever.

AEG, he announced, is writing a $250,000 check to the Midnight Mission. Leiweke also introduced Mission spokesman Orlando Ward, who had introduced him to others who were trying to rebuild their lives.

He said AEG and its foundations have given $10 million to a host of groups, including Para Los Niños and Inner-City Arts. The Times reported that Leiweke has committed to holding Staples Center jobs open for those struggling to get on their feet.

Leiweke reportedly told the Times previously that when AEG completes L.A. Live – the sports/entertainment extravaganza next to Staples Center – he’ll keep some jobs open for skid row recovery cases.

But the AEG chief made it clear that he considers the problems of the downtown homeless to be much larger and more complex than an issue of simple policing – and it’s one that needs the support of county officials like Antonovich as well as city officials if there’s to be any hope of solving it

“Shame on him,” Leiweke said of Antonovich’s silence on the project. “They need to allow us to get these kids out of harm’s way.”

Antonovich spokesman Tony Bell told the Times the supervisor was awaiting county review of the Hope Gardens proposal before weighing in. But Leiweke apparently thought a public throwdown might help the cause, and he won the approval of Central City Assn. chief Carol Schatz.

“If you’re not going to allow it in your own house, you have no business condemning us” for the skid row cleanup, the newspaper quoted her saying about NIMBYs in the Valley opposing the Hope Gardens project.