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L.A. Team Needs L.A. Owner

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BEMBIS MEAT MARKET
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As a City Councilmember, if I don't help maintain streets, clean up graffiti or fill empty storefronts, I drive over the potholes and see the blight myself -- because I'm an Angeleno. And if there is something I've missed, someone will certainly tell me about it at the grocery store or the dry cleaners. That's the kind of connection to the community I want the new ownership of AEG and the prospective Los Angeles NFL team to have.

When Walter O'Malley brought the Dodgers to Los Angeles, the Dodgers "company" and the O'Malley family didn't stay in New York. They came to L.A. and they invested in our community personally and through youth programs, park facilities and philanthropy. And they understood the fans -- the most obvious example was their connecting the Dodgers with our Latino community through promotion of stars like Fernando Valenzuela and the Spanish-language broadcast team led by Jaime Jarrin.

Jerry Buss and the Lakers also have a deep and direct relationship with Los Angeles. And while we can disagree on whether certain shots should be attempted or certain players should be traded (I still don't understand why we got rid of Derek Fisher), there is no doubt that the Lakers as a company understands Los Angeles as a community. That's what L.A. must demand from the new owners of AEG and our new football team.

We need owners who "get" Los Angeles as a whole and who can form deep ties to the Downtown and Pico-Union communities immediately adjacent to the stadium. The relationship cannot be one solely based on dollars and cents. The new owners must have a true desire to reach out as neighbors.

Our recent experience with the Dodgers starkly demonstrated what happens when the focus is on complex fiscal transactions rather than the community.

I authored City Council legislation calling for local ownership, but legally, the city cannot dictate who owns of AEG or an NFL team. The reality is that it's the fans who have the most power on this issue. It was the fans who sealed the ownership change of the Dodgers, and it's the fans who will make or break football in L.A. So use your voice, take to the airwaves and to your computers and send a clear message: We want local ownership here in L.A.

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