Cost of Obama visit under scrutiny

President Barack Obama’s visit to DreamWorks Animation last month cost the city about $61,000 and at least one City Council member thinks that Glendale shouldn’t be the only one footing the bill for the increased security.

When Obama came on Nov. 26, he met DreamWorks executives and employees, giving an afternoon speech about the importance of the film industry to the American economy and international diplomacy, as well as visiting with stars of an upcoming DreamWorks movie, including Steve Martin.

He also shook hands with Glendale Mayor Dave Weaver, and three other council members attended his speech.

But the president’s visit was solely focused on DreamWorks and not the rest of the city, so Glendale residents who didn’t have a chance to meet him shouldn’t have to pay for the DreamWorks staff who did, Councilman Zareh Sinanyan said during a council meeting this week.

“Is it not fair for [DreamWorks] to foot at least part of the bill?” Sinanyan said. “It’s not like the president came and met with the residents of Glendale.”

POLL: Should DreamWorks Animation help Glendale pay for President Obama's visit?

Sinanyan’s request came as Glendale continues to climb out of financial distress prompted by the recession and the loss of the city’s prominent redevelopment program.

The approximately $61,000 covered the cost of 92 personnel, ranging from SWAT to traffic-control officers, said city spokesman Tom Lorenz.

Although Councilwoman Laura Friedman said on Thursday she agreed with Sinanyan, she said she changed her mind on Friday.

At first, Friedman said DreamWorks should cover part of the cost since company officials told the city it had to limit attendance at a retirement party for Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa on their campus Thursday night to 250 people, although it was the city’s understanding that around 350 people could be invited.

City staff had to disinvite guests the day of the event because of the limitation, Friedman said, describing the situation as “embarrassing.”

However, after further thought, she said she would no longer ask that DreamWorks help pay the bill.

“I think that when the president comes to your city, it’s an honor and we have to take responsibility for his safety,” said Friedman, who was unable to attend the president’s speech. “As much as it would be great if DreamWorks paid, I’m not going to demand that they do.”

DreamWorks spokeswoman Allison Rawlings said the retirement party capacity was originally set at 250 by DreamWorks, but the city-run guest list grew beyond that.

Rawlings said the animation company had not been contacted directly by the city about the cost of security at the Obama event.

“DreamWorks is honored that the president chose to speak at DreamWorks and in Glendale,” Rawlings said.

Other council members did not return calls for comment.

Despite Sinanyan’s concerns, City Manager Scott Ochoa said during the council meeting that it’s traditional for cities to pay for the extra security that comes with a presidential visit.

“At the end of the day, it’s really just something we do,” Ochoa said.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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