Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Recent CityWatch Article On NC's and Economic Development

The Economy - LA: Whose Business is It?

By Brady Westwater

When it comes to business friendly practices and economic development (other than housing) – the City of Los Angeles ranks near dead last when compared to other major cities.

We also have fewer jobs per resident than most major cities, far less per capita sales tax revenues than our neighbors, and we no longer have even a single major bank or savings or loan or any kind of financial headquarters.

Is it any wonder college graduates are flocking to New York and Atlanta, but ignoring LA? Or, that we have fewer Fortune 500 Corporations than does… Charlotte or St. Louis? Or, that we recently lost a TV network headquarters to New York – right after it was bought by a friend of the Mayor?

We also have higher housing costs than most major cites – but our household incomes are at the bottom end of all major cities. And every year, we fall further behind.

Our collective problem is that the funding necessary to solve LA's problem is dependent upon the overall economic health of businesses located in the City of Los Angeles. So there is no more critical - or less addressed - issue citywide, then making LA more business-friendly so that the residents of the city have jobs and can pay their bills and their taxes. Unfortunately, what the city does to try and make incomes artificially rise – is also what is currently driving business out of Los Angeles.

For that reason, nothing should be more important to the neighborhood councils than to make Los Angeles a city that business wants to come to. Unless we do - there's not going to be anyone left to pay the bills.

There is also no issue that is of more local in importance than the loss of a major provider of jobs or the building of a box store that would ruin the quality of life in a residential neighborhood. And, ironically - there are also neighborhoods that would welcome such stores both for the jobs they will provide and the convenience of having such a store. And, who better than regional coalitions of neighborhood councils to help find solutions to these problems?

For those reasons, the LA Neighborhood Councils Congress (LANCC) last Saturday voted unanimously to form a citywide community based economic development committee with the understanding that much of the work will be done on a regional basis, with local NCs deciding how best to work with each other.

Now the next question should be – does the city want out help on this matter? Well – the answer is a loud – yes! City Council president, Eric Garcetti – who just formed the first city council committee on economic development – the Job, Business Growth and Tax Reform Committee, chaired by Councilmembers Greig Smith with Wendy Greuel & Herb Wesson, practically demanded of me that he speak at our first meeting. And at the recent Mayor's Business Access at City Hall, Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development, Helmi Hisserich, stated that the city needs the NCs involved with her office on this issue and announced her willingness to work with our new committee.

On the other hand, Gary Toebben, president of the LA Area Chamber of Commerce said the Chamber too often sees neighborhood councils as a source of reaction – only hearing from them when there were opposed to a business moving into their neighborhood. And there is some truth to that. But communication, I reminded him, is a two way street and we both need to start that communication.

The first step is to figure out how the NCs can work together - regionally and citywide - on economic development and what scope this committee might address and then, finally – address how we might help solve those problems .

But before we have a first meeting, I would like to hear from those of you most interested in not just being involved in such a committee – but who want to help form this committee. We also need to decide who in the business community we should ask to join us in establishing this committee; particularly those who are not part of the NC movement.

So if you want to be kept informed about this Economic Development Committee, let me know – but, more importantly - let me know if you want to help build its structure. We need to get started on this first thing next week.

(Brady Westwater will chair the LANCC Economic Development Committee. Westwater is a downtown neighborhood activist and a contributor to CityWatch. He can be reached at: bradywestwater@gmail.com

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