With concerns about the “unfriendly” business climate that they say is burdening Los Angeles companies with high taxes, bureaucracy and red tape, San Fernando Valley business leaders welcomed their newly elected councilmember Paul Krekorian, with high expectations. “We hope that he’ll be responsive to the business community and our needs, and will try and help the economy and make Los Angeles a first class city,” said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association. Among the issues that VICA has called attention to is the need to better manage the city’s budget and control government spending. VICA has advocated for the re-establishment of a business tax advisory committee and has pushed for a 25 percent reduction in business tax as a tool to spur job creation. The organization also supports the establishment of a collections office to help the city recuperate the more than $1 billion dollars that it is owed. “I’ve already talked to his staff about bringing him over to talk to VICA members,” said Waldman about the importance of initiating a dialogue with the new councilmember on these issues. Krekorian, who has been in the state Assembly since 2006, after serving on the Burbank Board of Education, won what became a heated and expensive race for the Los Angeles City Council District 2 seat, defeating former film executive Christine Essel by a 14 percent margin during the Dec. 8 runoff election. Krekorian received 10,810 votes, for 56.56 percent of the vote, compared to Essel’s, 8,304, for 43.44 percent, in a district that includes portions of Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Valley Village, Valley Glen, North Hollywood, Sun Valley, Shadow Hills and Sunland-Tujunga. In all, about 19,000 votes were cast. The election to fill the seat vacated last summer by Wendy Greuel, now city controller, saw a turnout of 15 percent of the district’s voters, many of which had expressed concerns about overdevelopment and a lack of representation of Valley interests at City Hall. Some business owners were encouraged by Krekorian’s track record in the state legislature, and pointed to the fact that he authored recently approved legislation that created California’s first incentive to encourage film and television production in the state in more than 15 years. “I think as he’s proven with his bill AB X315 which brought tax incentives to the film industry and to other small business, that he’s there to help businesses and I think he will continue to do that at the city level,” said Greg Lippe, former managing partner in the accounting firm Lippe, Hellie, Hoffer & Allison, who supported Krekorian during the campaign. “I think he will use his efforts to make sure that we do have that increase in business that we absolutely need to keep providing jobs so that our economy gets stronger.” Krekorian’s victory in a race which was flooded by large independent expenditures by outside groups, mostly in support of Essel, was a triumph over some of the city’s most powerful unions, according to Krekorian. “Today, the voters of CD2 demanded profound change and soundly rejected the domination of this city by downtown insiders,” Krekorian said in a statement on election night. “This victory is the beginning of a fundamental transformation of the government of Los Angeles, and it sends a strong signal that the people of the San Fernando Valley are not satisfied with business as usual. The task now ahead of us is to build a city government that will work for the people and that is marked by integrity, honesty and accountability.” Krekorian touted his widespread grassroots community support as proof that he would be an independent voice fighting for community interests versus those of big developers and “the downtown establishment” and had accused the city’s powerful unions of attempting to buy the race with their monetary contributions to support his rival. The Los Angeles Police Protective League and the union representing workers at the city’s Department of Water and Power, spent nearly $1 million, mostly in support of Essel, setting a record for independent spending in a non-citywide race, according to the Los Angeles Times. Krekorian had called the amount of money pouring into the Second Council District from independent expenditures in support of Essel “outrageous” and “perhaps unprecedented in city history”. Essel outspent Krekorian 2 to 1 in the runoff and the primary campaign, where they faced eight other candidates. She raised more than $627,000 on her own, and more than $794,000 in independent expenditures primarily from city employee unions. Krekorian raised and spent more than $571,000. Essel, a former Paramount Pictures Corp. executive, who previously headed the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board and served as chairwoman of the Central City Assn., argued that her three decades of business experience made her uniquely suited to work on retaining businesses in Los Angeles, creating jobs and improving the overall business climate for the city. Krekorian said he had a better understanding of the issues facing residents of the district and promised to get immediately involved in streamlining the city budget, where he said deep cuts will be needed to balance the spending plan. Both Krekorian and Essel grew up in the San Fernando Valley but moved into the district to be eligible to run for the seat. Both had to fight off carpetbagger charges. Earning a $178,798 annual salary, Krekorian will hold the seat for 16 months, and will have to wage a re-election campaign in 2011. Once Krekorian officially gives up his Assembly seat, the governor will have to call a special election for the 43rd Assembly District.