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Monday, Mar 27, 2023

Business Incentives Proposal Didn’t Have a Prayer

Businesses had a ballot question just for them in the most recent Los Angeles municipal election. But Measure E was defeated and there are lessons to be learned from that. Measure E stated should the Los Angeles City Charter be amended to clearly express the authority of the city to provide incentives to businesses that will encourage economic development and provide public benefits to the city and its residents? Sounds pretty clear-cut and something that anyone would vote for even if they aren’t members of the business community. Good business means good times for L.A.,right? Well, it’s not so simple. I think the words city charter scared voters off. By putting it in the city charter, it means to many that you’re going to codify something. Write it in stone for all eternity,and write it in vague terms at that. Measure E and the defeated Measure B proposal to add solar panels to rooftops and parking lots were at a disadvantage because of the behavior of city officials in the past. Opponents of Measure B were strident in their campaign saying that it was a giveaway to unions who would be doing the work, and many of the city’s politicians are seen as being beholden to unions. Measure E was seen as a blank check for city officials to favor developers and others who may not necessarily hold everybody in the city in their best interests. That’s just the way that many people see it. When you look at the city election results, some people theorize that the more “educated” and therefore more critical voters cast their ballots in this election. Turnout as suspected was low so it was only the people who really are involved in the electoral process who voted. They tend to be less swayed by the officials in charge and by the commercials. Take, for instance, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He only received 56 percent of the vote despite having very weak challengers. He should have run away with the election. So,the business community and our elected officials should learn these things from the vote this month: – Don’t treat the electorate as stupid. Don’t present them with half-baked politically charged items to vote on. If you want to play that game, do it in an election like the one we had in November, when turnout was huge. You may get someone to vote for your causes. – If you’re going to have the electorate vote on something, explain it. There was little communication from the city on this measure. Many people heard nothing about it before they went into the voting booth. We in the media should take some blame for that. We didn’t explain it. Although I think incentives for business are good, I tend to agree with some of the opponents of Measure E,shouldn’t our local elected officials as a matter of routine make the city an attractive place to do business? Business Journal Editor Jason Schaff can be reached at (818) 316-3125 or at editor@sfvbj.com .

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