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Monday, Mar 27, 2023

City Council Candidates Tackle Business Issues at Forum

Five candidates in the race to fill a vacancy on the Los Angeles City Council, touted their plans to make Los Angeles a business friendly city, streamline processes, and ensure that the San Fernando Valley gets its fair share of city revenues, at a forum hosted by the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. “Instead of putting band aids, which is what the City Council has been doing, we need to take out the scalpel and we need to do major surgery,” said local candy factory owner Frank Sheftel addressing the pressing budget deficit. The other candidates participating in the forum on Aug. 21 were California Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, who has served three years in Sacramento; neighborhood council member Mary Benson; Chris Essel, a former executive at Paramount Pictures; and Tamar Galatzan, a neighborhood prosecutor in Van Nuys and a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Sheftel, Galatzan and Essel highlighted the importance of collecting unpaid bills to the city. Over $1 billion dollars in back taxes, fees and fines are owed to the city according to an audit by former City Controller Laura Chick. Galatzan said she would encourage the creation of a collections office to get the job done, while Benson said she would reduce waste by addressing the frequent duplication of services in the city. “Businesses need an advocate in City Council,” said Krekorian. Like the other candidates, he said streamlining permitting processes is crucial to make the city more business friendly. “One of the biggest problems that pushes businesses out of Los Angeles is having to deal with the faceless, grey bureaucracy that is City Hall, and not being able to penetrate through the byzantine permitting process that our neighboring cities don’t have,” Krekorian said. “It’s just a lot easier to get things done in Burbank or Glendale or Santa Monica, or Santa Clarita. What we need is a Council that will fight to get through the bureaucratic red tape on behalf of businesses.” The candidates also mentioned the need to further reform the business tax and stressed the importance of targeting emerging industries that will drive job development in the 21st century. “We need to promote business and the profitability of business and the way to do that is to streamline the business process and cut the red tape but also promote partnerships between government and the private sector,” said Benson. Sheftel, who said the business tax is unfair, suggested putting together a corridor called BRIC (Business Relocation Incentive Corridor) giving tax breaks and subsidies to businesses that relocate or open in certain areas of the district. Galatzan said as a council member she would work to have the requirement that all motions introduced in Council include an economic impact report. “This is something that’s made a huge difference in San Francisco,” she said. The requirement has made elected officials there give even more careful consideration to what they vote on. When addressing the possible benefits of a San Fernando Valley secession Sheftel, who supported the secession movement in years past, said he still believes the Valley is not getting its fair share of services. “There has to be a better way to bring services and really treat the Valley residents with respect,” said Galatzan, who did not support the idea that the Valley become its own city, but did express frustration with the way the Valley is perceived as well as with the fact that revenues generated in the Valley are going to benefit downtown projects. “I think a lot can be done with the existing structure but it will take a real focused effort to reimburse the Valley to make sure it gets back what it puts into the system,” said Essel. “I’ve had enough of city government treating us like a Thanksgiving turkey that they carve up and keep the best parts for themselves downtown,” Benson said. “One of the things I’m very interested in doing is bringing equity back” Kerkorian did not support the concept of secession. “Do we need to separate the Valley into a new city? No. We need to demand a City government hat works efficiently and effectively and responsibly.” During the forum, held at the at The Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, candidates also tackled the influence of labor unions in Local governments, improving education and the location of a potential ‘green tech’ corridor. The forum, moderated by San Fernando Valley Business Journal Editor Jason Schaff, allowed for audience questions, one of which peeved some of the candidates, as it required that they point out each other’s weaknesses “I’m disappointed with the question because it’s questions like these that make people not vote,” said Galatzan. As an answer, she touted her strengths as the only candidate with the “backbone to stand up to special interests” and make the hard decisions. Sheftel took the opportunity to call on Krekorian and Galatzan who he said are already in positions to affect change as elected officials, to stay at those positions. He also called Essel and Krekorian “carpetbaggers”. Essel, who lived in the Hollywood Hills until recently, rejected the accusation. Krekorian, a Burbank resident who recently rented an apartment in Valley Glen in order to qualify for the L.A. City Council, refused to criticize any of the candidates. “I think anybody who’s willing to put their life on hold and step up to the plate and serve the public especially at a time like this deserves a lot of respect. And I respect every one of the people who are sitting at this table and even those who are not sitting at this table. So I’m not interested in criticizing others, especially being a member of the state legislature where I’m usually the criticized”

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