Mayor James Hahn and Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa may as well book hotel rooms in Sherman Oaks. With Robert Hertzberg, who received the most Valley votes in the primary election, out and the Valley up for grabs the two contenders for the mayoral post have been busy in the area promising support for the business community and wooing homeowners. Villaraigosa met with representatives from homeowners associations on two occasions last week, and each of the candidates is appealing to residents who count unchecked development as their worst fear. At the Balboa Sports Complex last Tuesday, Villaraigosa promised to work on building more parks on federal land that the city leases, and supported a phasing out of noisy Stage II jets flying into Van Nuys Airport, a hot issue for local homeowners’ associations. “I understand that the Van Nuys Airport is an economic engine for development and creation of wealth in this region,” he said. “But we have to be a good neighbor and balance the interests of economics with the quality of life that’s so important for those residents.” He also said he’d push for development away from Ventura Boulevard and the rest of the Valley. “The greatest opportunity in Los Angeles today for housing and economic development is downtown, along rail lines, along transit stations. Those are the best opportunities,” said Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa said he’d aggressively recruit business as mayor, putting an emphasis on biomedical and biotechnology jobs. “Look, we need a mayor aggressively seeking out business, that understands that UCLA, Caltech and USC are assets that we can use as engines for a biomed and biotech industry. The DWP can and should be leverage to create alternative energy industries that are high-wage, clean industries. ” he said. The mayor has announced his own plans for business incentives, targeting the crucial entertainment industry with a pledge to reimburse production companies for some expenses incurred while shooting in Los Angeles. If approved by the City Council, the $12.5 million reimbursement fund would be the second windfall for the entertainment industry. The business tax reform package also contained special tax breaks for entertainment industry employees. Hahn, however, is spending his time in the Valley trying to build support among neighborhood activists. Last Thursday, he met in North Hollywood with members of the city’s neighborhood councils, promising to give them more say in the city government. Neighborhood involvement The first step will be getting a neighborhood council member on every commission in the city, he said. He also wants the councils’ help in hiring the next city planning director and every city department general manager, as well as a review from the neighborhood councils on the performance of each city department. Those plans met with approval from assembled neighborhood council members, but several expressed their frustration with having no say in residential or commercial development decisions, or hearing about projects too late to do anything about them. “(What I’m hearing is that) the early warning system that we’re developing is not working as well as we’d like,” said Hahn. “It seems to me that what you’re talking about is that people shouldn’t be talking about big developments in neighborhoods if they haven’t come by the neighborhood council first.” Hahn also said that high density projects ought to be built in areas like downtown Los Angeles already served by a transportation infrastructure. Hahn, who barely made the runoff election ahead of former Assembly Speaker Hertzberg, is now seeking the Sherman Oaks attorney’s endorsement. So is Hertzberg’s former Sacramento roommate and top primary election vote-getter Villaraigosa. He picked up the support of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce two weeks ago, and he appeared in Van Nuys last week to announce the support of former Councilman Hal Bernson and in North Hollywood on Thursday to talk about his neighborhood council plan. But Villaraigosa’s dance card has filled up faster than the mayor’s in the past two weeks. State Senator Richard Alarcon, who finished last in the primary election, announced his support for Villaraigosa last week as the Councilman was picking up the support of the L.A. Democratic Party. Villaraigosa can also count Controller Laura Chick and Congressmembers Brad Sherman and Maxine Waters among his supporters. Looking for police Both candidates have been racing to find funds to hire more police officers after a failed effort by the mayor to place a vote on a city-wide half-cent sales tax on the May ballot. The City Council voted against putting the tax question to voters. Villaraigosa, who voted against putting the city sales tax on the May ballot, has said he would support a county-wide sales tax increase in 2006. Nathan James, a campaign consultant for Villaraigosa, said that the councilman thinks the public needs to be convinced that the city would spend the money only on police before approving a tax increase. Kam Kuwata, a campaign consultant for Hahn, said the mayor may also try to pass a county-wide sales tax increase in 2006, but first he’s looking for room in the city’s budget to hire more officers. Early in March, Hahn announced that he had found money to hire 720 cops about 370 after attrition in the next budget. Kuwata said Hahn is hoping the City Council will support him in cutting some departments’ budgets in order to pay for police.
Election: Candidates Push Support for Business