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Sunday, Jun 4, 2023

Election: Valley Takes a Look at Candidates

Before last week’s primary election left Mayor James Hahn and Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa as the last men standing, voters had been hearing the same speeches for months: choruses of praise for LAPD Chief Bratton along with promises to speed up traffic and add more housing. With much of the city up for grabs once again, some Valley business interests are hoping to grab some attention from the two candidates in the coming weeks. Steve Caplan, executive vice president of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, said he expects to hear both men speak more about plans to foster growth in the entertainment industry. “All indications are that both of them have a strong sense of the value of economic development from production. Interestingly, it didn’t really emerge as a political issue, or policy issue, in the debates between the five candidates, but it might just become more engaged in the runoff.” said Caplan. “My sense is that both will be working to gain support from the entertainment industry both for fundraising and for the many votes in the form of the people who work in the business.” Both Hahn and Villaraigosa supported business tax reform, which passed the City Council unanimously last year. Most of the credit for the reform went to Council members Wendy Greuel, Eric Garcetti and Tony Cardenas, but Caplan said that Hahn made a significant contribution to the reform proposal while staying out of the limelight. Mel Kohn, who was on the Business Tax Advisory Committee along with Caplan, has credited Hahn with proposing a tax exemption for every Los Angeles business that grosses less than $100,000 each year. The reform package also provided specific relief for the entertainment industry. Caplan said he’d like to see the mayor be a champion for Los Angeles. “Part of what we’d like to see happen is whoever becomes mayor to be much more visible and a vocal advocate,” he said. The governor is currently putting together a proposal to keep production in Los Angeles, Caplan said. “We’d expect the mayor, whoever it may be, to be supportive and find a way to lobby for those reforms,” he said. Boosting biotech Edmond Buccellato, chief executive officer of Advanced Biotherapy in Woodland Hills, said he’d like to see more support for the city’s biotechnology companies. “It’s not necessarily related to governmental influence or incentives,” said Buccellato. “For very early stage companies, however, the challenge comes when you begin to build an infrastructure, build a business and create employment. The city tax burden for companies becomes onerous, small enterprises that have an opportunity to grow oftentimes just cannot afford the costs of doing business with respect to city taxes and other types of costs paid to the community.” Buccellato said he plans to keep the company, which is developing treatments for autoimmune diseases using antibodies, headquartered in Woodland Hills, partly because he is from the Los Angeles area. Advanced Biotherapy only employs a handful of people in Los Angeles, however. The company’s laboratories are located in Maryland. Buccellato, who says he is not active in politics, nevertheless thinks that collaboration between the biotech industry and local government could help foster emerging biotechnology companies. “The cost of drug development is significant, and identifying sources of capital and funding is problematic,” Buccellato said. A strong cluster of private biotech companies and publicly funded research institutions might foster a pool of skilled workers that Advanced Biotherapy could use to staff a laboratory in Los Angeles, he said. Hahn and Villaraigosa have both said that bringing biotechnology jobs to the city is a priority. Since voters approved Proposition 71, which directs the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to support stem cell research, Hahn has been trying to lure the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to Los Angeles, and even announced that he had arranged for free downtown office space. Later the same week, Villaraigosa appeared at a press conference with L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina and University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine Dean Brian Henderson to announce the creation of a joint county-city authority to help revive a planned biomedical research park near County-USC Medical Center. Tom Hogen-Esch, associate professor of political science at Cal State Northridge, said that Bob Hertzberg’s endorsement might go a long way in helping one of the candidates win in the Valley. “In this case it might actually make a big difference, not just because Hertzberg has a towering personality but because he has a huge rolodex, which goes all the way up to Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Hogen-Esch said. Hogen-Esch said that Hahn is likely to work hard over the next two months to ingratiate himself to the Valley’s business community and homeowners, and differentiate himself from Villaraigosa as much as possible. “I really think he’s going to try to label Villaraigosa as a ‘tax and spend liberal,’ he’s going to play up his fiscal conservatism credentials and try to play to those kinds of issues that resonate in the West Valley,” Hogen-Esch said. “It will be interesting to see if West Valley voters, who tend to be the most conservative in the city, will hold their nose and vote for Hahn or whether they’ll support someone who’s very far to the left of Hahn.”

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