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Hertzberg, Alarcon Outline Views for L.A. Business

Hertzberg, Alarcon Outline Views for L.A. Business By JEFF WEISS Contributing Reporter How would Valley residents Robert Hertzberg (right) and Richard Alarcon (left) govern Los Angeles if elected mayor next year especially as it relates to business? Hertzberg, former speaker of the California State Assembly and Alarcon, a state senator, both have formally declared their candidacies for the post now held by James Hahn. Both are lifelong Democrats yet they are typically considered to have dissimilar agendas. Alarcon’s legislative record has displayed a sympathy for progressive causes, while Hertzberg has tended to place an emphasis on consensus and unity, believing that the best way to achieve results is by compromise. In order to illuminate each candidate’s views about business and their visions for Los Angeles, the Business Journal talked with both politicians to clarify any misperceptions or stereotypes that may follow either man. Hertzberg earned the nickname “Hugsberg,” for an affable demeanor and his disdain for the sterility and formality of handshakes. The 49-year-old Democrat from Sherman Oaks is believed by many political pundits to have an excellent shot of carrying the Valley. He represented Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys in the Assembly and while he did not advocate secession, he was instrumental (along with state Senator Tom McClintock) in getting the measure brought to the ballot in 2002. An adviser to Gov. Schwarzenegger, the two share similar views regarding compromise and bipartisan leadership in order to bring about results. Hertzberg often relates the anecdote about how shocked and dismayed he was when he arrived in Sacramento to discover that Republicans and Democrats weren’t even speaking to each other. One of Hertzberg’s major triumphs in the Assembly was his success at bridging this impasse. Although Democrats are typically stereotyped as being less friendly to business than Republicans, Hertzberg believes his record of pro-business legislation to be quite strong. “I worked on the manufacturing tax credit and we did other tax cuts which totaled five or six billion dollars worth. I was the author of the infrastructure planning act where we tried to take a business approach towards infrastructure planning,” Hertzberg said. “Education and housing were also two of the things I worked in Sacramento that influenced the business climate. We had three bond issues that totaled more than $34 billion to build more schools which is a big magnet for businesses.” He said a huge component of the school bonds was restructuring how schools are financed to relieve burdens off of builders. “There were tremendous burdens and a big piece of the school construction bond was to connect the issue of schools and housing,” he said. Getting results Critical to Hertzberg’s success in the Legislature was his tendency to place results over ideology. While his political record maintains a focus on broad social concerns, Hertzberg said he has tried to temper that emphasis by constantly looking at the other side’s perspective. “I formed the Business Democrats to filter legislation through the business man’s eye. This had an impact on dozens of new laws in California and the Business Democrats grew at one point to have 24 members of the Democratic Caucus out of 40. That had never happened before. I am not walking from my core values, but I am someone who is going to exercise that judgment with what it’s like to make a living,” Hertzberg said. “What I have sought to do in government is to be very practical without losing focus and doing everything in a practical manner. It’s necessary to look at the big picture. I looked at issues by saying how does this impact me, how does this impact the business community, and how can this help the social objectives that I want to accomplish.” If elected Mayor of Los Angeles, Hertzberg plans on employing a policy of engagement in order to revitalize the Los Angeles economy. “When I get in, I’m going to sit down and develop a specific plan of how to go after the high-wage jobs to create a vibrant economy. I plan on sitting down with business leaders and CEOs and engaging them in our common future,” Hertzberg said. “The job of mayor of L.A. is 24-7 hands on, I want to engage them in issues such as traffic, encouraging them to work different hours to reduce traffic. I want to stay on the cutting edge of technology by floating ideas such as cell sites all over the city. You can’t have cellular dead zones all over the place, you need a modern city. It’s about leadership.” He said there needs to be Wi-Fi throughout the city to make it more business friendly. Alarcon’s views A 50-year-old former teacher and community activist who bills himself as a leader on issues regarding worker’s rights and benefits and a champion for working families, Alarcon’s first big political break came when he was elected as the 7th District’s (Northeast Valley) representative on the Los Angeles City Council. Alarcon was elected to the California Senate in 1998 and is currently in his second term. His legislative record includes such items as Senate Joint Resolution 15 which urged the President and Congress of the United States to meet the basic needs of all families by improving on their calculations of the federal poverty level. Alarcon also authored a 2003 bill that allowed counties, cities, and special districts to impose special taxes and to incur debt with general obligation bonds with majority-voter approval if the tax or bond exclusively funded the construction of affordable housing, transportation enhancement activities, or the acquisition of open land. Alarcon has also been heavily involved in the push to make more of California’s businesses engage in environmentally beneficial operations and pay employees a living wage. The Senator believes that he demonstrated his pro-business side during his days in the L.A. City Council. “I served on the city council when we revamped the General Motors plant, which netted 4,000 jobs. I worked with Mayor Riordan on economic development projects such as Disney Hall, the Staples Center and the new cathedral, which gave me a lot of hands-on experience. I also played a major role in the restoration of the Panorama Mall and helped put in the first Wal-Mart in the city of Los Angeles,” Alarcon said. “Throughout my tenure as a councilman, I worked with businesses at large to help them and worked with the community as well. I helped to turn the Pacoima Enterprise Zone into the Northeast Valley enterprise zone which also helped to enable the GM project.” In terms of working with the business community as a city councilman, he said he didn’t “think too many people have exceeded my credentials in being able to take care of my district and helped it out the way I have.” Alarcon did not vote for the most recent worker’s compensation reform bill in the Senate due to his belief that the insurance companies that benefited from the bill would not pass on enough of the savings to small businesses. However, he was heavily involved in an earlier bill that he said saved $5- to- 6 billion, he said. Like Hertzberg, Alarcon also has a vision to improve the business climate of the city. “I think the first thing we need to do is encourage public safety with a neighborhood by neighborhood approach to have the impact of improving the local business environment and consumerism at the smallest level,” Alarcon said. “Beyond that we need to work closely with our partners in the educational system to upgrade jobs skills in the community. Our performance has not been what it should be for a city like ours. By creating better skills in the work force, we will be more attractive for the business community. He asks for cooperation. “We also need to expedite the permitting process, but we need to work with both the community and the developers. The airport is a good example of what not to do, where you pit people against each other instead of building unanimity, you build enmity amongst all the players. Instead of taking the opportunity to build an airport with more capacity, you get a project with various elements that meet no one’s standards of approval.” Raphael Sonenshein, a political scientist at Cal State Fullerton, gauged the two candidates’ odds of success at waging battle against incumbent James Hahn with an enviable campaign war chest. “Alarcon has a strong base in the Northeast Valley which is a different area from Bob’s Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys base and both are critical to the Valley’s future. One is more liberal, moderate and Jewish while the other is Latino. The Valley is growing in both of those two areas. Richard has as a lot of ties to groups and a long record at City Hall. Although he’s a state official, he can say that he has a lot of experience with the city,” Sonenshein said. “Bob can point to putting together a lot of big deals at the state level and he has a lot of energy and ideas. He would argue that he can bring people together. But Sonenshein does not discount Hahn in the Valley. “You have to include Hahn as a Valley candidate because he did well there last time. Everyone is going to compete for the Valley and Hahn will be a stronger candidate than people will give him credit for. Hertzberg is probably the most formidable of the challengers, though all are strong candidates.” Richard Close, President of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association and a strong advocate of Valley secession two years ago held that Hertzberg maintained a more business friendly attitude while Alarcon veered closer to the unions. “I think that between the two of them, Hertzberg has been more effective in delivering benefits from Sacramento to the Valley but both of them are far better than the existing mayor who has done very little for the Valley.”

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