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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Scorecard: Where Mayoral Candidates Stand on Business Issues

Three weeks before voters head to the polls to vote in the March 8 Los Angeles mayoral primary election, the five major candidates are making their final pitches to the city’s voters. Throughout the campaign and during the many debates the candidates have attended, business issues have been mentioned but they have always been part of a larger discussion about Los Angeles as a whole and its future. So, in an attempt for readers to get a focused look at where the candidates stand on specific major business-related issues, the Business Journal presents the following compilation of each candidates specific views and records on taxes, public safety, land use and traffic. Richard Alarcon Taxes: Alarcon supported business tax reform, including the exemption of businesses with revenues under $100,000 and a 15 percent reduction in taxes for large businesses. In September, he said a 25 percent reduction was worth considering, depending on its impact to the city. Public Safety: Alarcon has suggested billing the city’s airport, harbor and water and power departments $75 million for homeland security, and combining the airport and harbor police departments into the LAPD. Alarcon says the plan should be adopted now, and that it would add 1,000 officers to the police force. Land Use: Alarcon authored SB 1056, which would have required any developer wanting to build a store larger than 130,000 square feet that sells more than 20,000 items and generates more than 10 percent of its sales from food to submit a report on how the store would affect the local economy. Critics of the bill said it was aimed at keeping Wal-Mart Supercenters out of California. The bill passed the legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Alarcon takes credit for bringing the first regular Wal-Mart to Los Angeles, however. He says that the Wal-Mart in Panorama City is anchoring 30 other local businesses. He launched a campaign against the Lopez Canyon Landfill during his time in the City Council, and to offset the city costs, arranged to sell the methane gas emitting from the land fill. As state senator, Alarcon is credited with helping to redevelop the former GM plant into a commercial center with manufacturers, retail and department stores, creating 4,000 jobs. He said he supported the concept of inclusionary zoning, which would require developers to build affordable housing. Traffic: Alarcon has introduced a bill creating a regional airport authority, which would help expand other Southern California Airports, and divert car trips from LAX. Alarcon, along with the rest of Hahn’s opponents, have criticized the mayor’s $11 billion plan to expand the airport. As a city councilman, Alarcon said that some LAX expansion was inevitable. James Hahn Taxes: Hahn’s campaign pledge has been to make Los Angeles “the safest big city in America.” He supported a countywide, half-cent sales tax increase in November, which failed. Hahn supported placing a similar measure on the city ballot in May. Chief William Bratton fiercely lobbied city council members to put the measure on the ballot, but did not receive the required city council votes to place the measure on the ballot. Public Safety: Hahn supported a policy that allows police to work three days on 8-, 10- and 12-hour shifts, which he says keeps the public safe and helped to stop the exodus of police officers to other cities that offered flexible schedules. Hahn touts his record on public safety routinely, and says that an 18 percent drop in crime has improved the business climate. Hahn says that the expansion of the city’s LA’s BEST after school program to 45 additional schools is keeping children off the streets and out of jail. Land Use: Hahn has made housing development one of the cornerstones of his re-election campaign. He said that a $100 million dollar Housing Trust Fund has helped grow affordable housing throughout the city by investing $80 million to finance 2,700 new housing units. He’s made efforts to streamline the permit process to allow developers to get city decisions on their projects faster. Hahn also supports giving incentives to developers who build along public transit lines. He does not support inclusionary zoning. Traffic: Hahn started the Street Smart program, which is aimed at improving traffic on 35 of the city’s busiest streets, and he says that when it is completed, the program will save drivers 15 million hours per year. Along with other council members, Hahn opposed the Ahmanson Ranch development, which he said would have brought an estimated 45,000 more car trips through the Valley every day. Robert Hertzberg Taxes: He says raising taxes to hire new police officers is the wrong choice. Hertzberg claims L.A.’s general fund has grown by $500 million in the last four years, but only three percent of that money has been used to hire police officers, with most going to pay raises for city employees. Public Safety: Since early in his campaign, Hertzberg has attacked Hahn for failing to provide the 1,000 new police officers he promised. Hertzberg said he supports Chief Bratton, and said Hahn is not doing all he can to expand the police force. Bratton, Hertzberg said, reported when he took office that he needed 12,000 new police officers. As an assemblyman, Hertzberg was chair of the public safety committee and won a reputation as a compromiser, working with both parties on anti-crime bills. Land Use: Hertzberg spoke out against the inclusionary zoning plan in January, which developers and business groups have said could drive new home construction out of the city limits. While a member of the legislature, Hertzberg organized the Speaker’s Commission on Regionalism, which worked to find ways for cities to plan for growth. The Commission outlined plans to limit the financial incentive for retail, aimed at a glut of big-box developments. The plans would have shifted more property tax from the state to cities, in exchange for cities giving some sales tax to the state, giving cities some incentive to add more residential zoning. Traffic: His Valley success was securing $145 million for the Orange Line, which will connect the Valley through North Hollywood and Woodland Hills via a rapid bus system. Hertzberg has pledged to end road construction during rush hour and improve traffic light synchronization. He supports flexible work schedules for public employees, and incentives for private businesses that offer flexible schedules and telecommuting for employees. Bernard Parks Taxes: Parks opposed the citywide sales tax to pay for more police officers proposed by Hahn, for which Chief Bratton actively lobbied. He supported the reform of the business tax system, and says that if a rise in tax revenues accompanies the reduction in rates, further reforms may be a good idea. Public Safety: A 38-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, Parks served as its chief for five years before being forced out of office and waging a successful campaign to represent the eighth district in the City Council. Parks said that the Valley is getting two more police stations primarily because of his efforts as chief. He said that as chief, he focused on expanding after school programs and introducing prevention and intervention programs to keep children from developing into criminals. Parks said he also made it a priority to have a D.A.R.E. officer in every school while he was chief. He has also criticized police department policy which allows officers to work three days a week on 12 hour shifts. Parks says the policy limits the number of units on the street. Land Use: Parks supports the effort to lure more industrial companies to Los Angeles. He says an over reliance on a service economy is a mistake. He supports the construction of affordable housing in the city, but says that unrealistic regulations on property owners make it too difficult to be a landlord in Los Angeles, resulting in most affordable housing being built outside the city limits. Parks has spoken against proposed inclusionary zoning requirements for city developers. Traffic: As a council representative, Parks advocated extending major transportation lines, like the red and blue lines, into his district to ease traffic congestion. Parks has sharply criticized Hahn’s performance on the MTA Board, saying he has missed 30 percent of all MTA board meetings since being elected to office, and said that his poor attendance results in the city being passed over when the MTA and the federal government decide where to spend transportation dollars. Parks said that the mayor opposed the Chandler Burbank Rapid Busway, which Parks said is the only significant MTA project to address the needs of the Valley. Parks also says the city’s freeways may need widening, and those projects could come at the cost of residences built adjacent to the freeways. Antonio Villaraigosa Taxes: He supported a countywide measure to raise sales tax by half a cent in order to pay for new police officers and other emergency personnel, but opposed the similar citywide measure. VICA and other business groups oppose a city-only sales tax, saying it will drive customers to other cities and reverse the progress of business tax reform, which he supported. Public Safety: Says that identifying bureaucratic inefficiencies can free up $30 million from the city’s budget to immediately hire new police officers. He sided with Greig Smith, Dennis Zine and Jack Weiss to push a plan through city council that allows the city to borrow against future Proposition 1A funds to hire more police officers now. Land Use: He has promised to provide incentives for entry-level, market-rate housing in the city, and to fully finance the Affordable Housing Trust Fund at a rate of $100 million per year. He supports reduced building permit fees and expedited planning reviews for nonprofit housing builders. He said he supported the concept of inclusionary zoning, but said he wants a plan that does not drive developers from the city Traffic: Has promised to improve signal synchronization on the busiest streets, forbid construction on major arteries during rush hour. He also supports an expansion of the city’s rail system and opposes LAX expansion, saying the city should plan for a regional airport system and expand the Palmdale and Ontario Airports to alleviate traffic on the 405 freeway. As a director of the MTA, he supported a plan to borrow $1.1 billion over 10 years to work on freeway and rail projects. The county has lost $1.35 billion in transportation funding as the state government has diverted revenues intended for transit improvements to other areas.

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