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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023

State Blamed for Problems as Summit Takes on Valley Future

While most indicators show that the Valley’s economy is growing at a robust rate, speakers at the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley’s, Info Summit 2004 on Nov. 10, claimed that a more efficient and business focused administration in Sacramento is the only way to spur a full-fledged business renaissance. George Passantino, director of government affairs for the Reason Foundation, praised Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his dedication to the business community but claimed that state government remains byzantine and disorganized. The Info Summit maintained three specific components: “Building the 21st Century Government for California” presented by Passantino, a report on the “Future of the Valley’s Economy” given by the Mulholland Institute, and a panel of notable Valley figures debated “The Next Five Years in our Region and State.” All sessions centered on the issues that the Valley needs to tackle to assure continued economic growth. “Sacramento needs accountability, what gets measured must get done. There are more than 300 executive branch boards and commissions, with 3,000 appointees, to go with 79 different agencies,” Passantino said. “The responsibility for infrastructure is scattered across the government, meaning it’s no one’s responsibility. We need organizational reform with a streamlined structure, performance-based budgeting tying funding to actual performance, and proper personnel management that creates meaningful consequences.” A report on the future of the Valley’s economy, presented by the Mulholland Institute, signaled out the northeast Valley as the site of the next major economic boom. The Institute is a multi-disciplinary think tank dedicated to issues that affect governance and quality of life for residents of the Valley. This was the inaugural report for the Institute, which has a strategic partnership with the Economic Alliance. “There is an excellent opportunity to develop a new major industrial-commercial center in the Northeast Valley. This is an area with a large and willing workforce and numerous older sites that can be transformed into a major new mode of low-impact, community friendly development,” said Michael Shires, associate professor of public policy at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy. A member of the Mulholland Institute, Shires proclaimed that a revitalization of the northeast Valley would benefit both the residents of the area and the Valley at large. “Building a new center, or series of centers there, would not only provide private sector employment opportunities but also critically-needed community assets, such as parks, shopping areas, and neighborhood centers. This represents a major transformation of current liabilities, such as brownfields or under-used industrial facilities into key assets,” Shires said. Roberto Barragan, president of the Valley Economic Development Center, disagreed with the idea of transforming industrial facilities into commercial spaces, asserting that the Northeast Valley already lacks sufficient industrial space. “There seems to be a conflicting philosophy that allows industrial space to be converted into commercial space, yet encourages industry to come into the Northeast Valley. The former Price Pfister space in Pacoima sat on 31 acres of industrial space and is now being converted into retail. That’s one of the biggest chunks of land available and no one outside of Pacoima is concerned,” Barragan said. Barragan stated that a combination of government action and an overhaul of the current public education system are the only ways to spur the Northeast Valley’s economic development. “The Mulholland Institute’s report talks about the private sector taking the lead and letting government step out of the way, I disagree completely,” Barragan said. “The private sector has been consistently turning industrial into retail, it’s not realistic.” He added that the report focused on job training at community and four-year colleges and didn’t give enough attention to public high schools.

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