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Garcetti says 'no hard feelings' to business group that opposed him

Eric GarcettiEconomy, Business and FinanceOccupy Los AngelesWendy Greuel

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti sought Wednesday to rebuild his frayed ties with the city’s business leaders, embracing their City Hall agenda while promoting his efforts to speed L.A.’s economic recovery.

“You set the agenda for us,” Garcetti told a gathering of L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce members in the City Hall rotunda.

“It’s time to put the recession in the rear view mirror,” he added. “It’s time for us, as Los Angeles, to be an example for what a modern city can be, and an economy of a modern city can look like.”

The chamber backed Garcetti rival Wendy Greuel in the May election, but its chairman, Alan Rothenberg, said the group expected to “get along just fine” with the new mayor.

“I’m sure Eric was not happy, but it’s done,” said Rothenberg, who met privately with Garcetti on Tuesday. “We share the same goals.”

During the campaign, the chamber’s political action committee produced a web video blaming Garcetti for Fire Department budget cuts and poor emergency response times. It showed Garcetti telling Occupy L.A. protesters in City Hall Park to “stay as long as you like,” then an announcer told viewers: “Eric Garcetti is the last guy we need occupying City Hall.”

On Wednesday, Garcetti said there were no hard feelings.

“All hands at the table -- everybody needs be there,” he told reporters. “And the things that they’re focused on -- infrastructure, education, reforming how business-friendly L.A. is -- are the core of my agenda.”

Garcetti told the breakfast gathering he would work to coordinate policy with the region’s other mayors, refocus job training programs on emerging high-tech sectors and market L.A. overseas “like we’re a forgotten Midwestern town.”

Later, he reiterated his support for phasing out the city's business tax in 15 years, saying he was not concerned about its effect on the city budget.

“It’s a slow enough plan," he said. "It’s a 15-year plan. It’s not shock treatment to our budget. It allows for the economic gains to be realized as it gets done over time.”

A City Council report card released by the chamber Wednesday showed the city economy recovering slowly, but the growth has been uneven, said the report’s lead author, Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics.

Redevelopment, building permits and wage growth have been particularly strong downtown and in coastal communities, Thornberg told the council. Still lagging is the Van Nuys area and portions of South Los Angeles.

Overall, the city is still down 202,000 jobs from what it had at the start of the recession in 2008, said Gary Toebben, the chamber’s chief executive. But Toebben said he was encouraged by what he saw as the council’s changing funding and policy priorities.

Seven new members have joined the council since July, and most support changing the city’s reputation as a place where business faces too many obstacles, Toebben said.

“The reception we had today is the best we’ve had in the seven years we’ve been doing this,” he said.

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