Two Los Angeles city councilmen want to restart the process of picking an outside group to study proposals to boost the citywide minimum wage, saying the city "should seek data from a neutral source."
The push from Councilmen Mitch O'Farrell and Felipe Fuentes comes after business groups raised concerns about Los Angeles choosing the same research team that provided an earlier, largely favorable analysis of Mayor Eric Garcetti's plan.
The Times reported Thursday that a city panel selected a research team from UC Berkeley's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment to do the assessment, ranking it the highest among four applicants.
The same institute, however, prepared a report for Garcetti last year saying his proposed wage increase to $13.25 an hour by 2017 was not likely to have a significant effect on overall employment and would deliver “significant gains in income” for L.A.’s low-wage workers and their families.
As the Los Angeles council weighs whether to push the minimum wage that high -- or higher, to $15.25 in 2019 -- members had sought an outside review of the economic effects of both proposals.
Council President Herb Wesson said in a statement this week that the UC Berkeley team was selected as "the most knowledgeable and experienced bidder" after “an open and fair” bidding process.
But O'Farrell, one of the lawmakers who requested the outside review, said Thursday it was "outrageous and unacceptable" to choose the same Berkeley team that had already analyzed the Garcetti proposal.
On Friday, he and Fuentes sent a letter to Wesson and several other top city officials, arguing that "the selection of U.C. Berkeley, by perception, compromises the possibility of a fair and balanced discussion."
"While we respect U.C. Berkeley as one of the top academic institutions in the country, they are the same economists that produced the original report for which the mayor is basing his minimum wage proposal," O'Farrell and Fuentes wrote.
In an interview Friday, Fuentes added, "I absolutely believe that they are a quality group. My biggest concern here is the perception."
The two lawmakers asked to reopen the city process for selecting a research team and extend the deadline "so that we can engage in a process that is worthy of our employers, workers and their families, and the well-being of our economy."
In order to reopen the process, one of the council members would need to submit a motion to be approved by a council committee, according to O'Farrell spokesman Tony Arranaga.
In reaction to the request from O’Farrell and Fuentes, Wesson issued a statement Friday saying that “while it is important that we respect a fair and legal process that was well publicized, I will always take another councilmember’s request into consideration."
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