Ten months ago, when Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed raising the city's minimum wage to lift people out of poverty, The Times, along with business groups and others, called on him to develop a comprehensive job creation strategy and to focus on attracting the kinds of $20- and $30-an-hour jobs Los Angeles needs most. This week, City Council President Herb Wesson did what Garcetti has not — committed to developing a jobs plan for the city.
Wesson announced that he's creating a special committee of five council members that will be tasked with figuring out how to attract and retain businesses and generate more employment. The need is tremendous. The region has never recovered the middle-class jobs it lost over the last three decades with the shrinking of the aerospace and manufacturing sectors. Although Los Angeles has gained jobs with the rebounding economy, many are in retail and food services that pay at or near the minimum wage.
Of course, an announcement is just that, and a committee goes only a baby step further. It remains to be seen whether Wesson and the council can propose, much less deliver, meaningful change in a city long known for high costs, red tape and often being inhospitable to business. As the process commences, here are some thoughts:
A comprehensive jobs plan is not one that creates tax holidays for some companies while failing to significantly reduce or eliminate the onerous L.A. business tax, which is a major deterrent to new investment in the city. It shouldn't seek to woo companies to move a few miles east, from Santa Monica. It shouldn't create subsidies for luxury mall or condo developers who would have built here even without a subsidy. And it shouldn't offer concierge service for a select group of businesses while making everyone else slog through byzantine approval processes.
Sure, tax breaks and expedited permitting on a case-by-case basis can spur investment in struggling communities. But if the City Council — and the mayor — want to enact a lasting jobs plan, they'll need to reform the bureaucratic processes that drive entrepreneurs insane, and they'll need to make across-the-board changes to the business tax. They'll also need to adopt a citywide vision for economic development that is embedded in the city budget and ingrained in every department's mission.
And they need to act fast. Los Angeles leaders were able to adopt a $15 minimum wage in 10 months. If economic development is truly a priority for Wesson and the City Council — and Garcetti has said repeatedly that it is his No. 1 goal — then we should expect to see a coherent strategy and a workable plan to create good jobs in as much time.