Op-Ed: Fairness is key to small business success

Op-Ed: Fairness is key to small business success
Laura Friedman talks with supporters at her State Assembly election headquarters, in this file photo taken on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

When I walk, drive or ride my bike down the street, whether here at home or in Sacramento, I love to observe the character of the surrounding neighborhood, taking note of what gives the area its unique flavor. Certainly it starts with the people. Here in the 43rd District we have a wonderfully diverse blend of persons of all backgrounds, economic positions and interests living side-by-side.

Of all the elements that form the character of a community, it's the storefront shops and services that line the streets that play the lead role. Small businesses, from independent book stores to flower shops, family-owned restaurants and boutiques — each one is the embodiment of a neighbor's hard work and dreams.

As the newly appointed chair of the Select Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I want to help those businesses to thrive. Having been a small business owner myself, I realize that in our state there are many impediments that pose challenges that can discourage or even deter a potential business owner. While maintaining our strong tradition of environmental and safety regulations, I plan to look at small business regulations holistically to find ways we can make it easier for them to succeed.

Some of the ideas we are discussing include examining the fairness of the current state fee structures based on the size of the proposed business. For instance, fees for non-health- or safety-related inspection violations could be assessed on a sliding scale, based on the size or revenue of the business. Fee structures like this could help smaller businesses to stay compliant with regulations while preventing them from being burdened by punitive fines that could potentially undermine their ability to stay solvent.

During my tenure on the Glendale City Council, we established a successful program to support small businesses in our city by streamlining permitting and enlivening the existing streetscape to attract new businesses. By focusing our efforts, we transformed the landscape in our city for small and larger businesses alike. I hope that some these ideas will translate at the state level and bring the benefits of these programs around California.

Finally, we need to look at the individual barriers to business ownership that too often fall along gender and racial lines. I plan to do everything I can to make sure all people have equal access to the resources required to pursue their dreams.

I plan to take a hard look at the permit process, the rates of penalty fees, and work with the community to come up with programs that will help give access to the information and resources necessary for people of all kinds to succeed in business.

Small businesses are the life-blood of our communities, facilitating and improving the functions of our day-to-day lives. As such, I will work hard to make sure that we can solve our problems, issue-by-issue, to make sure that we all have equal and fair access to participate in this most democratic aspect of our economy.


LAURA FRIEDMAN represents La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale and Burbank and other communities comprising the 43rd Assembly District.