Administrators who are responsible for the troubled economic development bureaucracy at City Hall have proposed that they be supervised by a powerful new "senior economic executive" with enough clout to forge a cohesive policy and get it implemented, officials said Tuesday.
The proposal, which will be outlined in a City Hall hearing today, also envisions a restructuring of the Community Redevelopment Agency to give it a citywide role in implementing economic development programs. That would transcend the CRA's current mandate to redevelop limited areas of urban blight.
Since taking office July 1, Mayor Richard Riordan has said that restructuring the economic agencies will be a top priority in his Administration. This initiative, sponsored by four department heads, is likely to become a focal point in the debate over how the city can more effectively promote business opportunities and create jobs.
"I think there's a consensus that we need to do a better job at economic development activities and that they need to be well integrated," said Planning Director Con Howe, who was chairman of the interdepartmental task force that made the recommendations.
The panel, which began meeting after last year's riots, recommended that the city take a more active role in attracting industry with incentives, such as tax breaks, infrastructure financing and job training.
Under the plan, a revamped CRA would become the central point of contact for economic development, remedying the current confusion over which branch of the city has jurisdiction over a patchwork of programs aimed at assisting businesses.
Ultimately, the buck would stop with the new economic executive--possibly someone with the rank of a deputy mayor who would be appointed by the mayor but subject to City Council confirmation.
That arrangement, which would be unique in City Hall, would ensure cooperation between the two branches of government, said Edward J. Avila, administrator of the CRA.
"It means that everyone buys into the fact that this is the point man for economic development in the city," Avila said. "These days it's important that there's accord on major issues. The need to work together is too critical."
The job is reminiscent of the "economic czar" that was a centerpiece of defeated mayoral candidate Michael Woo's economic policy for the city. Riordan--who was unavailable for comment Tuesday on the proposal--countered during the campaign that he would be the economic point man for his Administration.
Avila said the proposal to make his organization the lead agency for implementing economic development programs "was not my idea." But he said it reflected a popular desire to see the CRA use its economic resources outside the city's redevelopment zones.
Howe and Avila met regularly with Parker Anderson, general manager of the Community Development Department; Gary Squier, general manager of the Housing Department, and other city officials in the yearlong process of preparing recommendations for a municipal perestroika.
The report's authors also participated in a series of public hearings on economic development issues held earlier this year by the City Council's Community and Economic Development Committee, which will conduct today's hearing on their plan.
"This is very important because it's the first time we've had the various agencies involved in economic development make a commitment to a coherent policy and a strategy that's badly needed by the city of Los Angeles," said Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, chairman of the committee.
Ridley-Thomas said Riordan's intentions for streamlining the economic bureaucracy are "hardly clear yet," but added that he expects the council and mayor to be able to work together.
"We know what work we've been doing," he said. "The council will have a significant role in economic development."
A serious clash over the substance of the proposal does not seem likely. As the City Council's chief legislative analyst, Riordan's new chief of staff, William R. McCarley, was the author of a report in November that proposed restructuring the economic agencies.