L.A. 2020 Commission’s silence on Hollywood jobs ‘surprising’
A new report on spurring job growth in Los Angeles covers the bases, but leaves Hollywood out of the picture.
The Los Angeles 2020 Commission report, titled “A Time for Action,” was commissioned last year by City Council President Herb Wesson and offers various prescriptions to reverse a net decline in jobs over the last two decades.
The recommendations include such ideas as promoting bioscience research, establishing a regional tourism authority and combining the ports of L.A. and Long Beach.
But film industry advocates said they were disappointed that there was no discussion of what should be done to reverse a long-term decline of employment in L.A.'s entertainment industry.
Hollywood’s labor unions have been saying for years that L.A. leaders don’t pay enough attention to protecting one of the area’s economic pillars, allowing other states and countries to lure away film and TV production with rich tax credits and rebates. Mayor Eric Garcetti, however, has appointed veteran entertainment industry attorney Ken Ziffren as a film czar to lobby for stronger state film tax credits to make California more competitive.
“It is a little surprising to me that it wasn’t at least a focal point of the report,” said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A. Inc., which handles film permits and promotes the local film industry. “So much around the city is tied to the entertainment industry, and the job losses in this industry are pretty critical. It’s one of the quickest things that could turn the economy around.”
Locally, the entertainment industry remains among the largest private employers, with about 250,000 jobs and an output of $60.9 billion in 2012, or 11% of Los Angeles County’s overall economy, according to a recent report from the Otis College of Art and Design.
But L.A.'s entertainment economy has been losing market share. California lost 16,137 film and TV industry jobs (mainly in the L.A. region) between 2004 and 2012, an 11% decline, according to a recent report by the Milken Institute, as jobs fled to such states as New York, New Mexico and Louisiana.
In an earlier report, released in January — one that painted a bleak picture of L.A.'s ills — the 2020 Commission briefly acknowledged the problem of entertainment jobs losses in one paragraph of a 43-page document that highlighted high poverty rates, chronic budget shortfalls and failing public schools.
The follow-up report released Tuesday, however, did not address the entertainment sector among any of the 13 policy recommendations the commission said would “put the city on a path to fiscal stability and renew job creation.”
“It’s very odd to raise a concern in the opening document and leave it un-addressed in the conclusion,” said Kevin Klowden, a managing economist at the Milken Institute.
The report’s focus on tourism, he added, would have provided a natural opportunity to discuss the importance of the film and TV industry to L.A.'s economy.
“I’m very surprised that the film industry was not at least touched on in reference to tourism because it is such a key component of tourism,” Klowden said.
But Austin Beutner, a former investment banker and L.A. deputy mayor and co-chair of the private commission, said there was a lack of consensus among its members on the best strategies to boost local entertainment jobs and that the topic had already been addressed by others.
“Clearly the loss of entertainment jobs has impacted the community. Clearly we need to do what we can to bring those [jobs] back,” Beutner said at a Times editorial board meeting. “I don’t think there’s any debate in the group about that. We just said … ‘Others are covering it and we don’t have consensus on whether that’s the highest and best use of tax dollars.’”
Beutner was former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s jobs czar. He was joined by several other high-profile business, civic and labor leaders on the commission, none from the entertainment industry. They included former California Gov. Gray Davis; former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, a candidate for county supervisor; and Commission Chair Mickey Kantor.
Kantor, a veteran Los Angeles lawyer and former U.S. Commerce secretary, said the commission had to limit the scope of its recommendations.
“We didn’t deal with transportation and traffic,” he said at the editorial board meeting. “We didn’t deal with education. We didn’t deal with homelessness. We didn’t deal with the environment. We’re 13 people without staff. So we dealt with … what we understood.”
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