Small businesses bend Assemblyman Gatto's ear on industry challenges

Small businesses bend Assemblyman Gatto's ear on industry challenges
(Los Angeles Times)

Small business owners in Burbank and Glendale want Sacramento to realize the ever-dwindling amount of film and television production in L.A. isn't just hurting the big studios.

Speaking at Assemblyman Mike Gatto's (D-Silver Lake) first Small Business Advisory Commission meeting at Woodbury University on Saturday, Mark Dornfeld, owner of Custom Film Effects in Burbank, said the situation was becoming untenable for the countless independent businesses in the industry as tax breaks and cash incentives draw production out of state.

"Film work has been leaving L.A. for a long time, but work used to come back for post-[production], but not any more," he said. "It's imperative for the overall L.A. economy to have this industry strong.

Joe Mealey, owner of Deck Hand Inc. a digital film equipment rental company in Glendale, said Los Angeles is still a premiere city for filming, and he'd like to see the state spread the word.

"There's 300 days a year you can shoot [in L.A.]," he said. "[We should be] promoting this as a place that's easier to shoot, and making it easier to shoot."

Gatto told the business owners that the primary purpose of the advisory commission meeting was to assist him in developing legislation based on the actual needs of constituents in time for introduction to the Assembly by the Feb. 22 deadline.

"Most bills these days are being conceived by and championed by special interests," he said.

The commission is comprised of eight small business owners in his district, which includes Burbank and Glendale as well as the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, North Hollywood and Silver Lake.

Also discussed was Proposition 65, which requires businesses that serve alcohol to display cautionary signage. A provision in the law allows the public to sue businesses for up to $2,500 for each day the signage isn't properly displayed.

Business owners complained that the law is easily abused by some people who file claims with the sole purpose of extracting settlements.

Gatto said that if the intent of the bill was to make sure customers saw the signs, the better option might be giving business owners a chance to fix their mistake. But because Prop. 65 was a voter initiative, he said it would be difficult to make changes from the capitol.

On a separate track, Gatto said he hopes to pursue initiative reform while also seeking a way to prevent unscrupulous profiteering.

Also attending the meeting were small business owners Robbyn Battles, of Battles Real Estate Co., Luis Lopez of Luis Lopez Automotive, Douglas Dickstein of Right At Home and Robin Goldsworthy of the Crescenta Valley Weekly.



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