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Down, Boy

Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov

Nearly four months after it first appeared, a highly publicized report critical of Mayor Richard Riordan’s efforts to bolster the city economy was attacked in turn by the mayor’s own business team this week.

The original report, largely compiled under grant aid by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) with UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education, had found fault with the focus of the mayor’s 5-year-old Los Angeles Business Team. It suggested that the team had exaggerated its accomplishments and focused its primary efforts on low-paying jobs. But the report’s "underpinnings" were quite seriously flawed, said that team’s captain, Deputy Mayor Rocky Delgadillo.

"Simply, [the report’s] methodology was at best questionable and mostly incorrect," Delgadillo declared in a meeting of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee on Monday. He also claimed that one of the report’s initial backers had withdrawn his support from the project on the basis of its alleged flaws.

The report, titled "Taking Care of Business," had primarily attacked the mayor’s business-aid program on the grounds that it focused on "a significant number of low-wage firms," paying well below the city’s "living wage" of $7.51 an hour, plus health benefits, mostly in the retail rather than the manufacturing sector. On a broader front, the report also attacked the mayor’s claim to have "impacted" 300,000 new jobs. As LAANE’s Madeline Janis-Aparicio asserted, "This was the number of jobs created in all of Los Angeles County during the period of the study."

The City Hall meeting room was crowded with supporters of the mayor’s business-outreach team, 40 of whom asked to speak in favor of the mayor’s programs. Delgadillo’s critique, which also appeared in the form of a substantial, printed report, was long awaited. The committee chair, Councilman Mike Hernandez, had postponed the hearing from mid-December to give the mayor’s officials more time to prepare it.

But it did not appear that Delgadillo was able to convince most of the committee’s members that the LAANE/UCLA report was without merit. Councilman Nick Pacheco said, "We don’t need war stories about [the mayor’s] business successes; we’re looking for policy direction."

Hernandez took a conciliatory pose toward both David Runsten, the UCLA researcher who’d steered the LAANE report, and Delgadillo. The councilman, who represents one of the city’s least-affluent districts, said that he found himself compelled to broker between the plans of the mayor’s forces and the wishes of his own constituents on the future of the Taylor Yard property near Chinatown. And he accordingly declined to take sides in the dispute between the reports.

Hernandez admonished both sides to work together on a progressive agenda for Los Angeles. Said Hernandez: "We don’t see the [LAANE] report as negative. We see it as reinforcing where we’re going. And the real question is, where do we move from here?"

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