Is LA 20/20, the high-powered committee that includes former Gov. Gray Davis and was selected by former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor and multimillionaire Austin Beutner to find ways to bring economic health to L.A., a bit light on entrepreneurs and others who can create jobs?
Jack Humphreville, the city's Neighborhood Council budget advocate, says, “There's no one … from neighborhood councils. There also aren't any members from our key industries: aerospace, entertainment and tourism.”
Two prominent members of the committee, Gray Davis and Latham & Watkins attorney David Fleming, were much more upbeat about their ability to suggest changes that could alter the city's moribund economy:
Fleming calls the timing for this group — which was proposed by L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson — perfect:
Davis says LA 20/20 will look to other areas on the West Coast that are thriving, such as the Bay Area. “We need Los Angeles to be seen as a viable tech hub,” says Davis, “and a spot on the map to hold conventions.”
The Los Angeles Basin and nearby counties together rank 15th in gross domestic product in the world, between South Korea and the Netherlands, Davis notes.
But many point out that high-tech “Silicon Beach” — which is really a mix of businesses in the Westside, downtown, the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood — has risen largely without City Hall, where very few of the elected leaders have previous background in private business, or any expertise in boosting private-sector jobs.
“First and foremost we will report on the city's financial condition, as well as options to improve that condition. Beyond that, we are likely to come up with options and recommendations on how to create jobs and attract businesses and make Los Angeles a good place to live and work.”
Mickey Kantor handpicked the committee, which he insists is fully independent of Wesson or the Villaraigosa Administration.
Fleming says that the committee members will meet privately with representatives of the city's key industries and entrepreneurial fields, as well as leaders from the city's dozens of distinct neighborhoods.
Humphreville, the neighborhood council budget-watcher, was deeply disappointed that the group is heavily weighted toward civic and business leaders who are too close to City Hall and the big downtown power interests.
But Fleming, a prominent resident of the San Fernando Valley, argues:
“We can't put together a committee that includes every single faction in L.A. We want to a make the government fiscally sound and create an atmosphere that will attract more commerce. We have been losing a lot of businesses and jobs because of what the city has done in the past. We have to make sure that elected officials are careful when creating regulations on small businesses.”
“We want to hear everything. We want the best ideas and the truth. Then we will talk to everyone we can and make an informed decision on what to do to fix our situation.”
In September, their findings will be made public and then presented to the City Council and new mayor.
But Humphreville is dubious:
“The real questions is, will the City Council and mayor adhere to these suggestions or will the city continue to become insolvent?”
Fleming explains that the objectives of LA 20/20, a volunteer committee not funded by City Hall, is to “have eyes outside of City Hall, to take an objective and intensive look at fiscal problems, and [structural] problems of city government.”