If you’re a
business person who has to deal with the city of Los Angeles, you may
get the feeling you’re watching that old movie, "Three Faces of Eve."
I mean, Los Angeles must have a multiple personality disorder. How else can you explain this:
On Tuesday, Councilman Tom LaBonge
stood up at an event in which the governor and the mayor, among others,
congratulated themselves for helping a bioscience business stay in Los
Angeles. He implied that he was all in favor of helping businesses.
LaBonge told the crowd that when he first met Austin Beutner, L.A.’s
so-called jobs czar, a few months back, he instructed Beutner to "do
what we can" to help businesses.
And then on Wednesday – the very
next day – LaBonge stood on the Miracle Mile and tried to explain to
reporters why he introduced two motions that essentially would ban
gourmet food trucks – what may be the fastest growing of L.A.’s green
shoots – from selling in the most popular areas of Los Angeles. (I
criticized LaBonge on his food truck stance in a column last January
for his astounding and arrogant comment that he didn’t think "this new
wave of entrepreneurialism is something that people want to see.")
So what does LaBonge believe? Is he
a supporter of free enterprise? A guy who’ll "do what we can" to help
business? Or a guy who stomps on green shoots? Is he Eve White or Eve
LaBonge may be the most
entrepreneurially confused of our elected leaders, but he’s not alone.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is perfectly comfortable playing the Joanne
Woodward part; you never know if you’re going to get the nice guy who
pats job-creators on the head or the conniver who stabs them in the
Just last week, for example, when
Goldman Sachs announced that it was expanding its national
entrepreneurship-boosting program throughout Los Angeles County,
Villaraigosa was quick to jump in front of that parade.
"My No. 1 priority is getting the
people of Los Angeles back to work," Villaraigosa said in a press
release. He went on to say that the Goldman Sachs program "will have a
real impact on the lives of the 70 percent of Angelenos who are
employed by small businesses."
If you read that, you might think
he’s a guy who understands the importance of entrepreneurship and job
creation. It’s his No. 1 priority!
But Villaraigosa went even further
last week. He announced a "tax holiday" in which startups and incoming
businesses don’t have to pay the city’s gross receipts tax for three
years. That was at the same appearance with the governor and LaBonge,
the one in which they separately announced the expansion of an
enterprise zone that will give a tax break and help the bioscience
business stay in town, preserving 600 jobs.
Personally, I think these moves go
too far. Why should some businesses get a tax break, but not others?
Still, these tax breaks by elected officials at least show they have an
impulse to help businesses.
Yet Villaraigosa can suddenly turn,
Eve Black-like, as he did last year and cruelly exterminate hundreds of
small trucking firms at the city-owned Port of Los Angeles. And
speaking of the port, it is now snubbing a business that wants to
create up to 1,000 jobs there. So we’ve got a city government that
gives a tax break to one business to keep 600 jobs but suddenly changes
personality and brushes off another business that wants to create 1,000
jobs without a tax break.
So is Los Angeles a city that wants
to help businesses, and sometimes will even go too far to do so? Or
does it want to kill them? Do we have Eve White or Eve Black?
You might recall that in the movie,
eventually a third personality emerged. She was named Jane, and she
reconciled the two Eves and went on to live a normal life – well, as
normal as a recovering wacko can be.
I might be a hopeless idealist, but
maybe Los Angeles can find its third personality. One that won’t give
tax breaks for a favored few. One that won’t wantonly kill off its job
creators. A third one. One that’s rational, predictable and, you know,