Leading the City on a Different Parade Route
Beginning today, Angelenos will give L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the L.A. City Council another opportunity to lead our community out of the current recession and the unstable financial crisis at City Hall. Their actions — or inaction — will not only demonstrate their leadership ability, but also determine our City's future for many years to come.
The Mayor presents his budget proposal along with his vision for L.A. at his annual State of the City address this afternoon. As the Los Angeles Times editorialized yesterday, this is the Mayor's moment to prove that he is "capable of managing a city in crisis with steady hands and a cool head." That moment extends to the L.A. City Council who must also prove that they understand the full extent of the city's jobs and fiscal crisis -— and that they have the resolve to confront it head on.
The business community is looking for two things in the Mayor's State of the City address. The first is a laser-like commitment and strategy to be a partner with the private sector in growing new jobs and an expanded tax base. The second is a sustainable plan to focus on core city services and manage the City's human and financial resources within the current revenue base.
Mayor Villaraigosa made a strong statement about the need for new jobs when he hired Austin Beutner as the city's "jobs czar" three months ago. Beutner was given the flexibility of bringing in a new team of experienced business people to drive changes at City Hall that would make City employees and processes more business friendly. An early success was the new gross receipts tax category for Internet based businesses that will retain high-paying jobs in Los Angeles and encourage other Internet businesses to locate here.
Today's State of the City address should build on these two successes and make it clear that there will be a new overarching goal at City Hall, working with the private sector to create new jobs to replace more than 200,000 jobs the City lost during the past two years.
The City's fiscal crisis began long before the financial meltdown of late 2007. Years of additional hiring, new programs beyond the core mission of city government, and commitments to pension liabilities that threaten to undermine basic day-to-day city services all became more obvious when the City experienced a 5 percent decrease in general fund revenues. The crisis didn't begin with our current elected officials, but it must end with them.
The City of Los Angeles needs a management and financial plan that does not change from day to day. We need the kind of plan that enabled families and businesses to weather the recession when income and revenue decreased and expenses had to be cut to balance the budget. In essence, what the citizens of Los Angeles are looking for is the kind of leadership and decision-making they have expected from themselves during the last two years.
These challenges are not easy, but no family matriarch, business executive or elected official deserves the title of leader if they cannot lead during challenging times. It is easy to lead during the good times; you simply need to run ahead of the parade. I am hopeful that Mayor Villaraigosa will articulate today a clear vision that will lead us into the future via a different parade route. The community is ready for a new plan.
And that's The Business Perspective.
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