Los Angeles Business Journal

Commission Recommends Combining Ports, Regulating DWP

By Howard Fine Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A commission of civic leaders on Wednesday recommended combining the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, creating a regional tourism authority and setting up an independent rate-setting body for the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

The Los Angeles 2020 Commission, convened last year by Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson to examine the city’s economic challenges, presented these and other recommendations at a news conference in downtown Wednesday morning.

The commission is co-chaired by former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor and former deputy mayor Austin Beutner. Other members include former Gov. Gray Davis, business leader and attorney David Fleming and DWP union chief Brian D’Arcy.

The report showed steps the city could take to improve governance and increase fiscal stability, such as the new rate-setting body for the DWP – similar to the state Public Utilities Commission – and the creation of an “Office of Transparency and Accountability.”

The report also suggested ways the city and other regional leaders could boost job creation, such as combining the ports, creating a regional tourism marketing authority and investing in industry clusters.

“There are no silver bullets or simple solutions, but our proposed measures, taken a as a whole, are a solid step in the right direction,” Kantor said.

Conspicuously absent from the report’s job creation recommendations was any mention of eliminating or reducing the city’s business tax. The gross receipts tax is the highest in the county and has long been targeted by local business groups as the top barrier for companies locating or remaining in Los Angeles. A proposal to phase out the tax over the next 15 years could come before the council later this year.