You hear people say it all the time: Los Angeles is a business-friendly town.

C,mon, now. Isn't that a teensy bit hard to believe? I mean, I'd believe Frank McCourt will invite Scott Boras to a weekend fishing trip before I'd accept the notion that Los Angeles loves businesses.

I've railed in the past about how local and state governments here routinely rough up businesses. And now it seems a majority of people here aren't real fond of them, either.

Want evidence? Let's look at Tuesday's election.

In the Fifth District City Council race, you have a candidate whom the business community rallied behind in Adeena Bleich. She won the endorsement of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and former Mayor Richard Riordan. But she lost the election.

The top two vote-getters were David Vahedi, who got lots of support from neighborhood councils that generally are strongly opposed to business expansion and development, and Paul Koretz, who got stout support from labor unions.

Another thing about the election is what we didn't hear: much at all about how businesses here are truly hurting.

Oh sure, Councilman Greig Smith, campaigning for Measure E, pointed out that the population of Los Angeles has grown by 1 million over the last 30 years at the same time the city has lost 50,000 jobs. And that was before the latest round of losses. Other than Smith and a few other isolated examples, it's as if no one notices. And voters don't seem to care. (For more about how businesses fared poorly in the election, see the story on Page 6.)

And then you have Measure E, which would have, in a sense, codified the economic incentive packages that the city could extend to businesses to lure them here or help them expand. It lost 52 percent to 48 percent.

My premise gets a little complicated because I was no fan of Measure E. In fact, I'm philosophically opposed to most economic incentives to businesses. After all, such incentives mean that cities in effect take tax money from one group of businesses and give that money to outside businesses to move here, or to politically connected businesses to expand or stay here. Essentially, you create two classes: one class of businesses pays taxes (those are your existing, loyal but put-upon residents) and the other class gets tax money (those are the outsiders or others looking for a handout). It would be far better and fairer to lower taxes for all businesses and not give out incentives at all.

But I digress, and now I must backpedal. (I said it was a little complicated.) I suspect most voters don't care about all that or they don't even know it. The voters see a proposition like Measure E and it seems simple. Measure E wants to help businesses. So voters ask themselves a basic question: Am I in favor of helping businesses, yes or no?

And 52 percent said no. They don't want to help businesses.

In my book, that makes it hard for Angelenos to argue that Los Angeles is a business-friendly place.

Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at
ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com.

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