Businesses in Beverly Hills scored a victory as voters in that city overwhelmingly defeated a measure hiking taxes on professional firms, private parking garage operators and oil companies.
But business interests in Los Angeles, where turnout was around 14 percent, did not fare as well in the March 3 vote. In other cities around L.A. County, measures that were opposed by business prevailed.
But Measure P, which the Beverly Hills City Council placed on the ballot last fall, aroused such fierce opposition from the city's business community that support collapsed, prompting voters to defeat the measure March 3 by a whopping 79 percent to 21 percent.
The impact of the recession also made a difference to voters.
"Measure P would have increased the cost of doing business in Beverly Hills when businesses could least afford it," said Dan Walsh, president of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce. "We are very pleased that residents recognize the value of businesses to the community and defeated the business tax measure."
In Los Angeles, a measure giving more powers to the City Council to grant incentives to attract and retain business failed by a narrow margin. Also, a business-backed candidate for the Fifth Council District on the city's Westside, Adeena Bleich, came in third in a field of six. The top two vote-getters neighborhood activist David Vahedi and former state Assemblyman and West Hollywood City Councilman Paul Koretz will face each other in a May runoff and are not viewed as business friendly. Vahedi is staunchly anti-development, while Koretz has been a strong backer of and has enjoyed extensive support from labor unions.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa won re-election with 56 percent of the vote against nine challengers, while Councilwoman Wendy Greuel cruised to victory in her bid for city controller. Both were endorsed by business interests.
Most business groups also supported L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss in his run for city attorney; Weiss placed first among five candidates, but did not obtain the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff against Carmen Trutanich.
Another likely victory for business: The defeat of Measure B, which would have funded a massive Los Angeles Department of Water and Power solar power infrastructure program. Most business groups opposed it on the condition that much of the work would have gone to the DWP and its employee unions instead of private sector companies. While the vote count was close, it didn't appear tight enough for the outcome to change once late absentee and provisional ballots were counted.
Meanwhile, in La Mirada, voters approved a nearly 50 percent hike of the city's hotel bed tax, from the current 7 cents on the dollar to 10 cents by 2013. In Carson, voters approved a 2 percent levy on electricity and gas bills for both residents and businesses. In Bellflower, Cudahy, Gardena and Redondo Beach voters chose to maintain existing utility taxes or increase them.
In almost all these cases, supporters said if the tax hikes were not approved, there would be steep cuts in services. Voters apparently accepted the argument.
Even in Beverly Hills, a survey of likely voters last year indicated support for the business tax increase. Measure P would have imposed new taxes on private parking lots and garages; increased taxes on oil companies drilling under the city; and sharply increased business license taxes paid by lawyers, doctors and other professionals.
But that survey was taken before the economic crash in the fourth quarter and before the business community woke up to the threat of higher taxes. The Beverly Hills chamber and other business groups mobilized around a message that businesses would pass the higher taxes on to their customers. The opposition to the measure was so intense that none of the eight candidates for three seats on the City Council supported it, and even some of the council members who voted to place the measure on the ballot backed away from it.
Los Angeles business interests gave only mild support to the business incentive measure on that city's ballot.
"We're disappointed that Measure E did not pass," said Gary Toebben, chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "We saw it as a great way to begin a public discussion on how L.A. retains jobs it has and attract new jobs in the future."
But there was some concern labor unions could hijack the measure during its implementation and impose restrictive conditions on incentive packages.
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