The traffic-plagued fifth council district on L.A.’s Westside is notoriously anti-development, but that didn’t stop the six candidates vying to replace exiting councilman Jack Weiss from trying to position themselves as pro-business at a forum last week sponsored by local business groups.
From reducing the city’s gross receipts tax to streamlining the city’s permitting process to hiring a business deputy, each of the six candidates pledged to make the city more business-friendly.
Weiss, an attorney who frequently focused on law enforcement issues during his two terms, is giving up his seat to run for City Attorney. The campaign to replace him is expected to be very closely fought, with all six candidates having raised between $150,000 and $200,000 so far.
Running are former Weiss deputy Adeena Bleich, former state Assemblyman Paul Koretz, former Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce executive Robyn Ritter-Simon, attorneys Ron Galperin and Robert Schwartz and neighborhood council board member David Vahedi.
Ritter-Simon, a Beverlywood resident, had an original suggestion, saying she would appoint a business deputy if elected. “No council member has ever had a deputy exclusively devoted to business concerns,” she said.
Ritter-Simon added that she would also seek to raise the business tax exemption for small businesses to $250,000 from the current $100,000.
Galperin, an L.A. neighborhood council board member, said he too would push for further business tax reform. “The system really needs to be simplified,” he said. Galperin also would beef up the city’s bill collection efforts, a cause taken up by the Valley Industry and Commerce Association.
Schwartz, of Encino, said he would try to make it easier to start up a business in the city and would pressure the state to enact more incentives to keep film production from fleeing the region.
Koretz, who has served as a West Hollywood councilman, said he also would tackle the issue of runaway film production.
Vahedi, also an attorney, said he would do more to implement the city’s program to reduce the number of permitting agencies for most development projects to two from 12.
And Bleich said the city needs to do more to prevent businesses from leaving or shutting down. “There are a lot of vacant storefronts in the district and no one seems to be doing much about that,” she said.
With so many candidates and such a tight race, no one is expected to win a majority vote in the March 3 primary. The top two vote-getters will likely face each other on May 19.
The fifth district includes the Westside area that’s east of the San Diego (405) Freeway and also the San Fernando Valley communities of Encino and Sherman Oaks.
The Jan. 12 forum at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Century City Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Business Journal.