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Thursday, Feb 2, 2023

Business Groups Hope to Work With City Hall Vet

Business groups are overwhelmingly supporting City Hall veteran Carolyn Ramsay in this week’s election to replace Tom LaBonge on the Los Angeles City Council.

The political action committees of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, the Central City Association and the Los Angeles County Business Federation have all endorsed Ramsay, former chief of staff for LaBonge.

Ramsay is facing off against David Ryu, a community health center executive and staffer to former Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, for the right to succeed the termed-out LaBonge.

The mostly residential district stretches from the Miracle Mile on Wilshire Boulevard, through Hancock Park and Griffith Park before heading west into Sherman Oaks.

In supporting Ramsay, the business groups cite her long experience at City Hall.

“Carolyn has the experience and independence to effectively grow our local economy, invest in small business and make our city more financially sustainable,” said Gary Toebben, chief executive of the L.A. chamber.

Toebben also cited Ramsay’s commitment to creating a Hollywood innovation zone to grow entertainment and tech jobs in the area.

Ryu has not garnered support from local business groups, though campaign spokeswoman Rachel Estrada said he has endorsements from individual business owners and the California Restaurant Association.

But business groups might not have unrivaled influence over Ramsay should she prevail. She also has endorsements from many of the major labor organizations in town, including the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

The umbrella labor association’s leader, Rusty Hicks, said Ramsay’s experience at City Hall will enable her to be well-positioned to get to work on day one.

Meanwhile, in races for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education, which are also being decided this week, the chamber and VICA have both endorsed incumbent Tamar Galatzan for one of the San Fernando Valley seats.

The chamber is also supporting education lecturer Ref Rodriguez, who is challenging incumbent Bennett Kayser, as well as incumbent and current board President Richard Vladovic.

Cool on Wage Hike

In voting to hike the citywide minimum wage to $15 an hour last week, a Los Angeles City Council committee tried to ease concerns of local businesses by giving an additional year or two for them to comply.

Instead of requiring $13.25 an hour by 2017 as Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed in the summer, the new deadline for that wage would be mid-2018 for large businesses and mid-2019 for businesses with fewer than 26 employees. And instead of $15 an hour by 2019 as six council members earlier proposed, the deadlines would be mid-2020 for large businesses and mid-2021 for small ones.

But business groups say the added time is not enough.

“The committee’s plan will still lead to job loss, reduction in employee hours, some movement of businesses out of the city and fewer entrepreneurs who will choose the city as the location for their new operation,” said Ruben Gonzalez, senior vice president for public policy with the chamber.

The business groups want the deadlines pushed even further out and the threshold for small business raised.

“We believe that $15 by 2020 still goes too far, too fast, for many of our small businesses,” said Nicole Janelle Shahenian, vice president of public policy for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “We are requesting a longer phase-in period that would allow our small business to reach $13.25 no sooner than 2020 and $15 no sooner than 2022.”

Shahenian also said she’d like the city to count companies with up to 250 employees as small businesses.

Both business groups were mum on a proposed statewide wage-hike initiative that could render the city plan largely moot.

Last month, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West introduced a measure aimed at the November 2016 ballot that calls for $1 annual increases in the minimum wage until it reaches $15 on Jan. 1, 2021, a nearly identical timetable to the committee’s proposal.

Taxis Get a Break

For the last couple of years, taxicab companies have waged a losing battle to slow the advance of rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft.

But last week, they scored a rare victory. The Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to relax some of the stringent rules that have hampered the ability of taxis to compete on fares and service with the ridesharing companies. It’s apparently the first time any U.S. city has taken such an action, though city of L.A. officials have also been considering similar breaks.

Specifically, the Long Beach council allowed Long Beach Yellow Cab – the only licensed cab service in the city – to offer promotional fares to counter the often cheaper fares offered by rideshare companies. For decades, taxi companies have had to abide by minimum rates, with no ability to discount.

“Promotional fares are offered all the time by rideshare companies, but we have been banned by law from doing so, which has really tied our hands,” said William Rouse, general manager for Long Beach Yellow Cab.

The council also gave the company the right to adjust its fleet size to meet changing customer demand, up to a maximum of 199 taxis. Current law caps the number of cabs at 179 in the city. In addition, the council ordered city staff to examine the possibility of allowing part-time taxis into the city during peak demand periods.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

Howard Fine
Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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