April 30, 1993 - From the April, 1993 issue

L.A. Mayoral Candidate Griego: Job Creation Key to City Revival

The Planning Report has sought to lift the level of debate on the issues facing Los Angeles by presenting each month the planning visions of the major LA. mayoral candidates. This month, we present an interview with candidate Linda Griego.

Griego left her position as Deputy Mayor for economic development issues to run for mayor. She was previously a Commissioner of the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency and has been a successful businesswoman and owner of Engine Co. No. 28 restaurant.  

Given your experience in this city as a Deputy Mayor and CRA Commissioner, what should be the top two or three priorities for the next Mayor?

My top priority is jobs — getting the economy rolling again and building up that tax base. An equally important priority is the problem of gangs and dealing with the violence on our streets. And the third is reforming this city — making city government work for our constituents. The function of government is to allow people to come together to accomplish collectively what can’t be accomplished individually. 

What are the tools that are at the disposal of the Mayor to tackle these problems? 

The Mayor must be a team builder who can bring together the City Council, department managers, and other city officials to forge ahead with a vision of prosperity for the city. Specifically, the CRA is a tool the city can use — it has the flexibility that other departments lack. Our ties to Washington will also be a priority for me. With Henry Cisneros at HUD and two new U.S. Senators, we’re in a prime position to put Los Angeles’ priorities at the forefront in Washington. 

You’ve talked a great deal in your campaign about economic development issues. Why is it hard in Los Angeles to get these issues onto the agenda? What are the barriers to creating a truly substantive economic discussion? 

It’s such a big city and a large region, that there’s not a good understanding of the economic engine in Los Angeles. We know which industries are here, but we don’t know which industries are growing, which are up and coming, and which we should be bringing into the city to replace industries such as aerospace. Other states have done a great job of getting economic development onto the forefront. California has not done that. Typically, these issues are discussed at the state level but Governor Wilson has not chosen to go that route. 

Los Angeles is unique in that something like 90% of our businesses employ under 100 people, which gives us a flexible business base that is always looking for new markets. As Mayor, I want to take an active role in helping those businesses grow and expand. I heard a statistic that something like 28% of the nation’s job losses last year were in the Los Angeles area. It’s no wonder we’re talking about huge deficits at the state and city level. 

It sounds like most of the mayoral candidates are saying the right things about helping small- and medium­ sized businesses. But where do you differ from the other candidates on economic development issues and their implementation? 

There are two places where I differ. Small businesses need access to capital through small business loans. The City of Los Angeles must do much more than it does in making loans through federal programs in existence. Those are high-risk loans, but the few that make it are worth it. The city has a poor performance record compared to other cities in making loans to small businesses. I want to change that. 

The second issue is the manufacturing base. I don’t hear any of my opponents talking about the manufacturing base, except on very high-tech jobs. I am proposing that the City of Los Angeles create manufacturing networks, tying similar small businesses together, so that small businesses can, together compete for larger contracts and thus create more jobs. Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania has been successful creating such networks and this idea has been successful all over the world, including in Northern Italy. 

What kind of structural changes in the city can help jump-start the economy? 

The most important reform would be to change the attitude of the bureaucracy. Some progress has begun to take place as city staff see that their jobs are directly connected to tax receipts. There has been an anti-business sentiment, that somehow there was something wrong with making money. The new mayor should give the departments a new focus to help businesses who have a stake in Los Angeles.

Is charter reform something you support? 

Absolutely. But I think you need two tracks: to push charter reform and make changes in government where possible immediately. I don’t want to wait until there is charter reform. The mayor can begin to put into place the framework for how charter reform would work. The city departments have been largely autonomous. We need to bring the departments together — like my manufacturing networks, we need government networks. We need to make government service-oriented. 

You were in the Mayor’s office as the Rebuild LA. process began. How as mayor would you handle differently the rebuilding effort and the mayor’s relationship with RLA? 

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I would use RLA more. RLA brings the private sector to the effort through its committees and volunteer base. It’s very important that the city use RLA as a tool. It’s not going to be a catch-all: it’s just one component of the effort. Too much was expected of RLA; it was expected to solve all our problems. How can 50 employees solve our problems accumulated over several decades? RLA got very defensive about it, starting out with “what we don’t do,” instead of saying, “RLA does this, and does it well.” 

RLA has access to many private resources that could be extremely helpful to the Planning Department and the CRA, especially in these times of limited government resources.

How would you begin to reform the Planning Department and implement the recommendations of the 1991 Zucker management audit of the department

The Planning Department ought to be more geographically organized. It ought to have planners assigned to specific geography so that they become that neighborhood’s advocate and expert. Community needs differ: Crenshaw is different from Canoga Park. Also, the Planning Department counter runs completely independently of the rest or the department. There has to be a more coordinated effort in dealing with the city permitting and planning process and the neighborhoods.

But you also need the larger vision — a core policy group looking at how the City of Los Angeles ties in with regional issues. When I’ve dealt with the Planning Department I’ve found every small project is used for planning, and this bogs down the system. Management is difficult when it’s done on a project by project basis — with no overall vision.

One of our interviews in this issue is with Joe Edmiston of the Mountains Conservancy. He says it’s incorrect to say there isn’t good planning taking place in Los Angeles, but it’s not taking place in the City, where 15 Council members pull planning in 15 directions, but rather, in the single-purpose agencies. Do you agree? 

I do agree with the statement. Most city agencies are pulled in 15 different directions, and it’s not just the Planning Department that feels that way. The new Mayor has the ability to start with a clean slate and focus on the districts as contributors to making the city run better. 

One of the largest public works projects in the country is the transportation investment coming up. What do you see as the role of the Mayor in shaping the MTA? 

It will be very important to have people with a vision that goes beyond engineering. This system can help us build a strong economic base, making us the transportation equipment manufacturing leader of the world. We have an opportunity to seed entrepreneurial businesses so that 20 years from now, Los Angeles is the transportation center of the country. 

The people of Los Angeles must benefit from the investment. That is, the transportation system must benefit all areas of the city, so that many of the communities don’t just end up with maintenance yards and storage facilities and little else. 

This is the last of The Planning Report’s mayoral interviews that will run before the primary. Could you reflect on the campaign and discuss what’s been missing from the debate among the candidates that you would have liked to see higher on the agenda?

What’s been missing is actual discussion on what’s wrong with the city and what’s good about the city. Many of the candidates have chosen to attack each other instead of attacking the many problems facing the city. 

There’s a lot of shooting from the hip. I hear candidates say, let’s wipe out CRA or CDD to balance the budget without really understanding how that will affect the community. This is not about arithmetic: we’re dealing with human beings. Someone says L.A. needs 1,000 police officers and our crime problem will be over. Then someone says we need 3,000 officers to do the job.

Los Angeles needs more police. Let’s tackle the core of the problem. There is high unemployment and lots of homelessness. For two decades, little attention has been paid to the demographic changes in L.A. These changes have brought new challenges such as the affordable housing shortage, guns on the streets and over­crowded schools. Those are the issues that need to be discussed. 

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© 2022 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.