No word yet on whether Mayor Villaraigosa will name anyone to succeed Austin Beutner as the city's business and economics czar. In his statement on the departure of Beutner, the mayor said that the city would leverage every resource to attract business and jobs, but without a bully pulpit, that's just boiler plate. Beutner had that bully pulpit, certainly within the business community. Now that he's off to run for mayor and Villaraigosa is desperately searching for a legacy (other than dragging down the city into a dark financial hole), I'd imagine that business is no longer priority one. That's too bad because Beutner was actually getting some stuff done. He helped bring in a few important businesses to the city, reduced the amount of time it took for restaurants to receive their permits, and re-instituted the practice of city development folks cold-calling local businesses. He also laid out a plan for major development reform that would significantly streamline the balky permitting process. Here's a snippet from my recent Los Angeles magazine article on L.A. red tape:
With local municipalities retrenching, this could be a good time to consolidate operations and rethink the way that government works with business. "We're dealing with a couple of decades, at least, of bad policy and bad practice," Beutner tells me, punctuating his pitch with management buzzwords like "process" and "transparency" and then explaining how new technology will ultimately save the day by keeping everyone connected. But this isn't an MBA class--it's government bureaucracy at its very worst, and even incremental reform will be a long, bloody slog. Fixing the problem means examining what everybody does, not to mention how well they do it, to determine where the system, in Beutner's words, "can be reorganized and reoriented."
Getting any of that done would have been a long shot, even if Beutner stayed around. But now those plans are likely to be mothballed for at least another couple of years, when a new mayor is sworn in - and that's assuming the new mayor signs onto the need for drastic bureaucratic change.