His presentation to Town Hall Los Angeles had the predictable themes: Improvements at LAX and the Port of Los Angeles, partnerships with the universities, better marketing of the city's tourist attractions, more manufacturing, a reduction in the city's business tax. Much of what Beuter proposes seems perfectly reasonable - even admirable - but he left out L.A.'s biggest challenge: The chronic budget deficit and how the general fund has been being eaten away by pension obligations. That's quite the omission. He also didn't really address a more fundamental roadblock: An institutional and political unwillingness to restructure City Hall in the name of good government. You can't will that away with the promise of electric car companies or biotech firms. From the speech:
I have laid out an ambitious agenda, many areas where we will create jobs. Some will say we cannot do it. These same people will choose rhetoric over results, and press conferences over progress every time. The career politicians in this town will continue to extol the virtues of faster horses. After all, they have spent their entire careers living in the barnyard called City Hall. It's a conversation for another day about the barnyard odor from the way business is commonly conducted at the corner of 1st and Spring...
Beutner and the other mayoral candidates should listen to an NPR interview this morning with Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. No, you can't really compare the two cities, but what struck me was the willingness of some very conservative voters to have their taxes raised in order to make their town a better place.
INSKEEP: Why is it that you think that Oklahoma City is doing so much better than many other places?
CORNETT: Well, we've invested conservatively. We, for the last 20 years, have additional penny sales tax that we've invested in a lot of capital projects and we've improved the quality of life. And so with that increase of quality of life comes this incredible human capital. Highly educated 20-somethings are moving to Oklahoma City in large numbers. The Kauffman Foundation recently disclosed that we were the most entrepreneurial city in the country, most start-ups per capita. And so if you have the bright and the young and the talented moving to your city, that's a great labor pool that your entrepreneurs and job creators are going to be able to tap into.
INSKEEP: OK. What does it take then for Republicans in this conservative state, part of which you represent, to sign on to raising taxes in order to make those kinds of investments and amenities?
CORNETT: Well, we've built up political capital in that we have done what we said we were going to do. And so by, you know, a series of limited taxation - a penny on the dollar sales tax, for instance - for a certain number of years, we have explained to voters what that money would be used for, we have built those projects debt-free, and then the taxation ended. And generally, as the capacity ends for that penny on the dollar, we have gone back to them and they have allowed us to continue to have new ideas and to bring new ideas to the table that they support.
NSKEEP: Oh, now, that's interesting. This penny on the dollar keeps expiring and you keep having another vote, which requires you to build public support for it again, and you get that public support.
CORNETT: That's right. You know, it's very fragile but, you know, we have the confidence of the majority of the voters today - and we're very careful not to do anything that might jeopardize it - because, you know, these types of government spending, you know, especially in a conservative city like Oklahoma City, come under great scrutiny. And you know, we do a lot to try and make sure that we spend it wisely.