Back-and-forth on leasing city parking garages

Pretty lively council session today on whether to proceed with the scheme to raise $53 million by privatizing city garages. But the hand-wringing was really more than that - it was a reminder that L..A.'s disastrous finances will require desperate and unpopular decisions. Actually, the parking dispute is a perfect example of conflicting agendas: Businesses in Westwood and Hollywood say that turning over the garages to private interests will result in higher fees and lost business; city workers, including cops and firefighters, say that not leasing out the garages will result in additonal layoffs and furloughs. The lease idea was short-sighted from the start, but at this point it's probably the best of a sorry list of options - barely. But why has the city and council waited this long to carry out a plan that had been a key component of a budget they signed off on months ago? From City Maven:


Time for enterprise zones to get the heave-ho

Jerry Brown didn't quite say they were a waste of taxpayer dollars, but in proposing to eliminate enterprise zones he all but acknowledges their limited value. The program, which was created in 1984, supposedly encourages development - and job creation - by offering companies special tax breaks if they open operations in chronically depressed areas. I say supposedly because enterprise zones typically do not create jobs that wouldn't otherwise be created. Oh, and they cost quite a bit. The Public Policy Institute of California concluded as much in a 2009 study. From press release:

The PPIC report contrasts employment growth in enterprise zones with comparison areas and concludes that the program, on average, has no effect on job or business creation. The report recommends a re-examination of the program, which offers tax credits and incentives to businesses in 42 designated zones throughout the state. The program's cost in the next fiscal year is estimated at nearly half a billion dollars. "The state can ill afford to continue the enterprise zone program without clearer evidence of its benefits or a well-defined plan to make it more effective," says Jed Kolko, PPIC associate director of research, who co-authored the report with David Neumark, PPIC senior fellow and professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine.


Aircraft program put on 'probation' as part of budget trimming

It's the Marine Corps's F-35 jet, which is being built by Lockheed and has proven to be expensive and unreliable. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the two-year probation as part of an overall plan to save $102 billion in military spending through 2016. The Marines will thus join the Air Force and Navy in delaying acquisition of the Pentagon's biggest weapons project. But this could get interesting because the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is Calfiornia Republican Buck McKeon, who happens to represent parts of the defense-focused Antelope Valley. "I don't like it, but he has been working on these things for a long time and I just got hit with this," McKeon said when asked if he agreed with Gates's plan. "I need some time to think about this a little bit." Guess it's time to see just how committed the Republicans are in cutting the budget. (Reuters)


What Americans don't know about the economy

Quite a bit, according to a Pew Research study. Almost 80 percent know that the federal budget is bigger than it was in the 1990s, and two-thirds realize that the U.S. brings in more foreign goods than it sells overseas. But after that things get iffy. Only 16 percent are aware that more than half of the loans made to banks under TARP have been paid back (an identical percentage says that none has been paid back). Of course if they don't know that, they can't possibly judge whether the bailout program has been effective (something you'd never figure out by the political rantings against TARP). What's really distressing (though not surprising) is the lack of economic knowledge among 18-29-year-olds. On the TARP question, 7 percent answered correctly.




Brown, Whitman, Schwarzenegger on one stage

NBC's Matt Lauer must have known he'd get a rise by asking the two candidates for governor if they would dump all the negative ads for the remaining days of the campaign. The huge crowd at the Long Beach Convention Center went nuts at the suggestion, while both Brown and Whitman looked as if they were both having a really bad case of acid reflux (nobody ever said running for governor was easy). "You've got plenty of positive ads," Lauer said to both candidates, "and you could pull your negative ads and replace them with positive ads." Brown started off by saying "Negativity is in the eye of the beholder," which is true but definitely not what this audience wanted to hear. So Brown did what any savvy politician would do: He changed course. "If Meg wants to do that, I'll be glad to do that. We can settle the discussion later today and I'm sure we could work something out." Understand that Brown is comfortably ahead in most of the polls, so he wouldn't have all that much to lose by taking the high road. For Whitman, however, negative ads are about all she has left. Perhaps that explains her equivocation:

So here's what I'll do. I'll take down any ads that can even be remotely construed as a personal attack. But I don't think we can take down the ads that talk about where Gov. Brown stands on the issues. I just don't think it's the right thing to do.