Friday, October 3, 2008

Mixing Business and Politics: Government Leaders Visit Local Chambers

The port, education system and political reform are pivotal factors in California’s social fabric and economic power, state political leaders told the Harbor Area business community this week.

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi spent all day Tuesday in San Pedro on an economic, environmental and educational tour.

After meeting with port officials in the morning, Garamendi visited with Port of Los Angeles High School students before delivering the keynote remarks at a San Pedro Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

As Councilwoman Janice Hahn noted in her introduction of the lieutenant governor, Garamendi sits on the State Lands Commission. The agency has sometimes drawn the ire of San Pedro leaders seeking to redevelop parts of town considered within the “tidelands” areas, where land use is restricted to maritime-related functions.

“State Lands must expand its horizon,” said Garamendi. “There needs to be a broader definition of ‘marine’ – the port – and the surrounding community. You’re already doing this and more will have to be done as we grow the port.”

Chamber board chair John Ek, left, and CEO Camilla Townsend present artwork to Lt. Gov. John Garamendi.

As a state senator in the 1980s, Garamendi commissioned a study which identified five determining factors of economic strength: education, research, infrastructure, manufacturing and international scope.

According to Garamendi, the study’s findings remain relevant to the current economy with the addition of a sixth principle he described as a willingness and ability to change.

Citing state budget cuts to education and student dropout rates, Garamendi painted a bleak picture of the education system but pointed to the port high school as an example of effective education for a high-tech workforce.

Don’t expect the tide to turn by next year’s state budget, Torrance Assemblyman Ted Lieu told members of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce this week.

Lieu was among the state and local politicians to update peninsula business leaders and Rotary Club members at a legislative luncheon Friday.

Calling this year’s state budget the worst she has seen in her 14 years in the state legislature, Sen. Betty Karnette argued for fundamental reforms to the business of governing.

One reason the state budget was a record 85 days late is the two-thirds vote requirement, Karnette said. California is one of only three states that uses the two-thirds threshold rather than the simple majority vote.

Redistricting, term limits and the tax code need comprehensive reform to reduce partisan gridlock, unlock sources of revenue, increase politicians’ accountability to constituents and simply return legislators’ focus to the job of public service, according to Karnette.

Sen. Betty Karnette gives her analysis of state government as County Supervisor Don Knabe, seated at right, listens.

County Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents San Pedro, said that the state budget cut about $130 million from county social-service programs.

The very programs being cut – probation, mental health and drug and alcohol treatment – are the ones that are most in demand when the economy is down, Knabe said.

The supervisor stressed his strong opposition to Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase to fund public transit.

“There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County and this proposal benefits only one [Los Angeles] for only one project really, the ‘subway to the sea,’” said Knabe, referring to the possible extension of the Metro Red Line from Koreatown to Santa Monica.

“This is an issue of fairness. All we’ve asked is to do it the right way and be fair,” Knabe said.

Candidates vying to represent San Pedro and Palos Verdes made appearances at the luncheon.

State Senate hopeful Lydia Gutierrez and state Assembly candidates Gabriella Holt and Bonnie Lowenthal attended and were introduced to the audience. Lowenthal and Karnette also attended the San Pedro luncheon with Garamendi.

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