SCLPC Policy Research

Five Ways to Tell If Your City Is Business Friendly

By Shirley Aldana
For the Latino Policy Connection

To support our Feature Article, “The Rebirth of Redevelopment?” I recently interviewed Professor of Political Science, Morris Levy, at the University of Southern California who provided me with five measures Southern California local Latino elected officials, particularly city council members and mayor, could consider to gauge the business-friendly environments of their communities.

IMG_4787He shared a list of five areas he says cities should review or consider in their efforts to measure their business climate policies. They include:

  • Business Tax
  • Regulartory Policies
  • Licensing and New Business Registration
  • Agglomeration
  • Surveys

Business Tax
Does your city offer temporary tax breaks? According to Professor Levy “some municipalities are willing to make allowances and offer businesses a lower tax break or sometimes even give multiple year breaks on taxes altogether. Why? Because by attracting a robust employer base, by offering tax credit/breaks, it will be worth the lost tax-revenue in the short run.”

fall_forum_2013_arm_crowdOne conclusion is that cities try to attract companies with low or no-tax privileges, which in turn draw workers who pay income tax on their earnings, and contribute to the economy. A caveat he said “is to also look at tax rates on the individuals who are likely to be working at high-income jobs is important too.” Why? Highly paid athletes sometimes make determinations of where they will go based on how much of their earnings they actually get to keep as in an example.

More resources on the impact of taxes on local economies here.

(Writer’s Note)
In 2011, when I worked for the Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association (GLANCDA), Los Angeles City Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, called to end business taxes to attract franchised new car dealers, stating new car dealers left the Figueroa Corridor to surrounding cites that offered lower business tax incentives. GLANCDA worked with then-LA City Council members Garcetti, Perry and Englander on this effort, and in 2012 the business-tax exemption was offered to the car dealers. In 2014, newly elected LA City Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed an expansion of that exemption and phasing out business tax all together for Los Angeles City.

long linesRegulatory Policies
Professor Levy encourages city policymakers and managers to evaluate both the rules on the books and the enforcement of certain regulatory policies. Sometimes Professor Levy says those policies may add undo burdens to doing everyday business.   Regulations such as pollution control and employee safety provide important benefits to those communities, but a local economy yoked with unnecessary regulations stifles growth, he says. A review and removal of these regulations could ease the burden of doing business according to Professor Levy.

More about the impact of regulatory policies on local economies.

carnavalLicensing and Registration of New Businesses
How long and what exactly does it take to get a business license? Professor Levy has found that the length of time it takes for an individual or corporation to register or get a business license could be a key indicator if they will come to a specific city or region. He also notes that a “business healthy municipality will likely be one that has attracted an immigrant base as entrepreneurs and workforce and consumers.” With several cities in this region boasting significant immigrant communities, it’s worth asking local policymakers if their local economies provide opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs to establish and grow their businesses.


Agglomeration is the phenomenon of economic activity congregating in or close to a single location, rather than being spread out uniformly over space.

While a city’s policies are a major component to measure business friendly environments, it is not always the only influence. Other factors like agglomerations could be at play, says Professor Levy. Silicon Valley is a great example. High tech companies were drawn to those places where similar companies had already established a workforce and a vibrant tech “community” was in full swing. When this happens there is a synergy that fuels information sharing as well as a competitive environment that stimulate further innovation. In addition, companies seek environments where they can draw from and recruit a similarly skilled workforce.

Here’s an article about how public transit can stimulate local economies.

Finally, Professor Levy says another critical area to assess is business “friendliness,” which is often difficult to gauge using other indicators like taxes, regulatory policy, licensing delays or agglomeration. Cities should consider conducting surveys, not only of businesses from their region, but also of businesses considering coming to the region. Why? “Because figuring out both the level of satisfaction of those in the region, but also taking the considerations of those businesses you would like to attract could shed light on those objective indicators like taxes and regulatory policy that may be need to be revised.”

Link to a great article about what makes a city business friendly.

Shirley Aldana has over ten years of business and non profit management experience. She is a senior at the University of Southern California where she is finishing her degree in Urban Applied Anthropology with a focus in Race, Ethnicity and Politics. She is currently the Membership Coordinator for the Southern California Latino Policy Center.

“New Funding Strategies to Fuel Smart Growth Successes”

The Local Government Commission hosted a 3-hour workshop November 13 in Long Beach on “New Funding Strategies to Fuel Smart Growth Successes.”

The workshop is based on a new guidebook LGC developed on innovative tools and strategies to fund community revitalization and enhancement projects. Topics included Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts, New Market Tax Credits, Community Benefit Agreements, tactical urbanism, active transportation program and more.


Policymakers Aim to Bring Technology into Classrooms and “Leave No Child Offline.”

By Bill Britt
Latino Policy Connection Contributing Writer

5VD_0140When it comes to finding different ways to get technology into more California schools, Dr. Darryl Adams should be regarded as a pioneer. As the superintendent of schools for the Coachella Valley Unified School District, Adams heads up one of the poorest school districts in the nation but he relies on a toolbox of rich ideas.

“I kind of consider myself the messenger for the movement of a 21st Century education,” he said, just moments after sharing his message with attendees at the Latino Policy Forum’s “21st Century Cities and Schools” on the campus at Cal State LA where he repeated his favorite mantra: “It’s time to leave no child offline, as opposed to leaving no child behind, because if we don’t have them connected we surely will leave them behind.”

AVV_5391Adams, along with Dr. Vanitha Chandrasekhar, the Education Technology Coordinator for the Long Beach USD and Rancho Minerva Middle School principal Ben Gaines from the Vista USD were panelists for the Forum’s “Wired Schools” workshop, a 90-minute show-and-share discussion about using new technologies to approve academic achievement.

“One of the biggest things we have to realize,” Chandrasekhar said, “is students today are digital natives. They’ve been born and brought up with technology and they’re used to it. We need to give them the ability to use it effectively for their own learning.”

Coachella landed in the national spotlight when President Obama singled it out at last year’s White House ConnectEd Conference, which seeks to empower classrooms with technology and connect all students to high-speed Internet. Adams, who had been invited to the event by the President, was more than delighted to hear Obama heap praise on his school district’s plan to expand internet access to Coachella’s east valley with Wi-Fi routers mounted on school buses.

AVV_5591“This is really smart,” Obama said at the time. “You’ve got underutilized resources — buses in the evening — so you put the routers on, disperse them, and suddenly everybody is connected. Now it’s not just students who can get online. It’s their families as well.”

Chandrasekhar says that type of success comes from having a plan. “When we just bring the technology in, put it in the classrooms without any support, without any training or purpose it sits there and it’s not as effective as it could be.”

5VD_0005Coachella’s planning stage resulted in the district’s Educational Technology Division. After all, Adams explains, “We have information technology [IT] support, but you’ll need educational technology support for teachers. You’ll want to cross-train your IT and Ed Tech teams and have them work with teachers and administrators. That cuts down on a lot of despair and people not being certain about what they’re doing.”

And according to Adams, there was no despair among educators who’ve been teaching long enough to literally be referred to as Old School. “We have a teacher certification program in educational technology called the Samari Program to help train teachers on how to transfer to a 21st century style [of teaching.] We’re very excited to see that everyone is willing to make the change.”

AVV_5921Forum attendee Liliana Monge is a co-founder of Sabio, LA, an innovative developer training program aimed at attracting women and people of color. She’s hoping Adams’ road to success will be well-traveled by policymakers eager to follow his lead.

“Everyone has to finally contend with this tech elephant in the room. We no longer have the ability to say technology is something that’s optional. It’s not. I told Dr. Adams that he’s been to the promised land. He knows it’s real and he’s going to help all of us get there. And that’s what we all need to aspire to.”


Coachella Valley Unified School District is using technology to change the classroom and student’s lives. Watch their video:


Hi-Tech Classrooms with Low Budgets

by Bill Britt
The Latino Policy Connection

education freeze

School administrators who think limited budgets prevent them from putting the latest learning technology in their classrooms can learn a lesson or two – actually, three lessons – from Paul De La Cerda, a Southern California Latino Policy Center board member and a Trustee at the Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita.

Back in 2008, Saugus Unified did something that’s still considered remarkable today. After receiving a federal grant to provide laptops to every 4th grader in the district, students’ test scores skyrocketed in just fourth months. Equally impressive was the new software that included a unique translation feature that let English language learners receive feedback and corrections in their native language.

“It’s never too early to introduce them to the technology they’ll be required to use in the workforce,” De La Cerda says. “As a career technical education administrator, I’m looking at how we’re using technology to support industry demand.”

education freeze2

So, how do you get technology in classrooms when the B-word, “budget” seems to put a damper on those efforts? The answers lie in De La Cerda’s aforementioned three lessons; his 3-step plan for policymakers looking to bring classrooms into the 21st Century.

“Step one is to form a technology planning committee with administrators, parents and teachers, industry technology advisors, and definitely one or two school board members. It’s an inclusive approach that doesn’t fall on just one person to tackle the problem so the responsibility is shared by all the stakeholders.

“Step two, talk about where your technology stands right now, where you’d like it to be, and what you want to accomplish. This is where the budget plan comes in.” Instead of focusing on your current budget, De La Cerda suggests looking at the budget you need, and then “find ways to bring money in. Set up a strategy to look at grants or any other alternative funding like bond measures.”

De La Cerda’s Step Three: Schedule committee meetings on a regular basis to keep everyone updated on the latest learning technology and familiarize themselves with software that has proven to be effective in the classroom. “That way, the superintendent stays informed and the person designated as your Director of Technology will know his or her marching orders when the committee comes up with a plan.”

While the goal is getting cost effective and productive technology into classrooms, the challenge is finding ways to stay current. As De La Cerda points out, “I used the same textbooks my brother was reading five years ahead of me. If we hand down a laptop or iPad in 5 years, it’s obsolete.”

School administrators can get a jump-start on this entire process at the Summer 2015 Latino Policy Forum on June 6 at Cal State LA, which will feature a panel discussion titled, “21st Century Schools.”

education tech

Cracking the Code: The Secret to Boosting Latino Technology Workforce

By Bill Britt
The Latino Policy Connection

tech latinos 2There are more than 79-thousand computing jobs available in California right now, and just over 5-thousand computer science graduates in this state. Do the math, even if you’re not good at it. There’s a ton of technology jobs out there and it’s almost like no one’s going after them.

At least one person thinks our students are actually ignoring those jobs because they have the wrong idea of what it takes to be “good at it.”

liliI want school board members and superintendents to understand one thing. Not all computer industry jobs are math intensive and complicated. In fact, some of them are the most rewarding jobs out there because they involve lots of creativity.

Liliana Monge – Sabio.LA

Liliana Monge is talking mainly about coding; the act of writing a specific language that tells software exactly what you want it to do. If you can code, you can create the next app that teaches people how to play guitar, talk to political candidates, or help provide meals for hungry families.

In fact, those three apps are real; created by students and job seekers who learned to code thanks to Sabio.LA, a learning and training program co-founded by Monge and her husband. “We wanted to make a concerted effort to get more women and people of color into coding.”

latino tech 1An intensive, immersive experience modeled after a program called the Developer Boot Camp, SabioLA does a lot more than train people to code. “We help them prepare for interviews, we connect them with recruiters, we review their resumes and we get them jobs in the technology workforce.”  And, long after they’re employed, SabioLA offers to help students gain professional development skills and find opportunities for leadership.

Next month, local elected officials attending the Summer 2015 Latino Policy Forum, “21st Century Cities and Schools, will hear a lot more about effective ways of using technology to help face a variety of challenges in education and municipal settings. Monge will be there for a workshop on getting more Latinos into the technology workforce pipeline. She’s hoping administrators will realize that coding is one of the most attractive ways to accomplish that.

“After all, we’re giving people the skills to create new opportunities that actually mean something to them.”



Social Media Tips for Elected Officials


By: Dennis Hernandez, 

Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and even email, are powerful tools available to city council and school board members. Facebook and Twitter accounts are easy to create. Communicating with constituents about an issue coming before the board or sharing your ideas about the Common Core standard can be fast and responses from constituents can be furious. But some elected officials have run into trouble using social media. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Think about how you want to communicate: Social media can be fully interactive or can be more limited. You have options. You can set up your Facebook page or blog to allow comment and feedback from constituents, or it can be information only, not allowing comment. If you want to be fully interactive, there are risks: risk that you will offend someone, risk that you will turn people off, and risks that you will invite that crazy constituent that shows up at every meeting to continue the rant online.
  2. You can’t take it back: The biggest problem in social media is the fact that the send button is easy to reach. Be thoughtful and deliberate in your communications with constituents. Think about each post as if it were going out on your personal stationary. Don’t hit send if you wrote the post in anger or if you were in a hurry. Show it first to a trusted source. Look for typos and grammatical errors. And remember, sometimes the story is not about what you said, but how you said it.
  3. Don’t blur the lines: As an elected official, you have a pubic life as a legislator and public official, a political life (that is the work of getting reelected), and a private life. When using social media, keep these different roles in mind as you communicate. You wouldn’t want to share personal or confidential information on your public education page, and you certainly don’t want to campaign on a city website. Each of these roles involves a different kind of communication. Keep them straight.
  4. Know the rules: If you are using publicly-owned technology (computer, email, website), check to see if there are policies governing the use of social media. Know that you are creating a public record. Follow rules 1, 2 and 3 above.

Democracy is alive and well online. As an elected official, you can use social media to educate, communicate, and to build a strong following on the issues you are passionate about. Keep these tips in mind, and you will be ahead of the game.

Dennis is an attorney in private practice with more than thirty years experience with municipal, education and other public sector clients.