A regulatory relief task force created by Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait presented its first phase of recommendations Monday to make one of the most business-friendly cities in Orange County even more so.
Anaheim, despite having a relatively large tax base thanks mainly to entertainment behemoth Walt Disney Co., was not spared by the recession. Officially, the city has an 11.5 percent unemployment rate, Tait said. But when you count people who have given up looking for jobs it's closer to 18 percent.
"It's time to act, and its time no to act just a little bit. It's time to do something bold," Tait said.
The task force, which comprises city officials and business leaders, offered 16 recommendations to make the city more welcoming to businesses. The recommendations range from instilling a pro-business culture among city staffers to eliminating dozens of types of conditional use permits.
The task force also set a goal of reducing the average permitting process time from 70 days to 60 days.
Dr. Thomas Turk, associate professor of management at Chapman University and chairman of the task force, acknowledged that Anaheim is already more business-friendly than many other cities in Orange County. But the recommendations suggest that even Anaheim has room for improvement.
Turk cited statistics showing that states ranking highly in "economic freedom" have economies that grow 30 percent faster than states ranking low. When applied to the city — an economy that according to Turk could be as large as $19 billion — a high level of economic freedom and the growth spurt it produces could add $190 million to the economy, Turk said.
It would also mean more than $2 million in additional revenue to the city, according to Turk.
Turk said at least some of the recommendations are already being implemented. Previously the city communicated only with property owners' consultants or architects, causing delays not attributable to the property owner, the task force's report states. The city now communicates directly with property owners, Turk said.
While one aim of cutting red tape is to revive a sluggish economy, economic freedom would allow people to achieve their dreams, said Tait and Turk. Turk went so far as to say reducing regulations on businesses was "morally significant."
"Really this is about people having dreams," Tait said. "People look at City Hall as a dream killer often times" because of the red tape.
Said Turk: "For us to get in the way of you being the most you can be, that's unethical."
Other council members supported the task force's recommendations and said that residential developers and homeowners should also be given regulatory breaks.
Councilwoman Kris Murray recommended setting up a "one-stop shop" on the city's website for entrepreneurs who want to open or expand their businesses in the city. The online service would be an "A to Z kit" for businesses to get all the necessary information in one place, Murray said.
Councilwoman Gail Eastman praised a task force recommendation to celebrate the success of assisting businesses in leaping regulatory hurdles. She suggested allowing council members to doll out rewards — like tickets to the city concert venue the Grove of Anaheim — to city staffers.
"How can we structure a real reward system where a new business comes in and you meet that 60 days?" Eastman asked.
For a full list of the task force's recommendations, click here.
— ADAM ELMAHREK