By Charles Crumpley, Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Mike Feuer had a nice chance to buff up his somewhat-tarnished relationship with the local business community a couple of weeks ago. Instead, he blew it.
Feuer, the Los Angeles city attorney who seems more eager to sue businesses than help them, came out to the Van Nuys offices of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association on July 26 for what was billed as a workshop with the city attorney on new laws boosting minimum wages and time off for employees. About 30 Valley businesspeople attended, no doubt to hear from Feuer but also to give him a sense of the considerable difficulties and expenses the new law foisted onto them.
After eating lunch, Feuer stood and introduced his staff along with representatives from the county. He described them as dedicated public servants who had to work extra hard to implement the new law, which was rushed so it could go into effect on July 1. Then, surprisingly, Feuer said those staffers could answer questions and he walked out. So much for the workshop with the city attorney.
Those half-dozen or more staffers, dedicated though they may be, were left to face a crowd that soon grew restive and then argumentative. The business operators expressed frustration – or desperation, as one woman put it – about the problems and costs the new law laid on them with no apparent regard from the city. No one at the meeting said it, but I suspect they also felt the sting of disrespect from Feuer.
Feuer has demonstrated that he’s not in the corner of the business community. About a year and a half ago, for example, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that emails showed Feuer’s office worked closely with pro-labor groups in drafting an ordinance to force hotels to pay workers more.
The workshop was a chance for Feuer to make amends with the business community. It was a chance for him to show a little empathy, perhaps to assure businesses, for example, that he’d work to head off lawsuits from lawyers who’ll shake down businesses for failing to implement one or two little provisions of the rushed-in new law, which will surely happen.
Feuer blew that chance. And disrespecting your audience is no way to make amends.