Antonio Villaraigosa Calls for New “Prosperity Zones” to Bridge State’s Economic Divide

Former Los Angeles Mayor and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa has written an op-ed laying out his vision for a more economically prosperous and cohesive California. Noting the wide economic discrepancy between the coastal areas and the struggling inland -- the “two Californias,” as he puts it -- Villaraigos has proposed the establishment of new “Prosperity Zones,” similar to the local enterprise zones that were eliminated during the last recession.

Don’t miss the full op-ed. It's available at the Sacramento Bee.

Here's an excerpt:

The facts show the stark disparities in our economic progress. In recent years, the Bay Area accounted for 62 percent of the growth in high-wage jobs in areas like information technology and professional and business services. The Central Valley lost jobs in these high-wage sectors.

Per capita income in the Central Valley is now 30 percent below the statewide average. And families in the Inland Empire fare even worse, with incomes 34 percent below the California average.

When I served as speaker of the state Assembly, I was not shy about passing bold new laws and new mandates. But as mayor of Los Angeles, I learned that statewide mandates, regulations and interventions didn’t always make sense from a local perspective. What seemed easy from the Capitol building is a whole lot more complicated up close.

I recently proposed restoring the ability of local governments to keep local funds to invest in the creation of housing for teachers, nurses, firefighters and others. Such a power will most likely be used in the Bay Area and along the coast, where red-hot economic growth has caused housing costs to soar to astronomical levels.

Now, it is time to give a similar power to those parts of our state facing another challenge – slow economic growth and a lack of high-wage jobs.

These new Prosperity Zones need the power to keep local funds local. They need the ability to adapt regulations to local realities while continuing to meet statewide goals. Most of all, they need the authority to act together as regional economies to help lift up every family in every part of California.


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