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Dan Walters Bashes EZs Again

Dan Walters has published yet another commentary critical of the Enterprise Zone program. Walters wrote very similar columns on Nov. 9, 2009 and Jan. 12, 2010.

CAEZ president Craig Johnson and I met with Walters in his office at the Bee a few months ago to discuss his columns and provide an alternate perspective. He is a friendly and interesting person with a deep historical knowledge of California policy and politics. I’m surprised, however, to find Walters repeating the same themes as his earlier columns.

Today Walters writes:

A few weeks ago, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proudly announced that the city and the state had designated a 1,078-acre “enterprise zone” near Los Angeles International Airport.

But he leaves out the contextual story of Baxter Bioscience’s decision to stay and expand in Los Angeles as a result of the zone expansion.

In our conversation on the subject we discussed the many unintended consequences that could result from a dismantling of the Enterprise Zones such as the harm to California’s business climate that would come as a result of breaching the contract made with local governments and employers when zones were designated for 15 year terms. Walters agreed and argued that nobody was suggesting that existing zones should be canceled, rather, he wasn’t sure the State should designate new zones after the current zones expire. That’s certainly not the message that comes across in his columns.

All three columns depend on the negative study published by the PPIC last year. In today’s column Walters says:

Last year, the Public Policy Institute of California, in an exhaustive study of EZs, declared that despite their cost, they generated “no statistically significant effect on employment.”

Again, when we sat down with Mr. Walters we discussed the extremely limited focus of the PPIC study; to call it “exhaustive” requires one not to examine the study. We found him much more thoughtful and reasonable when we had a chance to have a real discussion. That is why it is so surprising to find Mr. Walters “phoning it it” with this column just repeating the same things he’s already said without any new effort to reveal the complexity of the issues.

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