Business & Economy

Long Beach, Pasadena and Santa Monica slow down moves to raise minimum wage

Businesswoman Michelle Molina serves on the city of Long Beach's Economic Development Commission, which asked for more time to make recommendations on raising the minimum wage.
Businesswoman Michelle Molina serves on the city of Long Beach's Economic Development Commission, which asked for more time to make recommendations on raising the minimum wage.
Brian Watt/KPCC
Businesswoman Michelle Molina serves on the city of Long Beach's Economic Development Commission, which asked for more time to make recommendations on raising the minimum wage.
Long Beach City Councilmembers (from left) Suzie Price, Stacy Mungo, and Roberto Uranga listen to public testimony on the minimum wage on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015.
Brian Watt/KPCC

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Four months after Los Angeles voted to raise its minimum wage, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Long Beach are moving toward following L.A.’s lead, but at a more deliberate pace, while cities like Glendale are holding back for now.

In Long Beach, Mayor Robert Garcia on Thursday agreed to extend the time for an advisory commission to turn in its recommendations on raising the minimum wage so that city officials can better understand its potential impacts. 

The Long Beach City Council took  the city's  first official step to raise the wage in August, voting unanimously to commission an impact study from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. (LAEDC) and schedule a series of six meetings where the public could weigh in on the issue.

The third of the six public meetings took place Thursday morning. The City Council's three-member economic development committee listened to residents and business owners, who represented a range of views on the topic. 

Completion of the LAEDC's impact study is expected before the next public meeting scheduled for Nov. 17.

But some tension has developed in Long Beach over how long the process is taking.  Supporters of raising the minimum wage, currently at $9 per hour, say a majority of council members are ready to move to a vote and the process is too slow.  

"If we don't move now...when?" asks city council member Roberto Uranga. He cited Los Angeles' example and a ballot initiative to raise the wage statewide that could be before California voters in November 2016.  "We would rather be ahead of the curve instead of being behind it," Uranga told KPCC.

But critics of a higher minimum wage and members of the business community believe the city is moving too fast.

Council member Stacy Mungo, the lone Republican on the Long Beach City Council, believes the city should take its time. "Because we’re not just looking to adopt something somebody else came up with, we do need sufficient amount of time to look at the data," Mungo said.    

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia had also asked the city's Economic Development Commission — a citizen panel appointed by the mayor — to make recommendations on the minimum wage proposal by Dec. 8. But at a meeting Tuesday night, the commission voted to ask the mayor for an extension until the first quarter of next year.  

Michelle Molina, a businesswoman who serves on the commission, said the extended deadline would "give the public a true belief that this is a real process, that this isn't already decided by the council members, and that's very important to us."  

The mayor has decided to give the commission more time, according to his deputy chief of staff Daniel Brezenoff.  He told KPCC by email:

So, while we are looking forward to completing this process, we absolutely cannot rush it. The Mayor is committed to hearing all voices in the community, and we want to ensure the information presented to council is thorough and thoughtful. The earliest we see this coming back to Council is early next year.

Pasadena: 'Making great time,' but...

In Pasadena, the City Council appears to support raising the minimum wage, but no ordinance has been drafted. 

Councilman Steve Madison has voiced "concern and confusion" about how the process is unfolding.

"There's the old joke about the airline pilot coming over public address system saying, 'I have good news and bad news: the good news is we're making great time, the bad news is we're lost.'" Madison said. "At times on this issue, that's how I have felt." 

The minimum wage issue has been referred to the council's economic development and technology committee, which Madison serves on. The debate has centered around whether the committee  or the full council should draft the ordinance.  

"My view is that we [the committee] should, and that we should be moving at all due speed at this point," Madison said.    

The committee's next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19. 

Santa Monica: Mayor wants 'a reference city'

Santa Monica began drafting its own minimum wage ordinance in June, days after Los Angeles officials approved a plan to raise the wage gradually to $15 per hour by 2020.  

At a meeting last month, the Santa Monica City Council decided to hold more outreach meetings to discuss related wage issues such as restaurant service charges and seasonal workers.  

Mayor Kevin McKeown said a vote has been delayed, likely until December, but stated his intentions in an emailed statement after the meeting:

As other cities in the region now adopt final implementations of the minimum wage, I hope our commitments can lead the discussion. I want to make Santa Monica a reference city for workers’ rights.

The next public meeting on the minimum wage in Santa Monica is scheduled for Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. at the Santa Monica Public Library. 

Glendale continues 'wait and see' mode

Not long after the city of Los Angeles passed its minimum wage ordinance, Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said he preferred to wait "to see how it works out.”  

Najarian's position hasn't changed. 

"We want to do the right thing but we want to make sure there are no unintended consequences," Najarian said. He added Glendale would not wait until 2020 when L.A.'s minimum wage finally reaches $15 per hour.

He said the Glendale would watch the impact on L.A. starting with the first incremental increase from the current $9 to $10.50 per hour in July 2016. (The state of California's minimum wage is set to increase t0 $10 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016). 

“Once the first empirical results start coming in with that first uptick, I think that’s going to be a good time for us to begin discussion," Najarian he said.