As the only Republican running in the Los Angeles mayoral election, Kevin James is hoping to woo voters with ambitious plans to restart the city’s film industry and close an anticipated $200 million budget shortfall.
James, an attorney and broadcaster, said he was motivated to run by a decade of decline he attributes to a leadership crisis brought on by decisions made not only by outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, but by the four current city officeholders running against him.
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“I believe that Los Angeles needs an independent voice… someone who can step in for the office of mayor and restore integrity and credibility to city hall, which is lacking right now, and give our private sector and small businesses new prominence because that’s where the job creation is in our community,” James said.
The key to addressing the anticipated deficits, James believes, lies in reforming the pensions and salaries for city jobs.
“We cannot continue to spend at the rate we’ve been spending in Los Angeles. That’s why we’ve been running deficit in the hundreds of millions per year – year in and year out,” James said. “It’s going to take a mayor like me who’s independent from the private sector unions that have been able to take too much advantage of our city’s elected officials and our city has suffered for that.”
Among James’ first priorities would be renegotiating city contracts to get pension reforms enacted. Should he meet resistance from city unions on the issue, James said he will use his broadcasting skills to take the message directly to voters as a ballot initiative.
“Just my willingness and the fact that union leadership in Los Angeles knows I’m capable of going around the City Council, if necessary, gives me new leverage to negotiate within the confines of City Hall and have a transparent negotiation, but without hopefully the necessity of going to voters.”
Turning to the economy and a city unemployment rate that has been estimated as high as 10.9 percent in recent months, James plans to address that through tax and permit reforms.
“My number one priority is the elimination of the gross receipts tax, which is how we calculate business tax here. It’s very burdensome for businesses of all sizes. A business could actually lose money and still get hit with a significant gross receipts tax from the city,” he said. “I also want to copy what Dallas has done and create a permit center that’s a one-stop shop for permitting for Los Angeles.”
Immigration is another key issue in the race, particularly since an estimated two thirds of the city’s children have immigrant parents, according to recent Urban Institute research. James believes immigration reform is sorely needed.
“I have some experience as a pro-bono lawyer working with the immigration system with people who want to come into our country and become citizens. And I can tell you that the political football that’s been played in Washington and many of the roadblocks that are put up for people who want to come to our country are just ridiculous,” he said. “We definitely need immigration reform and I look forward to the process in the coming months.”
Speaking on gun control, James said he supports proposed bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines and would examine enacting background checks for locally-issued concealed carry permits.
“There’s a number of things we can do at the local level to ensure that guns don’t get into the wrong hands and that they aren’t transferred illegally,” James said. “We absolutely must do a better job of protecting our community, especially our schools.”
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