Prior to Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley endorsing Kevin James to be the city's next mayor late last month, the candidate dropped by a Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting to weigh in on balancing the budget, ending corruption and creating a business-friendly L.A.
James, a local radio broadcaster for 10 years, a former assistant U.S. attorney at City Hall and a Patch blogger, told the Palisades audience that together they can work together to make a better Los Angeles, and also touched upon several local issues during the question-and-answer period.
"We absolutely have to bring jobs back to L.A.," he said. "We have to get rid of gross receipts tax, taking money off the top. Two groups get away with that: the city of L.A. and the mafia. And City Council members talk about changing it year after year, tax advisory committee after [tax advisory] committee. It doesn't get done because there's just enough opposition."
James said he would put through a business improvement package that gets rid of the business receipts tax, modeled after the most tax-friendly neigbors in the county county. He added that L.A. has to streamline permitting process.
"You can’t go through 15 to 17 departments to open up a business," he added.
Budgeting has to be a priority
"L.A. has found itself near bankruptcy," James said, noting the city's chief financial officer. "We have to talk about budgeting. It has to be a priority. It’s very complex in L.A."
James said the city can't do anymore "one-time, let's save the reserve fund gimmicks" and said the city needs to align its salaries with its revenue.
"We can’t do that anymore," he said. "We’re out of money. That means two things: salaries and pensions."
James also suggested an outside audit was need of the Department of Water and Power.
Ending corruption in City Hall
Citing his Huffington Post op-ed that sparked debate earlier this year, James said Los Angeles is second only to Chicago for the most corrupt city in the country, attributing the statement to The Wall Street Journal.
James said the City Council should be reformed to a part-time position, like New York City, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
"It’s not only the highest paid legislative body in the nation, it’s that our City Council is closed out from people in the community," he said.
James said there are 88 cities in L.A. county, with 87 of them having a part-time City Council, except the city of L.A.
An outsider in the mayoral race
James admitted he's an outsider in the race for mayor, noting that all his donors are listed online and his campaign's raised about $250,000.
"Mine come for the community," James said about his campaign donations. "Many from my community are donating for the first time."
James said that although he's at a funding disadvantage to candidates Wendy Greuel, city controller and Eric Garcetti, city councilmember who spoke to the community council recently, he'll have the money to compete against the special interest groups he's up against.
Community Council Vice Chairwoman Chris Spitz told James that Pacific Palisades would like its engine back to Station 69, after last year's budget cuts.
"You have to have it reinstated," James said. "But the committment is that it's something that makes public sense, and the mayor can sell it to the rest of the city. We are with you, with the LAFD understanding when you pull away from one, you'll hurt the other. That’s the argument that will be made. That doesn’t have to be made."
James noted the pension obligations for Los Angeles public safety personnel are too high, and the pension recipients have to give back something for the city's financial betterment.
James added that would not sign the billboard ordinance if it came in front of him, comparing it to the "botched" medical marijuana ordinance, and admitted L.A. has billboard blight. He also said he liked the community care facilities ordinance, and he would implement the idea, but said the current drafted ordinance is not "legal challenge proof."
For more information on the Kevin James mayoral campaign, visit his website.