Another candidate in the 2013 election to become mayor of Los Angeles shared his platform Tuesday night with the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa.
Kevin James, 48, a former federal prosecutor and conservative radio talk show host, positioned himself as the only outsider in the race to replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who will be forced out of office next year due to term limits.
James said the election currently has four viable candidates, aside from himself, who have qualified for matching funds: City Councilmembers Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, City Controller Wendy Greuel and First Deptuty Mayor Austin Beutner.
"They all work inside of City Hall," James said. "I've spent my years outside of City Hall, but covering City Hall."
Though the race is nonpartisan, James said it is no secret that he's the only registered Republican running for mayor.
James, who came to Los Angeles in 1987, was in private practice with the powerhouse law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and later became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles. He later started a career as a conservative radio host with shows on KABC and KRLA.
Wearing a black suit with a U.S. flag on his left lapel, a white shirt and a pink and grey tie, James addressed the council's board and audience Tuesday night as if he were trying to sway a jury.
He cited six top priorities:
- Making Los Angeles more business friendly. Like his challengers, James said that he does favor removing the gross receipts tax for businesses and would take it directly to voters, if necessary. He said that he also does not favor the business tax holiday for new businesses because it punishes companies that already have set up shop in the city. He does not favor eliminating the business tax altogether.
- Balancing the budget. James was a board member of AIDS Project Los Angeles from 1995 through 2000 and the nonprofit group maintained an annual budget of $20 million. He said the group's largest expense was payroll and he would use that experience to keep the city out of bankruptcy.
- Infrastructure spending. "I will guarantee you that I will spend infrastructure money on infrastructure projects," James said. He cited potholes, sinkholes and power poles as infrastructure projects that need to be addressed. He also promised a comprehensive audit of the city's Department of Water and Power.
- Public education. James said he would use the mayor's office and its power of the bully pulpit to improve schools. "How can we convince new companies to move to the city of Los Angeles, when we don't have a school district that the employees are comfortable putting their kids in? It is a liability now in the city of Los Angeles and we cannot allow that to continue," James said.
- Corruption. James said there's a current federal grand jury investigation of City Hall that includes five city departments. The city's building and safety, housing and transportation departments are being investigated and he said his sources lead him to believe the planning department and another department with recent top personnel changes also are under investigation. "When you look at the systemic level of corruption in the city of Los Angeles, being the only prosecutor in the field, we'll clean it up," James said.
- City Council reform. James said he would advocate for a part-time City Council and he noted that 87 out of 88 cities in Los Angeles County have part-time city councils. Los Angeles City Council members also make more money than an incoming U.S. Senator, James said. He said New York, Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Phoenix all have part-time city councils, while Detroit is the only other major city with a full-time city council.
James also said that if he becomes mayor he would devote three hours each week to a radio show to listen to the concerns of residents. He also pledged that he would get Neighborhood Councils more involved in city commissions.
Beutner in October spoke before the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa and Perry is scheduled to speak next month.
Correction: Updated on Jan. 4 to correct James' stance on the gross receipts tax.