Los Angeles: It Doesn't Have to Be This Way
On March 5, Los Angeles will be voting for a new mayor. This is more like a primary, since there will be a run-off unless someone gets over 50% of the vote, which is very unlikely.
Los Angeles is in the same position as many other large cities, with huge deficits and free-spending Democrats who cater to the unions. All of the candidates except one have actively participated in creating Los Angeles' woes. Kevin James stands out as a clear choice. He is a former prosecutor and is currently a radio talk show host. American Thinker interviewed Mr. James to get his comments on issues facing Los Angeles today.
The overriding issue in the election is Los Angeles' deficit of approximately $1.4 billion, which is mainly the result of huge pensions and salary increases handed out to city employees. James wants Angelinos to look hard and fast at the decisions made by all of his opponents. For example, in 2007, the city was already in a deficit, but that did not stop Jan Perry, Eric Garcetti, and Wendy Greuel from approving what amounted to a 25% wage increase over the next five years. James noted, "All three signed the contracts, maintained the raises, and it was Wendy Greuel who wrote the memo, as the LA controller, to raid the special revenue city funds. This was just irresponsible and reckless. The enactment of a city sales tax measure on this ballot will only go toward paying raises." Once again, all city residents will have to pay so a few will be able to continue the spiral of unrealistic pensions and raises. That is why former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who served from 1993 to 2001, has endorsed Kevin James. He believes that only James will be able to enact pension reforms and reduce salaries of city employees.
Many Angelinos have seen an increase in homeless people, experienced the smell of urine on the streets, and run over the numerous street and sidewalk cracks. These quality-of-life issues have turned LA into a mere fragment of the great city it once was. Why? Because of the poor budget decisions make by his opponents and by outgoing mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
James feels he has some leverage, pointing to a judge's ruling that CALPERS cannot sue the city of San Bernardino. After going bankrupt, the city refused to fund CALPERS, the California Public Employee Retirement System. CALPERS sued, demanding that they get paid first. Thankfully, a judge ruled against them and held that services are more important. James feels that "[t]his decision has set precedence and direction for mayors. Unions will have to come to the table to work out a new agreement. We need someone in elected office with a spine that will be willing to go toe-to-toe with the unions. This is something I am prepared to do, and, frankly, must do." What James will do is to retroactively lower the pension and raises to what the city can afford. Eventually he wants to transition to a 401(k)-type fund, where future city employees will have different benefits. He told American Thinker, "I am not going to compromise the services to our residents so they can be the highest-paid employees in the state."
James's other top priority will be giving a voice to the private-sector and small-business communities by eliminating the gross receipts tax, which is how the business tax is calculated in LA. "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 because the money is taken off the top. My opponents, all current city officeholders, have talked about doing this for three years but have done nothing."
He wants to bring Hollywood jobs back to LA, which has been in decline over the years. He notes that this would make for a domino effect, since other industries, such as hotels, cleaners, and restaurants, will also gain employment by the return of Hollywood's business. His idea is to have a "Los Angeles Production Benefit" plan, which he calls an incentive package without government spending. Basically, it is a partnership among unemployed union entertainment employees, studios with space available, and independent film production companies. All agree to have a lower rate, and it appears to be working, since it has already been implemented with a few movies. "This is a realistic way to provide savings to all parties involved in the process without affecting the debt-ridden budget."
Unfortunately, as California goes, so goes Los Angeles. For James, this is no more evident than in the bill that allows for an early release of prisoners because of the budgetary constraints. "These violent criminals are being released, which will affect the crime rate. Because of the city debt, there is no money to hire additional officers. What I propose is to get those officers who spend two thirds of their time behind a desk back out working in the community."
James also told American Thinker that he is an animal issues advocate -- that the topic is dear to his heart. He has always had a rescued dog as a pet and wants to improve the animal services department, hoping to move to a "no kill policy." Once again, he will not increase city taxes; rather, he plans on implementing this by enforcing the city's low license fee.
Conservatives, Republicans, and any Angelino who wants a fighting chance to make Los Angeles a better place to live should make sure they vote for Kevin James for mayor. This mayoral race is a crossroads: Los Angeles can make a comeback, or it can slip into a black hole with no chance of return.