David Frum

02.06.13

Inside the Campaign to Save LA

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Los Angeles elects a new mayor in May. First, the candidates must survive a nonpartisan primary on March 5, that will narrow the field to just two. One candidate who has shown unexpected strength is Kevin James, a former assistant US Attorney turned entertainment law attorney known also for his time as a radio show host centered on Los Angeles political and budget issues.

Fiscally conservative, socially moderate, James offers the city a way out of its budget morass. One of James' key supporters happens to be a friend of mine, and I've asked him to send periodic updates on the race. Charles Moran, the author of the below post, is working to raise funds for James - please consider that disclosed. Both Charles and Kevin James are proudly gay and proudly Republican in a city where that combination is often considered an oxymoron, if not outright group treason.

Take it away, Charles:

The City of Angeles faces its own version of “March Madness” in a historic election that will see the opening of a handful of city council seats, and several citywide offices, including the mayor.

As mayoral races go, the same concerns heard in town halls around the nation are also debated in Los Angeles City Hall. Police, schools, public pensions, potholes, jobs, quality of life – but in Los Angeles, America’s second largest city in a state that is fiscally upside down, the problems are ‘California’-sized.

With an annual budget of about $7 billion, Los Angeles’ projected budget shortfall for this year was $238 million. Los Angeles is facing almost $27 billion in unfunded pension liabilities for its employees. Its vaulted entertainment industry is under assault from other tax-friendly states looking to pick off lucrative filming gigs. The city’s permitting process is a joke, except trying to start one’s own business is no laughing matter. The city gross-receipts tax pushes businesses to tax-friendly cities next door, like West Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Burbank. Infrastructure is so bad that literally the power lines hold up the power poles. Potholes and sinkholes don’t just damage cars – here they literally swallow fire trucks.

Of the four leading candidates for Mayor, 3 either currently or formerly served as City Council members – the very people who kicked the can down the road every year. But now they’re ready to “get serious” about tackling LA’s biggest problems.

I hardly believe this cast of sycophants will have the guts to stand up to the public employee unions and special interests that bankroll the campaigns. One candidate however stands alone against Goliath.

In 2010, I became acquainted with a civic leader who preached of transparent and effective government in LA. Kevin James – not the actor – was known in Los Angeles for calling out waste and fraud in our local government, and used his radio show to inform the masses and pressure those in power to make change for the better. But as I came to discover, Kevin wasn’t just ‘full of hot air’ – his record as an Assistant US Attorney gave him direct prosecutorial experience in rooting out corruption in the public and private sectors. His campaign for mayor started with a handful of volunteers fighting for a place at the table so Kevin could hold his elected officials accountable. A year later with a new campaign team, a front-page New York Times story highlighting his campaign and a SuperPAC backing him that will make him competitive against the advertising budget of the insider candidates, the race is much more serious. Kevin has a pathway to victory.