After being grilled about controversial past statements on immigration and climate change, former mayoral candidate Kevin James was confirmed as a new appointee to the Los Angeles Board of Public Works by the City Council.
The council voted 11-0 on Tuesday to appoint James, a Republican, to the board, with some members saying deference should be given to Mayor Eric Garcetti, who nominated James, in picking commissioners.
“The mayor has been elected, chosen by the people and he has a duty, obligation and right to make appointments,” said Councilman Gil Cedillo, one of those who pressed James about his stance on immigration reform. “Potholes are neither Republican nor Democrat.”
During the hearing, James said his views have evolved since his days as a conservative talk-radio host and commentator when, among other things, he said Los Angeles should hire someone like Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to deal with the “illegal alien invasion.”
Reiterating statements he made during the mayoral primary, James affirmed his support for immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally. He also acknowledged that human activity has caused climate change.
Councilman Felipe Fuentes abstained, saying he had not had a chance to discuss his concerns about past comments with James.
“There’s a lot that he has said that I think is important for me to understand what’s different and how it speaks to equity and fairness, especially in a service delivery agency as important as the Public Works Department,” he said. “I didn’t feel comfortable with the knowledge that I had to cast a vote.”
Among the council's 15 members, Joe Buscaino and Mitch O'Farrell were not present, and one seat is vacant.
James, the sole Republican to run for mayor, came in third in the March primary. He endorsed Garcetti in his runoff contest against Controller Wendy Greuel and campaigned for him vigorously, helping Garcetti increase his support in the San Fernando Valley.
Garcetti’s other appointments to the Board of Public Works were approved with council members lauding their skills. They are: Matt Szabo, former deputy chief of staff to former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Barbara Romero, a planning commissioner under Villaraigosa; former Assemblyman Mike Davis; and Monica Rodriguez, an executive with the California Assn. of Realtors.
The Public Works Board oversees street and sewer maintenance, tree trimming and other services, and is the city’s only full-salaried commission, with each appointee earning more than $134,000 annually.
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