Incumbent Mayor James Butts of Inglewood led early on the race for the growing city’s mayor, not in the least bit affected by a strong campaign to oust him. Coming close behind was the Forum backed Marc Little, who was not nearly close enough to beat out Butts, who garnered more than 60 percent of the vote. Butts’ victory comes at a time of economic expansion in Inglewood, long known for being the home of the world-famous Lakers, until their move to the Staples Center.
Now, with a revamped Forum, a new football stadium and an additional entertainment stadium, Inglewood looks to be set for upward economic mobility. Despite some efforts to stall some of the building, due to gentrification fears, and competition between entertainment venues, voters showed they are sticking by Butts and that they want him to stick by them during the transition.
Runner-up, Little, had backers as heavy as Forum owners Madison Square Garden, but Butts supporters accused him running for mayor as part of an MSG vendetta against bust for an entertainment venue deal gone wrong.
“This is about knocking out the competition, not about the people of Inglewood,” said Butts’ attorney Skip Miller.
“It’s, interesting that almost half of Little’s campaign funds come from Clippers Arena competitors Madison Square Garden.”
The company moved forward with a lawsuit earlier this year over what its officials said was a secret land deal between Butts and builders of the arena. MSG doesn’t want the competition of an arena so close to their own, since it will be another entertainment venue just blocks away. Attorneys for MSG have accused Butts of “tricking” them into giving up their lease of city owned land and making a private deal with the Clippers for it.
Butts defended his support of the Clippers Arena in his city, pointing out the fact that the Staples Center is only 20 minutes away from Inglewood and that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Forum remains the number one concert venue in California.
“It’s ludicrous to believe that this is going to change the dynamic of their competitiveness,” said Butts.
“This basketball arena was going to be built somewhere and somewhere local. The reality is that after we get past this nonsense everyone is going to cooperate and we’re going to have the synergy that’s going to be developed by the sports and entertainment district and it’s going to be unparalleled in this country.”
Butts began his career in law enforcement for Inglewood in 1972, and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1984. He was promoted to Commanding Officer of the narcotics division in 1986. He led a team of 30 undercover agents that helped reduce drug trafficking in the Dixon-Darby and Lockhaven neighborhoods. In 1986, Butts was promoted to Chief of Operations and became the first African American at that level within a South Bay, California, police department.
In 1991, Butts became Santa Monica’s Chief of Police, a position he held until 2006.
In 2006, Butts took a position as the head of security and law enforcement for Public Safety Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). According to the Los Angeles Times, Butts improved training and discipline at LAWA and fostered better relationships with local law enforcement agencies.
After returning to Inglewood, Butts began campaigning for mayor. He was officially elected as the mayor of Inglewood, California, on January 27, 2011
Butts was the “driving force” behind a renovation of The Forum, which was approved by the Inglewood City Council in May 2012.As a police officer, Butts worked at Lakers games at the Forum for almost two decades. He is credited with “cutting through bureaucratic red tape” to move the renovation project forward. The Forum was re-launched in 2014 with a $100 million renovation. Butts was re-elected as mayor in November 2014 with 83 percent of the vote, the largest margin in Inglewood history.
Not everyone is happy about the transition however. Housing activists in Inglewood filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming the economic transition is pushing residents out, as affordable housing becomes more and more unavailable. Property values in Inglewood have jumped 125 percent since 2012, according to Butts. Activists have accused Butts of choosing billionaires over affordable housing. The lawsuit alleges city officials violated state law by not offering surplus land to affordable housing developers before entering negotiations with the Clippers.
“We will monitor investor acquisition of apartment buildings,” Butts said ahead of the election. “If we see a trend for wholesale evictions, I will recommend local legislation to stop this.”
Proponents of the arena, like Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager and Senator Steve Bradford said the project will bring much needed jobs to the community, like 10,000 construction jobs, 1400 permanent jobs and over $1 billion in local investments.