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Self-described “world-famous” Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla is making his fifth bid for mayor – and this time he intends to win.
Padilla, 72, said Wednesday that the decision to run for mayor has always been an easy one for him to make because running for political office brings a valuable opportunity to candidates.
“You have things that you want to say publicly, and the mayor’s race gives you that ability,” Padilla said. “It gets you out there to where you keep up with what’s happening in the city, and you are forced to learn about sewer rates, water rates, garbage and the budget. It forces you into a situation where you have to just learn.”
The key difference for Padilla in his decision to join the current mayoral race is that – this time – there is a significant and publicly divisive issue at the forefront of the race: the proposed entertainment and sports complex.
It is an issue that Padilla is “vehemently, completely and unequivocally” opposed to, he said.
“In the other (races) there wasn’t a situation as imposing on the city’s funding as what they want to do with a half a billion dollars,” Padilla said. “It’s not going to be just $390 million – everyone knows nothing ever gets built under budget. It’ll be $500 million or more before it’s done.”
Padilla said that, among other problems, the city would be making a mistake to sell off the city parking assets for 50 years and risk an increase in parking rates.
He said he believes city officials and city staff would be more effective if they weren’t distracted with the arena deal.
“I’m not saying (Mayor Kevin Johnson) has been a waste of time, I’m saying he has been distracted for four years with this arena business,” Padilla said.
If he is elected, Padilla said, he will not focus on the arena – he’d rather see the idea fade completely from the city’s attention. Instead, he said, he will turn his attention to more pressing city business.
“The one salient point people keep forgetting about is that the Maloofs already have an arena. Let the Kings go play there and let city staff get back to paying attention to what’s really important for the city.”
Issues that Padilla would like to address include cutting back at City Hall to save money, finding a housing solution for the city’s homeless population and creating an incentive program for police officers to live within the city limits.
“I want people who are eager to make it safe to live in the city of Sacramento, especially the ones who are protecting the city of Sacramento,” he said.
Padilla said he believes that having police officers live in the neighborhoods they serve makes a difference in how residents feel about the level of safety in their city.
Padilla said he started bounty hunting in 1974 when a friend working for an insurance company asked for his help finding someone who jumped bail.
Padilla realized it was something he was good at – and he got paid more than he expected – so he kept doing it.
“It made things comfortable enough to get me through law school and take care of my family – not extravagant, but comfortable,” Padilla said.
He and his family turned a part-time gig into a slew of bail bond agencies along with his bounty hunting business.
“They get people out of jail, and I put them back in when they don’t go to court,” Padilla said.
Padilla is running against Johnson, municipal finance manager Jonathan Rewers and insurance broker Richard Jones.
All of the other candidates, Padilla said, are either in full support or the new arena – or at least “cautiously optimistic” about its potential success.
“I have no problem with having an arena, I just don’t want to see the city spend what it can’t afford,” Padilla said. “If we are tenacious about living within our budget, we’ll do much better.”
Padilla said he would be comfortable debating Johnson or any other candidate if given the opportunity – but he thinks the prospect is unlikely.
“I was told that I’m too glib and I don’t have a political future at stake, so I’m not concerned about the comments I make,” Padilla said.
“They want a debate with someone who’ll speak cautiously,” he added. “That’s not me.”
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.