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Rick Caruso, president and CEO of Caruso Affiliated, and the developer of The Grove and the Americana at Brand in Glendale, stated that he is “clearly interested” in running for mayor of Los Angeles but needs “time to make a final decision” during a speech held by Town Hall of Los Angeles on May 12 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.
While Caruso did not announce his candidacy for mayor in 2013, he outlined many things that he believes are wrong with Los Angeles city government, including a lack of focus on job creation, the inability of current leaders to improve public education or solve budget problems, and the need to cut through bureaucratic red tape at city hall. He lashed out at, but did not name, career politicians who he said are not getting the job done, and added that “the setting of the tone at city hall is all wrong right now.” Caruso said there are “a lot of deciding factors” being considered in his potential run for mayor, and he would make a decision “when the time comes”. Caruso also said he has a strong desire to continue his work in the public sector — having formerly served as president of the Los Angeles Police Commission and as a member of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Board — and said he wants to continue working to improve the City of Los Angeles.
“People find a way in Los Angeles to realize their dreams,” Caruso said. “But we are also a city of four million people, and six area codes. We are a patchwork quilt of five hundred square miles, from the rolling hills of Porter Ranch, down to the docks of San Pedro. And as we have grown, the challenges and the ability to make sure Los Angeles remains vibrant and livable have increased. So I am speaking out on these issues, because what’s happening in Los Angeles is frankly painful to me.”
Caruso said one of the problems with city government is the bureaucracy that private companies must navigate through to get things accomplished. He illustrated his point with a new luxury housing development with a Trader Joe’s market that Caruso Affiliated is building at 8500 Burton Way. Caruso said the project was delayed while two departments — the Department of Water and Power and Bureau of Engineering — determined where a transformer could be situated at the property. Caruso said it took the full city council to act before the location could be determined, and Caruso said streamlining that type of process is an example of how to make the city run more efficiently.
The city’s budget problems could be addressed, according to Caruso, by limiting funding until the general managers of each city department justify the amount they need. He said if he were mayor, he would require each department head to come before him with specific plans for the upcoming year, which would determine funding levels. He also spoke in opposition to paying for too many city commissions and boards. He claims there is no need for Public Works Board commissioners to be paid.
“There are forty bureaus and commissions in the city. Do we really need forty?, Caruso said. “You are eliminating cops, but you still have paid public works commissioners. The people at city hall don’t understand. Nobody wants cuts, but they are part of the system, so they are part of the solution. You have to find some common ground.”
Caruso added that he does not believe Measure R funding, which is revenue generated for public transportation projects through a countywide sale tax that was approved by voters in 2008, is being used in the most sensible way. He said too much emphasis has been placed on building the subway down Wilshire Boulevard. He added that downtown Los Angeles needs to be linked by rail service to the coastal communities, but that above-ground rail projects may be more cost-effective to build.
Caruso also said that one of the main issues city government leaders should be addressing is job creation.
“The unemployment rate in Los Angeles is an embarrassing thirteen-and-a-half percent, and there are people who have told me that it’s on the right track because it is down from fourteen percent. With all due respect, I think our job creation efforts have been an adjunct failure,” Caruso said. “Since 1980, we have had a million more residents move to Los Angeles…but there has not been one net new job created. In fact, the City of Los Angeles has lost 50,000 jobs. What is happening is the cities around Los Angeles are eating our lunch.”
Caruso, who currently serves on the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission, said he has no plans to use the mayor’s office as a stepping-stone to higher office, and stated that if he chooses to run for mayor and is elected, he will do the job and return to his private life. He added that he remains optimistic about the future of the city, and will continue working to improve the communities in which his projects are located.
“When it comes down to it, there is something missing in this city,” Caruso said. “We have some real problems, so lets make some real decisions and move forward.”
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