The LA Weekly gives equal time and "dozens of column inches" to the "who, what, where, when, how, and why" on a possible Rick Caruso run for Mayor in 2009.
Speculation has been waning in the recent weeks on a challenge to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa by Caruso, but with this extensive profile in today's Weekly, expect a uptake in attention from scribes, blogs and "Third Floor Operatives" alike in the days ahead.
Caruso's political resume:
What many may not realize, however, is that Caruso, 49, has a track record in public service that dates back nearly half his life — one that can be scrutinized far more objectively than any architectural or psychogeographic critique of the Grove. He’s served under mayors Bradley, Riordan and Hahn. At 25, he was the youngest commissioner in the history of the DWP; two years later, he became its president, and went on to serve a total of 13 years there. He was police commissioner under James Hahn, and was instrumental in bringing Chief William Bratton to power. He’s on the board of councilors for USC’s School of Policy, Planning and Development. He’s a trustee for the homeless-advocacy group Para Los Niños.
In many ways, no single figure in recent history has been more influential in shaping the city of Los Angeles — and not just with his retail development. As Bill Clinton once told Caruso, “You’ve got your hand in everything.” The question is, is that hand now reaching toward city hall?
Caruso certainly isn’t new to money. He’s a lifelong L.A. resident whose father, Hank, earned a small fortune running a series of auto dealerships and then went on to found Dollar Rent-a-Car. Such was the Caruso disposition that, after college at USC, Hank forced Rick, against his will, to go to law school at Pepperdine. Although he graduated to the powerful Finley Kumble law firm, the young attorney became independently wealthy with a side venture by purchasing land around airports and leasing it to his father’s rental-car company. Like father, like son, except where politics was concerned. Hank Caruso, though politically connected, never ran for office or tried his hand in city government.
“My father respects public office,” says Caruso, “but thinks I’m absolutely insane for wanting to get involved in politics. If you’ve got a business, he thinks you should stick with that and make it as successful as possible.”
Is the past a motive for political future??
The city needs to stay viable and livable, and I’m not sure the current leadership is getting that stuff done. I would enjoy having the opportunity to leave the city in a better place than when I got there.”
That’s about as overtly critical of the mayor’s job performance as Caruso will go, though his insistence on mispronouncing the double “L” in Villaraigosa — as in “vanilla” — speaks volumes. The two do have a political history. In 2004, when he was still on the police commission, Caruso pushed a new bond measure that would have guaranteed money to put 1,200 new police officers on the street. He used his own money to wage an ad campaign, but the measure never made it to the ballot after the City Council voted it down — with Villaraigosa casting a crucial “nay” vote.
“Villaraigosa’s stand was purely political,” insists Caruso. “He knew he was running for mayor and didn’t want Hahn to be able to hire more cops and get that feather in his cap.”
It’s tough to argue with Caruso’s take. Shortly after assuming office, Villaraigosa announced a call to put 1,300 new cops on the street.
The simple truth is that while Caruso has been floating the prospect of running for mayor for nearly five years, he hasn’t laid the basic political groundwork he needs for electoral success. His developments, his single greatest political advertisements, are mostly in affluent white areas. If he’s ever going to have any shot at becoming mayor, he needs to spread the wealth across the city. Not only is it too late for him to do that in this election cycle, says Steinberg, but if Caruso wants to run in four years, “he’s got to start planning now.”
Franklin Gilliam, dean of the UCLA School of Public Affairs and an expert on racial and ethnic politics, agrees: “The Riordan model was to win large parts of the white vote, especially in the Valley, but also to pick up a nontrivial percentage of the black and Latino vote — at least 20 percent of each group.”
Assuming Caruso would have difficulty gaining headway against Villaraigosa in the Latino community, this would seemingly make the black vote that much more important. But, says Gilliam, “Caruso hasn’t been part of the move to redevelop South Los Angeles. And he hasn’t partnered with Magic Johnson, which should be a no-brainer for any developer looking to run for mayor of Los Angeles.
****BTW, which candidate for Mayor had a overflow crowd for his rally this week?? A sign of a growing grass-roots movement??
Labels: la weekly, mayor's race 2009, Mayor Antonio Villarigosa, rick caruso