Developer Rick Caruso, a billionaire who said he asked his 11-year-old daughter for advice on his speech, stood before a crowded room at the Millennium Biltmore hotel today to talk about leadership and outline the obvious problems of Los Angeles, all while taking not-so-subtle swipes at Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council.
During his 20 minute-speech to Town Hall Los Angeles, Caruso repeatedly said what the mayor of Los Angeles should do, must do and needs to do.
It was the campaign kickoff with no campaign. Right now, Caruso is still in the courtship phase, a time when he can make declarations and openly criticize the current leadership structure without taking the official plunge into political life.
"I haven't made a final decision yet," Caruso told reporters right before his speech. "It's two years away and I have time. I'm clearly interested but I have time to make a final decision."
Though he is doing some work behind the scenes, Caruso said there is not timeline for announcing his candidacy.
Caruso is best-known to most Angelenos as the man behind the Grove and Americana at Brand. His resume also includes stints as the president of the Police Commission, a member of the Coliseum Commission, and the youngest member ever to serve on the Board of Water and Power Commissioners.
So, why run for mayor?
"I love public service. I think it's an honorable job, and I think more people should do it," Caruso said. "I'm frustrated. I've raised my family here. I have my business here. I really do love this city and I'm frustrated that it's like we're running in the mud. We're making a little bit of progress but not enough."
Overall, the speech was light on specifics -- eliminate the gross receipts tax, embrace zero-balanced budgeting. Caruso's vision for Los Angeles includes safe streets, good schools and an environment that encourages businesses to grow.
The meatiest parts of the speech were the barbs he threw all over the place. Here's a roundup:
- Los Angeles leaders are only focused on "the next election, the next fundraiser, the next ribbon-cutting or, in many cases, tickets to the next sporting event."
- Farmers Field: "To have all this discussion, frankly, by a bunch of people on the City Council that I think have a tough time spelling the word 'football' ... "
- Jobs czar: "You really shouldn't have to resort to gimmicks in order to attract businesses to the city."
- The city's "job creation efforts have been an absolute failure."
- Regarding the gross receipts tax: "Skimming off the top is what the mob used to do in Vegas."
- LAX: "You could be landing in any third world country you want to pick on the face of the earth."
- "The L.A. Unified School District is an educational gulag."
- "Don't get me wrong, there's some good people in City Hall, doing some really good things. Unfortunately, they're the exception rather than the rule."
- "The people today who are running the city have never had to sign the front of a paycheck. They have lived their lives signing the back of one."
- "I do believe that often there is a lack of personal accountability in government that would never survive in the private sector."
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