Los Angeles Business Journal

Two-of-a-Kind in L.A. Mayor’s Race?

OP-ED: Austin Beutner and Rick Caruso would bring similar business credentials to a mayoral run. By JOEL FOX Monday, June 20, 2011

With the term-limited mayoral run of Antonio Villaraigosa coming to an end, a number of possible candidates are lining up to test the waters in a quest to become L.A.’s next mayor. Two potential major candidates are successful businessmen: developer Rick Caruso and investment banker Austin Beutner.

I had an opportunity to see both men in action recently. Beutner attended a small gathering of the Valley Vote board of directors meeting, while Caruso, also in the San Fernando Valley, was speaking to a couple of hundred members of the United Chambers of Commerce.

Both Caruso and Beutner have spent some time in government. Caruso served on L.A. commissions including the Police Commission. Beutner worked as Villaraigosa’s deputy mayor for economic and business policy, but also worked for the U.S. State Department in Russia, helping the former Soviet Union transition to a market economy.

A number of analysts looking at the coming race feel the environment is similar to the time Republican attorney and businessman Richard Riordan captured the mayor’s office in 1993. The opportunity may be there for a business executive to take control of the city government once again.

Beutner and Caruso have similar outlooks when they talk about correcting the ills of Los Angeles. Both emphasize treating the city’s citizens like customers. Both attack the gross receipts tax system as detrimental to business. Caruso boldly said the tax kills jobs and should eventually be eliminated. Beutner also said the gross receipts tax must be changed and pointed to efforts he made as deputy mayor, such as a tax holiday for new businesses, to encourage businesses to come to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is losing the battle for jobs. As Caruso stated in his speech, since 1980, while the city’s population gained 1 million people and cities surrounding Los Angeles gained 500,000 jobs, Los Angeles lost 50,000.

Beutner and Caruso both displayed ideas on dealing with two of L.A.’s most serious problems: education and transportation. Caruso resisted the idea of more subways, arguing trains should be run down the center of freeways.

Both business execs could self-fund their campaigns, but neither plans to do so. Beutner is fundraising; Caruso said he would raise funds as well if he runs.

Both potential candidates would be fighting for the same base and they make similar arguments on the issues of the day. So what might separate them in the public eye.

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