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Billionaire Developer Caruso Mulls Second Run for LA Mayor, Surveys Supporters on Key Issues 

LA POLITICS

WESTSIDE POLITICS - After finishing second twice to LA Mayor Karen Bass with 36% in the 2022 March Primary and 45% in the November General, real estate magnate Rick Caruso is seemingly keeping his eye on things politically speaking moving forward.  

The self-funding dynamo who dropped $100 million dollars in his first time try at elective office, Caruso has been emailing past supporters and seeking their thoughts and opinions on the recent heavy rainfalls and other weather disasters, asking if city officials were prepared in dealing with such challenges.  

In another survey, Caruso delved into the issue of workforce housing and noted that only 36% of all city employees reside in LA of which half earn less than $50,000. According to Caruso, 80% of LA Firefighters and LA Police Officers live outside the areas they serve, and that 66% of teachers employed by LAUSD cannot afford to live in the neighborhoods in which they teach.  

On the service, these numbers may appear unusual but consider that in 2022, a report released examining the salaries of firefighters with the City of Los Angeles noted that 86 employees made more than $400K in 2022, with one fire captain making more than $700K.

A report from www.hddailynews.com also noted that the captain who made $712,933 was the highest-paid employee in Los Angeles.  

The officer in question had a base of $169,764 and was paid $502,681 for overtime, along with health care benefits and pension credits. The LAFD spent $817.4 million for salaries in 2022, up 2.4% from $798.2 million a year earlier.

And according to the 2023-24 LAUSD Salary Guide, a Level 1 minimum range is $61,905-$67,390 and a Level 14 is $100,242 while a teacher with a MA is $102,351 and $102,935 possessing a Doctorate. 

And while we can all agree it’s just expensive to live in Los Angeles regardless of location, are these trial balloon questions Caruso could be contemplating in a second run for the top spot downtown?

While no one is for sure if Bass will stand for reelection, generally speaking she has gotten seemingly good grades from most and her ability to fix this homelessness crisis remains the issue that will define her time as mayor, as it is unclear at this writing if we have had actual reductions in the homeless population since she assumed office. And homelessness was at the center of Caruso’s hundred million dollar campaign that saw his candidacy fade in the waning days as many believe his flip-flopping party registration and billionaire net worth left him detached from most voters in this overwhelmingly liberal urban enclave. 

We reached out to Caruso’s team for comment and they politely declined. But clearly the former candidate has a keen interest in the city’s current political landscape as he tests issues and policies that could be part of a second run for public office. Certainly Caruso’s interest in the council candidacy of Ethan Weaver is another sign that keeping and retaining a “right-of-center,” LA City Council a continuing political priority. 

For what Caruso lacks in Democratic Party credentials and rank & file status, he makes up in his business acumen and knowledge of how Los Angeles works from a private sector point-of-view. While politicians like Mayor Bass have been successful because she can straddle both constituencies, Caruso in many ways is deemed a Democrat in name only, and really a potential candidacy that doesn’t have a home. For Los Angeles is at a fork in the road politically-speaking as the left becomes more empowered, as shifting demographics work against traditional candidacies like a Caruso despite his unlimited personal resources. 

So as Caruso clearly has a toe in the political pool, is it for a future campaign or to retain his current status as a fundraising giant?

And will charter reform completely dislodge the current political landscape of just fifteen council members acting as the College of Cardinals, and be replaced with a far larger, thirty-member legislative body far more diversified with power diluted from a working majority of just eight to a new majority of sixteen? LA has the smallest sized city council of any of the major American cities, and is politically dwarfed by both New York City and Chicago. 

For what happens this March 5th could be a precursor as to what’s to come in 2026. A retention of the current political status quo or a further expansion of leftist inroads at the local level making for a new coalition of constituencies at the table of governance and power? 

(Nick Antonicello is a thirty-one year resident of Venice who covers the political and governmental scene on the Westside for CityWatchLA.)  Have a take or tip on all things political? Contact him via e-mail at [email protected]