Over the past few years, Los Angeles residents have become increasingly disenchanted with what’s happening in the city. Overall crime is up 4%, there are now nearly 70,000 homeless people and the cost of living continues to rise.
Along with these issues, the Jewish community is facing its own problems. Hate speech and crimes, including attacks on Jews and vandalism on Jewish stores, are becoming more and more prevalent. Most recently, a hate group hung a banner that said “’Kanye is right about the Jews” over the 405.
On November 8, voters will decide whom they think can fix these issues: Rick Caruso or Congresswoman Karen Bass, who are both Democrat candidates running for mayor. Caruso, a real estate mogul who built a number of LA shopping centers including The Grove and Palisades Village, believes his status as a non-political figure isn’t a detriment – it’s an opportunity.
“I see it as a huge advantage,” Caruso told the Journal. “The system is broken. And not only is it broken, but it’s also corrupt. We’ve seen that over and over again. Three councilmembers have been taken out of their offices in handcuffs and one is in jail because they were convicted of fraud. Karen Bass is involved in a federal corruption case. What’s happening is insanity. You need an outsider like me to come in.”
“I have the benefit of not being saddled by a system that can’t work.” – Rick Caruso
Caruso’s plans, which are detailed on his website, include declaring homelessness a local state of emergency, demanding state and federal response and building 30,000 interim housing interventions in his first 300 days.
“I’m going to get people off the streets and into shelters and housing, and combine that with psychiatric and addiction services in a humane and dignified way,” he said. “I’m going to give more resources to the organizations providing great services on Skid Row, including The People Concern and Downtown Women’s Center. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing now. It’s inhumane, and the problem only continues to grow.”
Caruso, who was endorsed by Elon Musk, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian and the Israeli-American Civic Action Network, is also going to tap into his experience in real estate to try and fix the lack of affordable housing and high cost of living.
“I understand the problems with building in LA,” he said. “We’re 500,000 units short. We have a supply and demand problem and we are overregulated unnecessarily in terms of zoning and permits. I will fast track affordable housing.”
One of the reasons people say there is a spike in crime lately is because Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has not been tough enough on criminals. While the DA does not report to the mayor, Caruso said he could use other methods to take down the crime rate.
“I would make darn sure the city attorney is prosecuting misdemeanors. With Gascón, we can use federal laws to go around him until we can get him out of office.”
Caruso’s plan for crime also includes expanding the number of community-based patrol officers and putting 1,500 new police officers on the street. He believes this is going to benefit the Jewish community and reduce hate crimes – which he said are up 200% in the city.
“We need more police officers to not just respond to these crimes, but also to prevent them,” he said. “We’re 880 officers short of what’s budgeted.”
Putting officers on the ground is only one part of the plan; Caruso also said he will continue to be vocal about hate crimes.
“We cannot tolerate any kind of hate crimes or incidents or speech. I came out denouncing what Ye did because that is very, very dangerous and gives others permission to do it, too. In a terrible way, it becomes contagious, and you have to stop it immediately.”
The mayoral hopeful has longtime ties to the Jewish community. At the United Hatzalah of Israel gala, which took place on September 19 in LA, Caruso spoke about how he worked with Jewish community in Fairfax when he was building the Grove. He also described his love for Israel – receiving a huge round of applause from the audience.
“I’ve fallen in love with the state of Israel. There are so many good things happening there that I want to tap into. It’s one of the most innovative countries in the world.”
– Rick Caruso
“I have emotional ties to Israel,” Caruso told the Journal. “I’ve fallen in love with the state of Israel. There are so many good things happening there that I want to tap into. It’s one of the most innovative countries in the world.”
Even though Caruso is just now entering politics, he cites his experience serving the public as commissioner for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, president of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners and as a member of the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission as proof that he knows how City Hall and government operate.
“I have the benefit of not being saddled by a system that can’t work,” he said.
When envisioning what LA will look like if he wins, Caruso hopes for a return to the city’s glory days.
“I want it to be much safer and cleaner and more livable and affordable,” he said. “LA is the place where people’s dreams come true. That’s what we’re all about. It’s a land of opportunity. It always has been. We can get it back. I’m so confident we will unleash the spirit of LA again, and it’ll be an incredible place to work and live.”