Caruso touted his career as a “builder” and “manager” in the private sector, while using the evening to attack his opponents – Rep. Karen Bass, City Attorney Mike Feuer and Councilors Kevin de León and Joe Buscaino – as “career politicians” with “empty promises”.
After several similar shots at his opponents, Bass replied to Caruso, “Some people have spent their whole lives not making money but doing public service, and they shouldn’t be belittled for that.”
De León also responded to Caruso saying, “You and I are two very different people and I have a job you can only dream of,” citing his career in the state senate, where he was president pro tempore before. to become a Los Angeles City Councilman in 2020.
“For the last two years of (the) global pandemic, you were preoccupied with your rents in your mall and your $14,000 nights in your hotel, while I was there knocking on doors, giving vaccines and (personal protective equipment) and hot meals at Angelenos every day,” De León said.
Throughout the debate, Feuer criticized Caruso’s record as a developer, saying he opposed rent controls and built no affordable or homeless housing.
“At the same time that you were building luxury housing and opposing rent controls, I was defending illegally evicted tenants and making sure we tackled substandard housing and then worked to improve and develop housing affordable…stocks speak louder than ads,’ Feuer said.
Caruso replied, “I’ve been on the other side of the counter when trying to get permits, and the city is so over-regulated, it’s no surprise why we haven’t enough housing.”
Feuer also alleged that Caruso had a $100 million yacht registered in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes and asked if he planned to release his tax returns.
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Caruso replied that he would “release everything I pay in taxes,” including on the yacht, once all of the other contestants on stage decide to release their tax returns.
The candidates showed some of their starkest differences when discussing crime in Los Angeles, which saw a 53% increase in homicides between 2019 and 2021.
Feuer said he would propose a series of reforms and increase the Los Angeles Police Department from 500 officers to a force of 10,000, while Buscaino, who served as an LAPD officer for 15 years, and Caruso, who was the president of the Los Angeles police. Commission from 2001 to 2003, published their plans to increase this number to 11,000.
Buscaino, who said Angelenos see “chaos and mayhem,” said he would put officers “in neighborhoods so you see them, feel safe, and when you call 9-1 -1, they answer”.
De León took aim at the Los Angeles Police Department’s expansion plans, saying it would come at an additional cost to Angelenos.
“If you’re going to raise the LAPD budget, what they don’t tell you is that you have to raise taxes, a billion over five years…so you have to raise taxes on ordinary Angelenos who have suffered a lot of the coronavirus pandemic,” De León said.
“Or, you’re going to have to cut to the bone when we’re talking about much-needed services for Angelenos, such as meals-on-wheels for seniors, after-school programs for kids, as well as parks for every Angeleno. ”
“That’s the bottom line. You can’t have it both ways, and I think what we need to do is we need to make better use of the resources we have.”
If elected, both De León and Bass plan to bring the department up to its currently budgeted level of 9,700 officers. As of Tuesday, the department had 9,426 sworn personnel and 2,684 civilian personnel.
Bass, D-Los Angeles, said she would ask the department to hire civilian employees to replace officers’ office jobs to put those officers in the field. De León said the police department needs to use its existing resources more efficiently.
All of the candidates have expressed the need for more homeless and affordable housing in the city, although the numbers in their plans differ. Bass said she would house 15,000 people, in addition to the number already housed, in her first year as mayor.
In addition to working to streamline the affordable housing permitting process so that affordable housing developers don’t “have to line up next to someone who is also building luxury housing,” Bass said that she would appoint a “chief” to deal with homelessness and the housing crisis to report to her. She also said she would use her relationships with state and federal governments to access additional resources for the city.
“I would access the resources that I have in the federal government and the state government, this head of housing would bring all the department heads together, and we would make sure that’s the number one issue because it’s is a matter of public health and public safety emergency and so far it has not been treated like that,’ she said.
Caruso said he would build 30,000 beds in his first year, and Buscaino called for 9,000 immediate shelter beds, as well as a law banning encampments once enough shelters are built for people. 44,000 homeless inhabitants of the city.
READ MORE: LA mayoral candidates stress public safety at forum; Rick Caruso has yet to make an appearance
Feuer said he would call for an emergency response to the homelessness crisis as if it were a natural disaster, adding that there would be pop-up locations in Los Angeles where homeless people could access the services.
“No more shopping around town (looking for services) for someone experiencing homelessness,” he said.
De León, who said he experienced homelessness in his early 20s, spoke about what he has done since taking office in 2019, including building the largest small village of homes in the United States for homeless people.
Tuesday’s debate was organized by the Dornsife Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California, the Los Angeles Times and Fox 11.
The primary will take place on June 7, with the top two meeting in a run-off on November 8.
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