Karen Bass and Rick Caruso discuss LA City Hall scandal and call for unity in latest mayoral debate – Orange County Register
By ERIC ER | City news service
UNIVERSAL CITY – Los Angeles mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso are part of the growing movement calling for the resignation of three city council members after racist comments and backdoor deals were exposed in a leaked record and the scandal was one of the subjects of the last mayoral debate.
The hour-long debate, hosted by NBC 4 and Telemundo 52 at the Brokaw News Center in Universal City, came two days after an October 2021 call that three city council members – Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo – and the former LA County Federation attendance was leaked by Labor President Ron Herrera, which contained racial slurs and discussion of how to redraw council county lines in favor of councillors.
Herrera was the only one to resign Tuesday night, although Martinez took a leave of absence from the council after she left as council president.
Both Bass and Caruso called for the resignation of all council members, and both believed they could provide the new leadership Los Angeles needs.
“We need a new direction in LA and new leadership,” Bass said. “I want to make sure that we reject divide and conquer politics.”
Caruso, as he has spoken throughout his campaign, linked the redistribution controversy to claims that the system was broken – exacerbating problems like homelessness and crime. He presented himself as a candidate for change, blaming a failure of leadership for the City Hall scandal.
“People spend more time protecting themselves and protecting their jobs than working for city residents,” said Caruso, a billionaire developer. “That’s why we have crime out of control.”
Caruso has previously accused Bass of corruption in connection with accepting a $95,000 grant to the USC School of Social Work, but he did not mention it during this debate.
Unlike the first two debates, which featured lively exchanges and back-and-forth accusations linking each other to scandals, Tuesday’s debate took on a more civil tone – perhaps with a view to the town hall scandal. Both candidates even agreed with each other’s answers and complimented each other on several occasions, a rarity during the first two debates.
“I think anyone who’s under a cloud of corruption shouldn’t be qualified for a leadership position, especially now,” Caruso said. “Because the mayor has to stand up for what’s right for the citizens of the city, period, and not look over their backs to see what’s happening.”
Both candidates said they would support a possible electoral measure in 2024 that would create an independent commission to re-elect the boroughs. City Council will vote on Wednesday whether to put the issue up for a vote. Currently, the members of the new district commission are appointed by the council.
Bass said she would address racial segregation caused by the racism of the officers in the leaked recording, using her experience as the founder of the South Los Angeles nonprofit organization Community Coalition, which she founded in the 1990s. In the leaked tape, Martinez directed racial slurs at council member Mike Bonin’s 2-year-old black son.
“For me, trust comes from and relationships come from work, doing things together,” Bass said. “When we knocked on the door, it didn’t matter if it was African American or Latino.
“When we brought people together in the coalition, they had problems. They had conflicts. But we talked about it. We made it public and we solved it.”
Bass said the two generations of people she raised in the Coalition will “take the lead in this city to deal with the crisis that we are dealing with now.”
Caruso pointed to his work bringing communities together to fight crime when he was on the city’s police commission two decades ago, and also said he and his wife have provided scholarships and health care in black and brown communities.
“We believe that all of us who are luckier have to give back and actually help,” Caruso said. “Not just with money, but with our time and our love and our passion.”
Caruso also accused elected officials of committing themselves to their communities.
“That’s why there’s tension in this city,” Caruso said. “It’s due to leadership failure.”
The second half of the debate was spent on homelessness, crime and drug use, with candidates mostly repeating talking points from previous debates.
Neither supported a 2024 ballot measure that would require hotels to make vacant rooms available to people without accommodation, although Caruso appeared unaware that it was a citizens’ initiative when he accused the city council of ” to have allowed it to come to a vote”. and was corrected by a moderator. The council’s two options were to either adopt the measure or send it to voters.
The two candidates were at odds over whether to seek a tax increase to address homelessness, with Caruso promising not to raise taxes while Bass did not.
Caruso took the opportunity to create a soundbite.
“Congresswoman Bass is going to raise your taxes to get things done in the City of Los Angeles, and Rick Caruso is not going to do that,” Caruso said.
When Bass hit back, Caruso accused her of making “political speeches.”
Bass replied, “If people are dying on our streets and it’s necessary, I could do it (raise taxes). I think there is still a lot to do before then. But to stand here and lie and promise that if five people don’t wake up on these streets tomorrow I’ll do something – I’ll do whatever it takes to solve this problem.”
When candidates were asked if they could enlist their opponent’s support if they became mayor, the responses were cordial.
Bass said she had previously asked Caruso for help from her Republican peers when she was pushing a police reform bill in Congress, while Caruso said he needs “a lot of bright, talented people to make this city work.”
“And from what we’ve just seen over the past few days, the only option for the city is to work together and be united,” Caruso said. “As much as Karen and I disagree on politics, what we will never do is something that will harm this town in any way.”
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/12/karen-bass-rick-caruso-address-la-city-hall-scandal-call-for-unity-in-final-mayoral-debate/ Karen Bass and Rick Caruso discuss LA City Hall scandal and call for unity in latest mayoral debate – Orange County Register