Rick Caruso’s mayoral run is problematic

Iris Leung | Daily Trojan

Rick Caruso formally announced his candidacy on Twitter for Los Angeles mayor Feb. 11. 

To most Angelenos, Caruso is primarily known as the billionaire businessman who founded his own real estate company and formerly served as the president of the civilian L.A. Police Commission. To the USC community, he is known as the Chair of the Board of Trustees, member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and member of the Trojan Squires. The Caruso family are also long-time USC supporters who have donated to organizations such as the USC Inter-Greek Society Fund, Our Savior Parish Church and USC Caruso Catholic Center. 

It would be an understatement to say that his connections with USC run deep. 

Does he deserve a vote in the mayoral election from the Trojan Family because of his strong USC ties? While one might be tempted to reciprocate his generosity as a donor and choose to elect Caruso as mayor, L.A. voters should fully take into account his political history and campaign proposals before voting. 

Caruso mainly claims that he is running for mayor purely out of a love for L.A. and for the betterment of the community. He additionally stated that he will work only for $1 a year in his “Corruption and Ethics” section on his campaign’s website. However, with his estimated $4 billion net worth, this still feels like lip service. 

One does not earn $4 billion without the exploitation of the working class. Vowing to not make money while working is almost like a backhanded flex to working-class people rather than a praisable feat.

Caruso’s performative politics of solely running for the good of society and humanity is incredibly misleading, despite its commonality among billionaire politicians. Donald Trump, is a notable billionaire businessman-turned-politician, who ran for president to push his own personal politics, like immigration controls and trade protectionism. 

Caruso’s other proposals — “Clean Up LA” and ending street homelessness — also are well-intentioned but still stigmatize people that are unhoused. Reducing homelessness is an issue that needs solutions, but framing this as something that needs “cleaning up” is dehumanizing and implies that people who are experiencing homelessness are merely producers of waste. 

Caruso makes it clear that he will create “inexpensive” communities with tiny homes and implement “cost effective” methods to house people. While his real estate company provides upscale living, he proposes the use of seemingly dignified shipping containers and modular housing. 

Although his campaign website mentions providing mental health care, rent assistance to people experiencing homelessness and has strong points to his campaign, they conflict with his stance on the state of policing and public safety.

Caruso, with the L.A. police union support, also addresses public safety and the police in his mayoral campaign, looking to invest more money into the police to “making them better” and add 1,500 more officers to the force. 

As perpetrators of violence, police, according to the L.A. Times, kill a rough average of 42 people per year. So, does “making them better” imply better trained violence perpetrators? 

Caruso plans to address violence in “high-crime” areas, which typically contain people experiencing homelessness and those with mental health issues. If Caruso’s mission really is to assist people with their mental health necessities and those who are unhoused, producers and victims of crime, what will additional policing really do? If the sources of “crime” and “violence” are hypothetically resolved as a result of his provisions, then the police will not have violence to address. 

His campaign also notes that he will “crack down on property crime” as he believes that they are not adequately enforced by the LAPD. However, what will be the consequences for forced removal of property of unhoused communities, such as the Echo Park encampments last year? Under this notion, should City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell be punished for failing to properly house the people he evicted in Echo Park? 

Being “cost effective” with homelessness and demanding President Joe Biden and Governor Gavin Newsom for more police funding expose what Caruso really wants to do with Los Angeles. While Rick Caruso’s charitable donations to USC are greatly appreciated, his financial actions outside of philanthropy reveal his character. 

As for billionaires running for office, they should be transparent because their true intentions will eventually shine through. Rather than boast a nonexistent salary, billionaires should blatantly state that they don’t need the money, so they won’t earn a salary. 

So, whether Caruso receives your vote or not, be wary of performative politics, especially when they’re coming from billionaires.