Beutner touts business credentials in his bid for LA mayor

File: Austin Beutner on stage during the preview of The Broad Stage 2010-2011 schedule at The Broad Stage on April 22, 2010 in Santa Monica.
File: Austin Beutner on stage during the preview of The Broad Stage 2010-2011 schedule at The Broad Stage on April 22, 2010 in Santa Monica.

Investment banker and Los Angeles mayoral candidate Austin Beutner said he is better equipped than his opponents to improve the L.A. economy and add jobs. In a speech to Town Hall L.A. at the National Preservation for Democracy downtown, the millionaire businessman derided “career politicians” who’ve “done little” to create jobs in a city with unemployment topping 14 percent.

“Who has the ability to take this city in a new direction?" Beutner asked the audience "Who brings real world experience and a track record of getting things done? Who brings independence and is not bound by ideology and special interests?” He said he does.

In next year’s mayoral election, Beutner faces L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry. L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavksy and developer Rick Caruso are also thinking about running.

Beutner, who repeatedly pointed to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an example of a good mayor, said he'd make job creation his top priority.

He offered a six areas he'd focus on, including improving the airport and ports to increase trade and tourism, and cutting taxes to lure new business to the city. He declined to offer details on the spending cuts that would likely be necessary to make up for the tax cuts.

For 18 months, Beutner served as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's jobs czar. He also served as interim general manager of the L.A. Department of Water and Power. Beutner said he marshaled money and talent to help him at cash-strapped City Hall.

“I went out to the private sector and raised, in about six phone calls, a million dollars," Beutner said. "We used that money to hire some young go-getters.”

In another example of Beutner's connections to wealth in the city, one of downtown L.A.'s biggest developers and property owners, James Thomas of Thomas Properties Group, introduced him.
Former Mayor Richard Riordan, who has endorsed Beutner, also attended.

Beutner made much of his fortune in private equity, not unlike Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He said he will wait to invest in his own campaign until enough people show support with their own contributions.

In his 30 minute speech, Beutner said he'd lobby for an end to California's high-speed rail project, and push for the funds to be spent instead on local mass transit - like light rail. He also the city should partner more with its colleges and universities, including U.S.C., U.C.L.A. and Cal State Northridge.

Like many candidates before him, Beutner said he'd bring "transparency and accountability" to city government.

At one point, Beutner noted that the silent movie "The Artist" recently won an award.

"I'm not often the loudest in the room so its encouraging to me."

Asked if he had concerns that he might not have the charisma to win an election, the first-time candidate asked "Are we casting a movie or choosing a leader?"

At KPCC's DeBord Report, Matthew DeBord considers whether Beutner's business-background message will be compromised by the fact that the business he worked in, like Mitt Romney, was private equity on Wall Street.