LA Mayor Candidate Austin Beutner Lays Out Jobs Plan
Los Angeles candidate for mayor Austin Beutner laid out the framework of his economic plan for the city in a speech downtown Thursday, focusing on ways to reduce unemployment.
Los Angeles’ official unemployment rate is now 11.5 percent as of November, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. Beutner said the city can improve its economy by focusing on areas like trade, technology and tourism. He extolled his 15-month record in city government while attempting to draw contrasts between himself and typical LA city government officials.
“The politics of empty talk, forgotten promises and impractical ideas have to become a thing of the past,” he told an audience at a Town Hall Los Angeles lunchtime event at the Center for the Preservation of Democracy.
Beutner, who is running to replace Antonio Villaraigosa when he finishes his final four-year term in 2013, most recently served as Los Angeles First Deputy Mayor and as the city’s “jobs czar” from January 2010 to April 2011.
He is portraying himself as a City Hall outsider, in contrast to other declared candidates such as Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, who both serve on the City Council. His background is in investment banking, a career he began at age 29 at the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm. He further portrayed himself as a successful business leader, referencing his co-founding of Evercore Partners, an investment banking advisory firm.
In a big laugh-line, he used L.A.'s bike-friendly infrastructure plan to mock the glacial pace of city government. "It took Tolstoy one year to write 'War and Peace,' four years for physicists to assemble as atom bomb [...]. Why is it going to take 35 years to make us bike friendly?"
Beutner said he wants a dramatic revamp of Los Angeles International Airport and the ports. “LAX is the first thing seen by visitors to our city,” he said. “It should be LA Live meets the Grammy Museum meets MOCA meets Universal City Walk.”
Lem Daniels, a financial adviser for an investment bank who lives near the airport, asked Beutner if the changes would include expansion, which nearby communities are already fighting. “For the airport, you have to deal with the communities that live there,” Daniels said.
Beutner clarified that his plan would be more of a modernization than an expansion.
He added that the local veterans should be employed to replace TSA screeners at airport security checkpoints and that San Pedro should become “a tourist destination.”
In addition, Beutner proposed partnering with universities such as USC and UCLA to encourage innovation, especially in technology and the biomedical field. He cited Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s example in a partnership between New York City and Cornell as a model for how a city can work with its universities.
He also proposed getting community colleges and local manufacturers to work out paid internship programs. Beutner touted such a program he helped develop for auto mechanics. It showed "what can happen when you listen to the needs of employers," he said.
He argued for increased manufacturing in L.A., citing electric buses as a potential boon. The MTA’s buses, which are currently ordered from Alabama and Minnesota, should be made locally, he argued.
Other areas for job creation he highlighted were tourism, transportation and small businesses.
Beutner attacked high-speed rail projects as “a solution in search of a problem” and called for more investment in local infrastructure and transportation.
Beutner has recently called out Mayor Villaraigosa and City Council for its handling of the city budget. As David Zanhiser of the L.A. Times first reported, the city has deferred $100 million in personnel costs such as benefits and unpaid overtime to balance its books. Beutner compared the scheme to the Enron fraud case, as quoted in the Times article.
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