L.A. First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner to explore run for the top job
Ending months of speculation, First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner will file papers Thursday to explore a campaign to replace Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who finishes his second and final term in June 2013, sources said.
By submitting papers to the City Ethics Commission that will allow him to begin raising money, Beutner would join what is likely to be a crowded and heavy-hitting field of potential candidates. City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilwoman Jan Perry have already formed exploratory committees, and others including Council President Eric Garcetti, developer Rick Caruso, state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky are also weighing a run.
Beutner, a 51-year-old former investment banker who co-founded the boutique investment and advisory firm Evercore Partners and works for the city for $1 a year, is believed to have the personal funds to finance a campaign but has said he would raise money to test the support for his ideas.
The news comes a day after Villaraigosa delivered his sixth State of the City address, praising the accomplishments of a jobs team assembled by Beutner, who he hired to spur economic development by smoothing relations with Los Angeles businesses –- a problem area for decades –- and lead a push to recruit new firms.
Beutner charged his staff with making five cold calls to businesses each week and helped press for a three-year business-tax holiday for firms that move to Los Angeles, which the City Council approved. He also took up an effort to reduce the more than a dozen city agencies that a new firm must consult when moving to Los Angeles, an idea that had stalled after being announced by the mayor and Garcetti.
The mayor's business team has announced some recent successes, including the opening of a Google outpost in Venice; the relocation of Gensler, an architecture and design firm; and a BMW dealership that representatives of the mayor said was the first to relocate within city limits in 25 years.
Still, L.A.'s unemployment rate stood at 13.5% in February, and some business leaders say far more expansive reform will be needed before the city's byzantine bureaucracy -- which has been struggling with budget cuts, furloughs and layoffs -- could be considered a helpful partner.
Beutner managed to stay above the fray for much of his tenure, avoiding political confrontations and, in some cases, members of the mayor's own staff. But at times, he also has not masked his disdain for council members, particularly their handling of the city's financial woes.
While overseeing 13 city departments and serving as Villaraigosa's "jobs czar," Beutner has also spent much of his tenure as the interim head of the Department of Water and Power, after it had just gone through a bruising fight with the City Council over proposals to raise electricity rates.
Beutner did not pursue any additional rate hikes, choosing instead to look for ways to cut the agency's budget. He also spent months looking for a new top executive at the DWP, who replaced him in January.
-- Maeve Reston and David Zahniser at L.A. City Hall
Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner during a recent news conference for the proposed new downtown football stadium. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times