March 2, 2024 Your Source for Brentwood News

Brentwood Beat: Rick Caruso for Homelessness Czar

We have a new mayor, Karen Bass, and a new CD11 city council member, Traci Park. 

Congratulations all around!

The work now begins in earnest. Homelessness is Issue No. 1.

As people debate the causes and cures for homelessness, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. 

The system is too complex, too expensive and horribly ineffectual. People get paid lots of money for producing little if any results. 

Some argue for temporary shelters and tiny homes, figuring we can work on permanent supportive housing later. 

Some say permanent supportive housing is the only thing that works – but permanent supportive housing takes years to build and costs too much. 

Mental health professionals say that without adequate “wrap-around services,” more housing alone won’t do the trick. Many homeless individuals are “service resistant” and don’t want housing – or services – even if offered. 

It’s complicated. There’s one thing that’s not complicated: We all know moving people from this street corner to that street corner solves nothing. 

It’s way past time to try something new. 

So what’s the solution? 

Rather than make a lot of recommendations, let’s start with just one: I hope Karen Bass will ask Rick Caruso to serve as LA’s homelessness czar. 

If he is given the mandate, the authority and the funding to fix this problem, I think he will do it. He’s a can-do guy, and he obviously knows how to build things. 

He has served on other city commissions; serving as homelessness czar would be a natural next step. This is the biggest challenge of our times. 

By reaching out to her former opponent, Karen Bass can show the city – and the country – we’re taking steps to overcome political division. I hope, if offered this role, Rick Caruso will accept it. We need his talents. 

If Karen Bass and Rick Caruso work together, this is a situation where “one plus one equals three.” There will be complementarity, synergy – a multiplier effect. 

In the business startup community, it is often said you should not dive right in and build the business. You should first build the team that will go on to build the business. 

People, it is said, are more important than having a great idea or even money. Many great startups with promising ideas fail – and lose money – because the wrong people are in charge. Leadership is important. A great leader who is dealt a bad hand will figure out how to turn that bad hand into a winning hand.

Abraham Lincoln famously formed a cabinet made up largely of those who ran against him – the “Team of Rivals,” as author Doris Kearns Goodwin put it. When Barack Obama became president, he named Hillary Clinton – his opponent in the 2008 primary election – his secretary of state.

I hope Karen Bass and Rick Caruso will find their way clear to work together. 

Traci Park, our new CD11 representative, was asked many times on the campaign trail if she would be endorsing Karen Bass or Rick Caruso. She wisely stayed out of it, saying she would need to work with whichever candidate was elected. 

I’m sure she will work well with Mayor Bass – and “Czar” Caruso, should this idea come to fruition. 

I know many don’t like the title, “czar.” They can figure out a proper title. Titles aren’t the issue. Getting results is the issue. 

I hope this new partnership happens. It would be good for the city. It would offer excitement – and hope. Fingers crossed.

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