In his address at Town Hall Los Angeles today, mayoral candidate Austin Beutner did nothing to change his reputation as an uncharismatic public speaker.
In fact, former Mayor Richard Riordan, a strong Beutner supporter who happened to be in the audience, actually fell asleep just a few minutes into the speech. He did not lift his head even when Beutner mentioned his name — and was only jolted awake at the end by the applause. Hey, Beutner can have that effect on people.
Beutner's campaign plugged the speech as a “stake in the ground” on jobs, and promised “fun red meat” regarding City Hall. The text is after the jump, so you may judge for yourself. He did talk about jobs. But red meat?
The bar for that has already been set quite high by Rick Caruso, who gave his own Town Hall L.A. speech seven months ago. In that address, Caruso went out of his way to slam everyone he could think of. He called L.A. Unified an “educational gulag.” He attacked Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for accepting free tickets to sporting events and the City Council for its inability to spell. (Since then, however, Caruso has gotten no closer to actually running for mayor.)
By comparison, Beutner was far more oblique. He made the obligatory complaints about City Hall's do-nothing bureaucracy, but did not name names. When asked to find fault with Villaraigosa, his former boss, he demurred.
About the closest he got to attacking any of his rivals was a line in his speech about “career politicians” who have “jumped on the bandwagon” of helping business by vowing to eliminate the business tax.
“To anyone who has been in office for years, but who only now is seeing the light, we have to ask… Didn't you create these problems? Where have you been?”
(He didn't mention Eric Garcetti, but that's who he's talking about.)
The newsiest thing in the speech was Beutner's opposition to high-speed rail. He called the project “a boondoggle — a solution in search of a problem,” and suggested that the funds should be diverted to local transportation projects.
“It's time to put a bullet in high-speed rail,” Beutner said.
For almost anybody else, that would have been a red-meat moment. If Caruso had said it, you could picture him firing a gun at a train. But Beutner is not remotely menacing, and so the line fell flat.
Does that matter? After the speech, KPCC's Frank Stoltze asked Beutner about his charisma deficit.
“Are we casting a movie?” Beutner asked. “Or are we trying to find someone who can lead Los Angeles?”
Below is the prepared text of Beutner's speech. He didn't stick to it all that closely, but you at least get the idea.
Beutner Town Hall LA Speech