Developer and likely mayoral candidate Rick Caruso peaced out of the L.A. Coliseum Commission this week. He's the second commissioner, besides W. Jerome Stanley, to have done so in the last month.
It seems to us that, in preparation for a possible run for L.A. city's highest office, the well-dressed man best known for building The Grove shopping center wants to distance himself from the stank emanating from the scandal-plagued commission.
If anything, this makes him look good, although …
… you could charge that he's running away from a problem.
In his resignation letter, Caruso blames his dual role as a commissioner and USC trustee at a time when the school is negotiating for a new, long-term football contract with the Coliseum. Commissioner Bernard Parks has called on Caruso to recuse himself from any negotiations with the school.
But we think the deeper issue is that the Commission can't be fixed in its current form, a point Caruso makes clear in his resignation letter. The body of high-level officials (including former LAPD Chief Parks) is a joint power run by the city, county and state with little outside oversight. Caruso:
… It is critical that the Commission operate with the full trust of the public and that will only be achieved by dramatically increasing transparency and accountability. Given recent events, the pubIic's trust in the Coliseum's operations has been seriously eroded …
… I also believe that the Commission should be phased out and run by a single entity
management structure that operates in its place, whether that is the state, county, city or a private organization. The Joint Powers Authority structure is inefficient and unquestionably has contributed to the recent fiscal and management breakdowns. Three govemment agencies have no business running any enterprise, let alone one that is dependent on being innovative and competitive to survive.
The commission has the reputation of being the place where you go to score great USC football tickets and meet once in a while to discuss humdrum issues like whether or not to host a community event at the Coliseum or its sister venue the Sports Arena.
That all changed last year after the Electric Daisy Carnival rave saw 60 mostly drug-related arrests, more than 200 mostly drug-related hospitalizations, and the subsequent death of a 15-year-old attendee named Sasha Rodriguez who overdosed on ecstasy.
Calls for reconsidering hosting the four-times-a-year raves at the Coliseum/Sports Arena ended in controversy when the Los Angeles Times revealed that one of the venues' top managers, Todd DeStefano, was also working on the side for EDC's promoter, Insomniac Events, at a time when the party organizer was lobbying to have its events continue at the public venues.
Caruso and Stanely were arguably the most outspoken critics of hosting the late-night parties at the venues, and Caruso, for one, wanted them out for good.
So far he's gotten his wish. But at the same time more embarrassing revelations about the venues' management have been published by the Times, including that DeStefano collected $1.8 million from companies, including rave promoters, that did business with the venues even as they operated in the red.
Coliseum general manager Pat Lynch eventually resigned, and there are calls for more resignations among the venues' top brass.
Even so, the Times recently reported that top managers filled up on free gas and drove luxury cars at the expense of the taxpayer-owned facilities.
Yeah, Caruso couldn't get out of there fast enough. But does that mean good news for Insomniac, the rave promoter that wants to return to the Coliseum for its massive, 100,000-plus EDC festival?
Maybe. One reformer has given up the fight for now. But what he's calling for is a full-on revolution at the commission. Caruso wants USC to take control of the Coliseum/Sports Arena. That's the same school that early this year warned students not to attend raves.
That wouldn't be good for raves at all.