Gang czar Jeff Carr got the top billing in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s shakeup in the leadership of his vast personal staff.
But the real play is the appointment of high-flying Jay Carson, the 32-year-old named to revive the mayor’s political fortunes in the newly-created post of Chief Deputy Mayor.
The shakeup announcement (CarrCarson.doc) stressed Carr’s role and downplayed Carson’s and for good reason. Carson will be in the center of where the power and money are, the missing link in Antonio’s circle of ‘friends.’
The link that matters in this case is Stephen Bing, heir to a vast fortune who has thrown nearly $100 million into Democratic causes and campaigns, including Villaraigosa’s, and even more into buying his way into Hollywood movie making.
It was Bing who brought Carson to LA early this year in a top post in his Shangri La business enterprises. And it’s the Bing connection that creates a huge ethical cloud over Carson’s role as Chief Deputy Mayor, one that the mayor glibly kissed off at his press conference last week although serious questions need to be answered.
Not long after Carson joined Bing, the mayor threw himself across the tracks as head of the board overseeing the MTA and kept the staff from eliminating AnseldoBreda as a competitor for a $300 million rail car manufacturing deal because of the Italian firm’s poor performance on a previous contract.
The key to keeping the deal alive is the partnership between AnseldoBreda and Bing’s Shangri La Construction to build a rail car manufacturing plant with heavy public subsidies in the five-mile strip near downtown that the mayor has dubbed LA’s Green Tech Corridor and made the centerpiece of his second term.
Bing stands to profit handsomely from the project which is just the first step in reaping billions of dollars in profits from construction of the California high-speed rail lines — deals where Bing’s political influence are sure to stand him in good stead.
Carson faces an almost impossible ethical dance since he worked for Bing and his duties as Chief Deputy Mayor include “Education, Housing & Economic
Development, Transportation, Energy & Environment, and Commercial
Residential Development,” according to the mayor’s press release.
Those are the most
controversy-laden areas of city government, the areas where special
interests with all their cash flow for politicians collide head-on with
the sentiments of many residents. Specifically, they are the areas of responsibility that come into play in Bing’s deals.
The mayor casually threw out that Bing will “recuse” himself from involvement in the Bing rail car deal.
But how is that possible?
He’s not a legislator recusing himself from voting on a measure because of a conflict of interest.
He’s the man in charge supervising the people developing strategies, cutting deals and implementing policies that affect Bing. How can they be insulated from being influenced by Carson and his clear connection to Bing?