Caruso steps up *

The GrovePolice commisioner and developer of The Grove Rick Caruso says he'll bankroll a drive to put Mayor Hahn's sales tax hike for more cops on the May ballot if the city council doesn't put it there first. As a Republican who raised $1 million to reelect President Bush, Caruso told the Times, he doesn't like taxes "but sometimes you have to do it." His plan hits the press the same day as a profile of Caruso in the Times' Calendar section by Tina Daunt, the ex-City Hall reporter who will be writing features about the race for mayor. She went with as Caruso checked out New Orleans' French Quarter for ideas for his next mall:

As Caruso walks, his cellphone and BlackBerry buzz constantly with messages that tether him to Los Angeles. Mayor James Hahn wants to meet with him. So does City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who wants Hahn's job. A reporter calls to discuss his latest project, an outdoor shopping center in Glendale. His office is trying to reach Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a close friend. The White House wants to know if he's interested in a commission position. (He is, but only in his spare time.) His wife wants to talk to him about the Christmas lights on their Brentwood mansion.

Impeccably dressed in a $6,000 Brioni suit and square-toed Dolce & Gabbana oxfords, Caruso, appointed by Hahn to the Los Angeles Police Commission, takes calls and keeps moving. His entourage among them a former amusement park architect, a Hollywood-style marketing specialist and a financier are following close behind, watching their boss scrutinize the scenery while performing his daily ballet of multi-tasking.

At 45, Caruso is dashing, fabulously rich, politically connected and determined to reinvent one of the country's most ubiquitous cultural icons the mall.

* I should have added: A month ago, Caruso hired Hahn's former deputy mayor for communications and campaign manager Matt Middlebrook, who departed Fleishman-Hillard public relations to be Caruso's manager of government relations. Some might say Caruso is getting better press than Hahn these days.

This is also moving day for Ron Deaton, who is relocating from the second floor office of Chief Legislative Analyst in City Hall to much sunnier digs at the glass-encased Department of Water and Power building on Bunker Hill. As the DWP's general manager, he is now the highest paid city employee.

Previously: Deaton move greased

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