BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Yup, that’s what Rick’s askin’ fer. You probably wouldn’t recognize the man based on behavior when compared with his Wikipedia biography where the introductory paragraph reads:
“Rick Joseph Caruso (born January 7, 1959) is an American billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He is the founder and chief executive officer of Caruso Affiliated, an American real-estate company. He has been president of the Los Angeles Police Commission and a member of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners.
“Philanthropist,” yeah, right, read on…
The reasons I’m aware of for publically taking Rick Caruso to task are focused on his “Americana” property/project in Glendale.
Most recently, the “management” of that mixed-use project refused to allow advertising for the film “Architects of Denial,” obviously about the Armenian Genocide because it was “too political”. Imagine anyone arguing that a movie about the Holocaust, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King is too political. Similarly, consider movies such as “Django,” “Free State of Jones,” or any of Michael Moore’s (and I’m certain my right wing friends and readers can add their own titles). The Glendale ANCA http://asbarez.com/165475/anca-glendale-action-alert-end-americanas-gag-rule/ and Harut Sassounian http://asbarez.com/165406/glendale-armenians-should-teach-a-lesson-to-americana-at-brand-executives/ both do thorough jobs of detailing this incident and calling for action/ remediation, so I won’t rehash the details here. State Senator Portantino has also entered the fray and called for appropriate action.
But, this is not the Americana’s first offense. Some three years ago, its management initially forbade the sale of Genocide-themed T-shirts by a group of young Armenians who had leased a cart at the Americana. After feedback and negative reactions from the public, they backed off that inappropriate, incomprehensible, position.
The Americana is also misleading the public on at least one other front. It was presented to the community as a mixed-use, urban-living type project. Yet, I challenge you to ride a bicycle in there. You will quickly be accosted by the security folks and informed that you may only walk your bicycle or park it in the lot. Huh? Since when have bikes NOT been part of the urban scene- from families riding, to people shopping, to messengers delivering, and heck, even to homeless folks moving their meager possessions around – all done on bicycles.
It gets worse if you recall some history. It took a special election to enable construction of the Americana. During that election, Glendale’s Armenian community was targeted, mobilized, and voted largely in favor of this development project. Simple human gratitude and consideration should alone be enough to preclude foolhardy decisions such as this one barring advertising for “Architects of Denial”. But, if not that, then common sense should prevail. The clientele frequenting Americana is massively Armenian, why offend your supporters? I suppose it would be too much to expect basic human decency.
That may seem harsh, but consider that Rick J. Caruso, a billionaire, also serves on USC’s Board of Trustees, recently described by the Los Angeles Times as secretive. In that capacity, he said, “If the allegations are true, I’m very disturbed and condemn the illegal use of drugs, especially by someone who holds the highest level of trust and care,” speaking about the scandal currently plaguing USC over the actions of their medical school’s dean. Wow! “Trust and Care”… Isn’t Mr. Caruso himself in such a position? Has he not betrayed that trust to Armenians, Glendalians, and all decent human beings?
And speaking of decency, I have even been informed by someone who has done a little bit of poking around, nothing definitive yet, that Turkish and Azeri citizens who are in the U.S. on non-work visas are being employed at some locations at the Americana (and, to be fair, other malls) at below-legal wage rates. If this is true, are we supposed to believe that Americana’s management and tricky Ricky Caruso are not aware of this and turning a blind eye to it? Let’s see what comes of this line of inquiry.
I think that the ANCA’s and Harut’s proposed actions don’t go far enough. Every Armenian should boycott the Americana. There should be picketers at all the entrances all day long. Even Caruso’s house should be picketed. This should go on until he goes to the Americana, holds a public meeting, promises that no more of these insulting anti-Armenian actions will occur, and apologizes convincingly to the Armenian community’s satisfaction. Enough of this arrogant billionaire behavior!