Wednesday, April 22, 2009
L.A. City Attorney Candidates Snipe Over Environment
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles city attorney candidates Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich yesterday held a press conference outside City Hall to announce campaign initiatives for the environment and take some shots at his opponent, Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss.
Trutanich called the conference to emphasize his endorsements by environmental prosecutors and investigators. Several, including former district attorney candidate Anthony Patchett, were in attendance.
While sniping between the two campaigns has been commonplace in the battle for the post being vacated by City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, each of the candidates’ environmental platforms identify and address the same basic concerns.
Both men have declared an intention to fight illegal dumping, enforce clean air standards, and provide increased guidance to municipal agencies, but Trutanich’s proposals focus on the use of an environmental crimes strike force and Weiss’ involve collaboration with other government and environmental organizations.
If elected, Trutanich—who has been endorsed by District Attorney Steve Cooley and Sheriff Lee Baca, among others—said that he will designate deputy city attorneys to monitor municipal departments and provide “tougher enforcement” of existing environmental laws.
“There has to be a real downside to violating these laws,” he insisted.
Other issues Trutanich vowed to address were leaks and contamination from abandoned petroleum and chemical pipelines, the illegal transportation of hazardous materials through the city, animal cruelty, and land use law enforcement.
The former deputy district attorney bills himself as the first prosecutor to obtain a state prison sentence for an environmental crime and will appear on the May 19 ballot under the designation of “environmental attorney.”
At yesterday’s press conference, Trutanich defended himself from criticisms by the Weiss campaign for having spent the last 20 years with the litigation firm of Trutanich Michel representing polluters.
“At the end of the day, what we’re looking for is compliance,” Trutanich said, insisting that his clients were entitled to legal representation, and that those clients were all brought into compliance with applicable environmental laws.
“I’ve cleaned companies up,” he declared. “Don’t paint me with the brush of a company that did something when I wasn’t there.”
He further touted his experience attending and lecturing at environmental law conferences as well as providing training for Environmental Protection Agency.
“Ask Jack Weiss…what have you done in the past eight years besides wake up and decide to run for City Attorney?” Trutanich said.
Weiss’ campaign consultant Ace Smith dismissed Trutanich’s statements as “laughable” and “absurd.”
Coming from Trutanich, “the guy who wrote the guide on how to get polluters off the hook,” Smith said, “being called a bad environmentalist…is like being called ugly by a bullfrog.”
Smith emphasized Weiss’ work to clean up the Santa Monica Bay and local urban waterways while on the City Council, for which he was honored by the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters in 2003 and received the Santa Monica Baykeeper Founders Award in 2004.
He noted that Weiss is president of the Santa Monica Bay Watershed Council— a non-regulatory, locally-based state organization established by an act of the California Legislature in 2002 to monitor, assess, coordinate and advise the activities of state programs and oversee funding that affects the beneficial uses, restoration and enhancement of Santa Monica Bay and its watersheds.
He also served for four years as the chair of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission—an independent state organization charged with developing and overseeing the implementation of a plan to ensure the long-term health of the 266 square mile Santa Monica Bay.
Proposals for Collaboration
The “Environmental Protection Plan” released by the Weiss campaign includes proposals calling for collaboration with the Department of Justice, Attorney General, District Attorney, Environmental Protection Agency, State Water Board, Department of Toxic Substance Control, California Department of Fish and Game to expand nuisance and trespass enforcement to ensure enforcement of environmental laws in cases involving pollution that originated on foreign soil.
The plan also proposes partnering with neighborhood councils and law enforcement to identify illegal dumping grounds, and working with nonprofit organizations to bring “proactive litigation” to improve the environment.
The Weiss campaign also announced yesterday that Weiss has received the endorsement of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper—a New York-based environmental watchdog agency—and chairperson of the Waterkeeper alliance, an international network of clean water advocates.
In a letter to Weiss, Kennedy praised the candidate’s efforts as a member of the Los Angeles City Council and founding chair of the Santa Monica Restoration Commission to reduce sewage spills and polluted runoff.
“I am confident you will serve the residents of Los Angeles well by fighting environmental crime and protecting everyone’s right to a clean and safe environment,” Kennedy wrote.
Weiss also received the endorsement of Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on Monday, and has been endorsed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti and six other council members, Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton, the Mexican American Bar Association and the Latino City Attorney’s Association.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company