Friday, October 30, 2009
Trutanich Marks First 115 Days in Office, Identifies Next Priorities
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich yesterday marked his first 115 days in office and identified his priorities going forward in a speech to the Century City Bar Association.
The first speaker in the association’s new Distinguished Speaker Series, Trutanich told attendees at Lawry’s in Beverly Hills that he would be more “visionary” in the next 100 days and focus on keeping citizens safe, safeguarding taxpayer dollars, improving quality of life and providing “top legal counsel.”
He said he would do so by cleaning up Skid Row, cracking down on gangs and taggers, taking action against medical marijuana dispensaries, enforcing the city’s ban on billboards and continuing to pursue reimbursement of city funds expended on the July memorial for Michael Jackson.
‘The Right Thing’
Trutanich remarked that he was guided by a philosophy of doing “the right thing for the right reasons to benefit the citizens of Los Angeles.” He said that during his first staff meeting after taking office, he told the almost 40 attorneys present that anyone who mentioned politics or fallout from their decisions would “not be here next week.”
He also indicated, now that he was through “putting out fires,” that he was looking forward “to four years, and hopefully, if I do a good job, four more.”
Identifying his top staff—Chief Legal Advisor Curt Livesay and Senior Media Advisor John A. Franklin, who were present, as well as Chief Deputy City Attorney Bill Carter, Special Assistant City Attorney David Berger and Senior Assistant Jane Usher—Trutanich said the office would “work on being more aware of our surroundings.”
He declined to provide specifics on cleaning up Skid Row, saying that the office would be moving forward in a way that has “never been done before.” However, he identified his first priority as making the neighborhood safe for residents, even if they are homeless.
Trutanich said it was important to remember that the homeless are often preyed upon and that many victims are families. He also said more jobs are needed, and said Los Angeles needs to become more “user-friendly” in order to expand its tax base by bringing in more income.
The City Attorney announced that he intended to break the “multi-generational” cycle of gang violence by working with the Los Angeles Unified School District to institute a class in decision-making in juvenile hall and at the elementary school level.
Teaching ‘Life Skills’
Complaining that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation merely “warehouses” offenders who then “learn…from their friends,” he said he wanted to teach “life skills” to be reinforced daily so that children “learn there are consequences to bad decisions.”
Turning to medical marijuana, Trutanich said he was compelled to enforce the law under the California Supreme Court’s decision last year in People v. Mentch 45 Cal.4th 274. There, the court ruled that a medical marijuana supplier must have provided patrons some previous, other form of caregiving in order to qualify as a “primary caregiver” immune from prosecution for growing or possessing the drug for sale.
He said he recently took a sample of medical marijuana from a dispensary to the federal Food and Drug Administration for testing and was told the sample contained unacceptable levels of insecticide. Remarking that his position has “nothing to do” with the pros or cons of medical marijuana, and that there was “boatloads” of insecticide-laced marijuana, he commented, “if it’s a medicine, it has to be controlled like any other medicine.”
Trutanich told the crowd he could shut all dispensaries down tomorrow, “but if subsequent law says I’m wrong, the city is exposed to tremendous liability.” Instead, he said, he would be taking future action against dispensaries, but would move slowly in order to limit the city’s possible exposure from doing something “aggressive and stupid.”
He also said he was working to resolve the “rat’s nest” he inherited with respect to the enjoinment of Los Angeles’ billboard ordinance by a federal judge. He indicated he will enforce the city’s decision to enforce a ban on new billboards, and that he would continue to push to recover costs from the Michael Jackson memorial, which cost the city $1.4 million to cover security, traffic control and other services.
Trutanich acknowledged criticism over the decision on the memorial, but said he was obligated to determine whether the decision to pay the funds—made, he said, over a weekend without any input by any “electeds,” and for “a commercial, private purpose”—constituted misappropriation or unjust enrichment.
He also said that he has a good relationship with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who endorsed Trutanich’s opponent, then-City Council Member Jack Weiss, in the May election—“everyone gets a mulligan,” Trutanich quipped—and that any of the three recently-named candidates to succeed LAPD Chief William Bratton would be a good choice.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company