Five vie to be new LA city attorney

People in Los Angeles will vote for a new city attorney next week. Rocky Delgadillo must leave the job because of term limits. Politicos long considered City Councilman Jack Weiss, a former federal prosecutor, a shoo-in for the job. But KPCC's Frank Stoltze reports that he faces a stiff challenge from a well-connected San Pedro lawyer, who also wants to head one of the nation's largest office of prosecutors.

Frank Stoltze: In his bid for city attorney, Councilman Jack Weiss has amassed support from powerful labor unions, wealthy developers, and influential environmentalists. He's carefully nurtured relationships with the city's popular mayor and police chief, and he shares their agenda.

Jack Weiss: I'm very pleased to have worked with the mayor and the police chief on growing the size of the police department. It's something that everyone looks at now and says, "Oh, that was easy, that was obviously going to happen." Well, not true.

Bill Bratton (in TV ad): I can think of nobody that has worked more vigorously on behalf of the residents of this city on issues of public safety than Jack.

Stoltze: In a television ad, Police Chief Bill Bratton praises Weiss's work to obtain more money to equip the LAPD's anti-terrorism unit and to test backlogged DNA evidence.

Bill Bratton (in TV ad): My support of Jack Weiss is a no-brainer, to be quite frank with you.

Stoltze: Everybody in law enforcement doesn't agree with Bratton. Carmen Trutanich:

Carmen Trutanich: Last Labor Day, I got a call from Steve Cooley.

Stoltze: That's the L.A. County district attorney.

Trutanich: He goes, ya know, L.A. needs a champion, and so I reached into my vest pocket and asked, "How much is this champion going to cost us?" (chuckles)

Stoltze: Trutanich is a well-heeled San Pedro lawyer who's more accustomed to giving money to politicians than being one. But Cooley wanted him to run against Weiss.

In a thinly-veiled jab at Weiss, Cooley calls Trutanich, a former homicide prosecutor, the "real deal" – not an "overly ambitious partisan politician." He points to Weiss's gun ordinance last year.

Steve Cooley: Ya know what, let's stop some of the phoniness here. It was a press conference opportunity for Jack Weiss. It was a bad piece of legislation, which usually results when you're out for political gain.

Stoltze: Weiss maintains the measure that requires licenses for ammunition vendors and other regulations will reduce gun violence. Trutanich opposed the ordinance. He said that while he'd vigorously prosecute gun crimes, he's a strong supporter of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of the right to own a gun.

Trutanich: Imagine the city where every crook in the city knew that nobody had a gun in their home. That'd be like putting a fat man in a bakery.

Stoltze: Trutanich and Weiss both promise to reduce the city attorney's reliance on expensive outside lawyers and to fight more lawsuits against the city instead of settling them. Trutanich promises to be tough on environmental polluters, even though he's spent much of his career representing them. He says balance is the key.

Trutanich: You give them a chance to succeed. If you have to file a case, you put them on probation and you tell them there's a chance you can get this thing dismissed if you perform for three or four years without violations.

Stoltze: Trutanich has raised about $700,000 – half what Weiss has accumulated. A third candidate's amassed about 300,000. Deputy City Attorney Michael Amerian, who's endorsed by City Controller Laura Chick, maintains that he offers the best combination of experience and independence.

Michael Amerian: It's extremely important to have somebody like myself who can come with the credibility of having worked in the office and be able to say, "OK, look, this is what I think is the right thing to do." It's not filtered through my political ambition. It's not a part of any big political agenda.

Stoltze: It's another jab at Jack Weiss – and at his cozy relationship with the mayor.

Weiss: This is not a game show. It's not a reality show where we're supposed to be at each other's throats for the enjoyment of the media and the masses.

So it is a good thing to run on a platform of the ability to get along with the city's chief executive.

Stoltze: If none of the three contenders wins a majority of votes on Tuesday, there'll be a runoff election in May.