As I watched Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich for the first time, he reminded me of Richard Riordan—more articulate but just as out of place in the city hall culture.
That particular culture is one of “get along, go along.” It has a surface “have a nice day” pleasantness masking the back-stabbing non-elected business and labor representatives who call the real shots. Going along and getting along, plus dealing with the backroom powers, takes an inordinate amount of time, explaining why little is done at city hall. This frustrated Riordan in his eight years as mayor. On some days it drove him nuts.
City hall is also vaguely liberal in its own strange way. While permitting developers and landlords to rule, for example, the City Council banned future municipal dealing with Arizona, after the state passed its punitive and probably unconstitutional anti immigrant law.
I caught up with Trutanich at a luncheon of the Current Affairs Forum, which is run by Emma Schafer, a public affairs consultant, who also blogs about city affairs on her Emma’s Memos site. There was a good-sized crowd at the Wilshire Grand for the event, including several lawyers obviously curious about Trutanich, who was elected last year.
He’s definitely not liberal.
He wants a city grand jury created to investigate whoever or whatever. One target would be hospital administrators who dump poor patients on Skid Row or send them out of state. “Who’s the hospital administrator who makes that decision?” he asked. “I’d like to get my hands on that guy..,but I can’t because I don’t have grand jury authority.”
He doesn’t like civil disobedience. Protest is OK. “There’s a difference between protest and civil disobedience,” he said. “When you engage in civil disobedience because you don’t like something, that’s a violation of the law.”
He also defended with considerable pride his stand on illegal billboards. Where the City Council dithered about getting rid of illegal billboards, Trutanich had a businessman arrested and held on $1 million bail for putting up an eight-story super graphic . “The rules of the game had to change,” he said.
He doesn’t like medical marijuana, worrying that the business is dominated by Mexican drug cartels, and the product is polluted with cancer causing pesticides.
All this is delivered in a pleasant, average guy, non-threatening way. Square as a shoebox, as they used to say.
It will be interesting to watch his journey through city hall. A lot of people want to take him down. But like Riordan, he seems oblivious to them.