By The Times editorial board
April 19, 2013
Few people look to politics these days for straight talk. So a recent mailer from City Atty. Carmen Trutanich may strike many as just more of the cynical spin that's become so commonplace. In it, the city's top lawyer extracts a few headlines and phrases from articles and an editorial in The Times, and suggests that the paper's editorial board harbors fundamental doubts about former Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who is battling him for the office.
Just to be clear: The Times endorsed Feuer for city attorney in the March elections and still regards him as the far more qualified candidate in the May 21 runoff.
Feuer has served on the City Council, where he championed such causes as gun control and such innovations as the city's 311 system. His record as an honest broker followed him to the Assembly, where he chaired the Judiciary Committee and was an advocate for public safety. His record reveals a dedication to growth, common sense, environmental stewardship and open government — all worthy ambitions. He has a background that has well prepared him for the position and the temperament to make the most of it.
Which is not to say we agree with him about everything. In this campaign, Feuer and his political consultant, John Shallman, created an arrangement under which the consultant would be paid only if Feuer won. That meant that Feuer made no payments to Shallman in the first round of the election, helping Feuer to stay under the spending limits established by the city for candidates who want to receive matching funds. Feuer insists that he had oral approval from the city Ethics Commission staff, and it's true that he's not the first to make such an arrangement. Still, if city rules allow such a practice, those rules should be revisited.
But this isn't a race about the relationship between a candidate and his consultant. It's an opportunity for voters to choose the candidate best suited to represent the city in lawsuits, to act as counselor to city departments and to prosecute misdemeanors.
Trutanich has had four years to demonstrate his abilities in those areas, and he's failed, disappointing many of his early supporters, including this page, which endorsed him in 2009. Trutanich has alienated city leaders with threats and bluster and has pursued cases that get him headlines but matter little to residents.
Voters have noticed and already have voiced their disapproval. Last year, when Trutanich broke his pledge not to run for district attorney, he was solidly rejected.
The next city attorney will need to be a counselor to agencies and an advisor to the new mayor and City Council. To be successful, that person will need legal acumen and political skills, as well as integrity. Feuer brings all of that, and thus should be the easy choice of city voters.
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