City Attorney Carmen Trutanich dropped by the Brentwood Community Council Tuesday night at the Kaufman Library to talk about the budget, crime, digital billboards and the work from his office during his tenure.
In May, Trutanich faces former Assemblyman Mike Feuer in a run-off in the race for the city attorney's office. Feuer and other city election candidates visited the community council prior to the March 5 primary.
Trutanich distributed his March 13 letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, opposing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposed fiscal 2013-14 budget, which recommends a reduction in funding for neighborhood councils. As chairwoman Nancy Freedman pointed out that the Brentwood Community Council is not certified with the city, meaning they still have the power to sue, there are still 95 pockets of neighborhoods in L.A. who could be affected.
Even though the mayor's budget has not been finalized, Trutanich said "drastic cuts" have been made to both the budget and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment since 2009, and that further de-funding neighborhood councils "materially impairs" and "renders their intended duties incpable of appropriate performance."
"At the end of day, we’ll see budget comes out so they fund neighborhood councils accordingly so they can do their duties," Trutanich said.
Crime down citywide, but budget cuts prolong local policing
Trutanich pointed out that Brentwood's seen a "small spike" in some crime compared to the central part of the L.A. but, like most of the city, have had an overall reduction.
"Crime is down 23 percent," he said. "Why? We partner with LAPD."
Trutanich said it's important that every single theft of $400 and above gets prosecuted, noting his office is fighting LAPD's effort to classify petty theft of anything below $950. He said suspects committing low level crimes "guarantees" they are on probation for a crime they did elsewhere, noting why DNA fingerprinting is important to use.
"Budget cuts have decimated what we do here locally," he said. "At the end of the day, LAPD does one thing and government does one thing, and their no number thing is public safety."
Since he took office, Trutanich noted that violent crime in L.A. is down "8 to 9" percent and gun violence is down 13 percent.
"Is it safer than years before? Yes, but not if it hits your neighborhood," Trutanich said. "Crime is at 100 percent then. We're working with the senior lead officers in each community."
The population of Skid Row in downtown was around 467 and now has more than 2,000 homeless due to the prisoner release, Trutanich noted.
He also said in the last several years L.A. has saved $295 million based on the 92 percent civil case success rate.
The city attorney's office is "better than four years ago," Trutanich told the council.
"We've consolidated, brought units together and made it efficient," he said. "When I took office we were spending $37 million in outside counsel. Now? $8 million. Our payroll has gone down. Our victories and our work has gone up."
Update on digital billboards
Since Trutanich's been in office dealing with the digital billboard litigation, his office has not lost so much as a continuance motion.
In March Trutanich called upon the remaining companies CBS and Clear Channel Outdoor to shut down more than 100 digital signs across L.A., citing a 2006 court order. Clear Channel Outdoor has since sent a letter to the city threatening to sue if their permits are revoked.
The only digital billboard near Brentwood is just south on Wilshire, which Trutanich said it in compliance.
"Last week, I asked the judge for clear direction on how to go about shutting these billboads off, because if I overstep my bounds, Clear Channel, CBS will sue us," Trutanich said of the illegal 108 billboards, such as the 30,000-square-foot supergraphic for the movie How to Train Your Dragon on Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue that was within the vantage point of the Academy Awards.
"So now, we’re waiting for the judge to issue his order on those two boards," Trutanich said. "He's smart. I don't want to draw anymore litigation."