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Hiring a City Attorney, and an Alternative

August 26, 1993

The inability of the Santa Monica City Council to anoint a permanent city attorney (Times, Aug. 15) is the result of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights' insistence on exercising absolute control over everything social, political or economic in Santa Monica. SMRR's insatiable appetite for power ends up clashing with itself--and gives the rest of us indigestion.

SMRR's ideal city attorney for some party members is someone anti-business, anti-landlord, pro-consumer, and an advocate for innumerable social programs. And because he or she must manage a small army of lawyers--an arsenal of economic democracy--management experience and expertise in various liberal social justice programs is also a must.

One logical solution would be to turn criminal prosecutions over to the Los Angeles County district attorney. Many cities in the county do just that. This eliminates some of the required skills and experience needed to fulfill the job description for the position. It well might save significant money for the city, and it might result in more neutral policies concerning criminal prosecution. Moreover, our policemen on the streets might feel relief that their jobs are less politicized.

Some in SMRR recognize the deplorable unwritten policies of the city attorney's office over the past few years on matters of public safety involving transients. Failure to prosecute, subtle messages to our police that essentially say "don't bother to arrest, we won't follow through," and lack of response to the larger community on public safety matters are just a few of them. So there are members of SMRR who see this as an issue that threatens their stranglehold over city government.

However, to other SMRR members, relinquishing their control through the city attorney's office over criminal prosecution means a loss of control over our police force. More important, it threatens SMRR's ability to use the city attorney to help control social policy in Santa Monica, particularly as it relates to the homeless, whose presence supports so many social workers and volunteers that are so valuable to SMRR in raising money, establishing a network of faithful voters, and in shaming and reprimanding anyone that dares to challenge conventional SMRR elitism.

What one sees here, though, is that, in the long run, tired old liberalism must exercise so much control over everything social, economic or political that eventually it will be hoisted by its own petard.

KIP DELLINGER

Santa Monica

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