If Los Angeles Councilman Mike Feuer wins the race for city attorney next month, he plans to establish a "firearms unit" within the office to further his longtime efforts to combat gun violence.
If Deputy Mayor Rocky Delgadillo is victorious, the city attorney's office probably will take on a new role outside the office's purview: forming initiatives to improve education in the independently run Los Angeles Unified School District.
Even those single planks in their broad platforms demonstrate that, as they campaign for the city's second-highest elected office, Delgadillo and Feuer offer markedly different visions for the job, reflecting in large part their contrasting backgrounds and political views.
Delgadillo, 40, head of Mayor Richard Riordan's economic development programs for much of the past eight years, puts a business-friendly emphasis on his plans for the office and shares some of the goals and priorities of Riordan, one of his biggest supporters. He would try to work with developers, he says, to resolve legal roadblocks to their projects, and he acknowledges that he generally favors new jobs over open space in depressed areas. (He sided with developers who wanted to build warehouses and a business park on an empty tract near Chinatown known as the Cornfield. Environmental groups sued, and it will become parkland if the state provides the money to buy it.)
Feuer, who turned 43 Monday, sees the job as the next step in a public service career that has included running Bet Tzedek, a public interest law agency, and six years on the City Council from the Westside and San Fernando Valley's 5th District.
"Everything I have done has prepared me for this job," said Feuer, a passionate, articulate advocate for liberal causes who has honed his skills over almost two decades in public service and politics.
Intense and sure of himself, Feuer has pushed hard for face-to-face debates with Delgadillo, who is making his first run for elected office and seems less at home than Feuer with the combative side of campaigning.
Feuer has accused Delgadillo of dodging most debate invitations. So far, only two face-to-face meetings are scheduled before the June 5 runoff election, neither of which is to be televised. "What's he afraid of?" asked Feuer, who said there have been at least a dozen debate invitations since the two candidates emerged as the top vote-getters in the four-way April primary. The Delgadillo campaign has blamed scheduling problems.
The city attorney oversees an office of more than 400 lawyers and 500 other employees; the budget is about $70 million this fiscal year. In addition to providing legal counsel to all city departments, elected officials and boards and commissions, the office prosecutes misdemeanor crimes and infractions that occur within the 465-square-mile city.
The $159,661-a-year post also affords its occupant the opportunity to shape priorities and launch initiatives. City Atty. James K. Hahn, stepping down after 16 years and running for mayor, created an anti-gang program, revived a domestic violence unit and streamlined and updated the office's civil branch.
Feuer and Delgadillo both say they would start with a thorough management audit of the office before making major personnel decisions, but they already have firm ideas for programs.
Feuer would build on his legal background and continue championing the mainly liberal causes to which he gave most of his attention during his six years on the council--environment, gun controls, government protections for the poor and elderly and political reform. He is perhaps best known for ordinances aimed at reducing billboard blight and keeping guns out of children's hands. He said his experience as head of the council committee that deals with city finances would help the city attorney's office during yearly budget deliberations.
Experience in Private Sector
Feuer said that as city attorney he would concentrate on both reforming the Police Department and rebuilding it in the wake of the Rampart Division corruption scandal.
In addition to forming a special unit to combat gun violence, he would step up efforts to fight elder abuse, consumer fraud and domestic violence and beef up environmental protections by establishing an environmental specialty in the office's civil branch. He also said he would encourage full environmental reviews of potentially controversial projects, which he said would benefit developers in the long run because it would help them avoid costly, project-slowing lawsuits later on.
Additionally, Feuer said he would try to boost morale in the office, in part by fighting for funds for more support staff and more and better equipment in an office where he said some attorneys still must share desks.
"I want to create the conditions for success," said Feuer, who is endorsed by the City Attorneys Assn., which represents most lawyers in the office.