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Sharp words on the rise in race for L.A. city attorney

Prominent ex-planning commissioner backs Nuch Trutanich, takes a

February 12, 2009|David Zahniser

With the March 3 election less than three weeks away, the race for Los Angeles city attorney is taking a considerably sharper tone.

A day after several city officials expressed their dislike of a campaign mailer sent by City Councilman Jack Weiss, one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's most outspoken appointees threw her support Wednesday behind Weiss' opponent in the city attorney campaign, Harbor City lawyer Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich.

Former Planning Commission President Jane Ellison Usher, who had plenty to say on development issues as a city commissioner, sent out an invitation to a Feb. 18 campaign fundraiser for Trutanich in Hancock Park. In the e-mail, Usher said she supports Trutanich because he has a distaste for "politics as usual" -- and then offered a tart assessment of his opponent.

"Nuch is the only serious challenger to Councilman Jack Weiss, whose own run is undermined by his antagonism to neighborhoods and by his profound reliance upon developers and lobbyists," wrote Usher, who left the commission two months ago.

Usher's e-mail marks an apparent break from Villaraigosa, who considers Weiss one of his closest political allies.

Political consultant Ace Smith, who represents both Weiss and Villaraigosa, termed Usher's statement "nonsense" and described his client as being a fair arbiter in land-use disputes.

Smith also went after Trutanich for representing companies accused of polluting San Pedro Bay and improperly disposing of hazardous waste. "This man is running with a misleading ballot title -- environmental attorney -- when all he does is represent polluters," he added.

The exchange occurred as Weiss announced endorsements from four African American leaders -- businessman and former basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson, U.S. Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson.

Usher has become a hero to some homeowner groups for offering strong words about the city's handling of billboards and real estate development. She was especially critical of the council's effort to roll back zoning laws -- rules governing building height, open space and density -- for companies whose residential projects have as few as one unit of affordable housing.

In her e-mail, Usher had similarly pointed remarks about the incumbent, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo.

"We have been ill served by the current city attorney, who leaves behind a striking legacy of misjudgment and cronyism," she wrote.

Delgadillo's office referred questions to Trutanich.


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