Some people are worried his election will go to Carmen Trutanich’s head. Others are asking, “What’s all this talk about Nuch already turning into an unapproachable <expletive>?”
Then, there’s the matter that goes before the City Council on Tuesday to let him raise up to $100,000 from private interests to pay the costs of transition as he gears up to take over the City Attorney’s office with its 700 lawyers engaged in civil and criminal matters and the legal affairs of the city’s agencies.
As someone who owes his election to strong support from community activists and is the only city official carrying the torch for positive changes at City Hall, Trutanich has created high expectations, impossibly high expectations for that matter.
On the day after his crushing defeat of Jack Weiss, Trutanich told the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association:
“I’m not going to let you down…We’re going to prosecute misdemeanor ethics law violations by politicians…We’re going to change the way politics is played in the City of Los Angeles…The future of this city is going to be bright and clean…I want to be your City Attorney. I want to be the people’s lawyer..I want to hear what you think is broken and I want to try to fix it. I’m not a politician. God forbid I ever become one.”
That’s the kind of talk that puts a guy in a fishbowl with everyone watching his every move.
His appointment of former Republican District Attorney Robert Philobosian and former Democratic Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg to head his transition team raises questions among some who note both are connected to powerhouse law firms
His commitment to use private money rather than city money to cover the costs of transition has some people asking whether that will make him beholden to the same special interests who control so much of what goes on in City Hall.
Others worry the City Hall power structure will get their arms around him, flatter his ego and lead him away from his stated goals. They are skeptical he can turn the mammoth law firm the City Attorney’s Office represents into a legal engine that puts the public interest first.
All those concerns are legitimate and should come up no matter who holds high office. It’s only through the vigilance and participation of the citizenry that public officials will stay true to the course.
For his part, Trutanich needs to bring a cross-section of the community into his world and operate transparently even when his decisions are controversial or disappoint one group or another.
He represents an opening in the great wall of City Hall but will quickly find, like former City Controller Laura Chick did, that you can only push so far without becoming maginalized in a system where power is so tightly held.
Still, he’s going to have to keep the community involved and informed and be honest and straightforward in his communication. But he’s also going to have to dance with the devils in City Hall to get anything done.
Already, the mayor and council are taking their measure of the man and the City Attorney’s staff is gearing up to resist change — a task no doubt made easier by outgoing City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s decision to put his senior staff on the tenure track that allows them to move from political appointments to civil service protected jobs.
The winds of change are blowing through City Hall but it’s going to take a hurricane to clean out the stench of corruption.
Personally, I’m optimistic. Nuch is a start, the Council District 2 election is coming up Sept. 22 and the failure of the mayor and council to come to terms with the budget deficit is a timebomb.
We’ll see soon enough what stuff Carmen Trutanich is really made of.