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City attorney candidates to debate environmental issues

April 21, 2009 |  6:05 pm

Previewing Wednesday night’s debate on environmental issues, Los Angeles city attorney candidate Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich pledged Tuesday that he would expand the city’s prosecution of environmental crimes and add more environmental compliance officers to the city’s ranks.

Throughout the race to succeed outgoing City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, Westside Councilman Jack Weiss has been critical of Trutanich’s private environmental clients, and that issue is expected to come up Wednesday night at a forum presented by the League of Conservation Voters.

In a preemptive defense Tuesday, Trutanich highlighted his work of prosecuting environmental crimes in the 1980s while serving in the district attorney’s office. During a  news conference outside City Hall with 10 current and former environmental prosecutors and investigators, Trutanich said his record shows he has brought companies into compliance.

“I wasn’t there whenever their actions took place," he said, "but when I got there, their actions stopped. In the case of a client, don’t paint me with the brush of a company that’s done something that I wasn’t involved in.”

The San Pedro attorney faulted Weiss for missing what his campaign characterized as 149 important environmental votes, and said he should have used his chairmanship on the council’s public safety committee to investigate environmental crimes.

"Environmental pollution is a public safety issue,” Trutanich said. “We’ve had millions and millions of gallons of raw sewage dumped into the Santa Monica Bay because of the city of Los Angeles not doing adequate assurance measures to stop that from reoccurring.... There should have been public safety committee hearings over the past eight years on this issue.”

In response, Weiss’ campaign consultant, Ace Smith, said Trutanich had repeatedly represented polluters “to get them off the hook.”

“He’s responsible for that, and it’s put hundreds of thousands of dollars in his own pocket, and it’s all dirty money,” Smith said.

Weiss, who is president of the Santa Monica Bay Watershed Council, laid out his own environmental plan several weeks ago, promising to expand clean water enforcement, help revitalize the Los Angeles River and crack down on air pollution and illegal dumping in the region.

The Westside councilman was endorsed Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who said in a statement that he respected Weiss’ work as founding chairman of the Santa Monica Water Restoration Commission “to reduce sewage spills and polluted runoff in the region.”

Weiss and Trutanich will debate at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Westside Jewish Community Center, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd. Most of the tickets for the forum have been distributed, but forum officials will make any additional seats available at 6:15 p.m. and allow voters to watch in an overflow area.

—Maeve Reston