The City Attorney’s job is not only to represent the City government in court. The City Attorney can also protect Angelenos. The ideas listed below are designed to protect Angelenos. It is my belief that any or all of the new Units proposed below can be staffed by current lawyers within the City Attorney’s Office.
- Create an Environmental Affairs Unit in the Civil Division. Funding for this Unit may come from an Environmental Fund created from fines for environmental violations.
- Expand the Environmental Enforcement Unit in the Criminal Division. Funding for this Unit may come from an Environmental Fund created from fines for environmental violations.
- Create an Immigrant Affairs Unit to help immigrant communities with legal challenges they face and work in line with the City’s Immigrant Affairs Department.
- Create a Civil and Human Rights and Equity Unit to work in line with the City’s Civil and Human Rights and Equity Department. This unit will house a Hate Crimes Response Team that will work with law enforcement within the City of Los Angeles and with other agencies in the region to combat hate crimes in our communities.
- Create a Tenants Rights Unit, and a Small Landlord and Property Owners Rights Unit, to work together to resolve the complicated legal issues and challenges that tenants and landlords experience, particularly during and after the pandemic.
- Create a Homelessness Legal Services Unit (which will include lawyers from the City Attorney’s Office and partnerships with outside pro bono counsel, and non-profit organizations).
- Create a Pre-litigation Mediation Unit to work with various Dispute Resolution Programs around the city and the legal industry to resolve all levels of legal disputes before they ever reach the Courts.
- Create a City Attorney’s Office Mediation Team of pro bono attorneys certified by the City Attorney’s Office who volunteer to provide mediation and dispute resolution services to low income residents and small businesses throughout the city.
- Create a Foster Care Legal Services Unit to provide legal assistance to young people in and out of the foster care system.
- Reform the parking ticket review/appeal process to make it easy for people to appeal parking tickets and to receive a quick response. There should be an “app” for residents to use to submit parking ticket appeals.
- Create an Affordable Housing Integrity Unit to insure that available affordable housing units are being provided only to those individuals and families that qualify for the benefit, and to eliminate the fraud and abuse of the system that leaves low income residents without this critical assistance.
- Create a Healthcare Assistance Unit that will work with volunteer attorneys from around the city providing pro bono legal assistance to residents and families that need legal help in the healthcare system, particularly during and after the pandemic.
- Create a Senior Citizen Assistance Unit, to be led by the City Attorney General Counsel that advises the City’s Department on Aging, that will work with volunteer attorneys from around the city providing pro bono legal assistance to residents and families that need legal help unique to our city’s seniors, particularly low income seniors.
- Create a Military Legal Assistance Unit that will work with volunteer attorneys from around the city providing pro bono legal assistance and representation to LA’s Veterans, and active duty, reserve, and National Guard service members in civil law matters including consumer fraud, immigration, landlord/tenant, predatory lending, and creditor/debtor issues.
- Create a Record Review and Clearance Unit to assist people with prior marijuana convictions with record clearance since Proposition 64 passed. Of the tens of thousands eligible, news reports have stated that only a small percentage have applied.
- Create a Future Lawyers Advancement Unit to work with Fellowship and Scholarship Programs around the city and legal industry to assist diverse students with admission to and success in law school by holding workshops, LSAT prep courses, and community events as law school approaches.
- Create a Public Records Act (PRA) Response Unit that will work with all City Departments to provide legal advice regarding responses to PRA requests, and to work with the departments to insure that PRA responses are provided in a timely manner in order to avoid lawsuits against the City for failure to provide such responses (timely or otherwise).
- Name a Chief Cyber Security Attorney in the Office that will provide expertise on the proper support and use of strategic and tactical information networks available to fight the growing number of cyber attacks that are happening in every industry in the city.
- Create an Accessibility Advisory Unit, to be led by the City Attorney General Counsel that advises the City’s Department on Disability, to work with the Risk Management Task Force that already exists in the City Attorney’s Office insuring that all issues related to accessibility are handled within the proper legal framework that provides an environment that is safe for LA residents, and that all local, state and federal laws are followed.
- Create a Bar Association Liaison Unit to work directly with the very diverse and different Bar Associations around the city and the legal industry for their ideas, criticisms, partnership and assistance.
- Create an Anti-corruption Task Force, led by senior leadership in the City Attorney’s Office Criminal Division, and invite representation from the City Controller’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the United States Attorney’s Office, and from two local University faculty/administrations. Our office will also create an “Anti-Corruption Institute” – consisting of training sessions and training materials to educate stakeholders, including city staff and contractor staff on how to recognize corruption, and how to report it. We will rely on the expertise of our partner prosecutor agencies to share state of the art technologies in discovering and investigating corrupt conduct. An anti-corruption hotline/website will also be established that will include a reward program. I will raise funding for the reward program, and will challenge other political offices to provide funding from their own discretionary accounts as well.
- Create an Economic Development and Permit Policy Review Unit to assist small, medium, and large businesses in the process of reentering the regional economy after the pandemic. This can be done by working directly with the private sector, and by advising all of our City Departments on legal processes that can improve a business’s experience, and LA residents’ experience, in working with the City. For years City Departments have worked to find ways to ease the permitting process — some successful, some not. Perhaps no time in the City’s history will be as important for local businesses and jobs than the first 24 months after the end of the coronavirus pandemic. As City Attorney, our office will provide the legal counsel necessary for all of our City Departments to be prepared to simplify and expedite the permitting process, in all areas, as much as legally possible.
- Create an Entertainment Industry Unit to assist our entertainment industry in dealing with legal issues around copyright, trademark, piracy, and emerging technologies, and to work with our Federal and State partners on key policy issues and legislation. The entertainment industry employs hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Los Angeles region and January 2020, pre-COVID, was the highest filming month in “shoot-days” on record in the City of Los Angeles. When the pandemic ends, our City must be ready for the rapid growth of this flagship industry.
- Create a Major Events Advisory Unit to work with the City’s Departmental liaisons and the Mayor’s Office on the legal issues related to the many special events scheduled in Los Angeles for the coming years, including the Super Bowl, College Football Championship Game, U.S. Open Golf Championship, MLB All-Star Game, World Cup, and 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the annual events that occur in Los Angeles including the Academy Awards, LA Marathon, and Grammy Awards. The Major Events Advisory Unit will also be responsible for providing legal advice to City Departments and elected offices in connection with the City’s upcoming bids for other special events that are prepared and drafted by the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission.
- Create a Policy Review Panel to review internal data and public/open data related to City settlement payments, departmental responses to settlement payments, departmental responses to risk management protocols and reforms, and even plaintiffs attorneys that regularly sue the City and/or are rewarded large settlements or judgments against the City, in order to improve upon and/or change departmental policies and actions that are the subject of lawsuits against the City.
- Name a Chief Technology Attorney in the Office that will provide expertise on new and available technologies that improve the way the City Attorney’s Office delivers legal services to the City and to LA residents, particularly in the area of consumer protection. Technology has significantly improved the way we deliver city services in departments throughout the City, and I saw it first hand as President of the Board of Public Works since 2013. The same success can continue in the City Attorney’s Office.
- Create a Homeownership Assistance Unit that will work with volunteer attorneys from around the city providing pro bono legal assistance to residents and families that need legal help navigating the frequently complex home loan process. Homeownership should be an easier process for LA residents and families to successfully manage and to achieve.
- Create a Youth Development Assistance Unit to work with an upcoming City Department of Youth Development, and in partnership with the County’s recently created Department of Youth Development. These new Youth Development Departments will reform the youth justice system to focus on a care-first approach that offers education, counseling, job opportunities, and treatment instead of prosecution and incarceration.
- Create a City Attorney Caseload Relief Internship Program where private sector lawyers of all levels of expertise who want to earn valuable criminal trial experience, or simply expand their legal experience working on municipal cases, volunteer for an unpaid internship of varying time periods where they handle cases that are in an existing backlog in the Office.
- Public Health Department – As City Attorney, I would work with the Mayor’s Office and City Council on the consideration and process of creating a City of Los Angeles Public Health Office, and appoint a City Health Officer. Much like the Aliso Canyon gas leak exposed the City’s need for the Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration and Safety, headed up by the City’s Petroleum Administrator, the COVID-19 pandemic and the homelessness crisis have exposed the City’s potential need for its own Public Health Office, headed up by a City Health Officer. Over time, as the Health Office is expanded, it should include a Mental Health Services Division. The new Office could be funded significantly through Federal, State, County and private funds. Indeed, the City of Long Beach’s Health Office is reportedly 99% funded through those sources. The COVID-19 pandemic and the growing homelessness crisis have demonstrated that critical decisions that affect the lives of City of Los Angeles residents and health policy should be made by City officials. Even so, the creation of the City’s own health department has significant legal hurdles in complying with state law, and logistical challenges to consider as well.
- Create a Business Inclusion Unit that will work with all City Departments on procurement improvements to grow the City contracting opportunities for Minority-owned Businesses, Women-owned Businesses, LGBTQ-owned Businesses, Disabled Veteran-owned Businesses, Emerging Businesses and Small Businesses. Legal hurdles for municipalities that have worked hard to increase inclusion and diversity in contracting opportunities have existed in California for years and require City Attorney’s Office expertise in helping City Departments navigate the complicated process.
- Create a Legal Aid Unit to be led by an attorney in the City Attorney’s Office who may be called the “People’s Lawyer” to manage a team of volunteer attorneys, some from existing legal industry non-profits, who hold “attorney office hours” to work pro bono to help LA residents who have questions related to business law, bankruptcy, consumer law, insurance, administrative law, landlord-tenant law, employment law, small-claims court, healthcare law, family law, wills and estates, and how to communicate with an attorney.
- Create a City Property Review Unit to work with City Departments, the Mayor’s Office, the Controller’s Office, and Council Offices to review any and all City properties that might be good candidates for homeless shelters with services and/or affordable housing units.
- Create an Industry Expert Advisors Liaison in the Office to recruit and manage a team of volunteer attorneys who are noted experts in numerous areas of the law including everything from land use, real estate, eminent domain, administrative, environmental, immigration, and constitutional law, to entertainment, securities, trial advocacy, trademark, employment, landlord-tenant, and regulatory law. The best legal experts in the nation practice law in the Los Angeles area, and many of them are civically minded and would appreciate the opportunity to donate some of their time and expertise to their City and to the complex legal issues that exist in the City Attorney’s Office.
- Create a Language Access Liaison. Access to our justice system is not only an important right held by all of our residents, it can also be a right that is complex and intimidating to gain entry into. Access to our justice system is even more challenging when a language barrier exists for legal assistance and services. During my tenure as President of the Board of Public Works, under the leadership of Commissioner Jessica Caloza, our Board expanded access to City services through a Language Access Program that built a Language Access Working Group and tapped into the multi-lingual talents of numerous City employees in order to translate information about City services into many different languages. I will follow the direction of the Board of Public Works Program and appoint a liaison in the City Attorney’s Office to ensure that language access services are provided to cover the many legal services offered by the City Attorney’s Office.
- Create a Diversion Program to Jobs Pipeline. The upcoming economic resurgence in Los Angeles must benefit all Angelenos. The pandemic shined a bright light on existing inequities throughout our City. One way our office will work to ensure that the economy provides opportunities for everyone is through a new Diversion Program to Jobs Pipeline that will use the City Attorney’s Office existing Diversion Unit/Program to establish partnerships with labor unions, trade schools, business and trade organizations, and government contractors so that the men and women that complete our Diversion Program, if they chose to, will graduate into a direct relationship with one of these entities to begin training for a job.
- Keep and/or expand the existing divisions, sections, units, programs and projects that currently exist in the City Attorney’s Office: these include the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program; the General Counsel Division; the Community Justice Initiative; the Gun Violence Prevention Unit, and Prosecutors Against Gun Violence; the Dispute Resolution Program; the Victim Assistance Program; LA Represents; the Faith-Based Unit; the Criminal Justice Initiative; the Code Enforcement and Animal Protection Unit; the Ethics, Elections, and Governance Section and the Labor Relations Division; and the Anti-Sex and Labor Trafficking Unit.
Kevin’s Open Letter to Neighborhood Councils
Thank you for your service to our city. Your willingness to step up and volunteer to serve on your Neighborhood Council (NC) is a great benefit to Los Angeles.
I first started attending NC meetings in 2005 when I was covering local city issues as a radio broadcaster. That was a great way to learn the issues that are important to our diverse communities all over Los Angeles. When I prepared to run for Mayor in 2011, I completed a tour of more than 50 NC meetings.
As President of the Board of Public Works, I continued to attend NC meetings all around Los Angeles, and presented on numerous occasions to the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition, and the Congress of Neighborhoods.
I’m running for City Attorney because our neighborhoods can be safe and clean, because our legal strategy toward homelessness and affordable housing has to change, because it must get easier to do business in the City of Los Angeles and with the City of Los Angeles as we emerge from the pandemic, and because City Hall needs to be trusted by the public again.
I’m contacting you today to introduce myself, and to start a conversation about how the City Attorney’s Office can improve its relationship with our NCs. Here are 5 of the ideas I have to support our NC system as City Attorney.
1. Neighborhood Council Summit. I will host an annual NC Summit with NC leaders to have a face-to-face, frank discussion about areas where the City Attorney’s Office can better serve the NC system and the NC Coalitions.
2. Commission nominations and appointments chosen from elected NC members. The City Attorney is able to make direct nominations and appointments to various City Commissions. This occurs in two ways: (1) the City Attorney has the direct authority to make nominations to certain Commissions; and (2) the Mayor’s office may, at times, seek recommendations from the City Attorney for nominations to various Commissions. When these Commission appointment opportunities are presented to my office, I will make some Commission nominations directly from elected NC members.
3. Proper prioritization of the Neighborhood Council Advice Division of the City Attorney’s Office. Our office will ensure that the City Attorneys that work in the Neighborhood Council Advice Division have the personnel and resources they need to timely respond to the many varying and frequently complicated legal and ethical questions and issues that are presented on a daily basis.
4. Security at in-person NC meetings when requested. As President of the Board of Public Works, I presided over more than 1,000 public meetings so I understand the importance of having security present for in-person public meetings — and our Public Works meetings are held in City Hall where a secure perimeter already exists. NC meetings are not held in buildings with an existing perimeter of security. So having security present for in-person meetings is important to protect the safety of NC members and members of the public that wish to attend these in-person meetings. As City Attorney, I will advocate for resources to be allocated in the budget for this security. It is a risk management issue for the City to provide a safe environment for NC meetings.
5. Our office will insure that as NCs do their work on behalf of the communities they represent, they are able to provide notice of their official actions to policymakers at every level of government. Indeed, representatives from City Council offices, County Supervisor offices, State Assembly and Senate offices, and Congressional offices regularly appear at NC monthly meetings. It is important to the communities that NCs represent that the decisions made, and positions taken, by their elected NC representatives are known by all levels of elected officials that the NC believes should receive notice of each official action taken by the NC.