Deegan On LA—Candidate Hydee Feldstein Soto’s take on the City Attorney job is often very different than her opponent’s views. She is less attention-seeking and more grounded.
Some of opponent Fasil Gil’s signature plans actually stray beyond the boundaries of the office. For instance, taking on corruption wherever it exists, reducing the number of misdemeanor charges, ending cash bail, and enhancing opportunities for re-sentencing.
CityWatch asked Hydee, a well-known attorney and community activist, to round out who she is when foreshortened against her opponent.
CW-Let’s start with what is one of the first things you will do if elected City Attorney?
HSF- I want to look at an analysis of how we enforce our laws. I want to understand how city is enforcing laws and ensure they are being applied evenly and equitably across the City. In some neighborhoods the enforcement is more consequential and disproportional. I will prioritize fairness in enforcing laws.
CW-Does this include a review of “cash bail”?
HSF-Voters have twice rejected ending cash bail and District Attorney Gascon has reversed himself on the position. There is no way that I’m going to make a blanket declaration to end cash bail, I will be working to strike a balance.
CW-Do you need to get on the same page as judges for this?
HSF-Judges are not in a position to judge flight risk or the risk to public safety. There’s a fairness element. Cash bail of $100 or $500 is a rounding error for the wealthy, but it’s an enormous sum for someone in poverty.
CW-How is the public protected if perps are turned around and hit the streets again?
HSF-I would look at what are the procedural safeguards to keep someone incarcerated pre-trial. We default to cash bail that poor people cannot afford. We keep them in jail even without prior problems. I would like, with no prior no- shows or risk to public safety or flight risk, to default more to letting people go on Own Recognizance. I would like to explore that with prosecutors.
CW-What about re-sentencing?
HSF-Re-sentencing (prop 47)-under $950 is a misdemeanor, not a felony.
CW-What is the job of the City Attorney, the side that the public often doesn’t see?
HSF-The City Attorney has huge power to do good. It’s responsible for administrative citations based on evidence. It has a power to enforce violations of permits, conditions of use, and zoning violations. Violations of building and safety codes can be fined at $2,500 per day. These are powerful tools to aide in reducing environmental hazards, public safety and the quality of life in our neighborhoods.
CW-What about the more public facing side of the job, the part that involves criminality?
HSF-The Criminal aspect of the job has come into focus, but let’s be clear, the City Attorney handles only misdemeanors. Felonies and high-level investigations are done by the District Attorney, or even the Department of Justice. The City Attorney can – and should – review how we deal with misdemeanors and are advancing justice with a balance between equity and ensuring we have a well-functioning city with safe communities.
CW-Many high-profile jobs have their nuts and bolts aspects that must chug along no matter what. What do you see as some of those necessary duties?
HSF-A large part of the job is administrative and related to contracts. This may sound mundane, but they are enormously consequential undertakings related to the major departments of the city – our port, the department of water and power and everyday operations. I believe I am the only candidate with the experience to manage the hundreds of lawyers at work in this enterprise, to ensure we are providing sound legal advice to the council and our various departments, and to make sure LA is a City that is working for everyone.
(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose Deegan on LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at [email protected].)