Published: March 13, 2014 Updated: 3:53 p.m.
-Bolded for emphasis by Parkin for City Attorney
As mailboxes are stuffed with campaign fliers and lawn signs are shoved into patches of grass throughout the city, we focus today on Long Beach’s city attorney and city prosecutor races. The greatest attention isn’t always paid to these down-ballot contests, but both offices are responsible for critical public service functions and deserve your careful consideration.
The city attorney heads an office of 20 lawyers who serve as the city’s in-house counsel. The office has wide-ranging responsibilities, from drafting ordinances for the City Council, to providing legal advice to the city’s many agencies, boards and commissions to hedge against potential liabilities. They also represent the city and its employees when lawsuits are brought against them, and decide when the city settles or fights such charges.
The city prosecutor manages 14 attorneys tasked with the narrower, but nevertheless vital, directive of prosecuting all adult misdemeanor crimes such as theft and drug possession (felonies are prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office). A prosecutor can establish safety protocols and preemptively fight crime by creating programs that address the root causes.
Both jobs require an attorney with a sharp legal mind, prudent judgment and an even keel to manage their large teams and keep within budget.
We found the incumbents, current City Attorney Charles Parkin and City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, to be the most suitable candidates, and we endorse them heartily.
In the city attorney race, Mr. Parkin faces off against current Seventh District Councilman and CSULB law professor James Johnson and local civil rights attorney Matthew Pappas.
Last year, the City Council appointed Mr. Parkin, then an assistant city attorney, to the head post following the departure of his long-serving predecessor Bob Shannon.
Since taking on the role, he has proven to be an apt chief, and his 19 years serving in the office means he knows municipal law better than his two opponents – a crucial body of knowledge considering the broad scope of the job.
The Long Beach native has shown practical leadership on hot-button issues, advising council members to adjust their ordinance parameters on medical marijuana dispensaries when the proposal they sent his office didn’t reflect the city’s zoning realities.
In many ways, he’s exhibited a leadership style opposite what many perceived as a brash Mr. Shannon. About the difference, Mr. Parkin told us, “Shannon wasn’t a consensus builder – I am.”
Four years on the City Council affords Mr. Parkin’s challenger, James Johnson, a deep understanding of the issues facing Long Beach.
He is a candidate with the education and character to ensure him a life-long career as an impactful public servant. What prevents him, however, from earning our endorsement is his limited experience practicing municipal law and managing a large law office.
Another challenger, Matt Pappas, is well known throughout the city for his 20 years of legal advocacy work. We appreciate his patient-friendly view on medical marijuana and we agree with him that the city should reduce business regulations.
But Mr. Pappas, who in his private practice has several pending lawsuits against the city, told us he is running for the office because he would like to protect the citizens of Long Beach from a corrupt government, and specifically, a police force he said is prone to misconduct.
While some of his criticisms have merit, most of his proposed solutions wouldn’t be within the purview of the City Attorney’s office, and we don’t feel a city attorney preoccupied with this brand of activism would provide the requisite legal counsel to the city.
We think the next city attorney will already have plenty on their plate, and we agree with Mr. Parkin’s more strict philosophy of the job. This coupled with his commendable track record makes him the candidate we would entrust to keep Long Beach on the strongest legal footing.
In the race for city prosecutor, Mr. Haubert is challenged by attorney Rosemary Chavez.
Since winning his first city prosecutor term in 2010, Mr. Haubert has served Long Beach well by putting in measures that have helped the city realize a 41-year low violent crime rate.
Mr. Haubert has focused largely on limiting gang activity and has found creative ways to enforce gang injunctions – court orders that prohibit certain gang activities. He has also partnered with the school district to combat truancy, a strategy he told us leads to reduced gang participation.
We commend Mr. Haubert on his expansion of work programs for first-time offenders – a win-win strategy that simultaneously generates community service and reduces court costs.
Ms. Chavez, an accomplished prosecutor for the Los Angeles City’s Attorney’s Office, prosecuting many of the city’s DUI cases out of the San Pedro office, told us she was running to make a difference in the lives of victims. Ms. Chavez says her focus would be to place the concerns of victims first and make victim restitution a priority.
One of Ms. Chavez’s major challenges to Mr. Haubert was his use of a volunteer prosecutor program. Ms. Chavez argued that such programs create the incentive for volunteers to take cases to trial so they can gain more courtroom experience, even when those cases would be best settled out of court.
Mr. Haubert dismissed Ms. Chavez’s portrayal of the program, telling us only fully employed prosecutors, not volunteers, can decide when cases can be taken to trial. Additionally, he told us the volunteer program is widely reputed and saved the city at least $100,000 per year.
In all, Ms. Chavez proves a worthy opponent to Mr. Haubert and we believe both would put the office to great use. Ms. Chavez has been a dedicated municipal litigator, but although praiseworthy, her challenges to Mr. Haubert aren’t enough to convince us that she would exceed his effectiveness as prosecutor.