Newly elected city attorney meets with South LA residents

Mike Feuer

City Attorney Mike Feuer speaking at a South L.A. meeting.

Many Americans will remember June 20 as the night when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and company won their second consecutive NBA championship. South Los Angeles hopes to remember this date as a symbolic moment, in which a new and productive relationship was developed with the city attorney`s office.

Last night, over 100 South L.A. residents attended a town hall meeting organized by Community Coalition at its South L.A. headquarters, to meet the newly elected Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer. The high level of energy and the eagerness to let Mr. Feuer better understand their issues and concerns clearly demonstrated that residents are hoping that the new city attorney –who will take office on July 1– will help to improve their community’s quality of life.

Feuer understands that his office will have to improve its performance in several areas. “If the city attorney were doing his job properly, the playgrounds and the pathways to school for our kids would be safe. If the city attorney were on the job, prostitution would be gone and the businesses that we choose to site in our neighborhood would be those we actually want in our community,” he said.   

The newly elected city attorney later went on to talk about three issues he intends to work on during his term in office: school safety, gun violence and neighborhood prosecutors.

School safety

“Student surveys have shown me that most students do not feel safe walking to school. One of my goals as city attorney is to work with the school district, the school police, the LAPD, and most importantly, parents, grandparents and kids to make school pathways safer,” said Mr. Feuer. “These conversations will allow my office to find creative ways to deal with this problem. There aren´t too many things that matter more than having our kids safe. I get it. We can do better, and I intend to.”

IMG_1405Alfonso Aguilar, a soon-to-be junior at John C. Fremont High School, let Mr. Feuer know that feeling unsafe is not the only problem students are facing on their way to school. “We are often targeted by the police because of the color of our skin. I have been stopped, questioned and patted down several times just because I was in a certain neighborhood,” Mr. Aguilar said.

Everyone at the meeting agreed with this young man’s words and clapped in approval. When Mr. Feuer asked how many of them felt that they are respected by the police, not a single person raised their hand. Although Mr. Feuer did not have an answer to this problem, he said that he would address the issue with the police force.

Gun violence

Mr. Feuer is the author of multiple laws aimed at stemming gun violence. As a City Council member he sponsored ordinances to ban high-capacity magazines, require trigger locks be sold with every weapon, ban the sale of easily-concealable weapons, mandate background checks for gun store employees and require the retention of ammunition purchase records.

As a state legislator, he authored the Crime Gun Identification Act, establishing the nation’s first requirement that semi-automatic handguns be equipped with technology that imprints bullet cartridges with data, enabling law enforcement to know who purchased the gun that fired the bullets at the scene.  The bill passed and was signed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

During the meeting, Mr. Feuer let the community know that gun violence is an issue he intends to defeat. “We are in this together,” he repeated several times. “By being here tonight, I am trying to show you that we can improve the community if we act as a team.” This reunion was the first major public community meeting in South L.A. from the city attorney’s office in four years.

Neighborhood prosecutor program

As City Attorney, Mr. Feuer said he wants to form strong partnerships that will allow the community to be invested in crime reduction and prevention measures, public health, and safety issues directly affecting their communities. To do this, he said he intends to fully staff the neighborhood prosecutor program which facilitates the tools neighborhoods need to actively combat crime.

“There are only a handful of neighborhood prosecutor programs in the whole city. I want to build that up,” he said. “The City Attorney’s budget has been cut a lot. I will need your voice heard when I’m trying to get some funding for this neighborhood prosecutor program. This is a program that really matters and we’re going to be working on this together.”

Post-meeting comments

Rose Jackson, a South L.A. resident said that “this meeting was really beneficial for the community. Having Mr. Feuer come out and address the community’s issues is wonderful. It increases our faith in the system and in justice.”

South L.A. has historically had negative experiences that explain residents’ lack of confidence. The recent closure of the Ralphs at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Western Avenue has been a blow to the community. This incident marks the second closure of a Ralphs in the area in just a few months’ time.

The sign on the now closed Ralphs on Martin Luther King and Western has already been removed.

The sign on the now closed Ralphs on Martin Luther King and Western has already been removed.

One of the aspects that most upset residents –who gathered to protest on June 13– was that news of Ralphs closing came without much notice or effort to work with the community. The closure also reduces residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables).

Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President and CEO of Community Coalition, was very pleased with the outcome of this meeting. “We are very excited about the energy,” he said. “Having almost 150 people attend on the night of the 7th game of the NBA finals, shows you how much passion there is in this community to improve the quality of life.”

Feuer agrees. “This is an extremely engaged community,” he said. “There was a huge array of issues presented tonight, which shows how important the City Attorney’s job can be in the community’s quality of life.” 

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