Mayor Sam Interview: David Berger
David Berger! Welcome to the Mayor Sam Interview!
Thank you Phil for honoring me with an interview on Mayor Sam. I can tell you that I know every politician in Los Angeles will read this, so I make no apologies for my candor, lack of political correctness, and irreverence. Here goes...
1. Let's get the obvious question out of the way first. You are English. How did you end up in California working in the L.A. City government? Many political activists have asked me about this...so I assume other people are curious , also. Tell us more about yourself.
It's a long story, but I'll try to be brief. I am an English-American immigrant. My mother's family were Los Angelenos, and I used to visit LA on summer vacations and fell in love with the place.
I grew up in London where I was schooled traditionally, ending up with a law degree but no desire to wear a wig and gown. So I got my Green Card and came to Los Angeles to become the next Perry Mason. I ended up working at the DA's Office while I studied US law (quite different from English law), and Gil Garcetti offered me a job as a Deputy DA.
I loved the job, and was very happily putting felons in prison until 2008, when I decided to run for City Attorney. That's another long story...
2. You are now the Special Assistant City Attorney. By the way, congrats on getting that job! You were hired by Carmen Trutanich, who was originally a political rival of yours in the March primary election for City Attorney. Describe your friendship with Nuch and how it developed.
I rushed to the City Clerks Office to sign up for the City Attorney race without first checking who else was in the running, apart from my councilmember, Jack Weiss.
I remember looking down the list of names and seeing "Carmen Trutanich" and thinking "Ah well, a girl in the race will make things interesting." I had no idea who Nuch was until I met DA Steve Cooley and told him I was running for City Attorney. When Steve stopped laughing he told me that he had already endorsed Nuch, and that I had no chance of winning!
I first met Nuch at the Candidates Forum hosted by the Collation of Homeowners Association for CD5. I couldn't help but be impressed at his level of preparation; he had all the answers to all the questions. But I had an 'ace' up my sleeve; I was certain that Jack Weiss would not dare to attend, so I had a large photo of Jack to use a prop. I remember seeing Nuch wince as I used it, and thought to myself "Gottcha" on that one.
Throughout the primary campaign trail I got to know Nuch and the other candidates fairly well. Nuch and I were always on the same page when it came to answering the questions that were posed, and I realized that the only chance I had was to answer the question first!
I have always put honesty above all else, so it probably surprised the reporters from the Daily News, LA Times, and LA Weekly when I told them that I thought Nuch would make a great City Attorney if I did not win.
On primary election night I was of course disappointed not to be in the run-off, but delighted that Nuch was going to carry on the fight to bring honesty, transparency and leadership to the City Attorney's office.
The 'Good Guys' in the Primary, Nuch, Michael Amerian, Noel Weiss and I had all pretty much figured that one of us would be facing Jack Weiss in a run-off, and we all agreed that we would endorse whoever would be facing Jack. So, around one o'clock in the morning I called Nuch to congratulate him and offer my endorsement. Ultimately, I was the only one who honored the agreement. Politics is an ugly beast, but that's another long story...
The rest is history. I took time off from work and campaigned for Nuch. There was no promise of anything other than the hope that we could somehow break the mold of LA politics and elect an independent thinker; someone who shared my ideals and standards. To me, seeing Nuch win was my victory; it was everything I believed in.
There's a great picture, still on my website (www.berger4ca.com) of the moment the results of the General Election came in. You can see the look on the faces of everyone; we couldn't believe we did it - we beat the system. It wasn't until much later that night (well early morning actually), that Nuch asked me if I would join him at the City Attorney's office. I said "Yes."
Of course it wasn't that simple. We found out that Rocky Delgadillo had 'tenured' all the executive positions, so it actually wasn't until a couple of days before Nuch's inauguration that a actually knew I had a job!
Since that time Nuch has worked tirelessly to change the way the office is run, and we work closely on a daily basis to turn the office into the best that it can be. So far, we've had a lot of success in defending the City from frivolous lawsuits -unlike the infamous Firefighter (Tennie Pierce) spoonful of dog food case. Our lawyers are now fighting cases like that, and guess what? They're winning them! We're not handing over taxpayer dollars at every bullshit lawsuit, we're doing exactly what you elected us to do.
When our office successfully defended LAPD and the City from that lawsuit brought by the mother of the child that was used as a human shield by a criminal, the Times published a photo of Nuch 'high fiving' the news as if that was somehow something we should be ashamed of. I, for one, am proud of that moment, and I can tell you there have been 22 major victories where the office has done it's job and gone to trial and won. I couldn't be prouder of Nuch's leadership and they way he has inspired the deputy city attorneys to be proud of doing their job.
3. Nuch is taking a lot of heat for his aggressive stance on the marijuana dispensaries. I personally think he's doing the right thing, but I do get a lot of complaints from activists on the other side of the issue. Some of the newspaper writers and bloggers have been slamming Nuch, using words like "aggressive" and "bully". Here is your chance to defend the decisions of the City Attorney...
OK, I remember Nuch's inauguration speech - it's still on my blog. Nuch said many things, but one of the most important things he said was "I'm not here to win a popularity contest." Real leadership sometimes means you won't be loved by everyone for doing the right thing.
The pot shops are a bad joke. They're totally out of control - Los Angeles has more pot shops than Starbucks, and it takes a man of vision and courage to remind us that Prop 215 did not legalize recreational use of marijuana, it created a narrow exception to the law for seriously ill people.
Never mind the bogus arguments about 'taxing' and 'prohibition;' our investigations have revealed that there are serious public safety concerns with the quality of marijuana being peddled as "medicine" in these pot shops. Two samples we recently had analyzed by the FDA were found to have as much as 170 times the safe level of insecticide in them.
The insecticide was identified as Bifenthrin, an insecticide commonly and widely used in Mexico. There are also reports of marijuana being sprayed with minute particles of glass dust to increase weight, and thus increase the profits of the Mexican drug cartels who, according to Eric Holder, still derive their largest revenues from supplying North American with marijuana.
So before we get carried away with arguments about whether or not marijuana should be legalized, let's realize that the current joke that is 'Medical' marijuana is completely unregulated and potentially dangerous. All Nuch is trying to do is ensure that public safety is paramount.
The references to Nuch as a "bully" and "aggressive" are entirely predictable from a City that has grown accustomed to playing nice to special interests and political correctness gone wild.
It is insane to characterize standing up for the rule of law is "bullying," but that's what many in the press decided to do when Nuch tried to say "No more exceptions" to our billboard law. On Friday October 23, 2009, the City of Los Angeles decided to publicly ignore legal advice and vote against its own law against issuing more billboard permits. Who was the 'victim' of Nuch's "bullying?" AEG - one of the biggest corporate donors to politicians in Los Angeles, and it was AEG that Jan Perry railroaded the City Council into giving a pass from the rule of law.
I think that date, October 23, 2009, will live forever in infamy as the low point in Los Angeles politics. There cannot be many who supported Jan Perry's motion who went home that night and didn't spend an hour in the shower trying to wash off the stench of what they sold themselves out for; six billboards for AEG as against the integrity of the first billboard ordinance that has been upheld by the Federal Court since 2002.
Bullying? Yes, who's the bully? Special interests or the City Attorney? You tell me.
4. I really loved your humorous contribution to the City Attorney race - you carried around a photo of Jack Weiss to all the events he skipped! Some of the supporters of Jack Weiss can't seem to let this go. Visitors to Mayor Sam have repeatedly been abusive to you for your perceived role in his defeat. Have you seen these comments? Do you care to respond?
You have to admit Jack Weiss gave me plenty of material to work with! The fact that we could have a laugh at the same time made the election all the more enjoyable and is the essence of the way politics should be.
Of course I have read the often less than complementary remarks anonymously posted by the shipwreck of the Weiss campaign. I wear the fact that I still piss them off as a badge of honor, and I have no doubt that if you publish this interview, we will see the same crap comments posted. Knock yourself out Ace, Dave, and Lard Butt, but at least try to come up with some new material. I'm bored with your ad hominem posts on nationality, law schools, secret police forces, alcohol, cigars, the NRA, Las Vegas, seals and sea lions.
5. I have stated publicly since day one that I believe Nuch is building a reputation as a "Crime Buster" because he plans to run for Mayor in 2013. Do you foresee a possible future in which you become Deputy Mayor David Berger?
In a word 'No.' Nuch has no desire to be Mayor, he wants to do the same thing I want to do; serve two terms and leave the City with a City Attorney's office you can be proud of. We're not politicians, we're professionals and I realize that's a hard concept for Los Angelenos to grasp. We'll continue fighting our fight to always do the right thing for the people of Los Angeles and you can tell us if you care for it or not at the polls. If I still have the energy after Nuch is termed out, I'll run for City Attorney, but that's a long way off in the future.