Also taking part in this charade is Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, whose office issued a nine-page letter to explain why the proposed change is lawful, this despite an opinion from the California Legislative Counsel Bureau stating that it isn’t. Making matters more interesting is the fact that Trutanich is running to succeed Steve Cooley as L.A. County district attorney. Cooley, who will retire rather than seek re-election, has reached the opposite conclusion from that reached by Trutanich, and managed to spell out the statutory and case-law reasons for that conclusion in a mere two pages. (Click here to read in PDF form.)
And it gets even more interesting. On the very day of the commission’s vote, in which the majority relied heavily on Trutanich’s legal advice, Trutanich received the endorsement of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, whose members and leadership have been vocal in support of the rights of illegal immigrants. The timing could not be more suspicious.
And, as if more were needed, there is even more evidence that the new impound policy is not, as its proponents have claimed, aimed at enhancing public safety but rather intended to ease whatever burdens might remain on illegal immigrants in Los Angeles. One reason for the change is the financial burden placed on illegal immigrants whose cars are impounded for 30 days. The associated storage fees can accrue to the point that many illegal immigrants are unable to pay to have their cars released, resulting in the loss of those cars through lien sales.
Responding to this, Commissioner Skobin pointed out that the money recouped by the impound garages through these lien sales averages out at about half of the fees they are owed. With this in mind, Skobin proposed an alternative in which the fees be cut in half, thereby allowing the spirit of the law to be observed while lessening the financial cost on those affected. Skobin may as well have been talking to an empty room. His suggestion was ignored by his fellow commissioners as they congratulated themselves for their compassion and fairness before voting in favor of Beck’s proposal.
Perhaps the most unctuous (though it’s a close call) was commission Vice President John Mack, who said, “While it may not be fashionable to some, [officers should] show some compassion. We’re talking about human beings. . . . Some of the comments suggest that only unlicensed drivers are the ones who are involved in accidents. I would suggest that that’s not the factual case.”
And no one would be foolish enough to say it was. What Mack would know if he had been listening to the debate is that 20 percent of drivers involved in fatal traffic collisions are unlicensed. If anything, it would seem that he and the other three commissioners who voted in favor of the change found it more “fashionable” to overlook such inconvenient statistics for the sake of furthering what is clearly a political goal. But in showing compassion for unlicensed drivers they have chosen to deny it to those who will become their victims.
And what will happen when, as will surely occur, one of the beneficiaries of all this compassion kills someone with a car he might otherwise not have been driving? We’re not even supposed to ask such questions, but don’t expect any apologies.