July 20, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Questions & Answers With Hydee Feldstein, Candidate to Succeed Mike Feuer as LA’s Next City Attorney

By Nick Antonicello

Yo! Venice sat down with Hydee Feldstein, one of the candidates looking to succeed the outgoing Mike Feuer, now a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.

Name: Hydee Feldstein Soto

Residence or neighborhood:  Mid City

Years living in LA:  I moved here in 1982 upon graduation from law school so nearly 40 years in LA

Current occupation:  Candidate. I have been campaigning full time since last year.  I obviously am licensed to practice law in CA and I have been continuously since 1982.

Education: K-12 in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Swarthmore College, B.A. (Political Science and Economics)

Columbia University School of Law, J.D. (Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Law Review)

Party Affiliation:  Democrat

E-mail address and website: hydeefeldsteinsoto@gmail.com  https://www.hydeefortcityattorney.com  https://www.hydeefeldstein.com 

Three issues that concern you the most:

  1.  Homelessness
  2. Protecting the Safety of Our People and Our Neighborhoods
  3. Transparency, Accountability and Corruption
  • What qualities professional and otherwise makes you uniquely qualified to be the City Attorney of  Los Angeles?  

 You can find my resume on my personal website:  www.hydeefeldstein.com.  

  1. The day to day part of the job is managing one of the largest municipal law firms in the country with over 1000 employees (550 of whom are lawyers) and a budget of $140+ million.  
    • I am the only candidate that has successfully managed other lawyers, as chair of the LA corporate department at one firm, as co-chair of the global commercial finance department at another firm and as lead counsel on hundreds of transactions over nearly 40 years.
    • I have closed financings and transactions many times the size of the budget for the office and many times the size of the annual budget for the entire City of LA.  
  2. The biggest part of the job is to serve as general counsel to the municipal corporation that is the City of Los Angeles.  Being a general counsel goes beyond the substantive lawyering and requires developing and maintaining compliance and risk management tools for the client.
    • I am the only candidate that has served as a general counsel, managing issues and lawyers with expertise outside my own.  
    • I was recognized as a top tier lawyer locally, nationally and globally in my areas of expertise and practice:
      • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business (Banking/Finance 2004-2011 and Bankruptcy/Restructuring 2003-2011, which comments included: “When something simply must not go wrong, you turn to Hydee Feldstein’ say sources. ‘She is a superb intellect and combines theoretical understanding, commercial street sense and practicality which help all sides arrive at a reasonable solution.’”); Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business; IFLR1000: The Guide to the World’s Leading Financial Law Firms; The Best Lawyers in AmericaThe Lawdragon 3000: Leading Lawyers in America; Southern California Super LawyersThe Los Angeles Area’s Best LawyersWho’s Who Legal: The International Who’s Who of Insolvency and Restructuring Lawyers; and Who’s Who Legal: California
  3. The City Attorney also serves as an elected official representing her constituents and as someone running to do just this job, I would take that seriously.  I am not starting a new career (I am 63) and this office is not a stepping stone to becoming a politician.  Rather, it is a job that I can and will do well from Day 1.  As a Jewtina (Jewish Latina), I bring the values of my communities to the office and draw upon them –  justice, personal accountability, hard work, inclusivity, and communication.  I hope to do my part in repairing our city.
  • How would your office tackle the issue of homelessness in cooperation with other city officials?
    1.  Bring down the cost – we cannot afford to build the shelter and housing we need at the current spend (whether stated as $700K+ per unit or $2-3K per square foot).  Market rate housing costs about $200 per square foot or 10% of the City’s spend.  So here are some things the City Attorney can do about costs:
      • The City Attorney can enforce the competitive bidding procedures of the City Charter.  The City and the public will benefit from an efficient process for bids that ensures the cost does not exceed the market price or at least not by 10 times.
      • The City Attorney can structure alternatives for the funding of construction.  The current practice of funding 20% of construction costs and leaving developers to scramble for the remaining 80% of the money needed to build is not working and is costing too much in interest.
    2. Find additional resources for services to those needing help with mental health, substance use, and physical disabilities.
      • The City Attorney, with Council, can revise the 1964 agreement between the City and the County to provide mental health resources to the City.  When the original agreement between the City and the County was executed in 1964, there were no block grants from the federal government (the modern HHS was created under President Carter in 1978) and no block grants from the State (including today’s mental health services tax). 
      • The City represents approximately 40% of the population of LA County and more than 62% of the population needing shelter and help with mental illness but the County only spends about 22% of its public health dollars in the City (much of which is expended through LAHSA and its providers on water and other necessities delivered to people living in encampments on our streets).  
    3. Streamline and consolidate the City’s approval process for housing, facilitating a single point of entry system to have all the various departments and agencies communicate with one another internally and speak with a single voice with respect to plans, development, redevelopment, construction and reuse.
  • Domestic Violence comes under the responsibilities of the City Attorney. How would you tackle this cultural crisis?

The City Attorney has a DV unit which I would need to review and assess for best practices and responsiveness.  Although BehindClosedDoors was launched with some fanfare during the pandemic in response to reports of a serious increase in domestic violence attributed to people staying at home in compliance with the “Safer At Home” and similar guidelines, there does not seem to have been much follow up other than putting up a webpage (literally one short page) listing the then existing domestic violence resources (almost all private nonprofits or county level government).  In looking at the webpage, the resources are in English, Spanish and Korean.  I would like to see at least hotline information for other languages as well – the election material is printed for all languages representing 5% or more of the population and given the prevalence of domestic violence in so many immigrant communities, distribution of information that help is available and where one can call or go would be useful.  Part of my platform is to create a Neighborhood Law Corps (patterned on Oakland’s program and described as a cross between the Peace Corps and Legal Aid) which would have lawyers work with community based law enforcement and social services to focus on our neighborhoods and get to know the residents, businesses and their needs.  That increases the visibility and raises awareness throughout the City on issues like DV and trafficking.  And while the County has hotlines and the phone number for the DA is made available, there is not a number to call in the City Attorney’s Office or the Mayor’s Office on the Domestic Violence Unit’s webpage.  https://filedn.com/lOJqn8isbUNJvUBnJTlV5OS/DV%20RESOURCES%20ENGLISH%20BCD.pdf   I would change that.

  • Many claims and disputes come before your office. How would you meet those challenges?

It sounds trite but you break down challenges into manageable parts, assign responsibility, track progress on a master calendar and deal with each situation on the merits.  The types of claims and disputes that come before the City Attorney typically are not susceptible of mass resolution and would need to be handled one at a time, expeditiously and justly.  I would keep track of and publish data like Ron Galperin has done in the Controller’s Office – from types of claims and resolutions to areas where the incidents occurred and the demographic information about the parties or in the case of a crime, the perpetrator and victim.

  • How can the City Attorney’s Office save tax dollars? What proposals will you implement to give taxpayers a break?

Enforce the competitive bidding procedures of the City Charter

Increase revenue by obtaining the City’s fair share of public and mental health dollars and other block grants from the federal and state government

Streamline point of entry for businesses doing business in and with the City to reduce duplication

Work to enforce fines and tax liens

Stop spending more money in fees than what it took or would take to correct errors (example recent report on $122 million in fees spent by LADWP on overbilling refunds and credits of less  than $110 million – Report starts at 59:45 of this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaE8l6H4o3Q

  • How does the City Attorney’s Office handle landlord/tenant disputes?

It depends on the type of dispute.  Habitability and code issues usually fall to Building and Safety for investigation and enforcement, nuisance issues can fall to any of Building and Safety, LAPD or Sanitation, harassment issues are the subject of a recent ordinance passed in June 2021.  LAMC 45.36 newly gives the City Attorney the power to cite harassment as an infraction or a misdemeanor and Section 45.37 imposes vacancy rent control on a unit vacated due to harassment.  The power to issue citations and impose civil penalties, especially the ACE program passed in 2017, should be used more effectively for landlord disputes.  The findings for a citation or infraction can serve as a basis for self help by the tenants and the fines are for each day that the violation continues to exist.  The City Attorney can enforce by setting up a rental abatement account so that the rental income goes to repairs instead of the landlord or directly as a lien against the property. 

  • Many believe the City of LA is too quick to settle employee personnel disputes. How will you handle such litigation?

First and foremost, MyVoiceLA – the portal for reporting harassment or discrimination -needs to be updated and improved with best practices – 

  1.  There should be an independent investigation outside of the complainant’s department, preferably involving an ombuds in the personnel office and a lawyer from the City Attorney’s office.  Apparently in a number of circumstances, complaints are referred back to the complainant’s supervisor.
  2. There should be a nonretaliation provision for complaints.
  3. There should be a confidentiality guarantee on a “need to know” basis

           In addition the City needs to engage in training for harassment, bias and best workplace practices.

The City’s employment contracts should have an enforceable mediation or arbitration clause and the City’s requirements for managers and supervisors needs to be in writing and enforced.  If the issue involves civil service, police or fire personnel, the provisions of Article X of the City Charter and the provisions of the applicable union agreement need to be followed.

Finally, I would publish the data on disputes, claims and settlements, and ensure that every finding of liability or settlement consisted of more than just the payment of money by the city and had actual consequences for individuals involved in misbehavior or for individuals who file false claims

  • What kind of executive team will you assemble should you win and what kind of skill set will you seek?

Until one gets there, one never knows but I fairly certain that in addition to the usual litigators who populate the management of the office, I would have a strong leader from the transactional and organizational side, ideally someone who has had significant experience in private practice as well as City Hall.  Other areas that seem ripe for improvement from the top include ethics and corruption, human resources, technology, and compliance.  

  • What is your approach to corruption and will that play a major role in your administration?

Yes it will play a major role although it is important to recognize the limits of the office.  Most tellingly, the City Attorney does not have subpoena power.  So the CA may need to partner with the Controller or the Ethics Commission, both of which do have subpoena power to investigate.  

My approach is simple:

Enforce the Charter and out codes on competitive bidding and other provisions

Prequalify and publish the list of eligible bidders on each type of procurement contract and streamline the process to facilitate competitive bidding.  This may be affected by City Council’s reorganization just this past week of the procurement process to center a procurement officer in the office of the CAO.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant – track and publish data on city contracts awarded, claims made and liabilities paid.

Help, rather than hinder, the investigations by other agencies like the Department of Justice, the FBI or the DA.

Implement a process for timely compliance with Public Records Act requests.

Prohibiting classes of donors in this day of Citizens United dark money, individual donor caps and special interest groups is not effective and we have to find a different way to get at corruption.

Term limits have not been effective due to ability to jump from office to office. 

  • Are you supporting a candidate for Mayor?  If elected, it would be my honor and privilege to work with our next Mayor, regardless of outcome of that race. As long as I am a candidate, I am not getting involved in any other local races.
  • Do you support the recall efforts of George Gascon? See above.  I am not getting involved in any other local races.
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