By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Weiss’ backers say he has pushed City Hall to resolve a scandalous backlog of untested DNA “rape kits” dating to 2002, and called for a policy to clear the backlog. He donated $350,000 from his City Council office funds to help pay for the DNA testing of that long-stored sperm and other evidence — something no other council member did. Even his campaign adviser, Ace Smith, concedes, “He is not exactly Mister Popularity on council,” but, “he is an independent and he calls them the way he sees them.”
Weiss played a role in the city’s disastrous deal to let billboard companies erect more than 800 digital billboards, which he now admits was “a mistake.” He has since fought to inspect billboards and charge them a fee, and called for a $2,500 daily penalty on building owners who allow illegal supergraphics.
But for all that, Weiss hasn’t accomplished much on either front — thousands of illegal billboards and supergraphics abound, and it took a newspaper exposé, not Weiss, to convince Bratton to take the DNA-testing problem seriously.
“He probably doesn’t want to answer to the public because of the harsh criticism he would receive by the people attending these forums,” says Westchester resident David Coffin, who was going to vote for another city-attorney candidate, activist lawyer Noel Weiss, but who now favors Trutanich.
Jack Weiss recently upset some council colleagues by sending out campaign materials depicting himself as the only council member who cares about rape victims. Barely controlling his contempt for Weiss, councilman Dennis Zine, a former cop, says, “He makes it sound like no one cares but him. He is manipulating the rape-kit issue. ... It’s all about his strategy: How am I going to become city attorney?”
In Westchester, the last candidate to arrive is Michael Amerian, a soft-spoken deputy city attorney who takes a seat next to Craig Wilson, a city employee who ends many of his comments to candidates with: “I am frothing at the mouth over this.”
Amerian is a polished speaker like the others, who once worked for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and later joined the city attorney’s office prosecuting domestic violence, vandalism and drunken-driving cases before moving to the Gang Unit in 2007.
At 34, he is the youngest candidate for city attorney, and the fans on his Facebook page include the Sierra Club and Radiohead. When moderator John Ramey asks Amerian what qualities make a good city attorney, Amerian says, “We need a devoted public servant. I don’t want an outsider to come in and reinvent the wheel.” Amerian got a campaign boost a few days later, earning the endorsement of outgoing City Controller Laura Chick — yet another slap at Jack Weiss from somebody who has worked with Weiss at City Hall for years.
As the debate this night comes to an end, Berger, the Englishman turned local D.A., asks those gathered to name the person they are not going to choose. “Jack Weiss,” the small crowd murmurs. “Jack Weiss ... that is it,” chuckles Berger.