Previously posted at the original Soapblox site on Tue Sep 22, 2015 at 18:57:44 PM CDT

Jake Zimmerman, one of the Democratic Party candidates for Attorney General in 2016, spoke with media over a conference call yesterday afternoon. He was joined on the call by Congressman Joaquín Castro (D – Texas) who spoke of his long time friendship with Jake Zimmerman. Both took questions from media on the call.

Jake Zimmerman (D) [May 2015 file photo].

The transcript of some of the questions and answers on the conference call:

Question: ….What should the focus of the Attorney General’s office be?….

Jake Zimmerman (D): ….This is not an abstract office. This is the state’s largest law firm that is not only responsible for helping to keep, uh, Missouri’s most dangerous criminals in prison, uh, but is also responsible for representing the people of the state and being the peoples lawyer. And whether that means, uh, consumer protection for victims of scams, which is, uh, what I was particularly focused on when I was an assistant attorney general, or whether it’s environmental enforcement and going after the worst offenders at times when that’s desperately needed, or whether it’s the nuts and bolts job of enforcing the laws of the State of Missouri, I just think it’s critically important that that work be done by someone who is committed to the idea that justice looked the same for everybody regardless of, uh, who are, regardless of how many zeros at the end of your paycheck and also someone who’s, uh, not going to pick and choose the laws that they seek to enforce and who understands that the Attorney General’s office isn’t a playground to do ideological battle. It’s a real, consequential and serious office that requires someone who is committed to the idea of justice no matter where it takes you.

[….]

Question: ….One of the things that’s, um, sort of an, an annual ritual of the Attorney General’s office is the, uh, Vehicle Stops Report in Missouri. ….Would you…go over with us what, what you see as the trends, what that means for Missouri, and, and, and how can, um, whatever the reports show, um, be changed for the better for the state?

Jake Zimmerman (D): Well, I think it goes without saying that the, the reports have shown some worrisome trends, or at minimum have shown that, uh, that we as a, as a state have a lot of work to do, uh, before justice is truly colorblind. And, uh, that’s not an academic conversation. Uh, and I don’t think that anyone who lives in or around, uh, Ferguson or this broader community needs me to tell them that. And I am hopeful that, uh, if I am Missouri’s chief law enforcement officer that there will be an opportunity to bring together people of good will on all sides of what has become very bitter debates and find the points of common ground, uh, to bring people together and to try to make some good out of the bad news that has come in this region and nationwide over the past year. I, I really think that there is an opportunity, to steal a phrase, not to waste the crisis and I’m hopeful that I can play a role in making things a little bit better when the time comes.

[….]

Question: ….As you probably know the Ferguson Commission report, uh, would want to give you, uh, as Attorney General all of the police involved shooting cases. Uh, would you want them? Do you think that office should have them? And how would you handle that responsibility?

Jake Zimmerman (D): Um, I’ll, I’ll answer, I’ll give you a more straight answer to the second part of that question than to the first part because I think it’s my responsibility to some degree to defer to the wishes of Missouri’s lawmakers as to what authority they want the Attorney General’s office to have, uh, so that I can be in a position to use that authority neutrally and appropriately if and when it is given to me. Um, to whatever extent the office has that authority, whether it’s as proposed by the commission or the office’s existing criminal enforcement authority or anything else I think, uh, I have a clear responsibility if I am Missouri’s chief law enforcement official to try and do this right. And doing this right means bringing people together, it means convening a respectful conversation between all of the communities that are impacted by questions about the relations of law enforcement in the community, whether black, white, rich, poor or anything in between. And I would observe that maybe, maybe a model here for the right way to work these things out is, is the way that Cincinnati proceeded. Where, um, people from the community and people from law enforcement and clergy and activists and folks from across the spectrum came together and sat at the table and found a way to, uh, to move forward in a way that ultimately made things better for the community and created really actionable items. …As you know…there are hundreds of recommendations that came from that commission’s report and to me the question is not, um, the individual merits of every single recommendation. I think the question is, are we going to do something? Are we going to waste a crisis and let everything that’s happened be in vain? Or are we gonna get some good out of this and get to a place where, where things are a little bit better?

[….]

Question: …The organization of the offices in the different, um, duties of the, uh, Attorney General’s office is pretty widespread. Overall do you see any kinds of, uh, consolidation of offices or moving of, of offices with different responsibilities to be closer to the action that is different than the current organization of the office right now?

Jake Zimmerman (D): Um, that, that’s a difficult question to answer without having access to the, uh, the org chart and the budget and a whole bunch of other stuff that you need as a CEO before making management decisions. Um, but what I can tell you anecdotally is that I remember when I worked at the Attorney General’s office and I was predominantly based out of St. Louis, um, and I was at a time in my career when as a young lawyer I don’t know that I would have chosen to work at the office had I not been offered a job in St. Louis. And I met other people in Kansas City who felt very much the same way. By the same token, um, that office is run, uh, a good chunk of the staff are young graduates of Missouri law schools and in particular many of them come out of the University of Missouri. And having a critical mass of young lawyers in Jefferson City close to Mizzou where people can also get the training that is part and parcel of why someone might choose to work at that office for a much lower salary than they can get in the private sector. All that is to stay that there’s a, there’s significant competing management considerations there and, uh, with your permission I’ll turn this into a campaign answer and say to you that those are real and hard questions for a CEO. And it’s why the people of this state might be wise to look for someone to run that office who has actually managed a large government agency before. I run an office of a hundred and fifty people with a budget of eleven million dollars, uh, ranging from folks with a high school education up to folks with PhD level expertise in economics, and what it takes to motivate and get the most out of people and keep folks working in public service when they might have better opportunities in the private sector. That’s the kind of nuts and bolts that isn’t addressed by giving a fiery speech at a microphone and is what public service is about.

[….]

Previously:

There is another (January 27, 2015)

Campaign Finance: also in under the wire (April 1, 2015)

Campaign Finance: now that’s personal commitment (April 2, 2015)

Attorney General – July 2015 Campaign Finance Reports (July 19, 2015)