PD Editorial: Let Jill Ravitch build on her first term

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    PC: Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, Thursday Jan. 19, 2012 in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Sonoma County voters are fortunate to have a choice for district attorney on the June 3 ballot.

Jill Ravitch, the incumbent, and challenger Victoria Shanahan are skilled prosecutors, at ease in the courtroom and capable of managing the most complex criminal cases.

But a district attorney isn't just a trial lawyer.

The county's top prosecutor makes decisions that shape criminal justice and public safety for a half-million residents. Making the right choices takes on added importance at a time when a federal court order to reduce prison crowding must be implemented without reversing a welcome decline in crime.

A contested election allows voters to weigh the issues and the candidates to make the right choice.

In this contest, that's Jill Ravitch.

She has spent much of her first term rebuilding an office that lost about a dozen lawyers, investigators and support personnel to budget cuts. With the office returning to pre-recession staffing, she's positioned to manage a challenging caseload.

But it hasn't been a smooth ride, as evidenced by Shanahan's challenge.

Shanahan, a deputy district attorney with extensive experience prosecuting serious felonies, describes many of the same intra-office problems that Ravitch did before she was elected: friction between front-line prosecutors and managers, poor communication and breakdowns in the decision-making process, once resulting in a plea agreement made over the objections of a child victim's parents.

These seem to be valid criticisms.

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