Saturday, August 20, 2005 | I had breakfast with Mike Aguirre, our city attorney. I found him to be a careful listener, with an alert mind and very few slams at others. Because he and I had met to discuss the gang situation in our area, he compared those unfortunate gang members with the political “gang” types that populate city halls and other congregations of political animals.

I was particularly interested in his lone-wolf connotation, in that he seemed to be an attack-hound, on the hunt for “gang members” who had performed sub-par in their elected or appointed offices.

I also began to note that the U-T had turned against him and had begun attacking his personality (of which he has much) and his tactics (which are rough and direct). His tactics sometimes appear out of control and his attacks also give that impression. However, he may be the most trusted member of the political establishment now, trusted as a maverick who doesn’t seek the blood of a kill, but rather the truth of competency or the opposite. If someone is elected to legislate and/or to protect the voters, then it is how effectively they do their job that attracts Aguirre’s ire or respect. I judge clients the same way as I teach leadership and mentor so many successful leaders of organizations and businesses.

Gang leaders – the type we dislike and who frighten us – are effective leaders who become father-substitutes. Their reputations are made by the respect and admiration they are shown by their followers; they don’t care how anyone feels about them and are quite ruthless in their tactics. Political leaders are vote-gatherers and money-raisers, and that is how they create their power and build their Teflon coatings. Publishers are committed to their own power structure, built by pummeling what they do not like or with whom they do not agree. They are built on an infrastructure of power and will defend that position in anyway possible or affordable.

The City Attorney’s Office is part of the policing and justice system upon which is constructed all of our society. Although it is certainly a political office, it must be occupied by trouble-makers, “attack-dogs” and wise, impatient and intolerant attorneys.

But finding and insisting upon effective justice, rather than just attacking, is the nuance that makes a city attorney outstanding or just an attack-dog. My vote, while still in the making, is initially – after meeting and speaking with the denizen of this office – respectful of the qualities that he possesses, rather than how nice he is or isn’t to people he does not respect. This is why he is trusted by the people, no matter who attacks him. Unfortunately, the same cannot be presently said for the gang that populates city hall.

Sanford “Sandy” Goodkin is acting chairman of Civic Solutions, a group of leaders who analyze San Diego’s problems, prioritize them and search for solutions, representing diverse points of view. He is a trustee of the Urban Land Institute and is a pioneer of residential market and marketing analysis. Read his real estate columns at

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