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The fact that I no longer work for the city is completely unimportant in any respect to the city’s future. However, the circumstances surrounding my leaving speak volumes about why our city continues to fall so short of its unlimited potential.

Firstly, City Councilwoman Donna Frye totally misrepresented our August conversation, which I’ll explain later. Beyond that, she and City Attorney Mike Aguirre waited until I was out of the country, and unable to respond, to stage their fake press conference. I witnessed a lot of cowardly acts while working for the city, but the Donna and Mike show on this issue tops them all. I have called Donna twice to ask her why she did what she did. I’m still waiting for her return call. As for Mike, I learned long ago that speaking to him is a waste of time.

Donna had a chance to show some actual leadership on a substantively simple but politically difficult issue. Rather than leadership, she reverted to pure politics in her and Mike’s ongoing compulsions to embarrass rather than build. Even assuming Donna was sincere in thinking I was “lobbying” contrary to the stated position of my boss, the mayor, the mature and appropriate course of action for her, or anyone in a similar situation, would have been to contact the mayor let him know. I suggest the majority of you reading this would do just that in a similar situation. Yet Donna childishly chose to run to Mike and they together fabricated a story.

As for Mike, if anyone wonders why no department in city government trusts the City Attorney’s Office or seeks its help or advice, just think about what happened here. Those of us working in City Hall knew Mike would rather have a press conference to criticize than to work quietly for a better solution for San Diego. Now, everyone should know. A real lawyer would have at least made some effort to get the facts or verify Donna’s story before doing anything. A real lawyer for sure would have reached out to the mayor to brief him on any concerns the lawyer might have as a result of Donna’s allegations. And a real lawyer would actually offer advice. What a real lawyer would never do is hold a press conference to accuse, try and find guilty a person in absentia.

Still all the drama would have come to nothing but for the work of the mayor’s political people, who took advantage of both my and the mayor’s absence to act. For months, the political people had been desperately looking for a “human sacrifice” for Sunroad. The facts were less important than the image. That they had failed to communicate properly to the public in late 2006 and early 2007, thereby creating the political part of the issue, made them even more desperate to find someone else to blame.

To pull off the human sacrifice they needed to manipulate the situation, knowing the mayor would never ask for someone’s resignation before learning the facts, first hand. So they announced to the paper that I had resigned, and informed the mayor I had resigned, before I was told on the phone that the mayor wanted my resignation. All this was particularly painless from an operations standpoint, because they knew I had worked out with Jay Goldstone that I was resigning before the end of August in any event for reasons having nothing to do with Sunroad.

The saddest part, and the part we as citizens need to take responsibility for, is that the political people were right. The fact is that once the necessary blood had run in the street, interest in the issue quickly went away. Assigning someone for public execution was enough to divert the public focus and get the issue out of the news. Amazing.

As for my conversation with Donna, normally these types of things cannot be verified between “he said, she said.” In this case my 10 minute conversation with Donna was a very brief version of the EXACT conversation I had in early July with the Airport Advisory Committee (AAC). The 30 plus people in that meeting understood what I was asking, and some of that 30 were my biggest Sunroad critics. Yet somehow Donna was confused, and chose to act on that confusion by launching a politically motivated attack with the eager support of Mike.

In summary, I said to both Dona and the AAC that the building was going to 160 feet. The mayor in June had told my office to conduct no further negotiations with Sunroad, and I said emphatically to both the AAC and Donna that since that order, there had been absolutely zero contact of any type with Sunroad regarding any possible settlement. None. I never violated in any respect the mayor’s directive. And I said the issue was not what any of this meant to Sunroad, but only what is best for San Diego. To me as a lawyer and business person the 160 feet standard gave us, the city, the luxury of debating if 160 feet is the best result for the city. I told Donna, as I had the AAC, that the City could probably settle the case as follows:

  • The building would be reduced to 166 feet. This was important for lots of reasons, not the least of which was costing Sunroad real deconstruction costs, while allowing Sunroad to keep the top rentable floor, which it loses at 160 feet.
  • The other two buildings would be limited to 160 feet, per an FAA request.
  • The lawsuit would be dismisses with prejudice. Each side would pay its own expenses.
  • Sunroad would pay a negotiated amount of between $750,000 and $1,000,000 for Montgomery field improvements.

In other words, the continuing of the lawsuit after June 2007, which is when the city attorney, on his own, derailed consultations we were having with the FAA on the above proposal, is about six feet on one building.

I submit that a competent lawyer would strongly urge their client to take such a deal. The city attorney worked actively against it. Remember, the city has zero upside in the current lawsuit filed by the city attorney without consultation with either the mayor or council. The best the city can ever do in this case is break even, assuming the city wins and is awarded attorney’s fees and costs. Meanwhile the city is spending a huge amount on outside lawyers and faces an unknown potential liability that may ultimately be zero or may be a lot.

Should the city take such a deal? That isn’t my decision. But what was frustrating me so much was that we as a city couldn’t even have public dialogue and hearing about this possible outcome. It still frustrates me.

And why couldn’t we have such a debate? Becouse we have allowed to be created in our city a state of political terror where ideas are supplanted by personal attacks. Until we as voters punish the attackers, verses the many people in the system who have ideas they want to present for positive and public debate, we are doomed to the silly, unproductive, divisive negativity we currently call local government.

— JIM WARING

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