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I’ve never heard a State of the City speech where the mayor criticized and called out a rival politician as much as Mayor Jerry Sanders directed negativity toward the city attorney Thursday night. So, like many people, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the body language of City Attorney Mike Aguirre during the speech. Seated in the line of city officials behind Sanders, Aguirre was, like the rest of them, on stage.

I thought it was interesting to track some of what made him applaud and what didn’t.

For instance, he and City Councilwoman Donna Frye and City Councilman Tony Young clapped but didn’t stand like most of the crowd when former mayor and governor Pete Wilson was hailed by Sanders.

Aguirre clapped when the mayor did his pep rally thing hoping for the Chargers to beat the Colts this weekend in the playoffs.

Oh God, do I have to listen to this?

But he didn’t clap after the next couple sentences when the mayor said he hoped Chula Vista and the Chargers could find a way to build a new stadium.

Then there was the surprise appearance of County Supervisor Ron Roberts on the stage.

The mayor actually handed the floor over to Roberts. I’d never heard of anything like that. And Roberts, apparently taking note of everyone’s surprise, delivered the funniest quote of the night. The three-time mayoral candidate quipped:

I think most of you know, it’s been my lifelong ambition to give the State of the City address.

Aguirre was unimpressed, apparently with most of the rest of what Roberts said.

But then the county supervisor said this:

Since October, Mayor Sanders and I have met with numerous fire chiefs and other professionals to seek their recommendations.

The bottom line: while we certainly welcome help from the state and federal governments, more must be done locally.

Aguirre practically came out of his chair applauding furiously and starting the round of clapping from the rest of the audience.

Later, Aguirre tried to applaud when the mayor said this:

Some have suggested that we move to mandatory cuts right away…

But then he realized that the mayor hadn’t finished the sentence:

… but taking such drastic action now is unnecessary and risks damaging our local economy.

And then Aguirre must have realized that the line was yet another dig at him.

Finally, the mayor celebrated a major change in the rhetoric among the city’s political class.

I was moved to run for mayor because I could not stand on the sidelines and watch San Diego fall further into disrepair. Two years ago, many said the only way out of our financial crisis was to declare bankruptcy.  Look how far we have come since then.

There was vigorous applause from people like Council President Scott Peters and Councilman Jim Madaffer who sat next to Aguirre.

Aguirre? Stone cold stare.

Funny how things change. When Sanders himself was running for mayor, he may not have said that the only way out of the fiscal crisis was through bankruptcy. But he certainly was proud to be among those who saw it as an option.

SCOTT LEWIS

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