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City Councilman Brian Maienschein officially announced his candidacy for city attorney today at the end of a cul-de-sac in Rancho Bernardo.

After his staff asked workers who were busy rebuilding homes on the street that burned in last year’s Witch Fire to stop their work and turn off their noisy power tools, Maienschein gathered with a throng of local homeowners and made his official announcement.

He then delivered a quick speech that contrasted markedly with last week’s presentation by Council President Scott Peters. Rather than attacking incumbent Mike Aguirre head-on, Maienschein stuck to muted digs at Aguirre and focused more on what he considers to be his successes as a city councilman.

Maienschein touted his calm organization in the wake of the two wildfires that have hit his council district in the last four years and also pointed to the completion of Highway 56 and the establishment of the San Pasqual Vision Plan that protected the valley from development as notable successes from his tenure.

“I don’t grandstand. I calmly and methodically work to solve problems,” he said.

Maienschein referred to the wildfires several times, saying his establishment of a one-stop-shop where his constituents could seek help from several agencies during last year’s firestorms is now being held up nationally as an example to follow.

Asked in a question-and-answer session after his speech why his work during the fires has any relation to being a good city attorney, Maienschein said there are several parallels. Managing a district that’s seen hundreds of homes burn down is a huge undertaking, Maienschein said. And during the fires he was dealing with legal issues every day, he said. Then Maienschein made his most obvious dig at Aguirre.

“I have experience cleaning up after disasters, so I think I’m a good guy to follow up the current city attorney,” he said.

I asked Maienschein whether he thinks it’s fair to use the $250,000 he raised during his uncontested reelection run for city council in 2004 in this new campaign.

“Sure. The courts have ruled on that consistently — that that’s something that is fair and equitable to do. The Ethics Commission’s ruled on that as well, so I feel very comfortable with that,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, Maienschein was also probed during the press conference on his City Council vote in 2002 to approve a controversial deal that worsened the city’s pension problems. He said he regretted making the vote, but said he should be judged on what came after 2002, pointing again at his successes during the fires. And he said the pension system has recovered from whatever problems his vote may have exacerbated.

(While the system appears to have stabilized, it still carries a deficit of $1.2 billion, one that will require significant commitments from the city’s annual budget for years to come.)

“I wish I could take back that vote,” he said. “I listened to people that I shouldn’t have listened to and I wish I could have questioned them more, but that didn’t happen. But if you look at what happened after that, I think it’s very significant. The pension system is in sound fiscal condition and if the city quit making any payments whatever into the fund, it would be solvent for another 25 years,” he said.

In an ironic twist, about halfway through Maienschein’s press conference, a woman holding a baby tapped me on the shoulder.

“Was it you that asked the workmen to stop working?” she asked me.

I replied that it was Maienschein’s staff that had made the request.

“Well,” the woman said, looking rather annoyed. “I’m going to tell them to start working again, because they’re costing me money right now.”

WILL CARLESS

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