The flags were there, the television cameras were ready, the microphones were switched on and the supporters were wearing their smiles. But where was Mike Aguirre?
Aguirre eventually turned up, 10 minutes late and grinning, to announce his reelection campaign on a high bluff, overlooking downtown, in the parking lot of the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma.
Though he never actually made the official announcement “I am running for reelection as city attorney,” Aguirre’s message was clear: He said he has worked hard to clean up City Hall and he needs more time to get the job done right.
|City Attorney Mike Aguirre, flanked by supporters, launches his reelection campaign.|
In a lengthy speech, Aguirre listed the accomplishments of his office, in no particular order, and delved long and deep into the city’s pension problems.
Flanked by supporters, Aguirre read carefully and slowly from a wad of paper and made cracks about Scott Peters and Barack Obama. As a chainsaw buzzed from a nearby crew of gardeners, Aguirre quipped “Can someone tell Scott Peters over there to shut that chainsaw off?”
About halfway through his speech he joked: “This is not as good as Barack Obama or anywhere near it, I’m sorry. It just makes me feel so inadequate, but that’s OK, I’m going to still plug on.”
But though he acknowledged his eloquence does not match up to the presidential candidate’s, some of Aguirre’s rhetoric matched the lofty goals espoused by Obama so far on his campaign.
“Your city attorney is still on the same side of the street as the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side,” was one such example.
Aguirre worked several themes into the long list of accomplishments while in office: Tackling the Sunroad scandal; pushing for mandatory recycling; stopping the expansion of San Diego State University; supporting the La Jolla Planning Group and helping the city’s homeless.
But for at least half of his 30-minute speech, Aguirre focused on the issue that has most defined his tenure, polarizing so many into two camps: those that loathe him and those that think he can do no wrong.
Carefully weaving together the positive things judges, journalists and scholars have said about his fight against the City Council’s past and present handling of the municipal pension system, Aguirre acknowledged he has had setbacks, but said his tactics have borne fruit and that further successes on the pension front will come down the legal pipeline in due course.
“To our critics, we say, ‘Better the occasional faults of a city attorney trying to serve the public interest, that the consistent misuse of the office by those serving private, selfish interests,’” he said.
In wrapping up, Aguirre tackled his interpretation of the City Attorney’s Office as a watchdog for local government, answerable to the people of San Diego and not to elected officials.
“In 1931, the editor of the Hillcrest News told his readers a ‘yes’ vote for the new city charter, with the elected city attorney, would give San Diego a New Deal. In 2004, you gave San Diego a New Deal when you restored the City Attorney’s Office to its original purpose — to protect the interests of all San Diego. In 2008, you can give us the four years we need to make the restoration permanent. Let us march on together ’til victory is won,” he said.
After apologizing about the length of his speech, Aguirre turned down the suggestion of a question and answer session with reporters and instead stood aside, where he was immediately surrounded by journalists.