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At a subdued, sparsely attended debate last night, the five candidates running for city attorney answered a host of questions about environmental issues affecting San Diego. Well, they sort of answered them.

Jan Goldsmith declined to discuss some things on the grounds that he did not know the details of the issues involved. Asked whether the city had gone far enough to fulfill the requirements of Assembly Bill 32, which calls for a 25-percent reduction in California’s global warming-causing emissions by 2020, Goldsmith looked confused.

Goldsmith did not know that the bill, a landmark piece of global warming legislation, had been passed into law. And he did not know what the city had done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’m not privy to what the city has done, so it’s a little hard to shoot in the dark, so I’m just not going to say things shooting from the hip,” Goldsmith said.

Brian Maienschein shaped some of his answers around comments that had already been made by other candidates. He repeatedly mentioned his work on preserving a large swath of the San Pasqual Valley. Questioned on the water use at his home, which increased 55 percent in the second half of 2007 compared to the second half of 2006, Maienschein said his house had a leak that has since been fixed.

Councilman Scott Peters and incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre had a fair grasp on the issues being discussed. Aguirre should have, as during his last four years in office he has been tasked with tackling many of the issues the candidates were asked about.

But Aguirre looked like he was about to fall asleep at any moment and, most of the time, talked in a monotonic drone between fits of rubbing his eyes and looking around himself in apparent boredom.

Peters touted again and again his 15 years experience as an environmental lawyer. He was asked about public criticism of his household water use.

“I frankly just wasn’t paying attention,” Peters said. “I think I was very proud of myself for going out there every day and making a lot of progress on environmental issues and being an environmental lawyer and being very productive and I just wasn’t paying attention.”

Peters said he had a water audit of his household done and said his family is being more careful with their water consumption.

Amy Lepine told the crowd how she rides her bike to work and described her love of surfing. On more than one occasion, she split with the rest of the candidates, and she offered up some ideas, such as encouraging city residents to install solar paneling and creating a new department in the City Attorney’s Office to monitor the city’s progress on global warming.

One light-hearted moment in the debate occurred when the moderator, voiceofsandiego.org‘s Rob Davis, asked the candidates who they are endorsing for mayor.

Goldsmith, serious as ever, said he won’t endorse anybody, in any political race, because he wants to keep the City Attorney’s Office non-political.

Maienschein said he will work with anybody who gets elected and said he won’t endorse.

Lepine, smiling, said no one’s asked her for her endorsement. She said she might endorse Steve Francis if he asked her to.

Peters said he’s not endorsing anyone.

Aguirre, looking seriously out at the crowd, made an announcement: “I’ve decided, tonight, in front of this group, to make an endorsement. I will be endorsing Donna Frye in the mayor’s race.”

That one got some laughs, and a couple of groans.

WILL CARLESS

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