“No, no — don’t look over there. Look down here!”

As a young(er) lawyer, I was introduced to a trial technique I have not forgotten.

A trial over the value of a famous impressionist landscape painting — the one side presents the full view to the jury and introduces the importance of the scene, the painter, the purpose of the work and the historic value of such works. The other side has a big problem — what do they do? Seeking to fuzz the value, they direct the jury to focus on a two inch square in the bottom right corner of the work.

It is, like the rest of the painting viewed in high relief, cracked from age and, in minutia, not very magical. The more the focus of the presentation goes to that corner, the squintier the jury gets. Why, yes — that painting does look to be of cracked paint. How could that Vermeer possible be valuable? If you just extrapolate the defects of that small corner and fill out your horizon, why it might just be worthless? [Here’s a little test on this “look-over-here” thing you might find worth while.]

Welcome to this campaign season.

So, how do we get folks “focused” away from the issues that Aguirre is focused on (community legal compliance, pension reform, municipal finance, required infrastructure compliance, etc.)? Well, let’s try some investigations.

There are, by my count, two pending “investigations” we know about:

  • The State Bar “investigated” whether Aguirre received “authority from the City Council” to file a pension related complaint which, in fact, they voted for him to file. However, some council members apparently hoped that he would file the case in his own name (?) rather than in the name of the city because their political constituencies would not understand them giving him that authority — even though they did, in fact, do just that.

    Apparently the State Bar had some extra time and decided this was a compelling thing to do. There is no information of where that investigation started, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a formal report before (perhaps even just before) the primary election.

  • The attorney general of California, who had no apparent legal requirement to do so but apparently also had some extra time, issued a 27+ page single spaced, unsigned “Report” concluding that the mayor was not “corrupt” in the Sunroad matter. The AG’s office, “… limited its interviews to [Mayor] Sanders and three of his staffers …”, but apparently made no effort, “to verify testimony from the mayor and his staff” according to the Union-Tribune article on the subject.

    That did not prevent the AG’s Report from both completely “vindicating” the mayor of everything suggesting he was corrupt, and from going yet another step further on its own initiative just for good measure suggesting that Aguirre should be suspected of an “extortion” that no one had ever previously even heard about — completely understandable because most Aguirre criticisms in this town are kept as closely guarded secrets (so no wonder we didn’t hear about it before). Shhhhhhh. Our friends at the U-T editorial board viewed the largely anecdotal Report as a virtual thunderbolt from Zeus himself,

    permanently putting to bed every issue even remotely related to Sunroad. For even more entertainment, Scott Peters jumped right in and demanded a full investigation and possible prosecution of Aguirre as quickly as that could be arranged by the district attorney, who responded, “um … no.”

This stuff’s nuts, isn’t it? That’s because it’s campaign season and our normal big happy beach party approach to serious structural and financial matters has given way to a world of junior varsity political stunts in their entire oafish and goofish splendor.

(I still can’t figure out the “Axis of Goodness” press conference where the mayor decided the AG would give him a “report” on whether he was ‘corrupt’. I don’t know of anybody who thought that was necessary or even a good idea. It was incredibly bad opera when it occurred, and now we get to relive it at the very moment most of us had forgotten about it. I’m confident the mayor wishes he never went down that road. Ditto for the totally weird Michael McSweeney/Eric Bidwell “Steve Francis bashing” script thing last week — maybe conjured up by the same “Axis of Goodness” genius.)

Honestly, this is so us. This is so San Diego.

It’s all too rooty-toot-tooti.

Let’s hope we don’t read on election eve that Aguirre’s also being investigated for the 1932 disappearance of the Lindbergh baby.

— PAT SHEA

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