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So, I’m in the local bookstore talking to one of the very nice (somewhat) older ladies that live in my locale about the recent stealth plan (narrowly thwarted — for now) to put parking meters at the city beaches in La Jolla. She is horrified about that, and rambles on about any number of other disappointing civic issues and folks.
And, as sometimes happens in discussions like these, she lands eventually on Mike Aguirre.
I get around five minutes of “why can’t he be nicer,” “why can’t he get along with anybody,” “why does he get such bad press?”
On and on. I do my best, but it’s hard to contest all she has to say. Actually, I sympathize with many of her strongest feelings.
She finally reaches exhaustion on the subject and concludes, “but” (she sighs), “I’m going to vote for him anyway. He’s the only one doing anything.”
Amen to that. There still is lots “to do,” and few doing any of the doing of it.
It’s the reason he deserves to be re-elected.
I am not writing this on behalf of Aguirre or his campaign. I think I was asked to do this because nobody from the “Aguirre camp” responded to the clarion call of the voiceofsandiego.org, and I do support Mike. But, since I’m not the official spokesman for anything here, I might go a bit outside the normal short skirt and pom-pom stuff we get in these candidate support blogs.
Might have a few thoughts on the other campaigns and candidates, too. We’ll see.
Here’s Some of the Stuff He Did:
In no particular order:
- Reorganized the City Attorney’s Office from a rubber-stamp farm (on governance and finance issues) to a more legally directed place.
This element can be viewed several ways. Some point to the turnover in the office’s “loss of historical memory” as evidence of poor management skills. Advocates of this position miss or forget that there was big turnover when Gwinn took the job years ago and ditto for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2004. Only happens all the time in the private sector. For those unhappy with new management in a legal office changing direction, leaving is the natural and appropriate result. Good luck with your new careers.
- Took on the municipal pension scam.
You remember, the pension system that was “fully funded” in 2001 before we found out it was $78 million underfunded, then $160 million underfunded, then $760 million underfunded, then about $2 billion underfunded. Remember “Enron by the Sea?”
Now granted, he’s has had it handed to him at the trial court level at every turn. So far. But, these types of giant issues are normally only resolved by appellate courts which is why appellate court cases are the ones that get cited.
As one very prominent trial court judge once admonished me in a very gravity shifting case: “your issue is what appellate courts are there for.” And, Mike’s point is the right one. This has to be resolved. This city will not financially survive these periodic massive back loadings of billion dollar pension benefits while the general public is going about their lives and not looking.
These deals are either OK by the California courts, in which case future mayors and councils can and should massively pile this stuff up by the billions as happened with MP I in 1997 and MP II in 2002, or they are not, in which case we should stand and reset our financial condition now. Don’t you want somebody to do that for you? I do. If Mike isn’t there, do you really think anybody else is going to do this? I don’t.
- Focused on the legal issues of most importance to residential communities.
For a long time the City Attorney’s Office drifted more and more to the corporate development side of municipal government. What was not so important was stupid stuff like: where will the water come from for the next big housing proposal; are there sufficient fire programs in place for the burn areas; how are we complying with trash, sewage and other environmental legal requirements.
Basic city services with legal and practical impacts like are we sliding water or sewer costs to the residential communities to cover for other more influential constituencies — which results in massive short-term bondings, water, sewer and other “fee” increases, and, yes, paid parking at Balboa Park, public beaches and in residential communities.
- And there were other little things:
- Sunroad building. A big deal. Without Mike, a “deal” probably would have been negotiated out leaving the building higher than the state or federal standards. That would have been just fine until the first plane hit the Sunroad building in the fog and crashed into a neighborhood in Claremont. At that point, the city alone would be on the hook. Think of the massive scope of those numbers.
- De la Fuente litigation. Saved the city $100 million. No big deal.
- Put the legal “Cease and Desist” deal together to end the SEC’s freeze out of the city from the capital markets. We get a lot of blurred claims of credit here for our few successes of late; success has a thousand fathers. But does anybody think resolving the many legal claims the SEC brought against the city was not directed by the City Attorney’s Office? Especially since some prominent members of city government opposed the settlement and wanted to fight the SEC in court? I didn’t think so.
- Protecting the squirrels in the park. What was that about? Do we care? Not so much.
- The “Fire” evacuation plan. I liked the thought because the last fire chief identified the lack of an evacuation plan for the beach areas as a likely source of giant fatalities for fires moving east to west along Rose Canyon. But, a big political mistake. Why? Because that really is a physical plant/management issue that belongs to the Mayor’s Office and Mike should have left it to the mayor. City fires are the mayor’s fires not the city attorney’s fires. Ditto for landslides. They are the mayor’s landslides, not the city attorney’s landslides (granted at the time of the La Jolla landslide Aguirre was the only citywide elected official left in San Diego, everyone else being on a lobbying trip to Washington DC. Nonetheless, he should have just left it until they returned.) And, as it turned out, Mike’s efforts in both these areas turned the structural failure dialogues from the Mayor’s Office to the City Attorney’s Office. All downside, no upside. Dumb. And, the political consultants got to do the lame, but hilarious, “evacuate Aguirre” shtick. Hope Mike learned something from that.
Next up: The Campaign
— PAT SHEA