Jan Goldsmith, the judge and city attorney wannabe, is backing away from comments attributed to him in today’s Union-Tribune story about what he would do about the Chargers if he were elected.

U-T reporter Ron Powell paraphrased Goldsmith in a report about a debate last night with incumbent Mike Aguirre. Powell wrote that Goldsmith would seek to unify local cities to work a deal for the Chargers.

At the debate, according to the article, Goldsmith tried to differentiate himself from Aguirre’s approach to the football team. Here’s the section, starting with Aguirre’s point (emphasis mine):

“And we certainly don’t have the money to subsidize the Chargers,” Aguirre said. “I love the Chargers, and as long as my constituents love the Chargers, I’ll do everything I can to keep them here. But the Chargers cannot dictate to the people of San Diego who will represent our side.”

Goldsmith, a Superior Court judge challenging Aguirre in the Nov. 4 election, said he would approach it differently. If the team’s pursuit of a stadium in Chula Vista doesn’t work, he would seek to form a joint powers authority with all cities in the county, and hold talks with the team.

That last point seemed a bit startling to me. I don’t necessarily think that’s the wrong approach. But it’s certainly a politically proactive one. Goldsmith’s whole campaign is built on the supposed idea that — as opposed to the hyper-political Aguirre — Goldsmith would serve merely as the city’s passive legal advisor. He has consistently said he would leave policy leadership to the City Council and mayor. This is a major point as he has argued, with reason at times, that Aguirre too often confused himself as a political leader and not a lawyer for the city.

When I wrote about the “Five Things” I thought people should watch for in the coming city attorney’s race, I contended that it would be interesting to see what message Goldsmith seizes on as the theme of his campaign. Reader after reader sent me notes that I was wrong and the message was clear: Goldsmith was going to eliminate the politics in the office and serve as the city’s lawyer. That’s it.

So, I wondered, how does this commitment to only interpret the law and nothing more square with this latest declaration at a forum that he would proactively seek to form a joint powers authority with county municipalities to find a solution to the Chargers stadium search if the effort to build a facility in Chula Vista dissolves?

If anything is a policy decision, it’s whether to do something like that.

Goldsmith, apparently, agrees. He just told me on the phone he would never unilaterally seek to form a joint powers authority with other cities in the county if his City Council and mayor were against it.

So how does that square with Powell’s report? He wrote that Goldsmith would just do this after Chula Vista backed out of the deal, presumably no matter what policy makers thought. Was Powell wrong?

Goldsmith said he doesn’t remember what he said at the forum. He said he always says that he would only “seek” the formation of a joint powers authority with other cities if the City Council approved of it.

“I did check with some folks who were taking notes and the notes were unclear about what I said. If I didn’t say that last night, I need to clarify it,” Goldsmith said.

He said if the City Council and mayor did not want to pursue any joint powers authority or anything else regarding the Chargers he “of course” would respect that and leave it alone.

“I should have been clearer by stating — as I did in March — that: ‘I would not do it on my own … I would not be a loose cannon,’” Goldsmith wrote in an e-mail that preceded our conversation.

Either that, I suppose, or he could admit it’s a political office and just go ahead and be political about it.


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