The love-fest began early in San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ State of the City speech last night and continued throughout. Sanders told the world that he hearts City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

“We all knew that when Judge Goldsmith became City Attorney Goldsmith, he would bring an immediate upgrade to the caliber and stability of our legal advice,” Sanders said. “He has, and we are all better off with him on this team.”

In his speech, Sanders indicated Goldsmith would play a role in efforts to reform retiree health care benefits and ignite the city’s long-stalled outsourcing program.

Today in an interview, Sanders elaborated on Goldsmith’s significance to the city’s financial plans.

“I think you’ll see that he’s producing legal opinions now that are foundational for a lot of the things that are important for the city,” Sanders said, citing Goldsmith’s role in future pension reform as well.

Since being elected in November 2008, Goldsmith has largely remained out of the public’s sight. That appears to be changing. Signs of Goldsmith’s increasing influence on hot-button issues are happening already. The city recently fired its outside legal counsel on its outsourcing program, known as “managed competition,” and put Goldsmith in charge. (Goldsmith’s opinions both on outsourcing and breaking labor deadlocks hovered over an October City Council debate on managed competition.)

Goldsmith will touch on outsourcing, pension reform and municipal bankruptcy in what’s being billed as a major speech next Wednesday.

It’s time to lay out legal positions on those issues, Goldsmith said.

“Let’s face it,” Goldsmith said. “We’ve had some discussion out there about bankruptcy of my client. Nobody asked me. I’ve got my views, but it’s kind of a weird situation to practice law in a fishbowl where you have people giving opinions about whether your client should file bankruptcy.”

Goldsmith declined to discuss details of his speech, but said there’s nothing in the law that holds the city back from ending its long-term budget woes.

“The city of San Diego is capable, it has the power, to solve every one of its fiscal issues,” he said. “It’s just the matter of policymaking. Of do you want to go that far?”

Of course, the current rosy relationship between the mayor and city attorney doesn’t have to stay that way. In his first State of the City address, Sanders was effusive in his praise of then-City Attorney Mike Aguirre. Two years later, Sanders was calling out Aguirre for giving poor legal advice as Aguirre sat next to the mayor’s podium.


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