In recent months, the city has suffered some of its worst legal setbacks. You might be happy that it lost some of these cases, but they were lawyerly letdowns nonetheless. Some have cost the city millions.

Scott Lewis decided to round up the seven biggest stumbles from the city attorney, explain them and see what he had to say.

In one case, the city lost $7.6 million to a man who was crippled by a falling palm tree. In court, the case pivoted on the city’s budget cutbacks and the payout will be much larger than the cutbacks ever saved.

We asked City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to ponder the losses. And he sent a list of wins and achievements he thinks we should all consider. He also says that some of the cases Lewis is talking about are being appealed so they don’t belong in the loss column yet.

• Also, as another sidebar to Lewis’ project, he talked to former City Councilman Michael Zucchet, now the general manager of a large union of city workers, about why his organization is giving “everything” it has to a legal battle on pension reform.

Behind the DeMaio Smear Efforts

In a stunner of a story, U-T San Diego revealed how a gang of the city’s top “movers and shakers” tried desperately to avoid campaign disclosure requirements so they could fund the production of a dossier aimed at smearing mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio and his partner.

“The group — financially backed by businessman Fred Maas — spent more than $33,000 to hire a true crime author to dig up dirt on DeMaio, which resulted in a 200-plus page dossier of court records and other documents that was distributed to nearly every local media outlet in early 2012 on the condition of anonymity,” the U-T reports.

In general, the media didn’t bite because the allegations and revelations were irrelevant and old, but they did get publicly discussed on Twitter and eventually at length on the website of a local anti-DeMaio gay publication.

Last week, the group behind the investigation filed “a financial disclosure to settle a joint investigation by the San Diego Ethics Commission and the state Fair Political Practices Commission.”

In a stretch that would put yoga masters to shame, Maas claims to the U-T that the effort “was always intended as an independent for-profit journalism venture and wasn’t a political operation conducting opposition research.”

• On Facebook, Scott Lewis put up his six reasons why he thought the story was interesting. At the top: An organization claiming to be a journalism effort was forced to hand over its internal emails by city and state ethics investigators. The lead investigator, Gil Cabrera, exchanged some thoughts with Lewis on that point on Twitter.

• Meanwhile, freelance journalist Caitlin Rother, whom we profiled several years ago, defends her work on the project.

• San Diego Rostra, a conservative blog, collected the big reaction on Twitter

• By the way, the U-T calls the project “secret.” But we actually wrote about the efforts. Read our stories here and here. We hadn’t made the connection between that project and the material that was circulating about DeMaio, which many journalists only saw on the condition that they grant anonymity.

In the Works: A Sidewalk Study, Finally

The city has 5,000 miles of sidewalks, many of them in mighty poor condition. But the city doesn’t know how many are worse for years or decades of wear.

That might change, but the city needs to find $1 million first or, as is being suggested outside City Hall, rounds up a bunch of volunteers. Our story has the details.

Is $1 million a lot? That’s $200 a mile. Well, it could be a whole lot more expensive: the city of Los Angeles chucked a similar project after it got dinged for planning to spend about $900 a mile.

Quick News Hits

• The U-T recaps the “low-key” City Council race in District 4, which covers much of southeastern San Diego and has long been held by an African-American. As the story notes, three of the four candidates thought to be the leaders in the race have run for the seat and lost. Here’s our roundup of coverage on the race.

• “In a reversal, the operator of the San Onofre nuclear plant says it might ask for changes to its license,” L.A.’s KPCC and the Associated Press report. “The goal is to get the plant running by when it’s most needed — the hot summer months.”

• Mayor Bob Filner likes the idea of a combined convention center and stadium, and he’s floating the idea of a local comic book museum to make the city even more attractive to the annual Comic-Con, reports the U-T in a story that makes sure (sigh) to quote the newspaper’s own CEO on his thoughts.

The U-T brass loves the idea of a “convadium,” although some convention center boosters don’t think there’s much value to separating the current center from an annex.

How would a comic book museum fit in here? It wouldn’t be the most unusual museum around town. As a connoisseur of the offbeat and weird, I’ve written stories about the grisly Museum of Death (founded here in 1995 and now in L.A.), the Christian-minded Creation and Earth History Museum in Santee, the California Surf Museum in Oceanside and North County’s very own Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum.

My own superpower, it seems, is the ability to tolerate museum overload.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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