City Attorney Michael Aguirre
A Q&A with candidate for City Attorney, incumbent Michael Aguirre
Published Thursday, 30-Oct-2008 in issue 1088
Editor’s note: Judge Jan Goldsmith, candidate for City Attorney, cancelled his Friday 8 a.m. meeting with the Gay & Lesbian Times, in which we hoped to address questions regarding his campaign and his opponent, Michael Aguirre. Goldsmith’s campaign manager cited pressing campaign matters as the reason for Goldsmith’s cancellation, and apologized. She said Goldsmith will be happy to talk with the Gay & Lesbian Times after the Nov. 4 election. As a result, we are only featuring a Q&A with incumbent Michael Aguirre.
Michael Aguirre is the incumbent locked in a runoff battle with Judge Jan Goldsmith in the City Attorney’s race. Aguirre has served four years as City Attorney, and sat with the Gay & Lesbian Times recently to discuss his campaign, his accomplishments in office, and his opponent.
Gay & Lesbian Times: Let’s discuss issues specific to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community first. A judge declared a mistrial in the firefighters Pride lawsuit, and determined there was no free-speech violation in the order issued to firefighters to participate in the parade. Is this a victory for our community?
Michael Aguirre: Absolutely. The victory was this: The judge ruled that the city’s effort to build a positive working relationship with the gay community in order to have better fire protection was a legitimate goal of government and that it did not violate the first amendment rights of the firefighters to have them drive a truck in a parade; that they weren’t being compelled to give a speech or do something unconstitutional. And being asked simply to drive the truck had no impact on their First Amendment rights. That’s the first time it’s ever been so ruled in this country. So that’s a very major victory for the gay community. It means this case establishes the fact the gay community is as important as any community, and that you can’t discriminate. And for people who provide services, whether it’s signing a marriage certificate or driving a fire engine in a parade, those kinds of fundamental services cannot be deprived. It’s the opposite of what happened with the Boy Scouts. Here, the city was firmly on the side of the constitutional rights of the gay community, whereas my predecessor [Casey Gwinn] and my opponent [Jan Goldsmith] are on the other side. They may say they believe, but in actuality they do not believe, that the city should have stood up for the constitutional rights of the gay community.
GLT: Why did you take the case?
MA: When the case was first filed, I knew there was the potential it could hurt the city, potentially, and it could hurt the gay community, potentially. And, I had promised that when I ran for office I would be a proactive City Attorney. I received a great deal of the vote in the third district as a result of that. So, I didn’t want to hire outside counsel, and I knew it would be a very tricky case. I took the case thinking we’d be able to get it dismissed. Then by the time the trial came, it was too late to bring someone else in, and I didn’t want to bring someone else in so I tried the case; and everyone said, “Oh, politically you should just walk away from it because it could hurt you politically.” That’s not how I run the office. I’m a trial lawyer and I run the office just like any other legal department, but with a moral purpose. That’s what government has. Government has a moral purpose to protect people and to empower people. That’s the difference between government and private [practice]. I felt the moral purpose of this case that we were trying to serve was the constitutional rights of the gay community be treated like any other community that sponsors parades. The other side I think was banking on me being willing to sign a settlement check in order to avoid the potential harm to the election. But I think in the long run, by winning the case, even people who are not sympathetic to the gay community, respect the fact that we kept them [the firefighters] from getting $4 million in taxpayer funds. And, for people within the gay community, I want them to say, “You know, here’s a guy that, one, stood up for us, which most elected officials would not have; and two, who also fought through the legal opinion on marriage equality and was instrumental in getting that through.” I want them to look at it now and say, “This office is an important office for us to keep – he’s our representative, but it’s our office and it’s protective of us.” One of the things I learned in the firefighters’ case was, the gay community’s rights are very tenuous and they’re one lawsuit away from evaporating. That’s one thing people have to realize. Even though it seems like there has been progress, and there has, right now, the only time ever that someone’s most fundamental rights have been put up to a vote is now, with Proposition 8. We’ve had [Proposition 209] and [Proposition] 187, which are similar. That’s what we have to realize. The reason it’s important for the gay community to support the Latino community and the African-American community, and vice versa, is they’re all in the minority and it’s important that there is a coalition to make sure we’re united in our devotion to equality for everybody. So, I think the answer to your question is, I did it for moral reasons and because it was the right thing to do.
GLT: It was reported the jurors were deadlocked 8-4 in favor of voting the firefighters suffered sexual harassment – one vote shy of the needed nine. Do you believe a new jury will find the firefighters suffered sexual harassment at the fault of the city?
MA: I don’t think it will ever be retried. After talking to the jury, only two of them got past the first question, and as they went down the questions more and more and they started asking themselves, “Were they [the firefighters] harmed?” it shifted more in our [the city’s] favor. I think after listening to the jury, they [the firefighters] had a much more favorable jury, more so than they will ever have again, because they [the plaintiff’s attorney] systematically excluded gays from the jury, which is unconstitutional. They basically tried to stack the jury by discarding people if they were gay. That’s the decision made by the plaintiff’s lawyer and by the clients presumably. They’re the ones who did the challenging. So, we’re going to make sure that’s not going to happen again. I think they had a favorable jury on their side, and it couldn’t even get to the nine votes needed on any issue. They never got to nine. Upon reflection, they’re going to see it’s worthless and hopeless. And, on the First Amendment argument, they’ve already lost that. That’s something the judge rejected. So, they lost before the jury and the judge. A lot of people look at it and say, “You want a million dollars?” I think that says a lot more about what this case is about than anything.
GLT: Moving on, some members of the gay community believe you targeted the 2200 Club and shut it down. Describe your role in closing the club.
MA: My role was this: It was the law and I enforced the law. It’s unfortunate that, you know … the 2200 Club had problems, they were given numerous warnings. It didn’t work out, and instead of accepting responsibility, they tried to use it as a political sword. I understand that. I’m sympathetic. The point is: It’s not something I originated. It came out of the police department. It was something that was presented to the City Attorney’s office and it was unfortunate it turned out as it did. But, all the claims of, “Oh this is just the beginning [of targeting gay businesses or bathhouses],” it wasn’t true when it was said back then and time has again proved that it’s not true. Some people who were backing Scott Peters [in the June primary] tried to make it into a much bigger issue than it was. All I was doing was just doing my job, and I assured people back then in a letter to the editor [in the Gay & Lesbian Times] that what I had said was true.
Look what’s happened since then. I guarantee you Scott Peters would not have done what I’ve done to push through marriage equality. You know he voted for it, but he voted for it because he ran for office. When push comes to shove, I think we know what I’ve done. I would like to look at the 2200 Club as a positive thing. What it says is even with my dear friends in the gay community, if something is wrong that is adversely affecting people within the gay community – and that’s what the focal point here was – I will take protective action.
GLT: Now, let’s shift gears to talk about the role of the City Attorney. You’ve been asked countless times, but for the sake of voters who may not understand your office, what is the role of the City Attorney?
MA: You know what’s really funny? How many times has Barack Obama or John McCain been asked, “What do you think the role of the president is?” You know? That’s how ludicrous that whole thing is. The reason that’s been an issue is because the original purpose of the City Attorney to protect the public – to fearlessly protect the public – had atrophied into a rubber stamp for wrongdoing. Now, when it became a rubber stamp for wrongdoing, no one said, “What do you think the role of the City Attorney should be?” They just accepted it – “It should be a rubber stamp for wrongdoing.” OK? Not in that blatant of terms, but below the rhetoric, it [the role] had become a defender of the decision makers, no matter what the decisions were. When I turned it back to the original purpose it had been set up for in 1931 by the voters, to fearlessly protect the interest of all San Diego and not merely carry out the wishes of the mayor and the City Council – that’s how it was sold – then everyone started asking, “What do you think the role should be?” So, when the role was distorted into a role it wasn’t supposed to play, there was no issue about that. But, when it was restored to its original purpose, everyone started asking what the role should be. The role of the City Attorney is not a … everyone who sits as City Attorney is going to put their own style into the role, but the basic function of the role is constitutional and it’s to act as an independent representative, an elected official – that’s why you’re elected, it’s a separate branch of the government – and it’s supposed to provide quality legal services to the city and to the city decision makers, but it’s also supposed to keep them within the law. It’s also supposed to protect the public, the consumers – there’s a consumer protection component, a private prosecutorial component, there is a false claims component, an open government component – and so it’s a complicated office. But, it’s core mission is to ensure that the city government is providing public service, spending money for public purposes, using authority of government to work on community problems and to keep the decision makers within the four corners of the law. It’s not a policy maker in terms of deciding whether we should have one development at one location or whether we should put more money into fire protection versus water reclamation. Those are all policy decisions. But what happened was disobeying the law became a policy choice. It was defined to be a policy issue. My goal has been to stop it, saying, “No, disobeying the law is not a policy option.” And a City Attorney’s job is not to create ambiguity so that someone can violate the law under the pretense of the law’s uncertainty. That’s what my opponent would do and that’s what he proposes. You know, last week, they flew a banner over the Chargers stadium. And it had his name on it. It said to elect my opponent. Come to find out, the person who paid for it was the McMillin Company, which is a very large developer which received the most sweetheart development agreement in the history of the city. And it was one of the things that resulted in my predecessor being completely discredited. It gave away all of the NTC, the Naval Training Center area, it gave it all away – not all of it, but much of it – to the McMillins, and didn’t hold them accountable to returning benefits to the city, and it [the development agreement] was used as the poster child for the kind of development agreement that should never exist. And, who is my opponent sold out to? The McMillins. And if you go over to their property, you’ll see a sign that is illegally posted for him which is on, essentially, what is city property. And if you went to the Charger game last week, you’ll see they paid – without going through any of the normal processes – they paid $16,000 – made a $16,000 contribution to his campaign – in the form of an independent expenditure, supposedly, and they flew a banner over the Chargers stadium, saying, elect my opponent. That shows you there is a total disrespect for what the law is, and it also shows you they can’t wait to get someone back in the City Attorney’s office that will represent more of those agreements that work at a disadvantage to the public. And the same is true of the pension plan. He went to the pension powerbrokers and said, “We’re going to let you keep the billion dollar pension, and by the way can I have your endorsement?” So he gave away the city’s opportunity to get rid of the illegal pension debt, which if we did [get rid of it] we wouldn’t have a shortfall right now in our budget. So, he gave that up so they would support him. So here he is, a conservative Republican, supposedly, supported by the unions; and the unions, it’s not a question of taking away their benefits. What we’re talking about is reducing the pension plan from $7 billion to $6 billion. It’s not, on the aggregate, a big reduction. What it does is it gets rid of the 50,000 years of pension benefits. The Wall Street Journal said that case is setting off an alarm that voters across America need to hear. So, I think that the role of the city attorney, in theoretical terms, is to protect the public, but in practical terms, the two examples I just gave you – the horrible development agreement that my opponent is sold out to those people on, and the horrible billion dollar pension debt which he also sold out on – are examples of what the City Attorney’s office is not supposed to be, which is a rubber stamp for sweetheart deals and illegal agreements.
GLT: You mentioned the pension case. What is the status of your appeal to overturn the pension benefits?
MA: Well, all the appellate briefs have been filed. The court is now going through the briefs and making the decision about when to hold the oral arguments.
GLT: What makes you confident the court will rule in your favor?
MA: Well, the law prohibits creating public debt without a vote of the people. $900 million of public debt was created with no vote of the people by individuals who were financially interested in those contracts, and there is a certain law that says public officials don’t have the authority to enter into any contracts they have a financial interest in; and, if they do those contracts are set aside. So, the remedy for violating the requirement that there be a vote for public debt and the remedy for violating the law that prohibits public officials from being financially interested in contracts they negotiate is to set aside those contracts. So, the law is clear. The U.S. Attorney’s office just issued a new indictment last week in the same case making the allegation that the people of San Diego were defrauded in 2002. There were two sets of illegal benefits, one in 1996 and one in 2002 – so not only am I saying it, the U.S. Attorney is saying it, and the Wall Street Journal, after reading the briefs said the issue I’m raising is setting off an alarm voters across America need to hear. So, I think there’s a lot of credibility here. Now, whether our court system rises to the occasion says more about them than it does about me. The question is: Are they going to enforce the law or not enforce the law? It’s funny. One court case says if you don’t strictly enforce the law prohibiting financially interested public officials that enter into contracts they have an interest in, that it brings disrespect to the court. Those laws are designed to say, “Hey, if you’re a public official, you have no right to enter into financial contracts you get to benefit from.” So, it remains to be seen what will happen. But the law’s on our side. The question is: Will the courts have the courage to enforce the law? You know, they say courage is the virtue upon which all others rest. Well, you know, in the law, especially in cases like this, courage is the virtue upon which the law rests.
GLT: In the process of trying to overturn the pension benefits, a segment of labor unions have become very critical of you. As someone who is a friend of labor, is that difficult for you to reconcile?
MA: The United Farm Workers endorsed me. Delores Huerta, who is probably the most well-known labor leader in America today, endorsed me. The Cement Masons endorsed me, the Laborers endorsed me, the United Auto Workers endorsed me, the Aerospace workers endorsed me, the ironworkers endorsed me. They endorsed me because I am very much in favor of prevailing wage and in favor of living wage, and I believe in the idea of creating purchasing power in the middle class, and the unions are essential to that. The municipal unions which have ripped off our system and which are not serving the public interest and are in need of reform and have voted for Republicans and not Democrats in the last several years line themselves with these illegal pension benefits. And it’s disgraceful, it’s greed, it’s selfishness and it’s something that has to change. The fact that I stood up to them is the point the Wall Street Journal was making that this effort is setting off an alarm voters across America need to hear. That’s something very significant for the Wall Street Journal to say, and I think that there was no upside, but now that we’re into the financial crisis, it’s becoming more and more clear: There is no way to pay for 50,000 years of illegal pension benefits without a massive crippling tax increase. How are going to pay people to be millionaires as retirees when we can’t even pay for the essential services of our city? And Mayor [Jerry] Sanders made it worse by increasing the pension last year when he increased salaries for police and fire.
GLT: You mentioned Mayor Sanders, who, it’s been reported, you have a strained working relationship with. Evaluate the mayor and the council’s performance under the new strong-mayor form of government. What are the challenges, and how has city government adjusted?
MA: Well the District Attorney [Bonnie Dumanis] and the Police Chief [William Lansdowne] appeared with the Mayor at a political rally because of the strong-mayor form of government. I would say mayor Sanders is not what you would characterize as a strong mayor. He’s more of an information processor. He brings information, but he doesn’t know – I think – he doesn’t know how to take effective action on policy. He’s not trained in public administration. He doesn’t have any real experience as an executive, although he claimed he knew how to turn companies around. I think it’s clear now that mostly what he’s good at is being a nice guy and providing information to people. And, most of the time that information, when it’s important information, is incomplete, like in our financial situation right now.
So, one of the points I’m making is that he is an old guard Republican, who has aligned himself with the Republican party, and one of the things we need for balance is to have a Democrat, a progressive Democrat, who has taken effective action on a number of problems, working in harmony as best as possible with each other. And we do; on most issues we work together, despite what he might say. The vast majority of issues we work toward a result. But he is not the only official that is elected in the city and his record is pretty dismal when it comes to … you know, he ignored all the warnings I gave him on water and now we’re going to have water rations. We’re going to go from over consumption to rationing, instead of going from over consumption to conservation. Because he didn’t take the steps to conserve, we have a crisis now and secretly because he hasn’t taken any action really, except to take action against water reclamation, which is a huge mistake, he has not identified additional sources of water. He’s basically just, you know, saying, “Hey we have a water crisis, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” I think the difference I would say is a real leader would have said, “We have a water crisis and here’s how we’re going to get a water supply, with recycling and better conservation and more storage and the rest.”
As far as his representation that everything is fine with the pension and with the finances, since he’s been in office, he’s been telling us everything is fine with the finances and now it’s clear that he’s had to admit everything isn’t fine with the finances, and what he’s been doing about not making hard decisions and increasing salaries and such – which I’ve warned him against – hasn’t worked out. The other thing is he’s been highly political. There’s two things that he’s done that have been really amazing. One is he’s made allegations – false allegations – about Mt. Soledad; that somehow I admitted liability in the Mt. Soledad case. Totally untrue. The case has now been filed for a year. There is no suggestion that anything I said or did has been used by the plaintiffs in that case to say there was liability, and what I did say was that it would have to be decided in court but that the city would be paying to redo the road and that’s exactly what happened. I was candid with the public. He was not candid with the public. But because I was, it didn’t jeopardize the city. As far as the fires are concerned, the idea that he alleges that I called for the evacuation of the city is completely untrue. I never said a word. I defy anybody to point to anything I said or did in the newspaper or on television or on radio – I never said a word. All I did was I wrote him an internal memo saying that under the Homeland Security grants we were receiving that we needed an evacuation plan for the city, so in case of emergencies we would have an organized approach. Which, he still doesn’t have. A year later.
So, I would say he is very much a partisan Republican politician, who is supporting my opponent because he is a partisan Republican politician. And even though my opponent has no trial experience, no prosecutorial experience, no securities law or disclosure experience, no city of San Diego experience – that is he has never worked for the city of San Diego or on city of San Diego issues – and no relevant management experience – you know the City Attorney’s office is 350 people strong and my opponent, the largest staff he’s managed is a handful of people – even with all that, Mayor Sanders, you know, is supporting him because he doesn’t respect the role of the independent City Attorney. I would say that the mayor has a long ways to go in demonstrating that the strong-mayor form of government is advantageous to the public.
GLT: You mentioned a political rally attended by the Police Chief, the District Attorney and Mayor Sanders. That was a press conference held to endorse your opponent, correct?
MA: You see, the Police Chief said, “I’m not endorsing anyone,” because he knows he can’t. But having the Police Chief be there is another example of violating the law – the law prohibits the Police Chief from being at a political event like that. That is in the regulations that govern the police department. My opponent was there, the mayor was there, even though it violated the law to have him be there. That’s the kind of City Attorney he [Goldsmith] would be. He would let them violate the law because it works to his advantage. And I’ve been the opposite. Even with my friends, I’ve blown the whistle, because we’re serving the public, we’re not just being nice to the people we have to like. At the news conference, it was ironic. While he was doing that, I was upstairs announcing a case we are bringing to cover the overcharges for the [post-fire] debris removal in Rancho Bernardo. What’s funny, or ironic, is that instead of the Mayor working on the problems of the city and helping us with the debris-removal case, he was outside playing politics, and the City Attorney was actually doing the business of the city. Ironically, the Union-Tribune newspaper doesn’t have a word about his news conference with Lansdowne, and our case to recover the $2 million is on the front page.
GLT: The District Attorney has also been critical of your performance. What is the nature of your relationship with the District Attorney, the Police Chief and the Mayor?
MA: Let’s go back to this: They’re all partisan Republicans. That’s the first thing you have to realize. Bonnie Dumanis is supporting John McCain. Jan Goldsmith is supporting John McCain. Mayor Sanders is supporting John McCain. They’re part of the good ol’ network of San Diego. Basically what it says is this: We don’t want to change the system, we want to serve the system, no matter what it takes. What I’m saying is I want to serve and change the system.
Now, what I think you were going to begin to ask me is: What does it feel like to have somebody do that and have a press conference like that? I think the answer is, three years ago I would have reacted to it. Now, I think – and as you see I just did react to it, I pointed out they’re all partisan Republican politicians and that I’m supported by the Democratic Party. You know I just shrugged it off. I think the public is on to it now. I think most of the media is on to it; that what they’re doing is they’re upset that a Democrat, a progressive Democrat, has managed to win over such a large following in the city; and ironically, by taking, in some cases, conservative positions.
So, in some cases, I think the relationship is like you would expect when you have very partisan officeholders that are part of the old guard, you know, and a progressive Democrat coming on and taking a place at the table, on behalf of the progressive community of San Diego – the Democratic community of San Diego. San Diego’s more Democrat than it is Republican. So I think any sort of changeover … if you go to a community planning group, many of the community planning groups in San Diego are very similar. They used to be totally controlled by the developers. Now they’re controlled by the homeowners. And I think that’s what’s happening to city government, and some of our city officials who are Democrats who were forced to collaborate with the old guard, they’re starting to make that transition themselves. I would say Donna Frye is much more an example of what we’re going to see in the future as an elected official in San Diego; who is conservative in many ways, but is making the transition over to a progressive candidate who really wants to represent the community. So, the nature of the relationship between myself as a progressive Democrat and Bonnie Dumanis and Jerry Sanders as old-line Republicans is what you would expect; just like in any other government you look at.
GLT: Are you concerned about your working relationship with other city leaders, and does a strained working relationship make it more difficult to be an effective leader?
MA: Well let’s put it this way. There is no interest in change with the status quo. What they’re interested in is to reinforce their authority, to solidify their authority, so with the theory of social change or political change, by necessity there’s going to be friction. That’s why we have elections, because the public can decide if it wants more change or if it wants to put these people back in authority that have ruined the city. I think the other thing too, as a leader, I’m much more focused and cautious as to how I do the change, to minimize the conflict as much as possible. But don’t make any mistake – the fundamental reason there’s so much conflict is because the substantive changes and the basic change is this: should the government serve the public or should it serve the small group it’s predominated by? And I’m trying to wrest control of it from that group and trying to put it back in the neighborhoods, put it back in the communities, and there’s a struggle over it. When you ask people to give up illegal pension benefits or to go through the right procedures when they’re doing like what they’re doing at Third and University where they want to put a massive high rise. I said, “No, that’s against the rules.” They took it to court. They were wrong. Now what they’re doing is shrinking it. You see, that’s OK. We can work with that. Don’t come in and try to run rough shine over all the rules. But if you want to sit down and try to work out something that works, that’s a whole different story. That’s what we’re seeking. Albert Camus said, “Be neither a victim, nor an executioner.” And that’s something, always remember: We’re not trying to replace one form of tyranny with another form of tyranny. What we’re trying to do is make this a system where everyone can enjoy their integrity; make it a system in which government does fulfill its moral purpose, where there is a sense of empathy, but that that empathy is also backed up with a sense of responsibility and strength to make the changes necessary so we can protect people and empower them. That’s what government is about. The focus of government should be on the community as a whole. In other words, what happens right now when developments come before the city, we don’t have a city architect that looks at the overall – like they do in Paris or London – that looks at the overall makeup of the city. What we have is a question of developers, you know, what’s the bottom line, how much money can the developer make? You see, that’s not what a great city does. If you talk about relationships, relationships always have to be understood in reference to what the relationship is trying to accomplish. And if in the relationship what the relationship is trying to accomplish, if the team is trying to reinforce the current people in authority rather than bring about change, then obviously there’s going to be … there’s not going to be an equilibrium until we get through the hard part of change.
GLT: During your time in office, tell us a few things you’re most proud to have accomplished?
MA: Saving the city over $400 million in our trial cases, including the Rocky de la Fuente case, which when I took office was a $150 million judgment against us, I got that all reversed; recovering over $22 million for the city in pension insurance cases; fighting to set aside the illegal benefit case of $900 million; I was selected as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in the state of California while I was City Attorney and that was in recognition of what, I believe, we’ve built as a trial department; building the whole securities disclosure unit in the City Attorney’s office so we were able to resolve our case with the SEC, the fraud case, and restore our credibility with Wall Street. So, the office went from being a national disgrace to the Wall Street Journal saying cities need rabble rousers like Mike Aguirre. I mean, imagine that, the Wall Street Journal singling out the City Attorney’s office in San Diego, saying this is a national model, and to have the City Attorney be singled out as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in the state of California. But you would never know that here. You would think I’m the worst. And the third area I’m most proud of is taking a national leadership role in stopping foreclosures in the subprime market area. When I started up everyone said, “Oh, how ridiculous.” And we’ve filed our case based on the idea that you can’t foreclose on a loan that was illegally given to begin with. You can’t foreclose on that. You have to work that loan out. As it turned out, we ended up settling with Countrywide on that basis and we argued the case about where the cases should be in front of what’s called the Multi-Litigation District Panel back at Harvard. The panel is appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States and they meet every month around the country and their job is to figure out where cases that involve more than one jurisdiction should go. So, in our case, we had the subprime cases against Countrywide in Florida, West Virginia, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, California and several other states and they all sent their lawyers back, and I went back. We all argued in front of the panel, and my argument … I can’t describe to you how positive the rapport was, back and forth, and what did they do? They transferred all the cases to San Diego last week; so all the subprime cases involving Countrywide are in San Diego now. So whereas before, they were saying, “Why is the City Attorney involved?” Now the judges who heard the arguments have said, “This is where the guy who seems to have the best command of it is, let’s send them there.” And in the meantime we’ve sued Wachovia and Washington Mutual so we can stop foreclosures in subprime cases in their portfolio. We’re going to work positively with them as well.
GLT: Tell voters why you are more qualified and better suited for city attorney than your opponent, Jan Goldsmith.
MA: OK, I have my law degree from Berkeley. I have a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard. I worked as an assistant to the United States Attorney, I worked as an assistant counsel to the United States Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations. In private practice I recovered over $250 million for the victims of fraud. As I said, I was selected by the Los Angeles Daily Journal as one of the 100 top trial lawyers in the state of California. I have 30 years of pension and securities law experience. I’m nationally recognized as a securities expert. I’m a certified fraud examiner. The last four years I’ve prosecuted over 120,000 cases. I’ve rebuilt the City Attorney’s office from a national disgrace into a national model. I’m devoted to the public. I restored the office to what its original purpose was, in spite of a massive campaign to try to undermine every aspect of my efforts. My opponent has no trial experience. No trial experience. One of the most important jobs you have as City Attorney, is you have to take off your judicial robes. Once you take off your judicial robes, the only thing you can count on is what you can do in terms of what your know-how is. If lawyers know he has no trial experience … you know, he’s sort of the Sarah Palin of practicing law when it comes to actual trial experience. He has none. He has no prosecutorial experience. He has no securities law experience, in terms of ever doing disclosures, in terms of doing bond disclosure work. They literally brought him in from Coronado. He did not live in the city of San Diego. He was from Poway. And having city of San Diego experience is important. Lastly, he has no relevant management experience. So, I would say, last and most importantly, he completely opposes what the real purposes are of the City Atorney, what the City Attorney is supposed to do because he’s already sold out to all the special interests, the pension powerbrokers, the developers. He’s signaled he’ll be nothing but a rubber stamp for them, and he’ll do nothing but put San Diego back into the hole it was in, the mess I inherited. We’ve made enormous progress and we can make much more progress if I can have the benefit of working with a council that wasn’t under constant investigation for committing or being involved in the largest securities fraud in American history.

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