Saturday, January 26, 2008

What do you get for dropping out of the City Attorney's Race?

Well, I guess if you are Republican William Gentry and you bow down to the right wing, you get appointed judge.

Isn't it amazing how the right wing works? They decided the wanted the field clear for Goldsmith, so they bribe Gentry out of the race with a judicial appointment.

I just wonder if Chula Vista City Councilman John Mcann feels a little cheated. When he was asked to bow out of the 78th for David Bejarano, he was just sent packing with his tail between his legs. Then, when Bejarano took a pass, the Republican establishment asked him to come back in as sloppy seconds. Maybe McCann should take a negotiating lesson from Gentry.

Friday, January 25, 2008

More Great State Budget Ideas

Our state grapples with a growing budget deficit this year that has reached the tens of billions of dollars. It will require serious attention and a true budget review. However, some members just don't get it.

It seems freshman Assemblymember Joel Anderson has proposed savings $34 million a year by eliminating 117 state boards, committees and commissions. Boards and commissions like:

  • Contractors State License Board
  • Medical Board of California
  • Board of Pharmacy
  • Board of Podiatric Medicine
  • Board of Psychology
  • Registered Nursing Board
  • Veterinary Medical Board
  • Board of Forestry and Fire Protection
  • Building Standards Commission
  • California Inspection and Maintenance Review Committee
Who thinks there should be no oversight for medicine or fire and building safety? Instead he wants to cut revenue by eliminating fees collected from park passes and offering more tax breaks during a state deficit. These might be great ideas, but during a budget crisis the legislature needs to cut the program that would lose the revenue, before cutting the revenue.

I don't think these are the first steps, but the last ones. Instead let's call for a real review of each dollar the state spends and each dollar of revenue it has coming into its coffers.

Friday - Quick Hits

Mingei Museum in Balboa Park one of five museums in California targeted by FBI regarding stolen artifacts. UT

Chula Vista and PUC clash over bay front power plant. UT

Nanny State at work, Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges to ban smoking on campuses. UT

The UT give too much space to crazy anti-tax activist in Rancho Penasquitos. UT

Next month's Coastal Commission meeting on toll road move to Del Mar Fairgrounds to accommodate anticipated high attendance for meeting. NCTimes

San Diego Dem Club Takes a Pass

I hear that the powerful San Diego Democratic Club chose to not endorse in the City Attorney's Race as of yet. Lee Burdick, Dan Coffey and Mike Aguirre were all on hand, but the club voted overwhelmingly to wait on taking a position. Word has it that the decision was highly influenced by the possibility that Scott Peters may enter the race before the filing deadline.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Marti Emerald Leads April Boling in Poll

Last week there was mention here as San Diego Politico of a recent poll taken in District 7 race for city council. This evening I received a copy of the poll conducted January 7-9 by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates showing some stunning results.

Marti Emerald begins the campaign for the 7th District City Council seat with an overwhelming lead, demonstrating initial support and favorable ratings that exceed anything we have seen in an open-seat race. Emerald has 84 percent name recognition and 64 percent of voters give her a personal rating of “very” or “somewhat favorable” (compared to 9% unfavorable). Marti Emerald receives nearly 60 percent of the vote, while April Boling is at just 16 percent in an initial ballot test preceding any information about the candidates. . . .
The support Marti Emerald garners in the districts also cuts across partisan lines. She has a 54% to 22% support among Republicans, 56% support among DTS voters and an overwhelming 63% support among Democrats.

It is plainly obvious that Marti Emerald's years as the "Troubleshooter" is viewed very positively among district voters and that she doesn't suffer from some of the same baggage that other candidates running for office have to address.

Thursday - Quick Hits

Police Officers Union joins the long list of "any one but Mike" crowd. UT

Women's Health Clinic open in Mission beach to serve women who are struggling with the high cost of health care. UT

Attempt to limit eminent domain in city charter fails City Council committee vote. UT

The GJ indicts an Encinitas man for UCSD bomb hoax. UT

Mortgage default in Riverside county up 119% in 2007 over 2006. UT

Peters may be our only hope

As the City Attorney's race heats up, those of us on the left should be VERY worried about the shape of the race.

As of now, we have a far-right nut job with Jan Goldsmith, an empty-suit conservative with Brian Maienschein, an all-over-the-map, union hating democrat with Mike Aguirre and two candidates who can't seem to get traction.

Lee Burdick is actually quite sensible and would be a great candidate if anyone knew her, but conventional wisdom says she will need a lot of money to compete in this field. And I hear, she can't pull the fundraising.

So who does that leave for us? Anti-worker former school-tyrant Alan Bersin is threatening (and I do mean threatening) to enter the field. His likelihood of getting a dem party or labor endorsement is on par with Republican Maienschein.

So what do we do? Encourage Scott Peters to run for City Attorney. Sure, he over-waters his lawn and hasn't been a favorite of labor or the party in the past, but he is a lot better than the alternatives. His "big" negative of the pension mess is going to get lost with another Councilmember in the race. I have never been one to advocate for the moderate, but he does seem to be the only Democrat that could garner enough support from labor, elected officials, enviromentalists, maybe even the Party and present a united front against the nightmare match-up of Goldsmith / Aguirre. He has proven himself on a number of key issues this year, including marriage equality and wal-mart, and holds a decent record with coastal environmentalists. Let's not forget this guy was an Environmental Attorney and is a former Coastal Commissioner. He even took a courageous stand on toilet to tap. Best of all, he has the money to self fund. Sources close to the Councilmember say he is considering it.

It may be an unconventional choice, but Peters may be our only hope.

A Progressive City Attorney

Warning: Super-nerdy wonkishness ahead

Last night I attended the inaugural event by the San Diego chapter of the American Constitution Society; a panel exploring What Is a Progressive View of the City Attorney's Office? Since I don't know enough about the inner workings, hopes and fears of the current city attorney's race (just that it's likely to be an 18-way slapfight), it seemed like a good place to start getting geared up. If the streets are going to run with the blood of the nonbelievers, I should be prepared. And prepared I am now approaching.

It got pretty deep into the wonky legal weeds of theory, so occasionally I was out of my depth on jargon or tangents, but I think the fundamental discussion can be broken down pretty simply. Essentially the question is whether, by nature, the "public interest" can be served by a city attorney. Given that the public interest means different things to different people, does the pursuit of such service inherently lead to the office being overtly and entirely political as the city attorney picks which version of "public interest" will be served? The argument put forth by one of the panelists- Professor David McGowan- that a city attorney should "aim low" for a role cleaning up messes but not being proactive about policy seemed to be the most ripe as a jumping off point as it seems to lay bare all the apparent contradictions in how the city attorney position has been conceived in the first place.

The construct of the city attorney's office in San Diego names the City of San Diego as the "client." That is, in inelegant corporate terms (and I suppose at least partly in my opinion), the city attorney protects the brand name- not necessarily the employees of the company (government officials) or necessarily the customers (citizens). Given that the role of the city attorney is not directly to serve the general public (and sometimes to work directly against them presumably), this would seem to make the city attorney unique among other elected offices. From President to State Assembly to Judge and Sheriff, every other elected official is put into the job directly in service to the people. Keep them safe from crime or injustice in the non-political aspects, direct policy that protects life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on the legislative and executive side. But the city attorney does not exist to serve the public as an inherent or necessary function of the job.

So how should voters be utilizing the city attorney when weighing candidates? It seems to me that the notion of aiming low and cleaning up the messes as they come can be extrapolated into a notion that the city attorney should strive to be as apolitical as possible. A proactive, politicized city attorney, the argument goes, puts policy discretion in inappropriate hands. But the inappropriate-ness seems to be a semantic issue. The simple title of "mayor" or "councilmember" or "city attorney" carry no inherent value- it is what people make it out to be. And certainly one thing we've seen at the national, state and local levels over the past decade is that the balance of power is fluid. The relative power of executive, legislative and judicial branches within any political unit is in a constant state of motion and relative ascendancy/decendency. Some units might have a strong mayor now after a strong legislature four years ago, some might be going the other direction. So as long as the city attorney is an elected position serving an autonomous role in the city government, it seems to me that the office is an element of the power structure that voters must use to maintain the desired balance of power.

None of this really gets to the question of what is a progressive view of the City Attorney's office? The underpinning of the notion of a City Attorney seems to be that a healthy civic brand is the unifying public interest of a community. That is, by protecting the integrity of the city as an entity all the competing political views within are enabled to healthily and properly work themselves out. And the progressive in me certainly likes that notion. So how does a city attorney actually do that in practice? I'm wary of the notion that being apolitical is progressive, although I don't think that progressivism is inherently ideological in itself. I have a difficult time with the notion that removing onesself from the political process can help to bring about a particular sort of political end. Minimizing influence as a way of maximizing influence the notion would be, and I'm just not ready to buy onto that theoretical train.

So that leaves me with a progressive role that's about as close to clearly defined and uncontrovertial as any political role can be. Not just clean, but open government. This isn't meant to be the only role of the City Attorney. Rather the only political role of the City Attorney. Ensuring no closed doors, no unreasonably restricted public commentary, no string of last-minute location changes for charter review committee meetings (cough), and when feasible, working to ensure a healthy adversarial relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government. The City Attorney ought not have a direct role in determining the conception or the application of policy, but in certain respects the public most certainly should.

Part of protecting the "brand" of the city is ensuring a vital and functional government, and it just so happens to also serve the collective public interest (by keeping their government in front of their noses) and progressive interests (hamstringing attempts at runaway concentration of power).

Cross posted at Calitics

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wednesday - Quick Hits

Housing crisis continues, home foreclosers in county increase by 353% last over year before. UT

More on housing crisis, county property tax delinquencies are up 20%. UT

City of El Cajon faces a $6 million budget shortfall. UT

Federal wastewater officials weigh two options to treat Tijuana's sewage. UT

City council approves $320 million worth of clean-water programs, but has no idea where the money will come from to pay for them. UT

City of San Marcos delays mini-dorm decision. UT

Even though Chula Vista is more interested in potential Gaylord Entertainment project, city agrees to go ahead with a study about proposed Chargers Stadium project. UT

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Last Day to Register to Vote for Feb 5th Primary

Today is the last day to register to vote, if you want to cast a ballot in the February 5th Presidential primary. Registration can be dropped off at the Country Registrar of Voters by 5:00p.m. or they can be postmarked today and mail to Registrar of Voters, P.O. Box 85656, San Diego, CA 92186-5656.

Tuesday - Quick Hits

San Diego Unified new superintendent hitting the ground running. UT

Lt. Governor Garamendi is urging students to protest propsed university budget cuts. UT

Regional Airport Authority to hold community meeting Thursday on proposed changes to Lindbergh Field. UT

Judge rules that UCANN can solicit fund from San Diego water and sewers customers in order to perform an independent audit. UT

California Energy Commission will conduct two public workshops regarding proposed changes to Encina Powerplant in Carlsbad. UT

City of San Marocs to address mini-dorm issue. NCTimes

Palomar College to weigh increasing out-of-state tuition rate. NCTimes

Miracosta College will be only slightly be affected by proposed budget cuts to state community colleges. NCTimes

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday - Quick Hits

Citizens qualify a building height initiative in Chula Vista for the June election. UT

Coronado settles suit to woman, accidentally run over by lifeguard truck on beach. UT

La Mesa considers the option of raising sales tax to offset declining revenues. UT

LA Times fires editor after dispute with publisher over newsroom cuts. UT

Emergency water plan moves closer to becoming a reality. NC Times

Hate crimes in San Diego for the last year increase. VOSD