Monday, June 24, 2013

A Tale of Two Mayors (and Two City Attorneys)

Its been awhile since I posted to this site, but I'd like to talk about a special relationship that's brewing Downtown - the relationship between Mayor Bob Filner and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.  To call it frosty would be an understatement.  We're pretty much in open warfare.

Now, this breakdown in the relationship is both ironic and completely not surprising.  Let's start with the not surprising part.  Jan Goldsmith is a conservative Republican who's been part of the San Diego Downtown establishment for many years.  According to this wikipedia page, Goldsmith is the former mayor of Poway, who then went to the State Assembly (where he worked to legalize ferrets and sounds like he did good for juvenile justice), and then after failing a bid to become the State Treasurer, was a judge for nine and a half years.  Given all of this, you can tell that Goldsmith is part of the old boys network that ran San Diego for years.

Bob Filner, meanwhile, is a liberal Democrat.  In the 1960's, he was a Freedom Rider, then became a history professor at San Diego State.  From there, he successfully ran for School Board of San Diego City Schools (also known as San Diego Unified School District), and then was elected to Congress in 1993, a position he held until December of 2012.  In contrast to Goldsmith, Filner's base of support has been from Labor Unions, the Democratic Party, and other progressive groups.  These groups have largely been out of power in San Diego.  So, Filner represents the new power base in San Diego, and Goldsmith represents the old.  Which is pretty much why there was bound to be a conflict.

But here's the ironic part of the conflict - Goldsmith ran for City Attorney in 2008 on the basis that he got along with the Mayor and City Council.  At the time, as some of you may remember, Mike Aguirre was City Attorney, and Mike believed that the City Attorney should be an independent voice for the people of San Diego, and fight against special interests and corruption.  Of course, Mike was exceptionally undiplomatic about his efforts, as is his wont.*  Goldsmith, meanwhile, ran on the vision that the City Attorney should act as the attorney to the Mayor and City Council and provide both with good legal advice.  Naturally, at the time, Jerry Sanders (Republican, but generally good guy) was Mayor.

Fast forward four years, and suddenly its Jan Goldsmith holding press conferences attacking the Mayor's office of improprieties in the same way that Mike Aguirre used to do.  Only this time, its a Republican City Attorney attacking a Democratic Mayor, rather than a Democratic City Attorney attacking a Republican Mayor.

Of course, since Goldsmith has ties to the old boys' network that is used to running things in San Diego, there are editorials by the Union Tribune attacking Filner for being, essentially, the asshole in the argument.  And make no mistake, Filner is kind of an asshole.  The thing is, everyone knows this.  It was an issue during the campaign (in sort of a kettle meets pot kind of a hit piece by Carl DeMaio).  Its been an issue in other campaigns.  So everyone knows Filner is an asshole, and for the most part, we're all okay with it.  Better to have an asshole who gets things done than a nice guy who doesn't.  This too has lead to awesomeness, such as when Filner interrupted one of Goldsmith's press conferences.

But for all of his faults, Filner is getting a lot done.  He renegotiated the City's leases, saving taxpayers millions of dollars, he figured out how to clean the guano from La Jolla Shores (we think), and he figured out how to close Plaza de Panama to parking.  These were all issues that dogged the City for years.  At the end of the day, will the public side with Filner or Goldsmith?  I honestly don't know. 

*Editor's Note - Given San Diego was called "Enron by the Sea" when Aguirre was first elected, Aguirre wasn't exactly wrong about being undiplomatic. 

No comments: