May 30, 2008

Editorial:

Is Mike Aguirre still the best man for the job?

When Mike Aguirre was first elected, nearly four years ago, as City Attorney for the City of San Diego there was a demand for accountability by the voters of San Diego. San Diego was in the grips of the Pension Fund debacle that had the city on the verge of bankruptcy.

The voters wanted honest hard working political leadership that would clean up the mess of the previous twelve years dating back to the days of Susan Golding. During the Golding years the scheme to short fund the pension fund was hatched, which brought us the Republican Convention and the Charger ticket guarantee, this with the tacit approval of the city attorney. This was followed by the Dick Murphy tenure as mayor who looked to continue the under funding scheme, again with the approval of the negligent city attorney. Our city officials failed at their sworn duty of serving the people of the City of San Diego.

Mike Aguirre ran on the platform that if elected he would protect the interest of the voters and fight for their rights. He did not see himself as the attorney for the city council but as a crusader for the people of San Diego.

After being elected Aguirre knew that he would be going up against the status quo at city hall and that he would face great opposition to his ideas as a city attorney. Aguirre knew that powerful interest within city hall had greatly benefited from the largesse of past city councils and the less than vigilant city attorneys, and they would oppose anyone who would challenge their preferred status. Aguirre also knew that he would have to bear the brunt of the city’s daily newspaper that, even before the election, viewed Aguirre as an obstructionist. Aguirre went into the office with his eyes wide open.

Once elected Aguirre could have changed his stripes, he could have backpedaled on his campaign promise and acquiesced to the power within the city. Aguirre could have taken the easy way out and paved his way to an easy re-election. But that is not Aguirre’s way. He sees issues as black and white and he is not subtle in his approach. This style has served him well in the past making him a successful lawyer and a person who has taken a stand on issues important to him which was embodied in his taking up the cause of Cesar Chavez, working pro bono, to representing the union leader and the UFW, and with his effort to bring about district elections in San Diego to ensure minority representation at city hall.

Aguirre was not intimidated by the daunting task facing him as City Attorney. He went into the office vowing to represent the whole city not just the city council. He attacked the issue of the Pension Fund debacle with his legal briefs flying. He challenged the mayor, he challenged the city council, and he challenged the Pension board.

The reaction to Aguirre’s style was predictable and almost immediate. He drew the wrath from the city council members who played key roles in facilitating the Pension Fund debacle. Aguirre unsettled the status quo and on cue the local daily started a constant drum beat of negative publicity. This negativity against Aguirre has turned some of his ardent supporters against him.

Under this intense pressure Aguirre could have compromised his principals and given in. But Aguirre has stood tall and remained fearless in his pursuit of the public good.

He has continued his crusade with the Pension Fund issue and has challenged Mayor Jerry Sanders, most recently on the Sunroad issue which, even though he was right, was portrayed in a negative light.

We don’t always approve of his bombastic/confrontational style but we do agree with his intent, and when he is given the opportunity and the time to explain his position, we more often than not, agree with his analysis and position.

More importantly we agree with his contention that the City Attorney’s role is to represent the citizens of the City of San Diego. In this sense Aguirre has transformed the office from one of a compliant public official to a position of champion for the citizens of the city. We have to ask ourselves, would the city be in the position it finds itself in now if Aguirre was the City Attorney during the Golding’ years? We tend to think not.

Mike Aguirre has delivered on his promise when first elected to change the culture at City Hall. We would like to see Aguirre complete the job he started out to do. Aguirre has earned another four years as City Attorney.

We endorse Mike Aguirre for City Attorney, City of San Diego.

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