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San Diego
Saturday, May 18, 2024

Time for Aguirre to Join Murphy

Now that Mayor Dick Murphy has resigned, San Diego is halfway to the starting point of putting its financial affairs in order.

All that’s left is for City Attorney Michael Aguirre to join Murphy on the sidelines.

Ever since he was elected last fall, Aguirre has been a political sideshow , doing whatever it takes to ensure the media spotlight remains firmly fixed on him and him alone.

Which isn’t entirely new, of course. Few if any politicians are in public life for purely altruistic motives.

But Aguirre’s surrender to ego and ambition are exponentially above any other local politician of recent memory. Even Pete Wilson’s tenure as mayor , when surely he already had his sights set on Sacramento and Washington , was less brazen than Aguirre’s.

And the role of city attorney is categorically different from that of mayor or city council member. Aguirre’s role is to serve as counsel to the city government. The mayor and City Council are his clients.

This was a point of understanding that Aguirre’s predecessor , no slacker in the ego and ambition departments himself , instinctively knew.

But either Aguirre just doesn’t understand the position he holds, or he just doesn’t care. Because rather than serve as legal adviser to his charges, he’s instead decided to make his reputation by going after them , a most curious turn of affairs, and one that is hard to square with his moral and political obligations to the people who elected him.

The most egregious example of his unwillingness to put his duties before his ego is Aguirre’s laughable claim that the district attorney somehow broke the law by offering to handle the city’s misdemeanor prosecutions. When District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis , a fellow Democrat, by the way , appeared before the City Council and offered to take on the city’s misdemeanor prosecutions for far less than the city attorney’s office costs, Aguirre not only went after her on political grounds, but made the ridiculous assertion that she’d broken the law.

Dumanis was understandably perplexed when informed that Aguirre had accused her of violating the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law.

Dumanis did no such thing, of course. She merely appeared before the council during the appropriate open comment period and tossed her offer into the hopper. No action was taken by the council, so the Brown Act was never violated , something every reporter in town knew, yet something the city attorney will not acknowledge. (On the frequent occasions that the Brown Act is violated by local officials, every reporter at the meeting goes ballistic, screaming about open government and freedom of the press. If Dumanis had violated the Brown Act, the media would have been all over her case. The silence of my fellow reporters is proof positive of the empty character of Aguirre’s charge.)

This is the man who is going to get to the bottom of the city’s retirement fund fiasco? A man who can’t even figure out something as basic as the laws governing City Council meetings? A man who almost daily hurls new accusations of lawbreaking against his own clients?

The city’s finances simply cannot be fixed with a megalomaniac as city attorney.

The investment community just isn’t going to take San Diego seriously, or accept the city’s efforts to restore fiscal sanity as sincere with a loose cannon like Aguirre running around undermining the city’s own legal standing.

If Aguirre were serious about figuring out how to restore San Diego’s finances, he wouldn’t be conducting his business in front of a microphone. He’d stop chastising his clients in public, stop trumpeting about all he’s going to do, and actually start helping the city fix the mess it’s in.

Since he seems inherently incapable of doing so, Aguirre should instead join Murphy in retirement. That is, if he’s really interested in what’s best for the citizens of San Diego and not what’s best for Michael Aguirre’s political future.

Jim Trageser is a local freelance writer and the publisher and editor of, a San Diego-based online arts and literary journal.


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