City Attorney Mike Aguirre takes a lot of criticism for his determination to inject his office into every aspect of City Hall. This week he'll probably get more when he announces three suggestions for governmental reform and then gives a welcome speech at the California Democratic Party's annual convention here in San Diego on Saturday.
The need to clarify the new executive-mayor form of government has been clear since the City Council and mayor began feuding last summer over Mayor Jerry Sanders' authority to make mid-year changes to the city budget. But the mayor's authority on other issues remains muddy, too, as became clear during last week's impasse hearing over a new contract for firefighters.
Sanders got the wheels of reform rolling last month when he appointed a committee to review and recommend changes to the City Charter, which is akin to a municipal constitution. That committee meets twice a month on Fridays, and Sanders will address the committee at its April 27 meeting, as will City Council President Scott Peters, whose spokesperson, Pam Hardy, told CityBeat he may "have a few ideas of his own."Today, April 25, Aguirre will join the fray when he announces a trio of proposals.
"Neighborhoods need to be protected from things like mini-dorms,"Aguirre told CityBeat. He wants a Neighborhood Bill of Rights written into the charter.
"We need to pay down the debt and build infrastructure without any of the shenanigans we've had. We need an elected city auditor to ensure that,"he said. OK, an elected city auditor, rather than an appointed one, to check the city's books-got it.
And finally: "The city attorney needs subpoena power. Without it, we've been stymied in our investigations,"Aguirre said, referring to his investigations into the pension- crisis, consultants overcharging the city and innumerable others.
Sanders had no comment on the specific proposals, since he has not yet seen the exact wording.
"He's supposed to be giving us legal advice,"he told CityBeat. "But we'll take ideas from everybody. We prefer to funnel them through the committee."
On Saturday, Aguirre will address larger issues when he welcomes delegates to town for the Democrats' convention. Aguirre will speak on Saturday afternoon, following speeches in the morning by Reps. Susan Davis and Bob Filner. Peters will speak Sunday morning.
The selection of Aguirre may not be pleasing to all local Democrats. Aguirre has feuded with Peters and the heads of local labor unions-traditional supporters of San Diego Democrats-who make no attempts to hide their disdain for him. Nonetheless, the campaign advisor for the California Democrats, Bob Mulholland, told CityBeat that when the mayor of a host city is not a Democrat (Sanders is a Republican), the party invites a group of local elected officials to speak. Having a city attorney speak is nothing new.
Aguirre is aflutter with anticipation. He will speak about California's role in choosing the Democratic nominee for president.
"The core of it is, who can best advance the common welfare in as non-partisan a way as possible,"he said, "really transform the country into a whole new highly energized effort to tackle the problem of global warming and complete the unfinished agenda of human and civil rights."