Hey, man, your friends here at CityBeat think the time has come to tell you to simmer down a little bit. Yes, these are damn exciting times, man, but you need to chill out. Breathe deeply and relax. Ever tried yoga? You've simply got to stay laser-focused on the important issues and let the other stuff go.
Last week, in a written statement to the press, you rightly asserted that you are the person who should defend yourself and the city of San Diego against a lawsuit filed by the lame-duck members of the city's retirement-system board, who claim you don't have the authority to take control of the system's legal representation. Yanking the retirement system's lawyers was one of the first bold moves you made upon taking office. You were making a strong statement that there was a new sheriff in town, and you were right to do it.
The outgoing retirement board is indeed a rogue band of outlaws.We share your opinion that they have failed in their duty to act in the best financial interest of the retirement system's members, and we supported your hostile takeover.
Last week, because Mayor Dick Murphy and some members of the City Council don't like you or trust you, they went around you, asking former District Attorney Paul Pfingst for a legal opinion on how the city should handle the retirement board's lawsuit and on who legally should be representing the system. Pfingst-a political foe of yours, having finished ahead of you in the 2002 primary election for district attorney-was certainly an interesting choice to render such an opinion. We understand how it must have chapped your hide to have them choose a dude like that to come in willy-nilly and give them an opinion about something you've been immersed in for months. You were right to call them out for it.
But you went too far, homey.
At the end of your statement to the press, under the heading "Pfingst Background," you included the comment, "Paul Pfingst, who was removed from office for unethical behavior by San Diego voters and was caught using drugs while a New York prosecutor, is hardly suited to provide independent and reliable advice to the mayor and City Council."
We know you disagree-you say ethics has everything to do with what's going down at CityHall-but whether or not Pfingst smoked dope many years ago is irrelevant, and he wasn't "removed from office for unethical behavior." Pfingst lost an election.You can't say why-unless you know of an exit poll we're not aware of. The point here is, you should have cut that part of your statement out. We suspect that someone in your office told you the same thing. If so, you should have listened.You should listen carefully whenever someone you respect tells you to take one step back.
And here's the reason: Because, in general, you are right. On the substantive issues surrounding the city's bond financial disclosures and the behavior of city officials, union leaders and members of the retirement board on pension matters, we think you've been right all along. We know you think the Pfingst business is substantive because it speaks to matters of ethics, but in the public eye, we're afraid it looks like gratuitous sniping-and worse, it fuels your enemies' fire.
Because you're investigating public corruption and securities fraud-and because you're making your work public-you're being regularly, openly smeared by the mayor, the city manager and certain members of the City Council, who are trying to deflect the attention of citizens of San Diego away from what they've done and make this whole thing a story about how you're an uncooperative, grandstanding loose cannon.
That tactic was on display again this week as you were being urged to sign a letter saying everyone at City Hall would work and play well together under a new set of vague rules about how investigations would proceed. Some members of the City Council-Brian Maienschein in particular-tried to spin the letter as a rebuke of you and your frequent press conferences. You must have appreciated City Councilmember Donna Frye pointing out that the letter was also necessitated by the fact that federal investigators are unhappy with the city's level of cooperation in producing subpoenaed documents. We certainly appreciated Frye's comment.
Bottom line, Mike: We know you're in a brawl, but when you feel the need to take a swing at someone, make sure it advances the cause. Make sure it serves the public. Make sure it doesn't make you look like, well, an uncooperative, grandstanding loose cannon.