Replacing Rasputin: A Subtext of the Election Contest for San Diego City Attorney

by on April 19, 2016 · 1 comment

in Election, History, Labor, Media, Politics, San Diego

Jan GoldsmithBy Doug Porter

Termed-out City Attorney Jan Goldsmith felt free to drop the pretense of serving all the public last week during his introduction of Texas Senator Ted Cruz at a campaign rally in Mission Valley.

“We believe in jobs, freedom and security. You know something? The Democrats don’t believe in these values,” Goldsmith said. So much for my theory that he wasn’t an ideologue.

There are four Democrats and one Republican running for the City Attorney slot. I emailed them all late last week, asking their reaction to Goldsmith’s comments. The responses are listed in the order I received them.

Democrat Bryan Pease, activist attorney who Feels the Bern:

Funny–if you switch the word “Democrats” with “Republicans” in his quote, it would be objectively accurate based on measurable criteria and outcomes of their policies.

Democrat Gil Cabrera, attorney & former chairman of the San Diego Ethics Commission (Not reappointed by former Mayor Jerry Sanders):

“I’m disappointed that Mr. Goldsmith would make such highly partisan statements — Democrats obviously believe in and fight for jobs, freedom and security. More importantly though, I strongly believe it is best for the City Attorney to avoid partisan statements given his or her critical role of advising both sides of the aisle at City Hall.”

Democrat Mara Elliot, deputy City Attorney:

“I’m proud to be a Democrat and the choice of Democratic leaders like Council President Pro Tem Marti Emerald and former State Senators Christine Kehoe and Lucy Killea. I’ve spent my career improving city services, strengthening our schools, and holding polluters and contractors accountable. As City Attorney, I’ll work every day to deliver results on the issues that matter to ordinary people in all San Diego neighborhoods.”

Republican Robert Hickey, a prosecutor with the county District Attorney’s Office:

“Personally, I’m focused on finding ways for the Office of City Attorney to better serve our community, like improving our response to domestic violence

Democrat Rafael Castellanos, attorney & Port Commissioner:

San Diego’s City Attorney Jan Goldsmith was wrong on two counts when he introduced Ted Cruz in San Diego last week by saying that Democrats don’t believe in jobs, freedom and security. First, he harmed the Office of City Attorney and by extension our City by engaging in partisan politics of the worst kind – the kind peddled by national politicians and media pundits who care only about exploiting our differences for personal gain and power. Second, he was just flat wrong on the substance. It’s utter nonsense to categorically state that Democrats don’t believe in jobs, freedom and security.

Jan’s comments reflect the kind of politics that San Diego leaders do not easily tolerate and for that I have always been grateful. His enthusiastic embrace of such lame rhetoric is therefore especially disappointing. And I’m disappointed not just because I am a proud San Diegan who believes that our city is above the moronic national partisan debate that crowds the airwaves without mercy, but because I am also a candidate to become our next City Attorney.

On the campaign trail I regularly assure skeptical and cynical San Diegans that if elected City Attorney I will represent the City without a political agenda, and that professional integrity and zealous advocacy of what is in the best interest of the taxpayer is my number one concern. This of course is the same thing that Jan Goldsmith has been telling all of us for years, yet the political fangs he just bared show us something different. No wonder people can’t stand politics and politicians.

As far as jobs, freedom, and security go, tens of millions of Democrats have throughout this country’s history built businesses, created jobs, worked jobs, created profits for businesses by working those jobs, served in our armed forces, and otherwise ensured the freedom and security of all Americans by contributing to and defending our way of life – a way of life that is envied and dreamt about around the world and one that people risk their lives and families to have a shot at one day. The American Dream.

Thanks Jan. Just when I thought that our local San Diego leadership was, for all its challenges, at least better than the national circus invading every TV and smartphone screen this election cycle, you somehow managed to prove me wrong. San Diego will, however, always prove you wrong.

Having let the cat out of the bag, it seems like a good time to take a look back at how those Goldsmith values –apparently exclusive to Republicans– have manifested themselves over the past eight years. Think of this as a list of things you don’t really want in a City Attorney, realizing there are more such incidents not reported here.

The Man Behind the Screen

grigory-rasputin_4-tGrigory Rasputin wielded a disproportionate amount of power in the waning years of Tsarist Russia. His influence extended to matters large and small as an advisor to the crown. He was the central figure in Petersburg’s scandal news and at the same time ruled over the Tsar in some strange way.

Rasputin’s power derived from his devotion to sex and relationships with the women of the aristocracy.

Goldsmith’s power derives from his devotion to capital and his relationships with the local plutocracy. He was also fortunate enough to be the right man in the right place at the right time.

The City Attorney’s office became a bigger player in the last decade due to two factors: the transition by San Diego into a strong-mayor form of governance, and former CA Mike Aguirre’s “wild-card” tenure from 2004-2008.

Aguire’s notion that his job was to represent what he perceived as the best interests of the electorate clashed with San Diego’s vested interests. The local daily took up the cause of “Mike is out of control” and this assertion soon became ‘truth.’

Goldsmith, who at the time was a judge and whose background included terms as Mayor of Poway and as a State Assemblyman, stepped down from the bench to run against Aguirre. With the backing of local Republicans (Democrats supported Scott Peters in the primary), he ended up winning a run-off against Aguirre in the November 2008 general election.

jan goldsmithThou Shall Not…

My first awareness of Goldsmith came in 2010, when his office decided to threaten the Linkery restaurant (my employer at the time) with fines and jail for charging a fixed service charge instead of tipping.

The idea of not tipping and paying a better wage was, at the time, pretty radical. Now, with movements for higher minimum wages winning in cities coast-to-coast, it does seem so out there. But you can perhaps see why a certain industry that contributes heavily to political contests in San Diego might not like the idea.

The threat was a stupid idea, right up there with his prosecution of Jeff Olson for daring to exercise his First Amendment Rights in sidewalk chalk outside Bank of America branches.

Chalking against abortion: Ok. Against BofA: Not so much

Chalking against abortion: Ok. Against BofA: Not so much

Both efforts failed, though Olson had to go up against Superior Court Judge Howard Shore, who prohibited the defense attorney from mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, freedom of expression or political speech in his arguments. The jury saw the truth, anyway.

Prior incidents of chalked Nazi graffiti around McKinley Elementary School were brought to the attention of the City Attorney’s office, but not prosecuted because they considered it protected free speech under the First Amendment.

Anti-abortion protesters chalking up the sidewalk in front of a Planned Parenthood office and publicizing it on Facebook also got a pass.

A Tax/Not-A-Tax for Tourism

It’s a “certified truth” in some activist circles around San Diego that Goldsmith and others plotted to undermine the agenda of the Filner administration before the inauguration took place.

What is known for sure is that Goldsmith decided that the city’s hoteliers were more worthy of representation than its chief elected official.

The falderal around the fate of the Tourism Occupancy Tax/Not-a-Tax/It’s-a-Fee continues to haunt San Diego to this day. Bob Filner didn’t want to distribute funding he believed wasn’t legal.

The impending implosion of that program at the hands of the courts should come later this year, leaving taxpayers on the hook (monies that could be used on potholes has been set aside for this possibility) and hoteliers with a dry well for advertising dollars.

Two Truths (At the Same Time)


He’s almost, but not quite, gone….

Filner was a disaster for the local Democratic party that continues to haunt local politics to this day. Having said that two things are true:

  1. Bob Filner was screwed up & treated women like they weren’t human beings
  2. There was an active effort to neuter him from Day One, and Goldsmith was part of that effort.

Here’s Reader columnist Don Bauder:

Long before any sexual harassment allegations surfaced, Goldsmith and Filner sparred publicly over several issues. To curry favor, Goldsmith turned to the media. He communicated with reporters on his private email account. His office produced transcripts from closed-session meetings in order to show Filner’s erratic behavior and mistreatment of Goldsmith’s assistant city attorney at the time, Andrew Jones.

and (different article)…

San Diegans have a misconception that progressives Marco Gonzalez, Cory Briggs, and Donna Frye launched the movement to oust Mayor Filner for his treatment of women.

Right after the negotiations that led to Filner’s decision to resign, on August 29, city attorney Jan Goldsmith, bursting with pride and self-gratification that he had gotten rid of his enemy, told a local TV station (KUSI) that he had been working on this ouster foreight months. He said he went the forced-resignation route because recalls require the gathering of so many signatures in just a short period of time. Thus, the city attorney worked for eight months in an ouster did that not permit the mayor due process.

He said he knew on January 2 that Filner had to go, and on February really began strategizing in earnest. His office hired a psychologist. It certainly appears that during those eight months, Goldsmith — who is closely allied with the downtown corporate welfare crowd — settled on sexual harassment as the vehicle for forcing the mayor out.

Slut Shaming Writ Large

jan-goldsmith (2)The lawsuits against the City of San Diego following revelations of sexual misconduct by former police officer Anthony Arevalos and others provided insight into the importance of Goldsmith’s role as protector of the status quo.

Much of this information came to light thanks to the perseverance of victim Jane Doe, who refused to settle out of court with the City of San Diego.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith waged a media campaign seeking to deflect her demands for a court-empowered monitor of SDPD practices, trying to paint the victim as a gold digger.

Here’s an excerpt of what we learned thanks to Ms. Doe’s perseverance, (not for the faint of heart), from a 10 News story:

Lawyers for Arevalos’ 13th victim, who is only known as Jane Doe, address a 1997 incident where Arevalos detained a mentally unstable woman and took pictures as she performed sex acts on herself with his police baton.

Arevalos’ former partner alerted police supervisors of the incident. However, court records show it was never reported to internal affairs. Arevalos would go on to assault 13 women while on duty until his conviction in 2011.

“This all could have been stopped years ago,” Arevalos’ former partner Francisco Torres said under oath in 2012. “He has his Polaroid out and when I got there the female was in the backseat again naked with her handcuffs in front of her and she had the baton.”

As a reward for her intransigence, Goldsmith’s office hired a private detective to follow Ms Doe around for a month.

From a CBS8 story:

They’re also accusing the city attorney of misconduct by hiring a private investigator to follow and secretly film Doe for a month in an effort to attack her credibility.

“Their person that they had that they knew was a sexual predator, they chose not to surveil. But go ahead and surveil the victim so they can find something maybe to smear her,” attorney Browne Greene said.

On Tuesday, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith defended the surveillance as standard practice in preparing for a trial.

A Helping Hand to Industry

Navy barrio loganPeople in Barrio Logan worked long and hard to craft a community plan. Companies with facilities in the area objected to its provisions, agreed with Councilman David Alvarez to a compromise and then backed out.

They took their concerns to voters via a city-wide referendum to overturn the plan. Their tactics in selling this referendum amounted to a deliberate and well-documented subversion of the democratic process by corporate interests. It was about lying, fraud and deceit.

The City Attorney’s office invoked the ghost of George Orwell in refusing to intervene, with Goldsmith penning a UT op-ed:

“Although our office will always defend council actions against legal attack, we won’t undermine direct democracy”

People in La Jolla and Rancho Bernardo, swayed by demonstrably untrue claims about job loss and the Navy’s presence moving elsewhere, voted to overturn the community plan.

I could go on, but what’s the point?

I should note that’s it’s probably unfair to say that most people working in the City Attorney’s office are culpable for Goldsmith’s actions.

The point here is that the current occupant of that office has utilized the resources available to him to protect political allies, namely the ones who believe that a plurality of the electorate owes its allegiance to a political party in the city engaged in undermining “jobs, freedom and security.”

Now, go back and read those responses from the people who say they’d like you to vote them into the City Attorney’s office.

Disclosure: This article contains snippets of other articles about Goldsmith I have written at San Diego Free Press.
Credit + h/t to Voice of San Diego‘s podcast for bringing Goldsmith’s words to my attention.


This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at our associated San Diego Free Press.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

La Playa Heritage April 19, 2016 at 10:32 pm

The ongoing corruption of the City Attorney’s office includes failure to require Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) for the Successor Agency (SA) to the former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) for FY-2011 to FY-2015. RDA CAFR end in FY-2010.

The City of San Diego’s FY-2017 Budget only reference 4 of the 5 City Agencies. Shady. See Page 191.

The worst legal advice is the 2010 Legal Opinion where City Attorney Goldsmith outlawed the use of RDA Tax Increment for Emergency Shelter and Wrap Around Social Services. Goldsmith declared Homelessness is NOT a form of blight. Death and despair are the result.


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