Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jan Goldsmith: right wing and reckless? Andrea Dixon and developers are back in favor.

Jan Goldsmith is still going negative after being sworn in. Jan Goldsmith apparently likes campaigning more than he likes the job of San Diego City Attorney. In his inaugural speech, he combined his fondness for developers with some reckless, unsubstantiated allegations.

Goldsmith stirs up criticism with claim
Inaugural speech lashed out at foe
By Matthew T. Hall
December 14, 2008

The rub on Michael Aguirre was that he was reckless: He made unsubstantiated allegations that were beneath the dignity of any lawyer, much less San Diego's city attorney.

No one sounded that criticism louder than Judge Jan Goldsmith, who used it to unseat Aguirre in an election last month.

But in his first five minutes in office, Goldsmith made an unsubstantiated allegation of his own. During his inaugural speech in front of 2,000 people Monday, Goldsmith alleged that Aguirre had reassigned an attorney who dared to take an ethical stand in an office run amok.

From the dais, Goldsmith restored Deputy City Attorney Andrea Dixon to her old position advising the Planning Commission. Afterward, he declined to back up his claim or elaborate on it.

“I really think it says something about his character and integrity that he's willing to jump on this for political advantage to continue to grind his heel into Mike,” said Kathryn Burton, who was an assistant city attorney under Aguirre. “He made spurious accusations about the office and the management of the office that he hasn't even vetted. In a funny way, he's as reckless as Mike is.”

...The inauguration came a month after the supposed end of a tough political campaign in which Goldsmith said Aguirre habitually circumvented due process and Aguirre said Goldsmith was too close to builders and business interests.

A quarter of Goldsmith's high-profile speech involved the tale of Dixon being punished for refusing “to do something that she was ordered to do because it violated her ethical obligations.”

...Another former assistant city attorney, Karen Heumann, said a belief that Dixon was rubber-stamping development projects played a role in her being removed from Planning Commission duties.

Burton and Heumann said Goldsmith never spoke to them before making his accusation, to hear their version of what happened. Both were relieved of duty during the transition.

The public accusation by Goldsmith is surprising because, again and again in his campaign, he criticized Aguirre for making unfounded allegations.

“Your work is based upon conduct and actions, not based upon a lot of accusations and hot air and making enemies,” Goldsmith said at one televised debate. “That's a huge difference between us. I have never shot first and asked questions later...

UTC expansion

Retail giant Westfield's proposal for a $900 million expansion of its University City shopping center was at the center of the Dixon dispute.

The company sought approval to add 750,000 square feet of shops and 250 to 300 condominiums, raising concerns for neighbors about traffic, noise and other environmental issues.

Two July 25 e-mails show Burton asked Dixon to rewrite her memo reviewing the project to more fully analyze the legal issues and “to protect the public interest.”

Dixon wrote, “While I am very aware the project is controversial, I have not found any legal inadequacies in the EIR (environmental impact report), nor is there anything illegal concerning the draft permits.”

Burton replied, “Irrespective of any personal opinion regarding the merits of the project or the merits of the EIR, any opposition position that could prove problematic for the decision maker should be addressed.”

Burton added, “When I spoke to you about the project, you shrugged your shoulders and said: 'Ehhhh, the council is going to do what the council is going to do. Nothing we write will change that.' Your work on this project has not been of a quality that could be approved for distribution to the council.” ...

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