I don’t know if Werner Herzog was being prescient or just coincidental with his 1972 masterpiece, Aguirre, the Wrath of God but, by golly, the metaphorical film makes a fine metaphor for our own embattled City Attorney. At least, his many municipal and media detractors would have one think so.
Described by Wikipedia as “a vision of madness and folly,” the Herzog film follows an ill-fated conquistador named Lupe Aguirre as he leads a detachment of misplaced Spanish soldiers into the deepest, darkest New World jungles wasting wealth and lives on a vain quest for glory and non-existent gold. Substitute misplaced Spanish soldiers with San Diego City government, the jungles of the new world with the even more dangerous jungles of downtown San Diego politics, lives lost with lives ruined by Aguirre witch hunts (can you say pension board?) and lost gold with failed lawsuits and you’ve pretty much described Aguirre’s detractors description of his tenure.
Just read the paper.
Indeed, the Wiki-writer characterized Lupe Aguirre as “an oppressive ruler, so terrifying that few protest his leadership. Those who complain are killed.” Can’t you just see the UT Editorial board write the same thing? And of modern Mike’s ill-fated quest for gold? Alex Roth’s Sunday piece hit that piece on the head. Or was it just another in a long line of UT hit pieces?
According to the UT, Aguirre has cost the city several millions of dollars in his Quixotic quest to role back hundreds of millions of dollars in City pension liabilities he thinks were awarded illegally. Foolish Mike. Dumb, wasteful Mike.
Of course, the Roth piece puts the pinchers only on Aguirre for pursuing this failed strategy even though Gentleman Jerry Sanders has said repeatedly, from his campaign onwards, that, the courts had to rule on the legality of said benefits before the city could meaningfully move forward on the pension problem. And, of course, the piece said nothing about the billion dollar pension bust run up by the City Council, many of whose current members were at the helm when our fiscal ship of state hit the rocks—or the role of the previous City Attorney in green lighting what the SEC says amounted to securities fraud. Nope. Aguirre the agitated gets frontpage treatment for spending a few million to try and reclaim several hundred million, just pouring good money after bad, of course.
And the UT’s Aguirre hit parade wasn’t limited to a Sunday. What should greet its avid readers in Wednesday morning’s editorial section? Why, only the latest in journalistic excellence by the UT’s editorial board, claiming Mike Aguirre had violated campaign laws by taking electoral money from subordinates of his own department and should, therefore, be removed from office. This was accompanied by an entry in the UT’s political blog (written by a member of the UT editorial board) extolling how well the UT editorial on Aguirre went towards “documenting” his alleged legal violations.
Excuse me, I’m not a journalist. I haven’t even played one on TV. (Though I have stayed at a Holiday Inn or two, years ago.) But I didn’t thing Editorial pages were supposed to be a newspaper’s pages of record, as in, what the news was. I thought that was what the journalists in the news division presented: unbiased facts. I thought the Editorial page represented opinion. But it looked like the UT editorial board was sooo excited about this story that they couldn’t even wait for their news division to provide the statement of record on the event. Oh, and one other little thing. I thought it was the policy of newspapers to use like “allegedly” or “suspected of” when discussing someone who has just been accused of having committed a crime—you know, just in case the person happens to be, say, innocent? The UT editorial board indicted, tried and convicted Aguirre before any agency of government has even brought the suggestion of charges against him. Sounds a little “Oxbow Incident” to me.
It would seem, however, that the Editorial board’s zeal in pre-convicting Aguirre on the alleged campaign violations wasn’t effectively communicated to their news department, for, just the next day, the UT published a real news story which pointed out that “Whether Aguirre’s actions violate a city charter provision dating to 1931 is unclear Moreover, the article quotes Stacey Fulhorst, executive director of the city’s Ethics Commission is saying, “As long as Aguirre didn’t solicit the contributions, he didn’t violate the ordinance.”
Airtight case, UT editorial board. Glad you’ve already hung the guy. Though, Mike the Mauler, take note. If you are going to through the “C” word of corruption around as often and easily as you have done over the years, you’d better be sure to keep yourself above even the slightest reproach. Caesar’s wife, Mike. Caesar’s wife.
The column by Dave Rolland (otherwise known as my editor, my lord, my master….) in this week’s CityBeat underscores the essential contradiction of the downtown in-crowd’s ace-out Aguirre movement: considering just how megalomanic, incompetent, petty and vicious the Mike Aguirre one reads about on the news and comment pages of the UT is, they can’t seem to find anyone more politically popular than Mike has managed to remain to run against him.
Maybe its just that the public at large hasn’t seen the full UT Aguirre: Wrath of God movie. Maybe if the UT keeps hammering on Aguirre on front, editorial, op ed pages and blogosphere (and, heck, maybe in the classifieds, too?) between now and next year the uninformed may finally see the light and finally dispatch our crazy conquistador at the polls the way the indigenous natives dispatched the Spanish at the stake?
Then again, maybe the public has seen this movie. How couldn’t they after years its been playing at City Council meetings and on the pages of the UT. Maybe the public has seen it – and they just ain’t buying it?
Okay, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Mike Aguirre is erratic. He has political A-D-D, bouncing from issue to issue without bringing them to conclusion like a hyper-active ten year old off his meds. He’s abrasive. He’s, oh heck, he’s Mike Aguirre and if you don’t know what he’s like you’ve been living under a rock for the last four years. (Or under a La Jolla rockslide, as the case may be…) But as Dave Rolland concludes in his editorial, Aguirre’s been a damn sight more effective in holding the downtown powers that be to public accountability than his predecessor, Casey “Heck, yeah, you can do it, City Council” Gwinn ever was. Or anyone in the Mayor’s office, for that matter.
And the public seems to think so, too. But not, of course, our leading local Tribune of the People. Whose editors seem intent on trying to sell the public a plotline they just don’t buy.
And the Union Trib wonders why it’s circulation keeps declining?