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Jan Goldsmith Reflects On Time As San Diego’s City Attorney

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Jan Goldsmith Reflects On Time As San Diego’s City Attorney
Jan Goldsmith Reflects On Time As San Diego’s City Attorney GUEST: Jan Goldsmith, former San Diego city attorney

TODAY IS FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23. THE ROLE OF CITY ATTORNEY MAY NOT BE AS HIGH PROFILE AS A MAYOR OR CITY COUNCILMAN, AT THE JOB CAN HAVE A MAJOR INFLUENCE ON HOW SUCCESSFUL THE CITY IS AND WHAT DIRECTION IT MOVES. JAN GOLDSMITH HAS BEEN THE CITY ATTORNEY FOR THE LAST EIGHT YEARS AND HE HAS HAD A HAND IN MANY OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THAT OF HAPPENED AT THE CITY FROM THE RESIGNATION OF THE MAYOR TO THE CONVENTION CENTER EXPANSION INTENTION TO NAME A FEW. IT'S A PLEASURE TO BE HERE. SO YOU ARE LIVING AFTER EIGHT YEARS. WHICH YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO STAY QUITE NO. YOU ARE READY TO GO QUICK YES. IT IS A JOKE IN OUR HOUSEHOLD. EVERY SEVEN TO 10 YEARS ARE CHANGE WHAT I DO AND I LOOK FOR A NEW CHALLENGE. I JOB HOP. EVEN THOUGH WHEN I WAS IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR, I PRACTICED LAW FOR ABOUT 15 YEARS. I WENT TO PUBLIC SERVICE. I WILL SAY, I MARRIAGE HAS BEEN 42 YEARS. AND IT HAS LASTED. YOU TOOK OVER FROM A VERY DIFFERENT CITY ATTORNEY WHO SAW THE ROLE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY AS BEING AN INDEPENDENT ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE WHO ACTS AS A CHECK ON THE POWER OF THE MAYOR AND THE COUNCIL. YOU SAID SOMETHING INTERESTING. YOU KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF AND YOU RESPECT THE POSITION AS LONG AS YOU ADVISE THEM OF THE RISKS. DO YOU FIND YOURSELF DEFENDING MANY POSITIONS THAT YOU DIDN'T AGREE WITH WHAT ABSOLUTELY. I WASN'T ELECTED TO MAKE POLICY DECISIONS. IF I WANTED TO DO THAT, I WOULD'VE RUN FOR CITY COUNCIL OR MAYOR. I WAS IN THE STATE LEGISLATURE. I REALLY DIDN'T WANT TO GET LOBBIED ON POLICY. I WANTED TO STICK TO THE LAW. I AGREE THAT THE CITY ATTORNEY IS INDEPENDENT AND WE WERE INDEPENDENT IN OUR OFFICE FOR THE LAST EIGHT YEARS. WE ARE A CHECK. WHEN THE LAW IS CLEAR WE SAY NO, DON'T GO THERE. THAT WHEN THE LAW IS OKAY THEY CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT TO DO LEGALLY. I KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT AND SAID WERE LAWYERS ABOUT THE POLICY. WE DON'T SAY WE DON'T LIKE WHAT YOU'RE DOING. WHAT ABOUT THE DIFFICULT THINGS QUICK THE CONVENTION CENTER FINANCING. THAT WAS SOMETHING FROM A LEGAL STANDPOINT WAS IN THE GRAY AREA. A LIAR CAME DOWN FROM SAN FRANCISCO AND SAID WE CAN DO THIS AND WE DID NOT AGREE. THE LAW WAS UNCLEAR IN THE CLIENT WANTED TO TEST THE LAW. I DID NOT AGREE WITH TESTING THE LAW. THAT WAS NOT COST-EFFICIENT. IT WAS ULTIMATELY RULED ILLEGAL OR THAT THE TRIAL JUDGE RULED IT WAS ILLEGAL. IT WAS A CLOSE CALL. LET ME LIST OFF SOME OF YOUR SUCCESSES. THREE LONG SUIT -- THREE LONG LAWSUITS. AND THEN OF COURSE YOU WERE INVOLVED WITH GETTING THE FORMER MAYOR OUT OF OFFICE. THE WAY THAT IT WAS DONE. WE HAVE A BAD THERE. WHAT SHOULD WE DO. CITY ATTORNEYS AROUND THE COUNTRY. THAT WAS A VERY CHALLENGING PART OF OUR CITY'S HISTORY. I THINK WE ALL DO QUITE WELL ON THAT ENDED DEALING WITH A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM. WHAT WAS A STRATEGY YOU USE QUICK I PARTNERED WITH THE CITY COUNCIL AND THEY SUPPORTED WHAT I DID. IT REVOLVED AROUND THE LAWSUIT IN THE CITY COUNCIL GETS TO DO THAT NOT THE MAYOR. I WAS ABLE TO MEET MY ETHICAL OBLIGATION. AND I WORKED VERY WHERE WEST GLORIA OLDER BY THE WAY. WE DEVELOPED A GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIP AS OPPOSING COUNSEL'S ALTHOUGH WE WERE ON THE SAME SIZE THAT SAME SIDE OF MR. FILNER HAVING TO RESIGN. THIS ONE ISSUE NOT RESOLVED., FORM INITIATIVE. HE SAID FOUR YEARS AGO THAT WORKING WITH THE CITIES SIX LABOR UNIONS WOULD BE FIGHT DOES BETTER THAN FIGHTING IN COURT. THAT YOU'RE STILL FIGHTING IN COURT. YES. IT WAS ALL PUBLIC. IT WAS IN THE UNION TRIBUNE. I BELIEVE YOU CARRIED IT HERE. I WENT TO THE FOLKS WHO WERE PUTTING TOGETHER THIS INITIATIVE FOR PENSION REFORM. I CONVINCED THEM TO WAIT A FEW MONTHS AND LET THE CITY NEGOTIATE WITH THE UNION. WE WENT TO THE UNIONS. THE CITY GOT A MEDIATOR TO COME DOWN FROM LOS ANGELES. IT DIDN'T GO ANYWHERE, UNFORTUNATELY. THEY DIDN'T THINK THE INITIATIVE WOULD ACTUALLY BE PUT TOGETHER. THEY DID NOT TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. BUT NOW THAT IT DID PASS, DO YOU SEE ANY LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL QUICK IS THE ONLY INITIATIVE. PENSION REFORM THAT I KNOW OF. INCLUDING PENSION REFORM THROUGH LEGISLATION WHICH IS NOT BEING CHALLENGE BASED UPON THE TAKING AWAY OF A VESTED RIGHT HELP WILL BE RESOLVED QUICK IT WILL GO TO THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA AND IT MIGHT GO TO THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT. THE COURTS WOULD HAVE TO CHANGE THE LAW CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND SAY CITIZENS INITIATIVE ARE NO LONGER CITIZENS INITIATIVE IS A PUBLIC FIGURE ELECTED OFFICEHOLDERS SUPPORTS IT. WHEN YOU TALK TO JERRY BROWN, HE IS ALL OVER THESE INITIATIVES IN CALIFORNIA. THOSE WOULD ALL BE A LEGAL CITIZENS DEEMED -- WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU? ANY CHANCE YOU MIGHT JUMP BACK INTO THE POLITICAL ARENA QUITE I REALLY DON'T WANT TO RUN FOR POLITICAL OFFICE. I'VE BEEN A MAYOR AND ON THE STATE LEGISLATURE. I AM PLANNING SOME OPTIONS AND I'M GOING TO TAKE MY TIME AND DECIDE. BUT YOU WILL HEAR FROM ME. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME. THAT'S DAN GOLDSMITH, FORMER CITY ATTORNEY.

The role of a city attorney may not be as high profile as a mayor or city councilman but the job can have a major influence in how successful a city is and what direction it moves.

Jan Goldsmith has been San Diego's city attorney for the last eight years.

During that time he dealt with the resignation of former Mayor Bob Filner, controversy over a plan to finance an expansion of the convention center and pension reform.

Goldsmith served as a San Diego Superior Court judge for a decade before he beat incumbent city attorney Mike Aguirre in 2008. Goldsmith was also mayor of Poway and served three terms in the California Assembly.

Mara Elliot, a former deputy San Diego city attorney, was elected as Goldsmith’s successor.

Goldsmith reflects on his time in office Friday on Midday Edition.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.