Council Wary of Filner Bid to Cut City Attorney Budget

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 7 San Diego

    A bitter budget struggle between San Diego's top two elected officials came before the City Council late Wednesday afternoon.

    Mayor Bob Filner is proposing a 3 percent spending cut for the office of City Attorney Jan Goldsmith -- $1.4 million out the current fiscal year’s total of $44 million, the equivalent of 13 full-time positions.

    Mayor Asks for City Attorney Budget Cuts

    [DGO] Mayor Asks for City Attorney Budget Cuts
    Mayor Filner has proposed cutting 13 jobs in the office of his political rival City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. (Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013)

    The mayor says that would bring the office more in line with reductions other city departments have endured in recent years.

    Fiscal logic aside, it's widely seen as political a shot across his rival's bow.

    Filner Proposes Beefed Up Budget

    [DGO] Filner Proposes Beefed Up Budget
    Law enforcement could see an increased portion of the San Diego city budget for the coming fiscal year thanks to a proposal by Mayor Bob Filner. (Published Monday, May 6, 2013)

    In presenting his own budget proposal for the new fiscal year beginning in July, Goldsmith touted his staff’s savings and efficiencies while handling a larger caseload and more oversight responsibilities -- while reducing the use of costly outside attorneys.

    He offered a subtle allusion to the political atmosphere that often envelops City Hall.

    Mayor Filner Discusses City Budget

    [DGO]Mayor Filner Discusses City Budget
    The San Diego City Council heard from Mayor Bob Filner Monday morning about the city's budget. (Published Monday, May 6, 2013)

    "Some of the city's worst historical failures in governance occurred due to poor legal work arising out of pressures of a political environment,” Goldsmith told the Council. "We run our office like a private law firm. We do our best to shield our lawyers from outside political and media pressures. And I absorb them. Lucky me."

    Meantime, while his budget is in Filner’s crosshairs, Goldsmith is investigating Filner's legal adviser, Lee Burdick, in connection with public statements he suspects may violate Charter prohibitions against the practice of law by city employees other than his deputies.

    But on Wednesday, he expressed optimism that the mayor’s relationship with his office and the Council could “evolve” into something more cooperative than it has been.

    Veteran political observers have their doubts about a permanent reconciliation between Goldsmith and Filner.

    "Both sides have leverage; both sides have animosity,” says Voice of San Diego columnist Scott Lewis.

    Calling the balance of power between two officials elected by a citywide constituency “adversarial and problematic," Lewis adds this about the mayor’s approach to governance: “He's always gotten what he wants out of conflict, and then resolution that comes out of it. And so, if you're uncomfortable with that, then you're uncomfortable with our mayor."

    More budget deliberations lie ahead before the Council weighs in later this month.

    But judging from the tenor of Q&A at Wednesday’s hearing, Filner's challenge to Goldsmith's budget figures to meet serious resistance.