Michael Jules Aguirre (born 1949) was the City Attorney for the City of San Diego, California from 2004 to 2008. In August 2013, he declared his candidacy for mayor in a special election following Mayor Bob Filner's resignation.
Aguirre was born to Julio and Margaret Aguirre. His father was of Spanish descent and his mother was of Mexican descent. He earned a Bachelor's degree in political science at Arizona State University in 1971. He earned a law degree from the Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley in 1974.
Aguirre worked as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice, and directed a grand jury investigation of pension racketeering. He was then appointed as assistant counsel to the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. After leaving government work, Aguirre set up his own firm specializing in securities fraud.
In the 1990s, Aguirre continued his securities practice and his electoral campaigns. In 1990, Aguirre allied with the Chicano Federation to file a successful federal voting rights lawsuit to overturn San Diego’s redistricting. In 1993, Aguirre successfully defended the United Farm Workers Union in Yuma, Arizona in a case with lettuce grower Bruce Church. Aguirre took over the defense of the case after UFW President Cesar Chavez died following two days of testimony. Aguirre finished the jury trial, which the UFW lost, but he succeeded in getting the case overturned on appeal.
In 1996 Aguirre went to court to throw out a 1995 contract between the City of San Diego and the San Diego Chargers football team. In the contract, the city agreed to issue $60 million of bonds to renovate the football team's stadium, and, in a controversial clause, promised to constantly maintain the stadium as a state-of-the-art venue. The city had also agreed to guarantee the sale of 60,000 game tickets at prices to be set by the Chargers. Aguirre’s suit and the ensuing scandal surrounding the maintenance clause compelled the city to renegotiate with the Chargers in 1998.
Aguirre ran for San Diego City Attorney in 2004, in the midst of a massive financial crisis and investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Scandal had erupted in the summer of 2003 over a pension deal that municipal employees received between 1996 and 2002. Workers were given increased benefits during this period, but the city did not contribute enough to municipal pension funds to cover the increased benefits. The resulting deficit of some $1.4 billion left the city’s finances in a shambles, and made it virtually impossible to issue municipal bonds. Aguirre ran as a "clean up the mess" outsider, with support from Democrats in the officially nonpartisan race, and won with 50.4% of the vote. A 2008 Wall Street Journal article praised Aguirre’s efforts to rid the San Diego of hundreds of millions of dollars of allegedly illegal pension benefits.
In October 2007 the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that during the California wildfires of October 2007, he had called for an evacuation of the entire City of San Diego. Aguirre was heavily criticized for the idea but said that the paper had distorted his position, and that he had actually written a memo to the San Diego Mayor at the height of the fires, saying that the city should draw up a voluntary evacuation plan in light of federal regulations, the immediate threat of the fire, and concerns over weather conditions and air quality.
As City Attorney, Aguirre filed a legal action to force a developer to reduce the height of an office building near an airport, which Federal Aviation Administration officials said was a threat to public safety, although a city permit had been issued. In 2009 a California Superior Court judge affirmed the City Attorney's position by determining the developer had no legal right to erect the building to the unsafe height, and the top several stories had to be removed from the building.
In 2005 immediately upon taking office, Aguirre attempted unsuccessfully to overturn a city grant of $900 million in pension benefits to police and other city workers that Aguirre contented had been illegal.
In 2008, Aguirre ran for a second term, but was challenged by several other candidates. The President of the San Diego City Council Scott Peters ran with the backing of city unions, while Superior Court Judge Jan Goldsmith was backed by the Republican political establishment. In the five-candidate primary race Aguirre came in a close second to Goldsmith, forcing a runoff in the general election in November, 2008, which Aguirre lost to Goldsmith, 59.5% to 40.5%.
After leaving office
Aguirre returned to private practice along with two colleagues from the City Attorney's office: Mia Severson, who headed the City Attorney's civil litigation division and Chris Morris, who headed the City's Criminal Division, practice under the firm name Aguirre Morris & Severson. Aguirre also started the National Center for Regulatory Reform, which has issued extensive reports on the Market Crash of 2008.
Following the resignation of Mayor Bob Filner in August 2013, Aguirre declared his intention to run in the special election for mayor to replace him. However, in the election held November 19, 2013 he came in a distant fourth with 4.44 percent of the vote and thus did not advance to the runoff election.
- Horstman, Barry M. (October 17, 1987). "Aguirre: Pursuing the Notion that Good Triumphs Over Evil".
- Perry, Tony (February 15, 1996). "Farm Workers Win Round in Court; Labor: Appellate panel voids $3.7-million award won by lettuce grower. A third trial is now possible.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
- City of San Diego election results, November 2004
- A San Diego Retirement
- Vigil, Jennifer (October 24, 2007). "Aguirre wants San Diego evacuated in wake of wildfires". SignOnSanDiego.com (San Diego Union Tribune). Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- Braun, Gerry (November 28, 2007). "Heat likely to stay on Aguirre for fire memo". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- Gustafson, Craig (October 4, 2013). "Aguirre looks for redemption". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
- City Attorney Sues Countrywide To Stop Foreclosures - San Diego News Story - KGTV San Diego
- City Attorney election results
- "Latest: Former city attorney Mike Aguirre to join mayoral race". San Diego 6. August 31, 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- "San Diego mayor race: Alvarez, Faulconer expected to meet in runoff". ABC 10 News. November 19, 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013.