In 1998 the national coalition was looking for "Strategic Model Cities" where it could expand its crusade. It chose San Diego, Atlanta, and Memphis. Gwinn's presence here was decisive, says Darcy Taylor, vice president of the "Strategic Model Cities" program. "We look for a number of things, one being the legal climate in terms of the District Attorney or the City Attorney and whether or not there is a willingness to help curb the proliferation of pornography in a city," Taylor said. "We brought in $90,000 worth of seed money -- at least we did in San Diego anyway -- so we are looking to make sure that our investment yields some returns in regards to the city's willingness to look at the issue."
While Gwinn encourages "every person" to join the group, he is not officially a member. Board members of the local chapter include Bishop George McKinney, its original founder. McKinney is a member of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography and friend of the NCPCF's Kirk for 19 years. George Mitrovich, president of the Ecumenical Council and City Club of San Diego, is also a member, along with the Reverend Emily McColl, a Presbyterian minister. Kent Peters, director of the Office of Social Ministry for the Catholic Diocese has been a member since the start. Clyde Romney of Dawson & Associates (formerly the Flannery Group) represents the Mormon community on the board. The newest member is Dr. Donald P. Buteyn, the associate for visitation and a representative of the Rancho Bernardo Presbyterian Church, according to executive director Gina Holloway.
Gwinn, one of the most active nonmembers, says Mitrovich first introduced him to the national coalition when Mitrovich called him just about the time a new gay-owned adult bookstore was opening in Councilman Juan Vargas's district. "I think that George probably called me maybe a year ago or between six months ago and a year ago -- I don't know if I could peg you on the exact date -- and asked if I wanted to get involved in this, and I said that I would be very interested in getting involved with it for a number of reasons," Gwinn said in a phone interview. "I have seen a very strong link between pornography and child abuse and sexual assault as a prosecutor for many years."
Besides speaking out against porn at fund-raising banquets, Gwinn says his top anti-porn priority is to draft new laws against what he says is "not neutral entertainment." He says he understands the constitutional limits of eradicating pornography but says that porn shops belong as far away as possible. "I'd say, somewhere out in the desert would be good, Twentynine Palms maybe. How about the outskirts of Ramona? People could drive out there."
Gwinn also wants reins put on the Internet. "Just the cover pages of most websites are stunning and nauseating to those who realize the impact that this can have so quickly."
But so far, he acknowledges, his record of success against the merchants of porn has been mixed. "I really do think that it has all been very hit and miss.... There have been times when I think one part of the city attorney's office doesn't know what the other part of the city attorney's office is doing because you have attorneys on the civil side of our office who advise the neighborhood code-compliance department, and then you have prosecutors in the code-enforcement unit that enforce the zoning issues, and then you have a vice committee that deals with obscenity and pornography, and my goal is to get everybody on the same page so that you can know what we can and can't do legally. We have got to respect the constitutional rights of businesses that have a right to operate, but by the same token I don't want to have Municipal Code that is unenforceable, that doesn't set rules."
Gwinn oversees 150 lawyers, one of whom, Tristan Higgins-Goodell, was named "Adult Enforcement Liaison" and "Gay and Lesbian Community Liaison" in May. She is reviewing existing language in the Municipal Code to clarify the meaning of Adult Entertainment Ordinance definitions such as "adult bookstore" versus "bookstore" and "mini-motion picture theater" versus "peep-show booth." Higgens-Goddell said she is not doing it "singlehandedly." Gwinn adds that Assistant City Attorney Leslie Devaney had a "fair amount of contact" with the local Citizens for Community Values group and also is working to redraft the city's adult-entertainment ordinances.
Gwinn says he grew up on the 600-acre Mt. Hermon Christian Conference Center, a nondenominational center used for church retreats, in Northern California's Santa Cruz mountains. His father was director of the center until 1978, about the time Gwinn graduated from the 800-student San Lorenzo Valley High School, where he had been involved in student government.
After high school, Gwinn went off to Stanford, where he graduated with a political science degree and then went to law school at UCLA. In his second year there he met and married his wife Beth. They have two daughters, 12 and 11, and a 9-year-old son. After law school he got a job as a deputy city attorney in San Diego. His first public attention came when he started working in the city attorney's Domestic Violence Unit in 1985.
In the first six weeks as head of the unit, according to published reports, he won 19 of 21 cases and has since prosecuted more than 10,000. Gwinn's hard line against domestic violence has won him plaudits from American Lawyer magazine, which declared him one of the top 45 legal advisors in the nation. Gwinn picked up throngs of high-profile female supporters, who became a driving force in his nascent political career.
He was elected city attorney in 1996 after his boss, incumbent John Witt, bowed out of the race at the last minute and Gwinn ran unopposed. His domestic-violence work allowed him to pick up the endorsement of liberals like Santa Monica Democrat Sheila Kuehl, the state's first-ever lesbian assemblywoman.