Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Death Calls For Harry Kinney; ABQ Mayor Remembered By La Politica; A Key Figure In City History, Plus: My Bottom Lines For A New Mexico Wednesday 

Mayor Kinney
Harry Kinney was nothing if not persistent. From 1974 through 1993 his name appeared on every mayoral election ballot in the city of Albuquerque. He won two and lost four. When I received word of Kinney's passing late Tuesday from KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson, I wondered if Harry, 81, had, in a final act of persistence, willed himself to finish up just days after the city commemorated its 300th birthday. I don't doubt it because no one was more enamored with the history of the Duke City and no one knew its every nook and cranny as he did.

Kinney certainly earned his place in the storied political history of the state's largest city. It was 1974 when Dyson and I were cub reporters at KUNM-FM radio, just weeks before Richard Nixon resigned as President. That June Kinney was chosen as the city's first mayor under the new nonpartisan mayor-council form of government. The times were not dissimilar to today. The national government was beset with ethical problems and the first energy crisis was in full swing, but Albuquerque got lucky.

Kinney, a low-key, pragmatic civil engineer relished making the trains run on time and watching the infant government take shape and grow roots. There would be no sweeping changes; normalcy would be the watchword as the nation recovered from its national shock; Albuquerque's journey to become a major American city would proceed uninterrupted.

"He was a key transitional figure in the city's history," declared former NM Governor Dave Cargo. "He made the new system work, and there was no guarantee that it would."


The balding and semi-portly Kinney resembled everyone's image of their favorite uncle, but his avuncular surface belied a tough and sometimes tempermental personality that could play hardball with the best of them.

"One day in the mid 70's I was criticizing him on the air and an official city car pulls up to the station. Out jumps Harry. He storms into the studio and yells, 'Let me on the air, God dammit!' Well, he was already on the air, so I said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the mayor of Albuquerque!" So recalled Mike Santullo, Albuquerque talk radio pioneer who ran for mayor in 74' with Kinney and 31 others. (Yes, 33 mayoral candidates!)

Kinney, a middle of the road Republican, saw his most severe test as mayor come in 1975 when Albuquerque police staged their one and only strike. "He was in Europe with his wife, Carol, and they had to fly all night to get back. It was as tense as it gets," remembered Jim Baca who was then Kinney's press aide and who would become mayor himself in 97'.

Despite resolving the strike, Kinney became the first in a long line of mayor's rejected for second terms, a record that stood until 2005 when Martin Chavez finally secured a second, consecutive four years.

But mayor was the job Kinney coveted and he could not let go. Losing in 77' to David Rusk, he recaptured the office from him in 81'. It was to be the end of his political career, but not of his love affair with the city.


It was a quintessential Albuquerque moment in the 90's when news broke that the former mayor had taken a job driving a taxi, toting passengers to and from the airport and describing the attributes of Albuquerque to all of them. If it were New York, they may have laughed, but here, where career is what you say it is, affection for him grew.

“He wasn't flamboyant nor egotistical. He wasn't constantly trying to further his political career. He just cared about Albuquerque and the people who lived here." Eulogized Baca.

Albuquerque is a hodgepodge of a city where the working poor rub shoulders with the well-off; where unpretentiousness is the order of the day, and where persistence is often needed to stay around. Harry Kinney figured out Albuquerque, loved and nurtured it and never let go.


Quite a bit of feedback and insight on our blog Monday on the financial reports for the major state candidates. Here's an example.

"Joe, doesn't $20,000 seem a bit much (for Governor Richardson) to research a guy (J.R. Damron) he's not worried about? I know its done, but I wonder if the money was also spent doing 'self' research. Maybe clear up anything that might get in the way in 2008, say, exaggerated claims about one's prospects for playing major league ball, for instance?"

Maybe so. And don't put it past the operatives to get out bad press stories well before the election, like the Guv's baseball problems....Another sharp-eyed reader gave us a chuckle when he pointed this one out from the Big Bill finance report.

"Did you see the $5,000 Richardson got from Senator Clinton’s Leadership PAC, HILL PAC? I thought that was pretty interesting."

So did I, but who knows how the chips will fall in 08.' Everyone needs all the friends they can get....And finally, this non-political item is late and from Easter Sunday, but too funny not to pass on.

"Archbishop Sheehan asked parishioners during the 10:00 am Easter service at the Cathedral in Santa Fe Sunday morning if they had heard that the Pope had come down with a case of bird flu. Apparently the Cardinals gave it to him."

Send your e-mail from the link at the top of the page. And thanks for tuning in today. Back tomorrow. Same time, same station.

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