Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Politics Of A Serial Killer Spree; Are There Any? Plus: Val Meets With Marty, Says A Gator, And: On The Biz Beat; Intel Lays Off Even More 

Michelle Gina Valdez
It appeared this could be the year when an ABQ mayoral election didn't revolve around crime and public safety, but the grisly work of the city's apparently first documented serial killer and the discovery, so far, of 13 young and presumably female victims will change that. The sour economy is still the story above the fold, but the West Side slaughter will embed itself in the collective consciousness and rekindle fear of crime and be inserted--overtly or not--into the October election.

How the mayoral candidates handle the issue will be of interest. Will they question why the serial killer--now presumed dead or inactive--was not thwarted earlier in his deadly spree? Will they pledge even more resources to public safety which is already gobbling up an outsized portion of the city budget? Will they shrug and say nothing can really stop a determined serial killer? Will they use the killings as a jumping off point to discuss the problem of drug abuse--the apparent cause of the victims falling to their still unknown killer or killers? Or will they look at the apparent serial killings as an historical oddity, not representative of the city's social fabric?

These young daughters of Albuquerque--Michelle Gina Valdez, a mother of two and pregnant at the time of her murder, was 22; Victoria Chavez was 28 and a mother of one--are no longer buried and forgotten. They and most of the other feared victims appear to hail from native Hispanic families whose ties here go back centuries. The photo of Michelle Gina posted here today shows her as she probably wished she would always be--happy and hopeful. Her demise is not an embarrassment to the city, but it is a tragedy and is legitimate cause for political inquiry. But first city fathers and religious leaders can consider a proper citywide memorial service for all of the victims of this horrendous crime. Isn't that something all our municipal candidates should agree on?


The only instance in city history that we can recall that comes even remotely close to the West Side slaughter is the March 1996 slayings of five persons in connection with the robbery of the Hollywood video store at Central and San Mateo. Three of the victims were teens. We've long felt those murders were a turning point in the city's crime history. After that, we went from mainly small town crime to big city stuff with more gangs and a generally more menacing tone to crime around here.

Marty Chavez was also mayor during the Hollywood Video killings. Like today, his instincts were to initially downplay its impact, but the outpouring of community grief moved him, as we recall, to participate in setting up a memorial fund. We and other Chavez watchers expect him to eventually lead the community in a full and proper acknowledgement of the evil that has now happened on his city's front porch.


On a lighter note, was that actor and possible 2010 Dem Guv contender visiting with ABQ Mayor Chavez at the mayor's office Monday? It was, according to one of our Alligators. Chavez, who was the '98 Dem Guv nominee, is still talked about as a possible 2010 Guv candidate, despite dropping out of the race last year to pursue a bid for the US Senate and then dropping out of that contest as well. The frontrunner for the nod is Light Guv Diane Denish who Chavez did poorly against in polling match-ups and that caused him to go for Senate instead. So far, there is no major Hispanic contender announced for the Dem Guv run. Senate Leader Sanchez is toying with it, but Chavez's aides are talking him up for Guv, but first they have to get him re-elected mayor in October. As you can tell, there was plenty of politics for Marty and Val to talk about.

And some more on the mayor's race. KOB-TV's Jeff Maher is reporting Mayor Marty is having the easiest time of it when it comes to collecting those 3,300 five dollar contributions necessary to qualify for public campaign financing. He could be done with it as soon as Friday. Contenders Cadigan, Romero, O'Malley and Berry are working it hard, but suspense is building on whether all of them will be able to make the deadline.

And three more candidates picked up packets to make the mayoral run, but none of them are political name brands. Will they all make the ballot by getting 6,600 signatures? It's doubtful. Two of the three say they will privately finance their campaigns. Public financed candidates will get about $328,000. There is enough money in the public kitty for about four qualified candidates.


As some of our Alligators feared, more layoffs have been announced at Rio Rancho's Intel. The word is that the lost jobs will total less than the 100-200 layoffs recently announced by the computer chip giant. But they sting nonetheless. Intel recently announced a big expansion of the plant that will employ some 1,500, but only for a year or so. The Gators wondered if despite that expansion Intel would continue to shrink its permanent work force. The company has gone from employing over 5,200 to about 3,200 and with these layoffs it appears we are headed toward the 3,000 level and maybe less. The temporary construction work is a boost, but the long term outlook for Intel in Rio Rancho remains worrisome.


The Monday timing of that Hewlett Packard job fair in Rio Rancho is interesting. That wouldn't have anything do with the Legislature closing in on a decision on putting up $12 million in capital outlay funds, would it? The proposal is to help the computer giant build a customer support center there. HP is not saying what would happen to its plans to hire up to 1,300 workers by 2013 at the center if the state cash does not come through.

The job fair attracted a huge crowd--over 1,300 prospective employees--and that news is being watched by lawmakers who will decide on the HP money. We're told the legislative pot that holds the money for the HP project only has in it about $130 million this year--down dramatically from years past as oil and gas revenues dry up.

Thee is a pot of money designated for "statewide" capital projects. That's the pot Big Bill is asking lawmakers to tap for HP.

When we pointed recently out that HP has $10 billion in cash, supporters of the outlay argued back that the Legislature has put up money for a lot less worthy projects. Will long lines of prospective employees lining up with resumes give momentum to the HP funding?

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