Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Votes Not There Yet For Berry's CAO Pick; We Go Inside And In-Depth, Plus: Special Session Posturing, And: The Rumbling Rodellas 

Mayor-elect Berry & Campbell
Can Mayor-elect RJ Berry save his appointment of attorney David Campbell as the city's chief administrative officer and avoid a major embarrassment and weakening of his administration as it begins Dec 1st? Berry supporters think they will have the city council votes for Campbell's confirmation when the time comes, but right now they admit they don't have them.

We put on our reporter's hat to track the action. GOP City Councilor Trudy Jones told us flatly: "I support his nomination and will be voting in the affirmative." However, Westside Councilor-elect Dan Lewis, also a Republican, revealed the deep divide among the GOP over Democrat Campbell taking the second most powerful position in city government. He tells us he will vote "no."

(Campbell) is a private attorney who has represented hundreds of business clients who have come before the city...Campbell will have to navigate a minefield of potential conflicts of interest as he tries to keep the people's business above the legal and ethical obligations his law profession requires him to uphold.. I also believe it is precisely that type of "who you know" way of doing business that we have to move away from in order to professionalize the administration...

While Lewis is saying the battle is not over ideology, most veteran city hall observers don't see it it that way. They point out that the council has its first GOP majority since 1985 and Berry is the first R mayor since then. Councilor Jones reports she is receiving a torrent of email and phone calls from Republicans who claim Campbell is not conservative enough. She adds: "They are telling me he is not a "born-again Christian."

Councilor Ken Sanchez, a Democrat, told us he will be voting for Campbell, saying the mayor "deserves to have his choice" and the council and the mayor "need to work together, especially during these challenging economic times."


Besides Jones and Sanchez, Campbell, 55, appears to have the support of GOP Councilor Don Harris who told us he did not see a problem with the appointment. That's three firm votes. He needs five. Republican Councilor-elect Mike Cook is still on the fence. Republican Brad Winter is still against, say insiders, despite a meeting Winter had with the mayor-elect Monday morning. Also, Dem Rey Garduno is currently being counted as a no vote. Including Lewis, that is three votes against Campbell.

The swing votes for Campbell appear to be Republican Cook and liberal Democratic Councilors Ike Benton and Debbie O'Malley. The libs have concerns over Campbell's ties to the development community, but also have shown the ability to move to the middle. If it does come down to them, there is a lot on their shoulders. If they kill the Campbell appointment, they could very well deal a serious wound to the new mayor, launching a four year council-mayoral war. City tradition has been for the council to ask some tough questions of the mayor's CAO choice, but in the end allow him have his pick.


There was a sign Tuesday night that Councilor Benton could be warming to Berry, or vice-versa. The mayor-elect said he would take a fresh look at the proposed downtown arena, a pet project of Benton's but one that has been stalled because of the steep price tag. Berry's conciliatory stance on the issue was linked by some of the Alligators to the upcoming Campbell vote and Benton's now crucial role.


As for the conflict of interest concerns cited by Lewis and Winter, some of them may be moot. Campbell has practiced land use and zoning law for decades and appeared often before the council. But many of those clients are long gone or the issues long resolved. Also, the city attorney must pass approval on major contracts as must the city council. Winter has yet to provide specific examples of what conflicts he is concerned about. When we asked Lewis, he said he did not have any specific clients of Campbell in mind. Still, Campbell will be expected to outline in detail how he would handle potential conflicts with those he has represented and who now come before the city to do business.

Councilor Jones
By appointing a Democrat like Campbell, Berry sent a message that he intends to govern from the center, but the ABQ base of the state Republican Party is now largely devoid of centrists and they delivered many of the votes that put Berry in office. Many of them want one of their own in the city's top job. But the new mayor is being advised to hang tough by Councilor Jones. She points out that Campbell could be given the CAO job and the council confirmation could be put on hold. "There is precedent for that." she said. However, we're told by city hall lawyers that a new city charter amendment passed Oct. 6 states that the mayor can only have the CAO on the job for 45 days without council confirmation. Ironically, Campbell served on the commission that recommended the amendment.

Jones, in the real estate biz, is important in this battle because her thinking is usually in line with that of the business community as represented by the Economic Forum, the editorial pages of the ABQ Journal and the portion of the GOP not enamored with the social agenda of its right-wing. That middle-of-the-road approach has held sway over city politics for decades.


Lewis's council campaign cultivated firm ties to the state GOP and its executive director. Winter developed those ties when he ran and lost for mayor in 2005. But observers speculate his position against Campbell may be more layered. Winter's wife, Nann Houliston, is a high-powered utility lawyer who served under Campbell when he was city attorney from 1989 to 1993. They both later became successful in private practice. Insiders wonder whether there is any conflict between Nann and David that has influenced Brad. Sounds like a soap opera, huh?


By all accounts former State Rep. Berry is a collaborative politician, not a top-down guy. He will want to work with the council as much as possible--not against it--realizing that conflict is already built into the system. But when told of Berry's quandary, several of our analysts advised hard ball. One suggested that Berry enlist Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White in the struggle to get disgruntled R's on board with the Campbell appointment. Berry has named White as his handsomely compensated Public Safety Director. That was seen as a nod to the Republican right. Now, ask the analysts, shouldn't White be used by Berry to call off the dogs? And if he can't, what does that say?

Berry is also being advised to be aggressive, to work over rookie Lewis and remind him that they were elected together and should work together. But if Lewis and Winter are gone, the reasoning goes, so be it. At this point, a 6-3 win would look strong. If he is forced to back down from Campbell or loses the vote outright, he won't be crippled, but he would be limping badly.

Berry won election Oct. 6 with about 44 percent of the vote, but now that the election is over he has the goodwill of many of those who opposed him who are now more concerned about policy than politics. If councilors derail his young administration over Campbell without damning evidence of wrongdoing or proof that he can't do the job, it will be an historic departure from a nonpartisan city tradition. Stay tuned to this station.


While the battle raged over Campbell, the current CAO, Ed Adams, was trying to clean up after Mayor Marty who decided to give outsized pay raises to several of his top aides as a going away present. Adams tried hard to justify the post-election payback, but it was a stretch.


We've seen a lot of finger-pointing and posturing the last two days of the special legislative session. The lawmakers dumped on the Guv and he dumped back. The liberals can't have tax increases so they vented. The conservatives were chagrined that they can't cut education funding more. But unless the Senate and House leadership expects a multi-week session, they need to get down to work on the big bill to fill the $650 million hole blown in the state budget by the plunge in state revenues.

House Speaker Ben Lujan analyzed the outlook:

"We're still trying to get some possible compromise. We haven't solidified anything," Lujan said in an interview. "We're all talking. We're not at an impasse."

The sticking point is still how much should be cut from public education.

The AP cut to the chase in its coverage of Day Four, taking note of the budget bill being drafted in the House and giving short shrift to the time wasting in the Senate over whether they can raise taxes to solve the budget despite the Governor's proclamation prohibiting tax bills.

There are not enough votes for a tax increase and the Governor won't sign one anyway, so will the Senate get a move-on now? As we blogged yesterday, we think getting a bill that fills most of the hole seems quite doable. But it may take another round in the regular legislative session in January to complete the job.


Big Bill is back
in the blogosphere. After being raked over the coals on the Senate floor for being a wasteful spender, the Guv strikes back. And he uses an argument that we have long used: It was not just the chief executive who authorized the spending orgy of the Glorious Bull Market Years--it was done with nearly the unanimous approval of the Legislature. Hear that, all you in the peanut gallery. Don't just throw stones at Bill, save some for the lawmakers.


Rio Arriba!


From the State Senate media rep to us:

Joe, After speaking with Senator (Mary Kay) Papen, I wanted to let you know that she intended her Senate Joint Resolution 1 (voluntarily asking legislators to forgo 10 percent of their $159 a day in per diem) to apply not just to the current special session, but also the regular legislative session beginning in January 2010 and any special sessions that might occur during 2010.

We have a feeling there will be about as many takers for cutting per diem at future sessions as there are for this one--which is not many.

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