Monday, November 23, 2009

Barack's Bone To Bill: State Dinner Invite; Let Speculation Begin, Plus: New Mayor Berry Challenged On Multiple Fronts, And: More Sheriff Race News 

Barack & Bill
President Barack has thrown a big bone to Big Bill. The Guv and Barbara will be guests at the Prez's first White House state dinner this week, and that's going to set off a new round of speculation on whether Bill can somehow snag a gig and hightail it out of here before his Guv term ends.

The dinner for the prime minister of India had turned into the hottest ticket in DC town, with 400 invites being sent and a mad scramble to get one.

Some of the wall-leaners and Alligators (prematurely) had Bill packing his bags and heading to Cuba as a special envoy back in August when he visited the island nation, but then there was the shadow of yet another pay to play probe. Those betting against a Bill bon voyage were looking like the smart money players. Maybe they still have the edge, but if Richardson is as buried in mud as they would have you believe, it's not convincing the President of the USA to scrub him from his dinner and dance list.

Hey, maybe Bill can pull Barack aside and get him out on the White House portico where they can share an after-dinner Cuban cigar. (Hint, hint.)

All of this is more than a parlor game to the political classes here. Republicans have every reason to be anxious about Bill getting lucky. That would give Light Guv Di the Guv's chair and a head start on re-election. Of course, the gift would be best received after the legislative session in January where Di will be more than pleased to have Bill preside over the budget bloodletting.

The current propensity of the electorate sees to be to throw any bum out who is in so the incumbency may not be what it used to be, but neither is it a plate of stale bizcochitos. Which means don't be surprised if you see Di at Dillard's buying a new tie for Bill to wear on his dinner date with the Prez.


Our Bill was shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with that other Big Bill--Bill Clinton--over the weekend. Both men attended the funeral of former Governor Bruce King in Moriarty. The cameras showed Clinton warmly greeting Richardson and Bill Chief of Staff Brian Condit who were seated in one of the front rows while Clinton sat with the King family.

It was Richardson and Condit who took in the Super Bowl in 2008 in Red River with none other than Bill Clinton who came with hat in hand expecting Big Bill to endorse Hillary for the presidency. Richardson went with Obama instead and the feud was on--at least for Bill Clinton whose former campaign manager dubbed Bill a "Judas" for dissing the man who made him a national figure.

Is there a Clinton hurdle for Bill to jump to get back into national politics? If there is, maybe one of Bruce King's final acts was to help him jump it by giving the two politicos a chance to look one another in the eye again.

Bruce King always was the go-to guy to make the peace. Now, may he rest in peace.

ABQ Mayor-elect Berry has it right that the city--already facing record unemployment--needs to avoid layoffs. But what if the deficit for the rest of this budget year which goes until June 30 is beyond $20-$25 million? Councilor Ken Sanchez says if that's the case layoffs may be hard to avoid.

We are hearing more rumbling about the millions of dollars the city gives to the ABQ Public Schools for various programs as a pot of money that might be tapped before we have to let the ax fall on the heads of workers. It deserves a look.

Also, remember during the campaign when the mayor-elect argued--to the sharp disagreement of Mayor Chavez--that there was $100 million in unspent funds in various city funds, including unspent bond money, state grants, basic services and tax and impact fees? If that money is really available, as Berry argued, can it be tapped for the general fund? First, can the new administration, now looking at the books, tell us whether that money is indeed there?

For those of you who think we are bleeding hearts and cringe at the sight of seeing heads roll down the steps of downtown government center, bear in mind that there is a hiring freeze in effect and that many vacant positions are not going filled. The new mayor can make sure we have the long-term restructuring we need in a leaner economic time by deciding not to fill those positions and/or reducing the salaries for jobs that are refilled when tax collections start looking up.


Some of our insiders think the position of Chief Operating Officer is a prime one for Berry to eliminate and thereby reinforce his conservative credentials. He's run into a buzz saw by talking about having current Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams move over to the COO slot. Berry could take care of that headache and save the city $150,000 or so in salary and benefits by nixing the position.

With all due respect to current COO Irene Garcia, what exactly does the COO do that can't be done by the department heads she oversees? Well, as one of the Gators opined: "Give me a month and I'll think of something."

The ABQ Journal editorial pages have come down on the side of keeping ABQ police chief Ray Schultz, as Mayor-elect Berry announced he would. It has been a spirited debate since that decision because Berry made the city's skyrocketing property crime rate and a claim that ABQ is a so-called "Sanctuary City" for illegal immigrants key planks of his platform. Yet, the man in charge of those policies--the police chief--is retained.

The Journal cites a litany of failures in Schultz's four and a half year tenure--including the outrageous thefts from the police evidence room. No one was ever prosecuted for stealing cash and other booty from right under the police department's own roof. But in the end the paper and others backing Schultz argue he is "responsive and responsible" and can still be an agent of change.

The whole episode reminds us again that what is said in political campaigns--no matter how often or the depth of conviction--is often given short shrift when the politician finally gets power. If you watched RJ's TV spot on crime, you would have put the odds at him keeping Schultz at 20 to 1---unless you were an Alligator.


Really, the elephant in the room when it comes to the administration of APD is the relationship it will have with the soon-to-be former Bernalillo County sheriff and new public safety director Darren White. How much will White be involved with managing the department? If a lot, how will that go down with the rank and file?

Chief Schultz could look marginalized if White becomes the de facto policy maker and public face of the department. They may have their own personal relationship worked out, but the public awaits how that impacts policy and the cops on the street.

There are no guidelines for the public safety position. Some city councilors contend it isn't even necessary--that we hire well-paid honchos to run police, fire and other public safety agencies and we should let them do it. That's the way it was back in the day, before Ken Schultz became mayor in the mid-80's and added a new layer of bureaucracy on the 11th floor.

Whether the public safety position is needed or not can be debated; what can't be is that getting rid of a government position is as difficult as kicking a lifelong green chile habit.

While the debate sizzles over the retention of Chief Schultz, the one over who will be the new Bernalillo County sheriff to replace the resigning Darren, is going full throttle. One of the favorites for the post, APD Commander Conrad Candelaria, has been taking some buckshot over a "general discharge" he received from the NM Army National Guard as opposed to an "honorable discharge." Info on this has been circulating in our e-mail box and TV news has now surfaced the matter.

A top candidate to become Bernalillo County Sheriff is speaking out, after accusations from a retired National Guard colonel, who says Conrad Candelaria is spreading "falsehoods" about his time in the Guard.
Albuquerque police Commander Conrad Candelaria is upset about a letter written by the retired colonel, calling the whole letter dirty politics.

The five member commission has dozens of applicants to choose from when it meets Nov. 30 to name a replacement to fill out the rest of White's term which runs until the end of 2010. From the start Candelaria's name has been high on the list, so it's no surprise he is taking fire as decision day nears.

He says he will release his records to the Dem-controlled county commission if they feel it necessary to clear the air. He may want to do that on his own. If he gets the gig, Candelaria, 43, has said he will seek a full, four year term. If the air is not cleared now and Candelaria gets the nod, the guns will be simply reloaded with fresh buckshot for what we expect to be a crowded June primary.


Hart Stebbins
Talk is starting over whether Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins will draw a challenger in the June 2010 primary. She was appointed to the commission in May by Big Bill when Commissioner Deanna Archuleta left town to take a DC job with the Obama administration.

No names have yet emerged as challengers to the political newcomer who represents the ABQ SE Heights, but the talk comes as Maggie, who has an eclectic consulting background in government, talks of beefing up the county's ethics ordinance. Could the two events be related? You mean some folks would want Hart Stebbins off the commission because she is not a "team player" and wants to talk transparency and more accountability?

Forget it. That could never happen around here.

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