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Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Transition Beat: Whose Playing Downtown? Plus: New Buzzword: Privatize? And: Death Calls For Justice Gene Franchini 

The names of those serving on the transition teams of ABQ Mayor-elect RJ Berry and who are examining city hall departments have not been released. A spokeswoman for Berry says the names will be included in the final transition reports, but they may not be available until after Berry is sworn in December 1. They are saying the teams are still not final, 25 days away from the transfer of power. Transition members are not paid, but in the past many have often gone on to work in the departments they oversaw during the transition. We'll see if that's the case with this administration once the public is given a full list of those taking part.

Meanwhile, City Hall Alligators come with some of the names you want to know. For example, Julie Dreike, a longtime top aide to former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson is serving on the team overseeing the Human Resources department. Attorneys Pete Domenici, Jr. and Mark Jarmie are among those serving on the team looking at the Legal Department. Democratic State Rep. Kiki Saavedra is on the team examining the parks department as is Connie Beimer who now works in administration at the University of New Mexico but once worked under Saavedra who retired from parks. Kiki now chairs the state House Appropriations Committee which Berry served on when he was a member of the Legislature.

We're also told Jeep Gilliland, a former president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor--AFL-CIO, is working the transition for Berry. He is now a Santa Fe lobbyist. The big city employees union--AFSCME--endorsed Mayor Chavez, but they could not get him across the finish line.

Readers are now free to badger all these transition members for job information. At least several dozen citizens, including neighborhood reps, have traditionally taken part in mayoral transitions.

Earlier, the mayor-elect did release the names of six persons who are leading the transition, including businessman Sherman McCorkle, Sheriff Darren White, who will be public safety director, GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga and Demesia Padilla, a CPA, who was the GOP candidate for state treasurer in 2006.

A GRILLED CHIEF

The insiders are also talking about a "seven hour grilling" undergone by ABQ Police Chief Ray Schultz by the transition team looking at the police department. They say Sheriff White, who will become Public Safety Director December 1st, appeared before the questioning started, put his arm around Schultz and told the team that he's a good man, or words to that effect. He said the team should not not be too tough on the chief. After that, the transition team went to work and started looking in "every nook and cranny" of APD, say insiders.

Speculation continues on how long Schultz will stay on as chief. He has a good relationship with White, but if Schultz is too responsive to him that could make it more difficult for Berry and soon-to-be chief administrative officer David Campbell to manage. Or so goes the riff from the wall-leaners.

THE MONEY MESSAGE


Berry has yet to send his first message over the city's fiscal crisis--a probable $10 million shortage for the budget year year that ends June 30. The first inkling of how he intends to mange city finances may come when he announces the pay for his incoming department directors and whether any deputy directors or other positions are going to be left empty. If his directors go in at Chavez era salaries--well over the $100,000 mark--he could lose some credibility after conducting a campaign emphasizing his desire to get city spending under control.

THE LEARNING CURVE

The Downtown Gators describe Berry, 46, as still in a learning mode. He does not have executive experience and that explains why the decision making process may be a slow go for his first year. Berry is said to have a "nice guy" image with the city employees he has thus far interacted with. Of course, he doesn't want it to be too nice.

GOING PRIVATE?

Will there be privatization of city services under this first Republican city administration in nearly 25 years? Maybe. The city's 311 citizen contact center could be targeted to go private, say our sources. And they say the city's Solid Waste Department could be another candidate for privatization. But such a move has implications with city employees and won't come without major involvement of the city council. A key issue is how much money would really be saved by going private?

THANKS, NANCY
Heinrich, Speaker Nancy & Ben Ray
Well, it looks as though NM newbie congressmen Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan are back on the same page when it comes to Indian health care. We blogged this week of how Martin's aggressive press posture over helping to get the Indian Health Care System reauthorized by the US House might have made Ben Ray feeling a chill. After all, his northern district is nearly 20 percent Native American.

But Wednesday it was Speaker Nancy to the rescue: From the D.C. PR desks:

US Representatives Martin Heinrich (NM-1) and Ben Ray Luján (NM-3) joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress for a meeting in the Capitol with Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of Americans Indians, and other tribal leaders to highlight the benefits of health insurance reform to the Native American community.

Hey, how come Ben Ray is sitting closer to Nancy than Martin? Okay, we'll drop it.

DIGGING AT DI

Republicans are turning the heat up again under Lt. Governor Denish, the presumed 2010 Dem Guv nominee. They're now saying she spent federal monies on Christmas cards and polling. GOP Guv candidate Allen Weh wants a federal investigation. Why stop there? How about they investigate Weh's millions in federal contracts for his CSI Aviation which has done so much business in Iraq? Were all those federal dollars spent appropriately? Yeah, this game cuts both ways. At least around here. (Here's more dead tree coverage.)

DEATH CLAIMS JUSTICE FRANCHINI

Gene Franchini's final words were before the first year students of the University of New Mexico School of Law and they were about the importance of a judge following his conscience. Moments later the former NM Supreme Court Chief Justice and District Court Judge was gone, collapsing in the classroom from an apparent heart attack.

If he had to pick how he was going to go, that may have been how. He was well-known for his generosity with the state's youth. The Gene Franchini Scholarship for the NM Mock Trial program was established in his honor and he served as a mentor to numerous lawyers just starting out.

He was a real gentleman, just a wonderful man. He was from one of the original
Italian families in ABQ and was greatly respected. He will not only be remembered as chief justice but for stepping down from the district court bench as an act of protest against mandatory sentencing passed by the Legislature, said attorney and ABQ Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli, who is also from one of the city's original Italian families that settled here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Franchini, 74, had in fact mentioned his resignation from the bench just prior to succumbing, according to those attending the ethics lecture which was an annual event for the retired jurist.

He said it may be true that "you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can never fool your conscience anytime."

Franchini loved his La Politica. He turned up on your blog last year, attending a farewell party for former State Senator Manny Aragon who had been sentenced to prison on federal corruption charges. That report garnered statewide attention, but Franchini's attendance was not to countenance any wrongdoing, but an expression of friendship. It was a reminder of how the blending of ethnic groups has made ABQ a city of such rich--and rare--diversity.

Franchini retired from the high court in 2002. He attended St. Mary's grade and high schools and was a 1957 graduate of the University of New Mexico. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University and began practicing law in NM in 1960.

His immediate survivors include his wife of 40 years, Glynnnie, and four children.

More on the life of Franchini in this interview he conducted in 2003 with Appellate News. ABQ Journal coverage here.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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