Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Darren White: "Superchief?" Will Be "Boss" Of APD; Will Report To Mayor, Not CAO, Plus: Newspaper News; Who's Reading? And: A Headline Harry Needs
Darren White, with the permission of the new mayor and the apparent acquiescence of the city's new chief administrative officer, has turned himself into what some ABQ City Hall insiders last night were calling a "Superchief."
That reaction came when White went before the ABQ City Council to be confirmed as Mayor Berry's public safety director and was asked point blank by Councilor Debbie O'Malley whether he was the "boss" of ABQ Police Chief Ray Schultz. White, the former Bernalillo County sheriff, gave a one word response: "Yes."
And the eyebrows arched some more when White added that he does not answer to new Chief Administrative Officer David Campbell. White said he reports "directly" to the mayor.
Boss of the APD chief? Doesn't report to the CAO as all other department directors do and as all past public safety directors have? That is a complete redefinition of the powers of the post. The mayor's public safety directors previously exercised oversight over the police, fire and emergency operations departments, but day-to-day decisions came from the individual chiefs and the public safety director had no veto power over a chief's judgment.
But White, the 2008 GOP nominee for the ABQ US House seat, (He's back, Martin) commands a following in the local Republican Party which was responsible in a big way for bringing Berry to this particular party. David Campbell could not compete with that--at least not right away.
Councilors did not question White's assumption of added powers. They've given him the rope and now they will see what he does with it. He was approved 8 to 1, with Councilor Rey Garduno casting the dissenting vote.
Police Chief Ray Schultz, already derided by critics in the police department's rank and file as a toady to the 11th floor and former Mayor Chavez, is sure to take some more heat by ceding his power to White. But Schultz never has seemed much interested in leading.
THE COUP OF CAMPBELL
As for Campbell, Alligators and wall-leaners will be watching closely how he and White operate together. The public safety director is basically saying he is a co-equal with Campbell, even though the City Charter clearly vests authority over all departments ultimately with the CAO. Will Campbell chafe under the new arrangement or just laugh all the way to the bank with his freshly minted $159,000 annual pay? (Darren will pull down $125,000 a year, less than the $140,000 plus of Chief Schultz--his new underling.)
THE CAMPBELL VOTE
It did not appear Berry worked very hard to change the votes of three Republican councilors who have opposed from the start the appointment of Democrat Campbell as CAO. As expected, Councilors Winter, Cook and Lewis voted against the land-use attorney who was confirmed on a 6 to 3 vote. The foes claimed he had too many potential conflicts-of-interest because he practiced law for clients before city government.
The question now is whether that vote is a trend or the end. Berry walks away with a victory that is wishy-washy, but he got his man and now will see if going forward the trio of his fellow R's are going to be in his corner or not.
While White was quick to create new authority for himself, the limitations of his power and that of Berry's was also quick to surface. Councilor Ken Sanchez read aloud the current city law enforcement policy toward undocumented residents and asked White if that policy will be followed by the new administration. Despite that campaign TV spot Berry cut hammering Mayor Chavez for creating a a "Sanctuary City" for illegals, White told Sanchez the administration would be following the current policy.
So much for election rhetoric, and in this case, for the best.
The Alligators who were pegging Ken Sanchez as the new council president a couple of weeks ago saw their predictions borne out Monday night. Sanchez was unanimously named president of the nine member panel for the coming year. He is the councilor perhaps most steeped in the city's financial affairs. With the city facing a shortfall for the current budget year of up to $20 million or more, he was a natural for the presidency.
Ken got into the spirit of things when he asked Campbell to reduce his $159,000 a year salary. The silence, as they say, was deafening. Campbell said nary a word in response.
Dem Sanchez is now serving his second four year term. GOP Councilor Trudy Jones was named council VP.
THE FIRST TIME
It was Mayor Berry's first meeting with the new council and he appeared before them with greetings in the early going, but did not stay around to watch the confirmation hearings of Campbell or White. The debate over those two quickly surfaced the natural tensions between the council and mayor. And there will be more tension because the two branches of government will next be meeting over whose sacred cows will bleed the most to balance the city's books.
THE DEAD TREE BEAT
What of the newspaper biz in ABQ? We just received the latest circulation figures and there are no surprises. Circulation continues the secular decline it has been on for most of the decade. Audit Bureau of Circulation figures put ABQ Journal daily circulation at 94,066 for the six month period ending September 30. To give you some perspective, in 2005, the morning paper's circulation was at 108,177. That's a decline of 13 percent.
For the all-important Sunday edition--which insiders say generates 40 percent of the paper's profits--we're told circulation also declined. It was at 150, 787 in 2005. The last numbers we saw saw had it at around 130,000, a decline of about 14 percent over the four years. (If you have the Sunday circ numbers for the period ending Sep. 30 email them in.)
Earlier this year the Journal, citing a decline in ad revenue, ceased home delivery and rack sales in 30 communities, mainly in southern NM. The Journal Publishing Co. has also gone through a major round of layoffs.
We've said before that we could see the newspaper going to a six day a week publication schedule and publishing one day exclusively on the Web in order to save money. Some papers are already doing that.
HEADLINE FOR HARRY
Here's just the kind of headline southern NM Dem Congressman Harry Teague is going to need as he defends his seat from Republican Steve Pearce. It's from the editorial pages of the Las Cruces the Sun-News:
Our view: Teague basks in success of PTSD bill
Teague, 60, is on every national hit list you can think of as a prime Republican target for 2010. If he makes it next year, the seat will probably be his for as long as he wants.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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