Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shootings Shake City & Test Chief, Plus: More On Martinez TV Issues, And: Some Tax Talk 

You would think with our reputation that Albuquerque would have experienced every kind of crime you could think of. Well, up until yesterday we really hadn't. A mass shooting at a local business--not motivated by robbery--that claimed three lives (including that of the killer) and wounded four others was apparently a first for the state's largest city.

The shooter, 37 year old Robert Reza, left Emcore fiber optics and solar photovoltaics on a medical leave near over a year ago. Police say he was after the mother of his two children, who he was in a custody dispute with and who was wounded but survived. Two other Emcore employees weren't so lucky. Reza finished his deadly day by turning the gun on himself.

Emcore is on wobbly legs. Its stock price closed at 78 cents a share Monday, far down from its glory days when it traded for more than $10. Competition from China as well as from domestic rivals is a major concern.

It was ABQ Police Chief Ray Schultz who handled crisis management chores in the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting that struck the city Monday morning.

The chief's experience showed. He was calm and deliberative on the big news which shook the community and sent the rumor mill spinning into overdrive. He quashed the rumors early and effectively. He did have some trouble with the number of persons slain, but that's not unusual under the extraordinary circumstances. And Public Safety Director Darren White made an appearance on KKOB-AM radio that showed his ability to get on top of a story.

ABQ Mayor RJ Berry also hit the right notes during a terrible day in city history. He showed up at the scene but did not get in the way.

Showing up and acknowledging the tragedy is important. When five persons were slain in the shocking 1996 Hollywood video slayings we remember the silence from city hall.

But the city policy on major crime news of sometimes having the police chief speak and at other times having White speak continues. It can be confusing and if public confidence equals consistency it can be problematic.


Not to get too morbid but this is what the aftermath of the collapse of the Rio Rancho housing bubble looks like:

According to Rio Rancho Police, they have been called to 12 suicide attempts so far this year, dramatically outpacing the number of suicide calls in 2009--16 total. As far as actual suicides, there have been five reported this year, compared to 18 the year before. In 2008, police were called to 25 suicide attempts and 10 actual suicides.

Sabrina Strong, who is on the board of the New Mexico Suicide Prevention Coalition, said suicide prevention hotlines have seen an increase in calls. “It’s because of economic problems,” Strong said. “It puts stress on everyone.

A statistical quirk or yet another sign of the Great Recession?


Reader reaction to that appearance by ABQ Public Safety Director Darren White in the latest TV ad for GOP Guv hopeful Susana Martinez ad. One reader sent in the section of the city's Merit System Ordinance that deals with the political conduct of city employees and wondered whether White was in violation:

No employee shall participate in the following types of political activity:

(A) Using his or her position or employment with the city to influence support of other officials or employees of the city for or against any candidate or issue or political action committee or other similar organization in any election or pre-election activity; provided, however, that nothing herein shall deny the right of an official or employee of the city to express his or her views on any issue.

White is not identified as the city's public safety director in the Martinez ad, but he is identified as such on TV news in his many official appearances as a spokesman.

If you do not overtly identify the city position you hold in a TV spot, does that exempt you from the provision that you should not use your city job "to influence support...for or against any candidate or issue..."?

The city ordinance may need to be revisited in light of White's unprecedented political activity so it specifically addresses how city employees can cut political commercials for TV, radio and Internet. Or an ethics complaint could be filed and it could be sorted out from there.

Some readers asked whether Chief Administrative Officer David Campbell gave his approval to White appearing in the Martinez spot. We point out again, that in an unprecedented move, for the first time the CAO does not have direct supervision over the public safety director who has stated that he reports to the mayor.

We ran into the mayor at Barelas Coffeehouse prior to interviewing with KOB-TV on the controversy over White's appearance in the Martinez ad. The mayor said he was unaware that White was doing the commercial.


Our blog on the travails of the Susana Martinez Guv campaign Monday brought a variety of reaction, including this one from reader Alan Schwartz:

I don't get the direction of the Martinez campaign. It seems to me that she is being presented on a daily basis with opportunities to sell a "change" message and put Diane Denish on the spot.
Sometimes, it's something as mundane as a KRQE-TV piece from Larry Barker on profligate state spending. Martinez should be jumping on that and forcing Denish into a "me too" response.

Martinez keeps hammering her law and order meme without any indication of how local law enforcement is managed by the Governor's office. You and others have pointed this out before, but does she need to be reminded again that she is not running for attorney general and that the AG is an independently elected office?

Thanks, Alan. One of the reasons Susana is hammering the law and order theme, as you put it, is because Diane has been attacking her record as Dona Ana County district attorney. But it is up to Susana to keep moving forward and defining the race on her terms not the Dems.


Why do we say it is New Mexico's wealthiest taxpayers that need to help shoulder the burden of any new taxes to resolve the state's ongoing budget crisis? Here's why :

The gap between the wealthiest Americans and middle- and working-class Americans has more than tripled in the past three decades, according to a June 25 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

New data show that the gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest parts of the population in 2007 was the highest it's been in 80 years, while the share of income going to the middle one-fifth of Americans shrank to its lowest level ever.

The CBPP report attributes the widening of this gap partly to Bush Administration tax cuts, which primarily benefited the wealthy. Of the $1.7 trillion in tax cuts taxpayers received through 2008, high-income households received by far the largest...


We haven't blogged much of that pie-in-the-sky solar manufacturing plant unveiled in Rio Rancho earlier this year. That's because nothing is happening--as we and others predicted when looking at the financials presented by the Green 2V. The June 1 groundbreaking deadline has come and gone and with it probably any hope for the touted 1,500 jobs the company claimed it would bring here.

Seems Rio Rancho may want to to look into beefing up mental health services for its citizens instead of focusing on economic schemes that feed false hopes and divert public resources.


Back on the tax rates, Paul Gessing of the conservative Rio Grande Foundation, notes that the gross receipts tax in NM cities is hittng 7 percent and well beyond in many locales. That's the real business killer, not our too-low personal income tax rates on the wealthy.

On another note, will someone please email in and tell us where to find all the jobs that were created when we slashed the rate on the rich from 8.2 percent to nearly 4 percent? We're just asking.

We know this is not a popular rant. Many in the middle-class still support tax cuts after two decades of being promised by that they would win life's lottery and find themselves soon drenched in riches. But a funny thing happened on the way to the bank, the money ran out...

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