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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

City Hall Shake-Out: Campbell Bows Out; Perry Moves Up; Our Inside Playbook, Plus: Mayor Berry & The"F Word," And: Why Session Is Like A Potato 

How would you like to go to work with one hand tied behind your back? You wouldn't. Neither did ABQ Chief Administrative Officer David Campbell so no jaws dropped when it was announced Monday that Campbell will leave what was traditionally the city's most powerful position.

We say "was" because under Campbell, Darren White, chief administrative officer for public safety, took over responsibility for the police and fire departments--50% of the city's budget--and left the CAO somewhat denuded. Campbell had the title but not all the power. It is an unprecedented arrangement since the modern form of government came into being in 1974, but neither a quiescent city council or press seemed to care much and still don't.

It appears that White's hand is strengthened by Campbell's departure--at least in the short term. The new CAO will be Rob Perry, the current city attorney who worked with White when both were in the GOP Guv administration of Gary Johnson. Perry was secretary of corrections when White was director of public safety. Both also worked on the recent transition of GOP Governor Martinez. Both are hard-core Republican conservatives, raising questions if City Hall will take even more of a rightward tilt with the departure of Democrat Campbell.

Campbell's city council confirmation as CAO was opposed by conservative councilors who wanted an R. Now they will get one in Perry whose confirmation is expected to slide through. Those who do not see eye-to-eye with him describe him as a worthy opponent, as well as qualified and capable.

Which leads us to Mayor RJ Berry. He is is the man in the middle, a low-key executive who must struggle against the worst instincts of the far right in order to maintain his popularity in a centrist city. In that regard, having Dem Campbell helped. But his biggest fear remains a re-election challenge from the right, a challenge that could very well cost him a second term. It's one of the reasons City Hall observers see Republican White, who has close ties to the nominating wing of the GOP, getting so long a leash from the Mayor. Now with Perry as CAO, Berry's street cred with base Republicans goes up a notch.

Will Perry and White collude like old frat brothers or will Perry, not a political wallflower, chafe under the arrangement the same way Campbell did and seek to take back the power that was traditionally the CAO's?

If there is enough trouble within the public safety ranks, it could happen. The threat of a no-confidence vote from the APD union still hangs over White's head, and another deadly police shooting recently is a reminder of the many that occurred in 2010 and raised serious questions.

PERRY POWER

With no excess money and Republicans liking best government that governs least, there is no broad agenda for Perry to execute. This is a caretaker administration. The emphasis is on crime fighting and no tax increases and little else.

The major controversy among insiders the past 15 months has been over how a law enforcement officer--White--has become the face of the city as Berry seemed comfortable staying in the shadows. That could change as Berry inches ever closer to 2013 and re-election.

Campbell, 57, leaves the city to become a diplomat with the US Foreign Service, a career the veteran attorney was pursuing before he paused it to become Berry's CAO. He served as city attorney twenty years ago under Mayor Saavedra and is responsible for mounting successful court challenges to various sections of the city charter. But it will be Campbell's acquiescence to the dilution of the CAO's powers during his brief tenure that he will be most remembered for. It also means David Campbell's legacy will be defined by the success or failure of Darren White who assumed the powers that Campbell would have had in another time.

NEW CITY ATTORNEY

Mayor Berry shouldn't have much trouble finding a new city attorney. Rob Perry was brought in at a salary of $138,000, about $20,000 higher than his predecessor. With the across the board pay cut most city employees took to help balance the budget, Perry is still making about $133,000 a year. That's more than local judges make and is also pretty attractive to a number of lawyers who have seen business ease in recent years because of the recession.

Berry's city attorney pick must be approved by the city council. Outgoing CAO Campbell is making about $154,000 a year. He will leave March 10.

THE F WORD?

The city resumed contract talks with disgruntled firemen Monday who have been battling the city in the courts over pay raises they were denied and pay cuts that were instituted.

Disgruntled may be an understatement. A red decal with the initials "FMB" has popped up on the hats of some of the firemen. Some say it stands for "Forever My Brothers." Others maintain the message is "Fuck Mayor Berry."

Somehow the "F word" doesn't seem to fit the affable mayor, but during this recession we're hearing and seeing things we never dreamed of.

THE FALLING STAR

Mayor Berry, we sure hope this was part of your recent reading because a lot of us think this is what a downtown arena will do to the ABQ treasury:

Nearly two years after a new management company took over the financially troubled Santa Ana Star Center, the city of Rio Rancho is having to cough up $3.6 million in taxpayer money to keep the 6,500-seat arena afloat.

So far, Berry has shied away from the downtown arena, an idea that surfaces regularly--like a bad penny. Only this scheme would mean millions of bad pennies for city taxpayers to absorb.

BIG BACON

Here is the money paragraph (literally) from Senator Bingaman's news release on Obama's budget proposal:

While the overall federal budget is slated for significant deficit reductions in the president's new budget request for fiscal year 2012, the DOE portion of the budget would grow by 11.8 percent over FY 2010, and DOE investments in New Mexico would grow by an even larger percentage, 15.7 percent...

House Republicans seeking larger cuts in federal spending pose a threat to the increased lab funding, but the betting odds say we get the cash as part of the move to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal. But with the impact this has on the economy here, we'll keep watching for any potholes.

MORE POLLING

Nothing dramatic, but here is some more PPP New Mexico polling. They look at how former NM GOP Guv Gary Johnson would do in a GOP presidential primary here. (Not well.)

WHAT IT'S LIKE

A Roundhouse wall-leaner sums up the state of affairs as the 60 day session of the state Legislature drags on:

It's kind of like a baked potato--without any butter, sour cream, chives, bacon or shredded cheese. It's just kind of one of those things.

To which we can only add: Unless John Arthur Smith streaks through the capitol wearing only flip-flops, this session is set to become one of the most forgettable ever.

THE BOTTOM LINES

A reader sends these headlines from the year 2039:

Castro finally dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be imported legally, but President Chelsea Clinton has banned all smoking.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011 Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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