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Friday, February 18, 2011

Days Of Darren: Is APD No-Confidence Vote A Game Changer For Berry? Plus: Where's The Robles Resignation?, And: Susana Takes On Brooks & PIO's--Again 

Darren White
Mayor Berry was told when he hired Darren White as ABQ's public safety director to expect a wild ride. Now he's getting it. For the second time in his career White has been condemned with a vote of no confidence from the law enforcement officers he was selected to lead.

The vote went overwhelmingly against him with 84 percent of the members of the ABQ Police Officers Association (APOA) who took part in the vote giving him a thumbs down. About half the union members cast ballots.

The reasons? Recent two percent police pay cuts, a tug of war over the take home policy for police cars and White's management style which his critics call overbearing. Police describe themselves as frustrated with White's public show of support for them, but the opposite behind the scenes.

In 1999, while serving as director of state public safety, he suffered a similar no confidence vote from state police officers. He survived that one and he may survive this one too, but there will be consequences for him and the politics and polices of New Mexico's largest city.

THE FALLOUT


Veteran City Hall watchers say the immediate damage to White is with other law enforcement agencies. That the city police have rejected him makes White suspect in the eyes of fellow lawmen and women in other jurisdictions.

The vote against White by the city police will also garner the public's attention who will take a second look at the job he is doing. That leads to Mayor Berry's door who has had a long honeymoon since being elected in December 2009. But this may be the demarcation line of his administration--before the no confidence vote and after.

The Mayor, traveling to Israel, tried to contain the damage and frame the vote as punishment for the pay cuts, not White's personality or other policies:

In order to balance the budget during these tough economic times, Darren and I have had to make some unpopular decisions in the best interest of taxpayers and to keep our police officers employed. Darren and all of our APD officers win my vote of confidence as well as the community's when we see an 18 percent drop in property crime.


The fallout for Berry is cushioned somewhat by some of the public's generalized anger over cushy benefits for public employees while they continue to take hits from the recession. But his contention of a falling property crime rate will be challenged by political rivals, who will also raise questions about the rate for other crimes.

Berry's entire administration thus far has rested on the cornerstone of crime--that he is fighting it and is effective at it. He has no other issues to fall back on.

It is clear that the political problem we and others said White posed for the first Republican mayor since the 80's is coming home to roost.

BERRY AND WHITE

White, a conservative Republican, has become the public face of the city--appearing on TV news more than the mayor himself. That's why the no confidence vote stings even more. Darren is not a nameless bureaucrat being reprimanded. He is a former two term Bernalillo County sheriff and GOP congressional candidate who evokes strong opinions and emotions. In some quarters, perhaps to Berry's chagrin, Darren has become known as the de facto mayor.

Berry came with could be the defining decision of his administration when he took over in December 2009. He essentially stripped the city's chief administrative officer of direct authority over the police and fire departments and turned them over--for the first time in city history--to the public safety director. There never would have been a vote on White if the police chief and CAO had retained their traditional powers. It is that decision that is now destined to become a political football in any forthcoming campaign Berry has--if White is still at the helm.

The vote comes on the heels of the resignation of Chief Administrative Officer David Campbell. He announced plans this week to take a foreign service job as he waved a flag of surrender to White from the 11th floor windows of City Hall. Campbell lost the battle with White, but who wins the war?

THE HUNT IS ON

White is joined at the hip to Jay McClesky, the Republican political consultant who in turn is Governor Martinez's chief political sitter. White cut TV campaign spots for the Governor and was recently at her side during the natural gas crunch up north. Will that association now be downplayed?

Will new CAO Rob Perry feel pressure to take back some of the power ceded to White? Will APD Chief Schultz want to start building stronger ties to his rank or file or start to look at his retirement options?

Will Berry make a move to pull White back behind the curtains? Or does the mayor feel any downgrading of Darren will cost him with the Republican base, prompting another Republican to run for mayor in 2013 and dooming his re-election chances?

Berry is now going to be watching his polls like a coyote eyeing a rabbit with a sprained ankle. The tension-free days he has enjoyed are coming to an end.

Police union president Joey Sigala told us that he is under no delusion that the no-confidence vote will cause White to leave, but he said he believes it will inflict enough damage to prevent White from reviving his dormant political career. (When White ran unsuccessfully for Congress the no confidence vote from state police officers was used effectively against him.) It's hard to disagree with Sigala's analysis.

But it is Berry's political career, not White's, that is of foremost concern to the Alligators of La Politica. They see Berry in their swamp and for the first time he has some bare flesh exposed.

The hunt is on.

PIO'S GONE WILD (CONT.)
Guv Vs. Brooks
Governor Martinez dug her nails deep into the back of stubborn ABQ Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks Thursday. And he can't say he didn't have it coming. Brooks refuses to cut the bloated (about $500,000 a year) APS communications department which the Guv specifically mentioned in her state of the state speech as an example of bureaucratic waste. The issue came up again this week in a KOAT-TV report and an analysis on this blog, but Brooks won't budge and that had Susana coming with this:

Asking for a 1.5 percent cut in the bureaucracy is not asking for too much when you have APS refusing to admit that there are dollars that can be cut in the bureaucracy and instead is wanting to look at the classroom. That is unacceptable to me. I've tried to meet with Superintendent Brooks on two occasions--both times he's been out of state.

I want APS to put their checkbook on line--line item by line item with details--and spell out to the public where they can't cut and why they can't cut. But when you have a half a million dollars in PIO's and you turn around and say you can't cut in the bureaucracy, that's a special interest group that I'm not willing to listen to.


What's stopping Brooks? You take a knife to the PR department, you meet with the Governor and you talk compromise. If he can't do that then he better prepare that line by line checkbook with detailed explanations because it's going to be a long four years--if he is around that long.

WHERE'S THE ROBLES RESIGNATION?

Judge Robles mugshot
While Susana was digging her nails into Superintendent Brooks, NM Court of Appeals Judge Robert Robles, fresh from being busted on DWI charges, appeared to be digging in his heels. His statement:

...I ask the citizens of New Mexico to consider this apology as only the first indication of my profound remorse, complete acceptance of my actions, and commitment to do my best to restore your confidence in me as your public servant.

"Restore confidence?" How is that supposed to happen? Court of Appeals opinions on any DWI case are forever tainted if Robles does not step down, the state's ongoing fight against the DWI epidemic will be a joke, and the public will sneer at judges who insist their budgets should not be cut.

If Robles doesn't let go of the drapes, the Judicial Standards Commission is going to have to tear his hands from them. That is, if they take their job seriously.

COURT CUTTING

Push back now to the Senior Alligator who had no sympathy here Thursday for the possible cuts to the state court budget. ABQ District Court Judge Alan Malott writes:

1. There are only about a half dozen or so lawyers in the Legislature. 2. NM's judicial salaries are 48th lowest in the US and many of us took large pay cuts to serve our communities. 3.We already voted to cut our own pay if employee furloughs become necessary because of underfunding. 4.Judges' personal retirement contributions have been increased during the last two years and will be further increased in this legislative cycle. 5. "jalopy legal system?" Try China, buddy !

I guess being anonymous means you can spout whatever nonsense you want so long as someone else will post it!

Thanks for the retort, Judge. As far as posting anonymous nonsense, we can assure you we have rigorous screening standards around here and only the most compelling nonsense is posted.

What reader Cynthia Leyba has to say isn't nonsense. She has some cost cutting ideas for Judge Malott and company:

The Courts don't need more money. Take a walk around the ABQ District Courthouse on a Friday afternoon. The majority of the courts aren't in use.

Ways for them to cut back:

--Have a pool of administrative assistants, court monitors and bailiffs. Each judge doesn't need their own personal team. The administrative assistants are well paid and are nothing more than glorified schedulers.

-- Why have bailiffs? Sheriff Deputies are in the court room.

--Judges should prioritize cases, i.e., probation violations. No need to wait on these cases. They should also limit the number of continuances on a case. Not every case is a murder or rape.

Just some thoughts.

And thought provoking ones at that, Cynthia.

A FINAL THOUGHT

Comes from the Roundhouse where a reader emails:

The wheels are falling off. I am sitting downstairs--outside the Senate Chambers--and the water cart just fell over because the wheels fell off. At least something is getting done--water is getting delivered.

Thanks for stopping by this week, and thanks to our advertisers for their continued support.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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