Monday, July 11, 2011

City Hall Beat: Gaming The Red Light Vote, Plus: Jones Vs. Payne Update, Dan Lewis & Berry; And: More On Brian Moore's Quiet Move 

Mayor Berry
We set the Alligator odds on Twitter at 60-40 in favor of Mayor Berry vetoing a city council measure to let voters pass judgment on the controversial red light camera program, but Berry recently agreed to allow the vote. That means voters will see it on their Oct. 4 ballots. However, their opinion on the red light cameras will be just that--an opinion. The referendum is not legally binding, but it's hard to see the program continuing in the long-term if a majority of voters urge it to end. That is the expected outcome of the vote.

But what happened to the veto? Well, City Hall insiders say a theory that makes sense is that one of the Dems on the council was ready to flip and vote to override Berry. That would have left him with the first significant egg on his face when it comes to his legislative record. Here's how one of them games it:

The council voted 5 to 4 to put the cameras on the ballot. It takes six votes to override a veto so it looked good for the mayor if he decided to cast his first veto. However, there were rumblings that the Democrats--hungry for a chance to give Berry a beating--might have had one of their members flip and vote to override Berry, even after voting to put the cameras on the ballot.

And another concern may have been Berry's fear of drawing conservative opposition to his own 2013 re-election bid if he nixed the camera vote.


Still, letting it go on the ballot does have some risks for Berry, not the least of which is the possibility that it brings more anti-government types to the polls. Analysts think that could influence the hot Northeast Heights city council race between Trudy Jones and Greg Payne. Both are Republicans, but Payne is of the independent variety. His election over incumbent Jones could put in jeopardy Berry's 5 to 4 GOP council majority.

Observers note that the Republicans have been virtually voting in lock step with this mayor, somewhat unusual for a city council that is still technically nonpartisan.

Jones saw the trouble brewing and urged Berry not to put the cameras on the ballot and cast one of the four "no" votes. Payne is now using Trudy's statements against her. And upon learning of Berry's decision to put the cameras on the ballot, he crowed, "Thanks, RJ!"

Jones says she is being consulted by Jay McCleskey, the lead consultant for Governor Martinez and Mayor Berry. It remains to be seen how tough Jones and McCleskey get on Payne who has no shortage of controversies in his background to exploit. But there is a danger. If McCleskey goes all in and loses, the loss could impact Martinez's prestige as well as Berry's because Jay is so closely associated with them.

(In a Sunday ABQ Journal piece looking at Martinez's first six months in office, it was noted that Martinez governs from the Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse, but because of what they see as McCleskey's outsized influence over her, he is now being referred to by some lawmakers as "The Fifth Floor."

Gaining access to the Fourth Floor from that Fifth Floor has become a point of contention among legislators and others. There was no separate profile or article exploring the newly powerful consultant's role in public policy or his influence with the Governor. The newspaper piece did not mention Martinez chief of staff Keith Gardner.)

Payne, elected in 1999 to the council seat he now wants back, is also a former legislator and also worked for Dem Mayor Marty Chavez as transit director. He would likely be with Berry most of the time, but that isn't all the time. And that would mean a council with much more of a swing vote mentality.

Rarely does the outcome of a single city council election carry with it the potential for dramatic political change. But this is one of those times.

Dan Lewis
Berry's decision not to veto the camera legislation was a triumph for GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis who was the lead voice for a public vote. My City Hall Alligators are watching the Lewis-Berry relationship closely. Lewis is seeking the GOP nomination for the ABQ US House seat. There are rumblings that 2010 GOP nominee and current state economic development chief Jon Barela could get in the contest. Berry's wing of the party--including his public safety director and 2008 ABQ GOP House nominee Darren White--would immediately line up for Barela.

That back story surfaced quickly at the Alligator pond when Councilor Lewis opined that a US Justice Department investigation of recent fatal police shootings "may" be needed. It was seen as a shot acrross the bow of Berry, White and McCleskey, who was also Barela's campaign consultant.

Certainly, Berry's decision to not veto the red light camera vote was welcomed by Lewis. Was it also a mayoral peace-making effort with Lewis?

As for Barela running, the speculation goes back and forth. He has a couple of months to make up his mind and his appearances before several tea party groups have kept the talk of a repeat candidacy alive. (Ex-State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones is also toying with a run).

But it is getting tougher for Barela. Lewis has raised a modest $101,000, but that Justice Department talk he threw at Berry shows moxie. A Barela-Lewis primary would now be a bare-knuckles brawl. The Governor and Mayor's sympathies will lie with Barela, but if they get too close, they could be splashed by the Republican blood that is now sure to be spilled if Barela comes in.

The betting parlors would make Barela the nomination favorite. He came close to beating Rep. Heinrich in 2010 and the national R's still like the idea of an Hispanic candidate for the ABQ House seat. But we think Lewis, popular on the Westside of ABQ, is starting to make this look more interesting. Interesting enough to keep Barela out of the race? Stay tuned.


On the Dem side of the aisle in the race for the ABQ congressional seat, Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham and former Sandia Pueblo Governor Stuart Paisano are the only two names left on our list who might join former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez and State Senator Eric Griego in the race

Lujan Grisham ran for the Dem nod in 2008, but was unable to compete with Martin Heinrich who took the nomination and then the seat. He is now leaving it to run for the Senate. She has fallen off the radar lately, but surfaced over the weekend in the letters to the editor section where she opined on the subject of Greece's debt. That was kind of off beat, but it wasn't about local jail conditions or the like so we assume she penned it so her name would stay out there for the House race.

Insiders say former Sandia Pueblo Governor Stuart Paisano continues to eye the contest. But after him the list disappears. All the other names you have heard bandied about here and elsewhere are not going to run.


Back on the City Hall beat, there was furious behind-the-scenes maneuvering going on over the weekend over a Wednesday morning traffic accident involving the wife of city public safety director Darren White. KOB-TV was among those working the beat on this one. The single car accident apparently happened near Juan Tabo and Montgomery in ABQ's far Northeast Heights. Sources say no one was seriously hurt, but that White appeared on the scene. What he did or did not do in connection with the accident is the thrust of the story. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this latest controversy in White's controversy laden tenure.


Things have been oddly quiet about our June 28 blog breaking the news that Brian Moore, the former state legislator who was named deputy chief of staff for Susana Martinez, is headed out of the Guv's office and to Washington to represent the state's interests there. While no official word has surfaced of Moore's move (the Guv's office isn't telling us and a phone call to Moore went unanswered) we get the confirmation from a Facebook posting by Brian's wife, Linda:

We'll be hitting the road this Sunday (July 10) heading for DC., -a long, 4 day drive in a rental truck with our little Gracie dog! -DC should be an interesting & educational adventure! (I'll let you know!)

Insiders say the Moore adventure (or is it exile?) is for a period of months so he could technically be back on the Fourth Floor for the next legislative session. Will he? Inquiring minds want to know. Whatever the case, he is now in the out-of-power circle when it comes to executive decision making in this, perhaps the most important year of the Martinez administration.

Moore, who ran for the GOP nomination for Lt. Governor last year, was seen as a moderate voice on the Guv's staff. The former state legislator from Clayton was also seen as a bridge to lawmakers. But a variety of legislators say there has been little bridge building between the Guv and the Legislature.


From the email and back again on the city beat:

A hearing on the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union over the redistricting of the ABQ City Council seats will be held this morning (Monday July 11, 2011) at 8:30 at the Bernalillo County Courthouse. Judge Nan Nash is presiding. We need as many people as possible to be there--especially from the Westside to support redistricting for the October 4 election. The Westside is suppose to have a 3rd district if the City is redistricted for the October Elections. However, they decided to put off redistricting until next year meaning the Westside will be under represented for the next 4 years. This hearing is to decide if redistricting must take place before the elections in October....

Blog reader Michael Padilla says he has some $11.00 an hour jobs available:

Altivus CRM Solutions is hiring for temporary positions in its Albuquerque operations. The position is for a new inbound call center project through the State of New Mexico. Candidates must be fully bilingual (English-Spanish). The project will run from July 18 (approximately) through September 2, 2011. Send resume to resumes@altivus.com or apply online at ALTIVUS.COM

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