Thursday, August 25, 2011

Election Decisions Of Key Santa Fe Power Players Being Closely Watched, Plus: Walk Back On Ben Ray, And: Berry Reorganizes In White Scandal Aftermath 

Lujan & Saavedra
Who is getting out? Anyone big? Those are the questions on the tips of the tongues of the wall-leaning set in Santa Fe as intense speculation continues over the upcoming September legislative redistricting session.

First atop the curiosity list is longtime House Speaker Ben Lujan whose near loss to an unknown primary challenger in 2010 set off statewide shock waves. Will he run again in 2012? All signs say he will and that he will try to use the special session to shore up his district boundaries, hoping to thwart another primary challenge. Here's a Senior Alligator wandering the Roundhouse:

I am told Ben is reworking his district to eliminate rural areas, which he lost in the primary, and is seeking to bring in more of the Santa Fe city precincts, where he did better. Unfortunately he can’t change his home precinct, which I am told he lost. But this sends the signals, for now, that he’s not done.

But there appears to be no escaping a primary battle for the 75 year old Speaker. Carl Trujillo, who works at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a senior technologist, said immediately after his less than 90 vote loss to Lujan that he was prepared to do it again.

Has the Speaker learned his lesson and is Trujillo finished? The anti-incumbent wave appears to still be going strong. That means at the least Trujillo will be a major thorn in the side and an upset can't be totally ruled out.

If Lujan were to lose and if the Dems were to retain their control in the House, the betting money remains on State Rep. Kenny Martinez to take his place at the Speaker's rostrum.

Another powerful and veteran lawmaker--Kiki Saavedra, 73, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee--is said to be waffling on whether to run for another two year term from ABQ's South Valley. Until he gives a definitive answer, the guessing will continue. No prospective Dem primary opponents for Saavedra are yet being mentioned by the Alligators. He is well-liked but a challenge from the left is always a concern.


Santa Fe powerhouse Lucky Varela is said to be all in for another run. The state rep who is an expert in finance splashed into the news this week when it was revealed his son, Jeff, received a $5,000 no-bid state contract that violates state ethics rules. The Republican Martinez administration gave the contract to Jeff. Of course, that was not done to curry favor with Varela, who has so much influence over the state budget. No way. No how. Such political chicanery never, ever takes place up there. That's only when Big Bill is Governor. Got that?


This isn't going to surprise anyone:

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan's name is being cleared by the fired Santa Fe police officer who has leveled serious accusations in his fight against the City of Santa Fe. Former detective James Vigil says he never told his deputy chief that Congressman Ben Ray Lujan was a target of an FBI investigation. Deputy Chief Gillian Alessio said under oath that James Vigil had pulled her aside and told her in confidence that he was working with the FBI on a cocaine investigation....

Besides being called a drug abuser this week, at a Tea Party organized protest Congressman Lujan was told at a Farmington gathering that he is a "Nancy Pelosi stooge" and told that he is "killing" the oil and gas industry.

And how was your week?


Big Bill is still free to roam about the country. His critics--especially at the state's "leading newspaper" here are still chasing his skin and swearing that he will be indicted by the Feds on corruption charges. But the former Guv was recently at Obama's 50th birthday bash and this week is on national television
talking about western water


The laundry list of headaches at the ABQ Police Department was recounted on TV news this week. It included, Darren White, Brad Ahrensfield, the fatal police shootings, the Levi Chavez case and more. But Mayor RJ Berry remains sanguine about the situation, even though the Department of Justice could soon launch a full investigation into the fatal shootings. Says Berry of Chief Ray Schultz:

...I have great confidence in our officers out there, they're doing great work on behalf of the citizens of Albuquerque. We've got a chief who cares, who is engaged, who is proactive, who is innovative. I've got a lot of confidence in Chief Schultz. We're just going to get up every day and continue to do the things that we think are right in order to best serve our community.

Maybe Berry and the chief want to consider getting up on a different side of the bed because what they've been doing--as reflected in the litany of problems above--is not getting the job done.

Mayor Berry
Can't someone at Mayor Berry's office dig up a copy of the City Charter? If they did, they would find the reorganization he announced Tuesday in the aftermath of the Darren White scandal fails the legal test as well as the good 'ol smell test.

White was given direct authority over the police and fire departments, a violation of the Charter which states that the Chief Administrative Officer shall have the responsibility for day-to-day operations of the city. That means all of the city.

So what do we get now that Darren has been dumped? Well CAO Rob Perry has been turned into a kind of super cop. He assumes day-to-day control over the public safety departments and no replacement for White will be hired. But get this. A Chief Operating Officer--John Soloday--has been hired and he will take "direct control" over all of this:

Soladay will directly oversee the departments of: Animal Welfare, Aviation, Cultural Services, Environmental Health, Family and Community Services, Parks and Recreation, Planning, Senior Affairs, Solid Waste Management, and Transit....

But Soladay is not supposed to have "direct control." The CAO is.

Maybe the mayor can't admit that he made a mistake when he severed power from CAO David Campbell who then walked away from the job in disgust. Or maybe the Mayor and his political consultant want to protect Chief Schultz, play politics and continue to war with the police and fire unions, leaving the rest of the city they are not obsessed with under the control of Soloday.

Whatever. The City Council must confirm Soloday as COO. Before they do they need to exert their authority and remind the 11th floor that the CAO is not a "super cop" but an administrative authority to whom all city employees are to answer to. At least that's what the people of this city voted for all those years ago. What is so hard for the current administration to understand about that?


Here's a pic of Governor Susana in her Santa Fe office that ran in the New York Times Wednesday as they picked up on the controversial issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

Martinez will ask legislators in the September special session to again approve a proposal to repeal the licenses. But those gaming the action say it still appears the state Senate will be the graveyard for the repeal as it was in the regular session earlier this year.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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