Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mayor Goes All In Against Payne As City Election '11 Nears, Plus: Darren White Fallout & City Council Intrigue, Also: Media Beat; Be Careful Out There 

Jones mailer
Mayor Berry isn't wading into the October 4 city council election--he's diving in head first. The Republican Mayor is publicly taking sides in a GOP intramural match-up for the city council featuring incumbent Councilor Trudy Jones and political firebrand and former Councilor Greg Payne.

Trudy is touting RJ's support in the flyer posted here. We're told other Trudy mailers have been hitting the mailboxes in this, the premier battle of City Election '11.

Berry has much to fear from a Payne win. He would not be an automatic vote for Berry as Trudy is. There are five Republicans and four Dems on the council. Losing Trudy would be a blow for the Mayor who would then have to deal with Payne.

Actually, the situation has grown more perilous for Berry. He lost Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis on a key vote when Dan voted with the Dems to invite the Department of Justice to investigate shootings by the city police.

Suppose Payne gets on the council with the suddenly more independent Lewis? Those two R's voting with the Dems could then send to the 11th floor veto-proof legislation because it takes six votes to override a mayoral veto. No wonder Berry is desperate to keep Jones on the council. But ABQ mayors have a poor record in influencing the outcome of council races and Berry's own popularity has taken a hit at a critical moment on the election calender.

This poker game has gotten much more interesting. Payne is playing with fire, and while the guns of August have been quiet, Trudy has a war chest of over $40,000 and Payne's cash account is a humble $5,000. Soon Trudy, the faction of the GOP that Payne has long tangled with and Trudy's real estate supporters will begin shooting their rounds at Payne, the former legislator and director of transit under ex-Mayor Chavez. Payne is beefing up his armor, with friends saying he is scampering door-to-door enthusiastically and habitually.

Mayor Berry has made his bet and gone all in for Trudy. He better win or he will be a mayor with one arm tied behind his back.


Councilor Lewis is vice-president of the nine member panel and there's nothing he would like more than to be president of the body in 2012. That's because he is running for the GOP nod for the ABQ congressional seat and leading the council would be a way for him to make news and demonstrate his leadership abilities. But City Hall insiders are saying that Trudy Jones is not pledging her support to Lewis now that Dan has broken with her and the mayor. So is Lewis now playing ball with Payne so he can get Trudy out and get Greg in to enhance his own political fortunes? Duh.

Sara Lister
City Hall insiders report more fallout from the forced resignation of Public Safety Director Darren White. They say his right hand woman--Sara Lister--is out at the 11th floor and in at the state Dept. of Workforce Solutions where she will soon become deputy director.

Lister is a longtime GOP political operative who is listed as a "senior advisor" to Mayor Berry at a salary of $84,000 a year. She was Darren White's campaign manager when White ran for the ABQ congressional seat in 2008 and was working closely with him at City Hall. She previously was a fund-raiser for former NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici.

Workforce Solutions--formerly the Labor Department--has long been criticized by Republicans as a political "dumping ground" for the Dems. But now that the R's control the government, that can't be so. Right?

As for White, he had that soft landing contract out at the Downs of ABQ where for a limited time he is advising the racetrack and casino on security. No word on the amount of the contract.

Comfy contracts, nice political landings at Workforce solutions. We do believe Susana and company are getting the hang of how to run the New Mexican government. You just do what Big Bill did.


The greatest Bear Market in the history of the New Mexico housing industry continues unabated. From Las Cruces:

David Ikard is a broker with NAI 1st Valley Real Estate in Las Cruces, and he said that he is concerned that the housing market, which has suffered since the recession began, will not start to grow anytime soon...

"We'll re-evaluate at end of the year, but the numbers are terrible across the state and terrible in Las Cruces," Ikard said.

Sales data released by the Las Cruces Association of Realtors shows that this July actually saw a slight upswing in home sales compared to July 2010, but through seven months, there have been 85 fewer homes sold--668 vs. 753 in 2010--for the same time period last year.

This recession/depression has forever changed expectations about housing and its role in the state economy and in the personal investing lives of New Mexicans. The apartment market and housing rentals will be the beneficiaries.


Okay, that's pretty bad, but you could own a house in Baltimore:

Andrew Wells is hoping to buy a Baltimore home for around the cost of an old car: Less than $10,000.

Turns out he's in good company.

One of every 10 city homes sold during the first half of the year — about 275 in all--fell in that price range. Twice as many sold for under $20,000. Often foreclosures, these properties are usually in bad shape but seem like deals to real estate investors and the occasional hopeful owner-occupier--such as Wells.


And forget about high-tech or other glamorous economic expansions around here. This is what is happening. From Santa Fe:

Airport Road should have two new chain "dollar" stores--in addition to the locally owned Dollar Mart. Deep-discount retailers carrying general merchandise, often with little-known brands and inferior quality merchandise, thrive during economic recessions. A 9,300-square-foot Family Dollar store is going up at the northwest corner of Airport Road and Camino Tierra Real....

With hardly any state jobs available the clerk positions at Family Dollar will probably he highly coveted.

First there was that outrageous news conference in July by city officials--berating and attempting to intimidate the media over the Darren White scandal. It so infuriated this former beat reporter that we wanted to come out from behind our keyboard and go downtown and kick some ass--just like back in the day.

Now comes the case of ABQ Journal photographer Adolphe Pierre-Louis--who happens to be an African American and who was forced to his knees and handcuffed along Interstate 40 for half an hour even though it had to be obvious to State Police that this was not the suspect they were after. He was wearing a media badge and his car was filled with professional photography equipment. The state police chief--appropriately--ended up personally apologizing to Mr. Pierre-Louis for that incident.

Then there is the continuing battle between insistent bloggers like Mark Bralley and public officials who refuse to send them their news releases (even though much of it is nonsense).

All of this is emblematic of a brasher and pushier attitude encouraged by the political consultants and "media experts" who work overtime to contain public information to a limited few--or make the job of collecting that information as difficult as possible.

When we started in the game in the 70's, there was more deference to the press and media as they went about doing their constitutionally protected jobs. Today there is considerably less. How do you explain the State Police making the press file a formal request for a report on the incident involving the photographer instead of immediately releasing the information? We used to stroll into the police station to get that stuff or have an officer simply read it to us over the phone.

The press and media will retain its freedom to publish and broadcast only as long as they continue to insist on that freedom and push back with full force when it is threatened by those who hold official state power. With what's been going on around here lately, we think the ink-stained wretches and TV talkers ought to be getting that message loud and clear.

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