Monday, November 14, 2011
Berry Exodus Accelerates; Two More Staffers Depart Mayor; What Gives? Plus: More On Dianna & The Dead, And: We're On The Monday Econ Beat
The eyebrow raising exodus from the offices of GOP ABQ Mayor Richard Berry has picked up steam. The latest to depart the 11th floor of City Hall are Constituent Services Director Tito Madrid and constituent services staffer Joyce Pullen. They join earlier departees Erin Kinnard Thompson, Sara Lister and mayoral spokesman Chris Ramirez, who is now a TV news reporter. Constituent services staffer Sally Mayer, a former GOP city councilor, could also soon be leaving Berry to take a state job.
Pullen and Madrid both resigned. Madrid, a veteran GOP grassroots operative, is a government retiree who receives a state pension in addition to his city salary. He confirmed his and Pullen's departures in a weekend phone call, but did not elaborate on the reasons, except to say that Berry is now midway through his four year term and it is a natural time to "retool."
Lister took an $85,000 a year deputy secretary position with the state Workforce Solutions Department. Kinnard Thompson landed a $75,000 a year position as a deputy chief of staff to Republican Governor Martinez. Their hirings are confirmed by a search of the state's sunshine portal.
What's going on here? There have been no mainstream media reports on these departures, the number of which is unusual and constitutes a shake-up after Berry's first two years. The exodus actually began when David Campbell, the unhappy chief administrative officer, left the 11th floor for the Foreign Service. (Now that's getting away from it all). But the race for the exits really accelerated when Berry dumped Public Safety Director Darren White. It was called a resignation, but it was clear from government insiders that White--scandalized by his interference in an auto accident involving his wife--was forced out the door by a worried mayor.
We asked one of our experienced city watchers to give us some analysis on the turnover under Berry, the first ABQ GOP mayor since the 80's:
There are two camps under Berry. One is loyal to Darren White and objects to how he was treated. The other camp helped Berry get elected and object to how they are treated by Berry. The White camp includes Lister and Kinnard Thompson. The latter camp is people like Garrett Hennessy--a lobbyist for Berry who has since left--and Madrid, Pullen and Mayer. I would include Campbell in that camp as well. He never was allowed to be the CAO. For a mayor who is said to be "laid-back and easy going" this is is huge turnover.
Lurking in the background is potent Martinez and Berry political consultant Jay McCleskey, a close and longtime friend of Darren White who is said not to be happy with Berry dumping Darren.
THE BERRY PERSONA
The mayor's political personality has been colored as monochromatic, a "nice guy" who unexpectedly landed the city's tough job. But that's not the picture being painted by City Hall sources who say there is a sterner and more reclusive side to Berry that has not been seen much, if at all, by the public.
Berry is far less exposed than his predecessor Martin Chavez who was famous for calling a news conference a day. So even though he has been in office two years his full personality remains somewhat enigmatic. But Berry was an executive at his family's construction company before becoming Mayor. He is used to getting his way and dominating the conversation. Employees can squirm under those circumstances whether they be at a construction company or at the upper levels of the city of Albuquerque.
DIANNA AND THE DEAD
The revelation from Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran that there are 641 dead New Mexicans on the state's voter rolls (but no evidence that the dead cast ballots) brought out the blog analysts. Let's head to Santa Fe and deep in the bureaucracy where we get this:
Duran is concerned because there are 641 dead voters on the rolls out of 1.1 million registered voters. One percent of voters would be 11,000. 641 voters represent six one-hundredths of one percent of all voters. In state government, any agency that gets its job done correctly 99% of the time is considered stellar. In this case, it appears they are getting it right 99.94% of the time.
Another way to look at this is to estimate the number of voters who die each year. If the average voter lives to 75, we would expect about 19,000 to die annually. County clerks would need to expunge these persons from the voter rolls. The 641 voters would represent about 3.4% of those who die each year. That is worse than the .06% but it still represents less than a one-month backlog. I am almost certain that there is a problem with my math, but it would be fun for someone to play with. If you discuss this, please don’t use my name. I am a bureaucrat these days and not really allowed to think about these things even during lunch hour.
We're the antithesis of a math whiz so we don't know if there's any problem there, but the point is well-illustrated.
Alarming headlines of dead voters on the rolls do not constitute voter fraud. In fact, previous secretaries of state did not even bother to mention their existence as they were purged from the rolls and no living voters were found to be casting ballots in the name of the dead. (Okay, maybe back in the long ago days before voter rolls were professionally organized).
But, look. If the dead were voting in droves why would they vote for the first GOP secretary of state since the 1930's? Everyone knows the dead are all Democrats, don't they?
Some Hispanic Republican news as they gear up for 2012:
The Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN), a Hispanic center-right advocacy action group, announced the New Mexico grassroots team led by state coordinators Jamie Estrada and Christopher Saucedo.
Estrada served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush. He currently is a vice president at DW Turner in ABQ where he leads the international and economic development practice...Christopher Saucedo is an..experienced civil trial attorney at SaucedoChavez, P.C. He is chairman of the Board of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
Both men report they have valid New Mexico driver's licenses (Just in case Susana asks).
Let's get back on the all-important econ beat as we hear from ABQ, reader Danny Hernandez:
Joe, I can't agree with you more: This is the time for governments everywhere to build. Right now, money is as cheap as it's ever been (government bonds are selling for less than 1% interest). The great thing is we will be paying back most of the loans when the economy has recovered. In addition to money being cheap; architectural, construction and engineering firms are so hungry for any work that they're bidding at greatly discounted prices. In other words, this is the perfect time to be rebuilding our aging and ailing infrastructure--and re-energize our economy.
And, as we have repeatedly blogged, we have buckets of unspent capital outlay money in Santa Fe gathering dust and that could be used the way Hernandez recommends.
Rep. Martin Heinrich, seeking the Dem nomination for the open US Senate seat, says bringing back manufacturing is key to the state's economic revival. Well, it isn't going to be easy. Take a look:
Albuquerque has shed 6,100 manufacturing jobs since 2007, a 25.85 percent drop. In September 2007, the Duke City had 23,600 manufacturing jobs, and in September 2011 the number dropped to 17,500.
Can Heinrich or anyone else tell us how we are going to recover those jobs--if ever?
One encouraging economic sign is the continued deflation in the ABQ housing market. It's painful for homeowners, but as prices sink buyers come in. Are we close to letting most of the air out of the metro's housing bubble? The news:
Home prices have been dropping most of 2011 and that continued in October, with the average sale falling 10.5 percent, to $201,874 and the median (half above, half below) sale was more than $167,000, a 7.22 percent drop from a year ago.
The plunging home prices is a chief reason here and elsewhere for the big pullback in consumer spending. There was a lot more spending when the metro was toying with median home prices north of $200,000 and the spigot of home equity loans was wide open. No longer.
A DEAD CAT?
On our speculation last week that Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, coming off a big re-election win, could in the future be a contender for statewide office--like lieutenant governor--a reader writes:
Ken Miyagishima has the charisma of a dead cat. No way will that guy advance beyond mayor!
Geez, we hope that dead cat isn't on the state's voter rolls. Someone get on the horn with Secretary Duran pronto!
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