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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Berry's Police Problems Grow; A Hushed Report & A Call For Justice, Plus: Down And Dirty Dealin' Over Downs Deal; Does Susana Take The Hit? 

Berry & Schultz
The odds have always been high that the US Justice Department would launch an investigation into the many fatal police shootings that have plagued ABQ, but now the odds are soaring.

A report from the weekly Alibi reveals that when Mayor Berry was preparing to take over in December 2009 he was presented with a watered down report on the many problems facing APD. A much tougher report did not see the light of day. A Republican colleague of Berry's--Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson who served on Berry's transition committee--says:

The draft submitted to the mayor was not voted on and was not the direct work product of the committee.We were asked to do an honest assessment of the police department, good and bad. And we were doing that. Then we were not given enough time to finish the report.

Berry's spinners aren't saying whether Berry saw the tougher report. That raises the question of why we are only now hearing about it and why it comes from a GOP ally of Berry's. Does this leak provide an avenue for the Mayor to walk beleaguered APD Chief Ray Schultz to the exits? With things getting worse not better with APD management, any politician looking at re-election as Berry is has got to be wondering how to rid himself of toxic baggage before voters' eyeballs start stinging.

And there's more. The morning paper--almost always a down-the-line supporter of any and all of Berry's initiatives--has broken with Berry over having Justice launch a probe of APD. A recent police brutality case pushed them over the top and with them probably a good number of the city's GOP establishment. Many of them now see the APD management imbroglio as a tarnish on the city's brand. From the ABQ Journal editorial:

While people across the nation watched, in disgust, a video of a police officer delivering kicks to the head of a suspect who is being held down by another officer, the mayor said that he was concerned but “hadn’t seen the full video.” This visual evidence..is a body blow to a beleaguered department. In addition to the unwarranted beating, the two officers appear to do a celebratory belly bump after their workout--akin to spiking the football in the end zone.

Does anyone see a culture problem here? Justice Department, are you paying attention?...If the Justice Department was undecided on whether to do a full-blown review of APD, this should resolve the question. Let’s get on with it.

The full video can be seen here.

The best Berry can probably hope for now is that Justice gets in here and wraps up its investigation well before the October 2013 election. As for Chief Schultz, time is rapidly running out. Does anyone believe Berry can keep him around much longer without suffering even more political damage? No.

THE BILL TO COME?

Our Alligators downtown are gaming out all those police shootings and if one scenario plays out city taxpayers are not going to be happy with this administration:


We are making national news for cops using a person’s head as a soccer ball. APD is under investigation by the DOJ for 21 officer involved shootings and 16 deaths caused by the police. The lawsuits will cost the city millions. The city is self insured, so the city taxpayers will foot the entire bill. If the city cannot afford it, the city will be forced to temporarily increase property taxes to pay for the damages.

When he took over Berry made a command decision to turn over the reins of APD to Public Safety Director Darren White. It was an historic break with past mayors and one of which we and others repeatedly warned the Mayor. The mayor's political and media allies pooh-poohed that concern, but the controversial White imploded and was forced to resign and the culture at APD deteriorated even more dramatically.

Now we are adrift as the Mayor surveys the wreckage that floats about the city. Is Berry a politician who can admit a mistake and turn the ship around? Or is he a stubborn CEO who will continue steering into a hurricane
?

PAY TO PLAY?
Martinez & Blanchard
In an aggressive move apparently designed to end growing criticism, the Martinez administration Monday unexpectedly rammed through a new 25 year lease for the Downs at ABQ racetrack. The state fair commission voted 4 to 3 to approve the lease which will include the construction of a new racino at the fairgrounds, now known as Expo NM. The meeting was billed as a "working session" to study the controversial lease deal, but turned into a final action that had both political parties reacting.

The Dems pounced first with the charge that "pay to play," synonymous with the Dem administration of Big Bill, is alive and well under Republican Martinez:

Running for Governor, Susana Martinez never let a day go by without endlessly decrying what she saw as pay-to-play in Santa Fe. Now, just 11 months in, Susana Martinez is already engaging in exactly the same behavior she accused the former administration of, and it's resulted in the first pay-to-play scandal of her administration.


The case is cut and dry: she received a $70,000.00 check and the contributors received a multi-million dollar state contract when no one was expecting a vote." You tell me how she can spin that into anything other than what it is: pay to play." Said the Dem Party.

Earlier, respected Republican businessman and former fair commission chairman Tom Tinnin told Martinez he was resigning from the state Board of Finance because of his belief that the deal with the Downs--whose ownership includes Paul Blanchard, a major friend and donor to Big Bill and now a "friend" of Susana, stinks to high heaven. The state GOP tried to contain the damage:

In a shameless and baseless attack, DPNM tries to smear Governor Martinez for the state fair commission approving a competitively bid lease for the Downs at Expo.

If the Democratic Party wants to talk turkey, it should call on all Democratic legislators to return all contributions from the Downs and its owners..
.

But this sweetheart Downs deal is one of the first opportunities for the Dems to go on the offensive on Martinez and paint her as a hypocrite. Leading Dem legislators in Santa Fe greeted the news cynically, with several of them telling one of our sources there that "nothing has changed on the Fourth Floor."

The deal featured prominent Republicans like attorney Pat Rogers and former ABQ Public Safety Director Darren White getting contracts from the Downs. We covered the political connections on the Monday blog.

The power playing and wheeling and dealing over the Downs was indeed reminiscent of Big Bill's doings, leading cynical observers to note that the game doesn't change, only the players.

There was even talk among some legislators that if the Downs deal doesn't have to be reviewed by the Legislature--and it doesn't--maybe the state fair doesn't need the Legislature to give it any money.

Yep, now you own it, Guv.

The down and dirty dealing over the Downs may die down now that the dealin' is done, but Martinez and her team have loudly rung the pay to play bell. The perception of her administration with the media and political classes will not be the same going forward. How much of that attitude seeps into the general public because of the Downs deal will be closely watched.


DIANNA'S DAYS

It has been a spate of bad news for GOP Secretary of State Dianna Duran. There was that accident where she ran over a man who had already been struck by several other cars. And then there's the drumbeat of bad press she's getting. That's because an investigation failed to turn up any significant voter fraud on the state voter rolls after questioning 64,000 registrations.

Duran watchers never sensed that she fully bought into the notion that the state was infested with fraudulent and dead voters, but like Martinez, she is being influenced by a group of Republican handlers who have their own agenda. Unfortunately for Diane their handiwork--and her acquiescence to it--leaves her re-election gas tank in this Democratic state on empty. Don't say we didn't tell you....

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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