Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Catching Up With Berry; He Forges Ahead With APD Woes In Background, Plus: Yet More McCleskey Controversy; Will Susana Pull On His Chain? And: Northern Drug Problem In Spotlight 

ABQ Mayor RJ Berry may not be as much in love with the TV news cameras as his predecessor, but that doesn't mean he isn't out and about. Berry is increasingly visible at a wide array of community events, as his October 2013 re-election bid gradually comes into sight. Here he is pictured with Dr. Harold Bailey, the former head of the state Office of African-American Affairs whose service was honored at a recent banquet.

It is the city's large minority community--both Hispanics and African-Americans--who have been most upset with Berry and his police chief Ray Schultz. This over a two year spree of 23 police shootings--17 of them fatal--that have cast a pall over Berry's managerial abilities. Businessmen and women are also heard murmuring of the impact o the shootings on attracting business to the city. That could be an especially powerful theme if picked up by a name Democrat. The US Justice Department says it is weighing whether to investigate the APD shootings.

So far there are no big names chasing Berry for the mayor's job and he is utilizing this time brushing up his personal and political skills--and to some effect. He is a more comfortable speaker than when he first took office in December 2009. And in wake of the intense criticism over APD, he has taken steps to reform the department, albeit not as timely as he might have.

Berry may not be on the ballot this November, but he has a large stake in the outcome. A bond issue for redoing the Paseo Del Norte I-25 interchange will be decided by voters. He wanted the city councilors to come up with a super majority for the project so it would not have to go to the ballot, but they balked. Now that it has, he is out in front cheer leading. The betting is that voters will approve the Paseo bonds. More unclear is whether next year they will hold against Berry the way he has managed that project as well as the oft-troubled ABQ police department.

Jay McCleskey
Governor Martinez is on the ball in dealing with the major fires scorching the state but she is silent--some might say ominously so--about the political fire that has erupted over the actions of her chief political advisor Jay McCleskey--the man widely acknowledged in the New Mexican political community to be the most powerful person in state government other than Martinez.

Fast on the heels of his misfires in Clovis where he put the Guv's prestige and campaign money on the line in a contested GOP senate primary but still lost, comes this news developed by the Independent Source PAC and reported first by the New Mexican:

An email obtained by a Democratic political action committee indicates state employees and computers at the Public Education Department were used to compile lists of nonunion teachers and their email addresses for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's political director. According to the email, sent May 2 by department spokesman Larry Behrens to political director Jay McCleskey and several government officials, the department's Information Technology Division compiled a list of all teachers and their emails. Behrens also said the department's budget staff compiled a list of which school districts have union contracts, and created a list of nonunion teachers' emails.

Behrens denied that he was doing work for McCleskey or Martinez's political operation. He said compiling the lists was in partial response to a public records request from McCleskey. 

If Martinez is concerned about McCleskey becoming a major public issue in this state, she isn't saying. But the backroom chatter about how she is handling him--or not handling him--threatens to become a roar.

It is assumed in Santa Fe as a simple statement of pure truth that McCleskey has emerged as the dominant force in this administration--more dominant than the Guv's chief of staff, her cabinet or any other advisors.

Now that Jay has come off the tracks--and Susana's patina is getting tarnished as a result--the events cry out for coverage, analysis and investigation. But the conservative press and bloggers have little or nothing to say. The New Mexican and a couple of the TV stations are on to it and use this new power paradigm featuring Jay at the center as a guide in their reporting of state government as we do.

The big story in Santa Fe is the continued consolidation of power--with the Governor's acquiescence--by a non elected political consultant who is increasingly being caught in reckless behavior that impacts state government policy and perception of this administration, The media that continue to ignore this does so at risk to their credibility and relevance.

As the late, great Ernie Mills was fond of saying, "Don't say we didn't tell you."


While certain segments who participate in the public dialogue may be quiet on the McCleskey-Martinez political fire, the Democratic Party senses an opening and has begun pounding Jay. From their spin room:

It is illegal--plain and simple--to use state resources for political purposes. But once again...New Mexicans are learning the hard way that allowing the Governor's unelected, unaccountable political handler to call the shots for Susana is a mistake for New Mexico. Jay McCleskey and the rest of the administration broke that law, and now there is proof she knew about it. She needs to come clean with New Mexicans and explain her role in breaking state law and using taxpayer dollars to benefit her Political Action Committee...The fact that the Governor herself was kept in the loop at every step shows not only did she do nothing to stop it, she made it a top priority of her administration.

Here's some free advice for the Fourth Floor: Susana, you have the chain. Pull on it.


New Mexico may be leaning toward Obama and no longer a "swing state," but there's still plenty of work to do for the Prez's operatives. Pamela Coleman, State Field Director for Organizing for America, says:

I'm very proud to introduce Lorenzo Gutierrez, our Organizing for America NM Field Organizer for the South Valley.  Lorenzo spends his time between the South Valley, our ABQ Westside Office on Atrisco and St. Joseph's, and our Nob Hill office...

And a familiar name to state political insiders is back for a visit. Organizing for America says it will hold a meet and greet for Adrian Saenz, President Obama's National Latino Vote Director , at 5:30 PM today at OFA's west side office.

Saenz ran field for Obama in New Mexico in '08 and he then signed up with southern NM Congressman Harry Teague who was defeated for re-election in 2012 by the GOP's Steve Pearce.

Rep. Lujan
The "drug summit" that will be held today by northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan seems a little light. We'd like to seem him bring in more heavy hitters. But he is helping to lead the conversation about drug addiction rates that in sections of his district are the highest in the nation. From the White House:

Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and President Obama’s top drug policy advisor will participate in a summit...with Congressman Ben Ray Luján. He will discuss...approaches to drug policy, supporting a balance of public health and public safety alternatives to a law enforcement only “war on drugs” approach.

...The Obama Administration released the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy...aimed at reducing drug use...The new Strategy is guided by three facts:  addiction is a disease that can be prevented and treated; people with substance use disorders can recover; and...criminal justice reforms can stop the revolving door of drug use, crime, incarceration, and rearrest.

This certainly sounds good on paper. Now the challenge is to get the philosophy translated into results in places like Rio Arriba County where heroin addiction ranks highest in the USA and is a decades-long scourge. 

When I visited with Lujan in Washington in February we discussed the drug problem in the north. He agreed that it is the responsibility of whoever holds the northern seat to tackle this generations-old problem, seemingly resistant to solution. Now that he has the attention of the White House in this election year, can he corral more federal resources to tackle the problem?

Today's event runs today at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, 201 W. Marcy Street.

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