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Monday, February 25, 2013

On The City Beat: Minimum Wage Battle; A Berry Blunder? Plus: Council Candidates Begin Long March, And: Even More APD Woes; Readers Debate, Also: Santa Fe And Third Graders 

Mayor Berry
Has Mayor Berry's refusal to have the city aggressively enforce the new ABQ minimum wage given the Dems the opening they need to change the math of the October mayoral election?

Berry and his city attorney are under fire for saying there's nothing much they can do about a restaurant owner who is openly defying the minimum wage increase that was overwhelmingly approved by 66% of the voters in the November election.

But the hubris the Dems say Berry is showing could give them the issue they need to activate apathetic voters in the city's increasingly Democratic precincts. Remember, high turnout is the enemy of Berry, the first GOP mayor in a generation and and in a city that is increasingly Democratic.

Maybe Berry wanted to fire up his own GOP base to let them know he was running and raise some money, but if so he was playing with fire. In the media he and his minions seemed to come across as noncaring about the working classes of the city.

It appears Berry and the Republicans are again counting on disorganization and divisiveness among Dems to keep a strong challenger from emerging or hoping several of them emerge and split the Dem vote. It's a bet that paid off in 2009 when two Dems split the vote and Berry took the prize.

We will not know the field for the mayoral race until the petition deadline arrives at the end of April.

ABSENTEE COUNCIL

Dem Alligators wonder why the three Dems on the city council were not out in force when Berry dropped the political ball on the messaging over the minimum wage. All they had to do was hold a joint news conference and demand enforcement of the law the voters approved. But then we haven't head hardly anything from this city council for three years--why should anything change now?

COUNCIL RACES

Klarissa Pena
It's not only a mayoral election this year, but a number of city council seats are up for grabs. The council majority currently belongs to the R's 6 to 3--but it is somewhat of an aberration.

Klarissa Pena is running for Disrict 3--an open seat that leans Dem. She describes herself as a longtime community activist and native of ABQ's South Valley.  She is community relations and special projects director at Youth Development Inc. (YDI) and President of South West Alliance of Neighbors (SWAN) a coalition of 14 neighborhood associations. She is also executive director for the West Central Community Development Group.

We're updating this post because earlier we were in error when we said that Pena would run against new Republican Councilor Roxanna Meyers who was appointed by Mayor Berry to fill the council vacancy created when Dem Debbie O'Malley left the council to run for the Bernalillo County Commission. A political operative straightens that out and what's to come in the October election due to the recent redistricting:

Roxanne Meyers is in District 2 and Dem Councilor Ike Benton will be challenging her (he currently represents District 3, but because of redistricting he now lives in District 2). Klarissa Pena lives on the West Side and will be running in District 3. It's an open seat.

Odd districts are1, 3, 5, 7, 9 are up for election this year as well as District 2, as you pointed out, because Debbie O'Malley moved to the Commission and Roxanne is a Berry appointee.
 

In District 7. Republican Michael Cook is unlikely to run . Ken Sanchez (Dist 1) is weighing a run for Mayor or Council, Dan Lewis (Dist 5) and Don Harris (Dist 9) will run for re-election. Dem wins in Dist 1, 2, 3, and potentially 7 would shift the Council majority to the Democrats--5-4.

This is one of the more complicated council years we've seen due to the recent redistricting, but with the help of the Alligators and operatives we'll do our best to sort it all out.

HOME DOWNER

The eroding economy here is the soft underbelly of the current administration. It continues to stagnate or erode. The median price (the most accurate measure) for an ABQ home sold in January sank to $158,000. The median price in the bubble years soared. For example, for July 2007 it was $214,900, according to local real estate groups. That's a drop of of over 25% and makes a whole lot of Duke City residents feel poorer.

This also means many homeowners who purchased homes here in recent years have seen those homes lose value. It also means home equity loans which boosted consumer spending are not going to see an upsurge anytime soon.

The city's jobs recession will continue to keep home prices down or stagnating. However, the lower prices should keep a floor under demand.

We blogged a year or two ago that we thought given the city's economic outlook the median home price here could eventually sink to near $150,000. We're close. Yet more grist for the mill when the mayoral campaign gets underway in earnest.

STATEWIDE DOWNER

The state as a whole continues to be in a bear market when it comes to housing prices. The latest:

The median price for a home in New Mexico was $159,500 in January 2013, down from $161,240 in January 2012 and $168,500 in January 2011...

Again, no job growth means flat or sinking housing prices---except for you folks down in the oil patch where things are booming so much you can't even find an old trailer to stay in.

MORE HITS TO ABQ?

The threat of widespread federal budget cuts has to be worrying Mayor Berry. The state and city could take a major hit if Washington can't forestall the federal budget cuts involved in the so-called sequestration. How hard would they hit the city's economy? Would they impact the election here?

ABOUT TIME?

We won't say it was about time, but about her recent trip to DC Governor Martinez's office said:

. . . .The governor also plans to meet in Washington with officials of the National Nuclear Security  Administration to talk about funding for the national laboratories in  New Mexico.

Okay, we'll say it. It's about time.

COP CAPERS

Ashley and Lindsey Browder (KRQE)
Then there's the very troubled ABQ police department (yes, again).

Now APD says a cop who T-boned a car in the NE Heights claiming the life of 21 year old Ashley Browder and seriously injuring her 19 year old sister Lindsey was given a blood test for DWI, but it can't be used in any possible criminal action. Incredible isn't it?

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's department says the cop in question ran a red light with his emergency lights flashing. Media reports say he was speeding. Was he chasing a criminal suspect? It doesn't appear so.

The heat is now on Republican Sheriff Dan Houston to rip the lid off of this--cleanly and without hesitation. The case is shrouded in mystery. But it is another one that could cost the city millions in damages. In the last four years Albuquerque has paid out at least $44,000,000 in settlement and  lawsuits--most of it because of actions by APD.

And city officials say there's really no need for the US Department of Justice to be investigating APD? Never mind investigating. Justice may need to take it over and upgrade their probe from civil to criminal.

COPS AND READERS

We have a back and forth going between readers over qualifications to become an APD officer. To the email"

In response to the reader who wants to keep the college requirement for police. I believe a better course of action, that also has shown fewer complaints, is to make the minimum age 25.  This would serve the same purpose of hiring a more mature, thoughtful police officer. As it stands right now we will have fewer complaints only because APD can't recruit enough officers to fill the current demand.  Being 300 officers down from authorized strength and with only 10 (?) in the current academy, we will continue to be negative. APD loses around 50 officers per year (retirement, quit, fired) and with only 10 coming in the math shows we will continue to be negative in recruiting with the current requirements.

The choice is this: Hire what we think would be the perfect cop, which means APD continues to shrink and response times are already rising, or open the recruiting process to those who are older (life experience) but do not have college. I vote for the second.

And another comes with this:

College as an ideal is a good thing as well as military training. This does not insure that patrol officers will have the time to make the correct calls when on the scene to avoid bloodshed in these situations. Certainly some may be avoided. What seems to be the real issue here is the credibility of police management. It is difficult for to understand how APD management on one side appears to be in favor of more educated and thoughtful individuals for service but when a crisis occurs they undermine the rank and file and throw them under the bus. The officers at APD are like anywhere else. They respond to their stimulus, read management, which is exhibited in their professional behavior, or not. Just an observation.

SANTA FE

Now that the Legislature has effectively killed the centerpiece of the Guv's education reform plan--holding back third graders who don't read proficiently--can we get into some real reform? How about allowing voters to decide on a constitutional amendment that would appropriate funds from the state's Permanent Fund for very early childhood programs?

Santa Fe Dems and their leadership have shown they have the ability to stop legislation, but can they get anything significant through? Or are they too divided? (If you answered "too divided" you won the enchilada lunch).

You just that know that the Guv and Jay are going to hammer away at the "social promotion" issue in 2014 when she seeks re-election and also attempt to get a GOP majority in the state House. A way to counter that is by putting before voters this major education reform and letting her oppose it.

THE BOTTOM LINES 

Reader Ed O'Leary, a retired bank CEO in ABQ, writes in praise of former NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici, It was disclosed last week that while serving in the Senate Domenici had an affair with the daughter of Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt. That affair resulted in the birth of a child--Adam--in 1978--and was kept secret until now:

Joe, Twenty years ago Pete Domenici and then-Mayor Marty Chavez invited me to chair the Leadership Council of the community collaborative Albuquerque Character Counts.  I quickly learned that Character Counts and its Six Pillars of Character are better descriptors of what people can become than what they are or have been.  The thrust is aspirational and Character Counts has been a force for positive change especially in the Albuquerque Public Schools. We can thank Pete Domenici for understanding that potential before many others did.  Today, as his many friends are puzzled and anguished at his news of the last several days, I for one want to publicly thank Pete for seeing and promoting Character Counts as a beneficial program for Albuquerque and New Mexico. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013 
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