Wednesday, October 30, 2013

For New Mexico Democrats A Good Fight Can Be A Good Thing, Plus: Comments On City Crime Spree And Top Berry Officials Jumping Ship 

What the New Mexico Democratic Party needs is a good fight. And it's about to get one. Often times bitter infighting in a primary election can lead to trouble at the polls in November but in the case of the nearly moribund NM Dems they are in desperate need of recapturing the vim and vigor that made them the state's majority party.

So far, there are four candidates for the '14 Democratic nomination--none of them are of the top tier variety but all believe the state is worth fighting over. That's good for them and good for the two party system.

Democrats decided not to contest the ABQ mayoral race--with catastrophic results. If we have it wrong and the Dem nomination battle fails to ignite the animal spirits of the party's base, the R's could again waltz to a Guv re-election win, take the state House with them and keep the secretary of state's office in their camp.

So Democrats, don't fear the sight of blood on the canvas among your own. That's a sign of life in a party that has needed a stethoscope to find a heartbeat.


It's interesting that all four Dem candidates for Governor qualify as "liberals." Yet the state Senate is controlled by a coalition of Republicans and a handful of "Martinez Democrats." That shows how a  rural strain of Dem conservatism has outsized representation in the corridors of Santa Fe.

Viki Harrison of Common Cause comes with a report on lobbying in Santa Fe that provides one answer to why that is.. There were nearly 700 lobbyists up there this past legislation--many of them representing major corporate interests who are served quite well by the status quo. Same in DC, isn't it?  The report is chock full of interesting and useful facts as well as trivia.


It seems we are going through another of those crime waves that startle the public and have the TV news departments in overdrive.

The most sensational incident happened Saturday when three law officers were shot by an obviously deranged man who ended up dead either by his own hand or that of the police. It surely was the fate he set out to seal when he decided to go on his rampage.

Retired APD Seargent Dan Klein watches such matters for us. He comes with this analysis:

The shooting Saturday prompts the need for an outside critique of how APD responded. What did they do right, what did they do wrong, what can they do better? This has to be a total review. How many officers were working the Valley Area Command? What are the times from when the call came into dispatch to when the first officer arrived on scene? How many officers were dispatched? Did they know what they were getting into? Was there a kill zone perimeter? What was the plan to stop the chase? Were different frequencies a problem between APD and the Sheriff's department?

Any critique is viewed as Monday morning quarterbacking, but if we do not review this critical of an incident, we do a disservice to future officers and the public.

The interim APD chief is Allen Banks who appeared on TV screens statewide as news of the event unfolded over several news cycles.

By most accounts from downtown, Banks is going to be named permanent chief by Mayor Berry. Does Banks (and Berry) have the confidence to order a review like the one Klein and others recommend?


A number of high profile city hall executives are jumping ship (or hoping to) now that Berry has been re-elected to a second term.

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry appears to be in line for the top post at the NM Finance Authority and John Garcia is departing as economic development director for an executive position at the home builders association. 

Perry came in when David Campbell was basically forced out of the job by Republicans who were unhappy that a GOP mayor had named Dem Campbell to the top post. 

Perry had several low points. One came when he conducted a bullying and outrageous news conference where he tried to save the skin of his friend Darren White, the former sheriff turned city public safety officer. White ended up losing his job over his conduct over an accident involving his wife.

The other low point took place when Perry was actually City Attorney and it also involved White (surprise!). That's when the pair, along with a bunch of other city officials and law enforcement, paraded though the home of dead civil rights attorney Mary Han to look at her body.

The reverberations from that incident are still being felt and it is a stain that will not be erased from the records of Perry or White. 

Perry's high points include his handling of the often tricky relationship with the nine member city council. He is liked and respected there. And having worked in the mayor's office ourselves, we know that that is earned.

Perry is also given high marks for his primary job---running the day-to-day affairs of the city. It is a maddeningly frustrating task but those in the know say Perry's background as an attorney was especially helpful to him.

City Hall insiders joke about seeing Perry on the elevator throughout the day as he rushes outside to indulge his cigarette habit. Maybe he can kick it if he ends up in the calmer pastures of the NMFA.


John Garcia, the economic development director, is an affable and well-intentioned bureaucrat. But this Great Recession has done him no good. The city is simply dead, stagnant, if you will, when it comes to much of anything happening. He will head over to an executive position at the home builders association.

Garcia's departure can be viewed as an opportunity for Berry to rethink economic development. His campaign was intellectually devoid on the matter--arguing that everything is just fine. Or "mighty fine" as former Governor Bruce King was so fond of saying.

Well, for the 68% of the 70,000 mostly old folks who voted to re-elect him they probably are fine. But Berry isn't kidding anyone--including himself--if he doesn't see the need for more aggressive policy when it comes to job creation. Quality of life is a big part of that.

If Berry wants to leave any mark at all as mayor--other than that he presided ably over the downsizing of the city--he needs to broaden his thinking on targeted tax incentives--instead of tax cuts, a more spirited and bipartisan involvement in education, a more aggressive and innovative approach to the drug and crime culture and to loosen the strait jacket tightened around his chest by his political arm.


Back on the economy, that little boomlet we have seen in the ABQ real estate market appears to have seen its better days

The number of consumers who signed contracts to buy homes dropped sharply in the Albuquerque metro area and the country as a whole in September, reflecting higher mortgage rates and home prices that have made purchases more costly. There were 889 pending home sales in September in the Albuquerque metro area down 12 percent from 1,011 pendings a month earlier and 1,158 the month before that, the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors reported.

No mystery here. The anemic job market--not many jobs and those that are available often pay way too low--are going to keep a lid on the local housing market.

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