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Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing The Check: APD Lawsuit Payouts Under Mayor Berry Hit $26 Million And Sure To Soar More, Plus: Reader Passion Over Education, And: ABQ Bear Market Claws At Formerly Posh Country Club 

APD's Banks & Mayor Berry
It's a field day for the trial lawyers, but a bummer for ABQ taxpayers. Look at the cost already of the lawsuits over the city's very troubled ABQ police department:

(A $900,000) settlement pushes the potential tab for police misconduct cases since 2010 to more than $26 million. That includes a $10.3 million jury award last spring in a lawsuit filed by the family of Iraq War veteran Kenneth Ellis III. The city has appealed. 

City Council President Ken Sanchez said the city should consider earmarking more money for the fund that handles legal claims. “This isn’t the last of it,” Sanchez said. “I don’t see how we cannot put additional money in there, based on the amount of these settlements."

That's it? Just write the checks? No questions asked? No Council inquiry into what and why  has happened at APD? As one reader put it:

The Council could at least demand that Mayor Berry appear in front of them so they can express their outrage at the millions of lost dollars under his watch. Then again maybe the Council isn't so outraged. I think the citizens won't be outraged until their gross receipts taxes go up, property taxes go up and roads and and parks are not taken care of. Until then we are screaming into a hurricane.

And there is more to come--much more. How many more millions the shootings will cost before all is said and done is unknown, but it will be historic. Yet the ABQ City Council, Mayor Berry and perhaps the taxpayers seem resigned to paying it out even as it comes at the expense of better community services.

With this story as a backdrop, ABQ politics strikes us as afflicted with extreme apathy, exhaustion and low expectations. The recession has drained us not only economically, but spiritually. The inertia on the nine member council is confirmation.

It seems it will be up to the US Justice Department investigators probing APD to call for forceful change. We just seem too tired to do it ourselves...

EDUCATION PASSION

While ABQ politics is seemingly passionless the opposite is the case with the education debate. It hits close to home for parents and educators. Last Fridday we ran a piece about the lack of textbooks in the Española schools and also on Gov. Martinez's proposed pay raise for new teachers. Some reaction:

ABQ teacher Elaine Romero who is also an education policy analyst for state Senate Democrats came with this:

Joe, Where has all the textbook money gone? In Albuquerque Public Schools we haven't received new textbooks since the reading adoption in 2010...And how about this required "Professional Development" that occurred in ABQ public schools last week--a 3-hour sales pitch on why iPads for every student are better than textbooks for every student?

Before your tech savvy readers get too excited by the idea of an iPad in every child's hands (including our 5-year old children - many in high poverty who come to school never having held a pencil), take a look at some of the challenges facing the Los Angeles school district who made the controversial decision to put "a tablet in every child's hands."

The nation's second largest school district is reeling from more issues with their iPad rollout program – a $1 billion effort promising to give every teacher and student a tablet.. . . .Los Angeles school district officials said the iPad program will cost an additional $60 million annually to renew software licenses. School officials previously had said that the licenses would not have to be renewed. Now it appears that LA district schools are going to have to pony up $50 to $60 per iPad after three years, when the current licenses begin to expire.

Reader Diane Wood writes:

Why do we have a textbook shortage in the public schools? NM is spending our textbook money on books for private and religious schools. It should all be going to public schools as required in the state constitution.

Thanks, Diane. Actually, a state district court judge ruled earlier this year that it is constitutional for the state to fund textbooks for private schools.

WRONG REASON RAISES?

Reader Richard Flores writes:

I think the proposed 10% raise for new teachers is a joke. The raise is not going to attract teacher candidates because teachers don't become teachers for the money. They become teachers for other more important reasons. . . Teachers go into teaching knowing that in NM they will be underpaid  throughout their careers. A salary increase from $30,000 to $33,000 a year for beginning teachers will not make a difference to those who truly want to be teachers for all the right reasons. My concern is that the $3000 is being used to antagonize and to widen the political gap between the Martinez administration and those that oppose the Guv's educational reform efforts. This is clearly a divisive measure on the part of the Governor, and will make no difference in attracting candidates into the profession.

THE BEAR MARKET

The Bear Market continues to pound the state and cause fundamental changes in longtime institutions and individual lifestyles. Yet another example:

A mortgage company based in the Midwest had foreclosed on ABQ"s Four Hills Country Club), six investors said, and they have been negotiating with the mortgage firm to acquire the club’s assets. The assets consist of an 18-hole championship golf course with pro shop, a dining facility, a junior Olympic swimming pool and tennis courts. The club employs about 49, with another 15 during the warmer weather.

Beginning with its opening in 1959--Four Hills CC--nearly pressed against the Sandias in ABQ's Far SE Heights--was a posh stomping ground for the ABQ business elite, but the recession changed all that. Now it will be work just to keep the club open.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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