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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Yet Another Fatal Police Shooting As City Council Nibbles At Margins Of Crisis; What It Will Really Take To Turn It Around, Plus: The State Of Our City; Veteran Journalist Sees Us Dying On The Vine, And: Jeff Watch: Renegade Dem State Rep Tossed From Ballot 

ABQ City Council
Only hours after the latest fatal police shooting the ABQ city council nibbled around the edges of the APD crisis, tossing around some feel-good proposals. One is to have the APD chief elected and another would give more power to the Police Oversight Commission.

But the real solutions require gutsy moves that our political, business and media leadership are so far unwilling to embrace. Chief among those is the hiring of a new police chief from out-of-state and the replacement of the key command personnel by that new chief. That would be the beginning of the major cultural change necessary to reform the department.

Another change that would speed up reform? Indictments of police officers for criminal violations in connection with the 24 fatal shootings since 2010. Justice is investigating several of the shootings for such violations but no indictments have been issued.

With Mayor Berry appearing unwilling to make the sweeping personnel changes needed, it's easy to see future APD and mayoral resistance to Justice Department reforms. If Justice and the city do become adversarial--as we predict--it will be a very long three years ahead. A new Mayor does not take office until December 2017.

THE LATEST SHOOTING

The news of the early Monday morning fatal police shooting of 19 year old Mary Hawkes--an auto theft suspect--sent the city reeling yet again. Demonstrators soon appeared at the shooting scene near Wyoming and Zuni and our long city nightmare continued.

APD Chief Eden says an officer on foot was chasing the woman who he said turned around during the chase and pointed a gun at the officer. She was shot and killed. It was the first woman killed by APD since the long string began in 2010.

More on her:

Mary Hawkes is the daughter of former Belen Police officer and retired Valencia County Judge Danny Hawkes. As a judge, he started a program to bring the magistrate courtroom to schools so kids can see the consequences of taking drugs and drinking and driving. He is well-known for trying to help troubled kids turn their lives around, adopting and fostering children like 19-year-old Mary. But she had been arrested at least four times in the last year on charges including shoplifting and drinking. Sources say the retired judge also has a son who works as an Albuquerque Police officer.

This was the third fatal police shooting in only five weeks. And Justice--even as it scrutinizes ABQ--has been embarrassed by two shooting incidents in the city in recent weeks by the US Marshall's office which falls under its purview.

The level of trust in APD's version of any police shooting is widely suspect in many quarters. Those versions have been found wanting by juries that have awarded millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements and brought the US Justice Department to town to investigate excessive force allegations.

THE STATE OF THIS CITY 

Joe Monahan
If there were ever an existential crisis, ABQ has got it. The public policy machinery of the city is broke, with a city council and mayor pedaling furiously on a stationary bicycle. The city--never an isle of serenity--seems more riddled with crime than ever. The lack of jobs (mostly for the under classes) and the continuing effects of the recession are debilitating. Police are facing tougher thugs and more suspects who are mentally ill. That leads to even more of the now infamous confrontations that test their mettle and training and which too often end in death.

As for the economy, it seems drugs and crime is the new growth engine in 21st century Albuquerque.

Perhaps worst of all it is a city that is riddled with a striking citizen apathy that has contributed to the decline in the quality of life for a great many of its residents. Only recently has that apathy been   pierced, sparking hope that perhaps finally the turning point is here,

We read an article recently about the spirituality of New Mexico and ABQ and of their natural beauty and enchanting cultures. Appreciating those qualities, we were told, is what makes one a New Mexican. That prompted this thought:

Appreciating the state's great legacy, its arts, culture and natural beauty today means putting a clothespin on your nose to avoid the smell of the social sewer that swirls around us.

The police shootings, the lost jobs, the petty political players and lack of leadership, the social conditions crisis manifesting itself in even more horrific child abuse cases and on and on and on. It makes the like of Georgia O'Keeffe seem much less relevant and overwhelms even the most loyal New Mexican.

IS ABQ DYING?

Wally Gordon
So many are bemoaning the post-recession ABQ. Wally Gordon, a veteran NM journalist of "The Independent" newspaper serving the East Mountain area, goes as far as to wonder aloud if ABQ should be considered a dying city:

Cities, like people, are works in progress. They have life cycles. . .They are born and grow and thrive. And they shrink and wither and die. Once the process of disintegration gains momentum, a city may reach a turning point and its fate may become irreversible.  Has Albuquerque reached that turning point? Has it arrived at an irreversible point of disintegration? Is it dying?

It is almost impossible to be certain of a turning point until it is in the rearview mirror. There are ample signs, however, that Albuquerque may be there. In major respects it is one of the nation’s failed metropolitan areas, among those with the worst economy, the least effective political leadership, the most unimaginative business community, the most violent police force, the worst child protective services, the highest poverty rate, the worst high school and college dropout rates, the least educated workforce, the greatest government dependence and the worst media news.

Business in Albuquerque is at a standstill. Shopping malls stand abandoned, dilapidated and empty. With a shrinking workforce, Albuquerque has fewer workers than in 2007. Uniquely in the West, more people are leaving than moving in. Commercial construction has not recovered. Housing sales and construction have not recovered. Government services and education, curtailed during the Great Recession, have not recovered.

. .. .Cities do die. Witness Detroit, St. Louis, New Orleans, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. . .These cites, of course, still exist, but only as shadows of what they were in the 1970s. Athens, Greece, once the most important city in Europe if not the world, with a population in the 5th century B.C. of perhaps 300,000, declined to a village of 5,000 by the early 19th century. Although it’s metro area has added 3 million people in the past two centuries, it has never recovered anything remotely resembling its former glory. So the question is less whether Albuquerque will find life after death than what the postmortem city will be like.

Food for thought, Wally. Much food indeed. . . .

JEFF WATCH

Rep. Jeff
How big a deal it will be won't be known until after the November election but right now it looks pretty big. Renegade State Rep. Sandra Jeff was tossed off the ballot Monday for failing to have the required number of valid petition signatures. The deed was done by a district court judge. Jeff of the Navajo Nation will likely appeal to the NM Supreme Court.

The state House is narrowly divided--37 Dems and 33 R's.  If the R's could hold all their seats and pick up three they could take control of the House for the first time since 1952. But Jeff has voted with the R's on several key issues. If she stayed around the R's might need to pick up as many as three seats--she could bolt and support someone other than Kenny Martinez for speaker.

How likely? Well, Jeff's lawyer for the petition case is notorious GOP attorney Pat Rogers who is also NM's GOP National Committeeman. The R's wanted Jeff that much.

As for Jeff's House seat, there are two other Dem primary candidates running, but the R's did not field a candidate. The winner of the June 3 primary will in all likelihood take the seat. Jeff could still run as a write-in candidate.

The Dems have had little good news to celebrate in recent years. This news finally gives them something to celebrate

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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