Thursday, April 27, 2017

Who Will Bust The APD Bunker? Latest APD Implosion Gives Mayoral Candidates Wider Berth To Advocate Reforms; Chief Eden Blames Entirety Of Crime Wave On Judges: APD Uses Facebook To Attack Critics 

Berry and Eden
The latest implosion of ABQ Police Chief Gorden Eden and his troubled department should give the Democratic mayoral candidates a wider berth in calling for sweeping reform of the troubled agency including Eden's removal, and perhaps give pause to the GOP contenders who have been more cautious in advocating for an APD revamping.

Eden, in what appears to be a give-up in his final months in office, is now putting complete blame for the city's crime epidemic on area judges and absolving himself of any responsibility. Here's the astounding quote that for Eden could come to define his career:

I know it sounds like I’m blaming it all on the judges,” he said about crime in the city, because I am.”

You wonder how the judges who like to throw the book at the criminal set feel about that blanket statement? And talk about immaturity. We've seen two year olds take more responsibility for their actions than this in-over-his-head police chief.

This comes three years after Eden was named by Mayor Berry to heal the agency and reverse the stats that have propelled the city to its standing as one of the worst places for crime in the USA. But it hasn't happened. It's reported this week that from 2009 to 2015 ABQ's violent crime rate leapt 21.5 percent. That puts us at the fifth most violent in the nation on a per capita basis.

And don't forget the city's newfound stature as the auto theft capital of the country. Let's hear it for the Chief (and mayor) from NAIOP, the Economic Forum, the ABQ Chamber of Commerce and our nine forlorn and forgotten city councilors. He couldn't have done it without them.

Even as Eden swept away any blame for the crime wave from his own doorstep and while APD was using Facebook to attack the media for many of its woes, the cultural rot and corruption continued to play out in lurid headlines.

Most damning of them all continues to be the unshakable Reynaldo Chavez, the former APD records manager, whose allegations that APD altered or deleted police lapel camera video in criminal cases is the subject of a wrongful firing lawsuit he has filed in state court:

Chavez is suing the APD for wrongful termination. He said APD fired him for not going along with the alleged cover-ups. Chavez was in court Tuesday to prove to a judge APD wiped out his city-issued cell phone, computer and hard drive after firing him. He believes APD tried to destroy any evidence he has that may implicate his former employer and he believes the court should sanction APD.

The ongoing cultural rot at APD is another Eden legacy. The latest:

A 10-year veteran officer of the Albuquerque Police Department is under fire for what he did while working a chief’s overtime job at a Walmart, lying about it, and also having an affair with a supervisor at the city’s Real Time Crime Center. The case against Richard Whitten began last summer when Whitten’s then-wife sent an email directly to Police Chief Gorden Eden. The wife lamented about the department’s handling of rampant extra-marital affairs, and said her husband was cheating on her with a supervisor at the RTCC.

It was former APD Chief Schultz who brushed aside APD extramarital affairs as "nature at play." Eden has been unable or unwilling to reverse the anything goes culture that now has the department shunned by prospective recruits and that has kept it dramatically and dangerously understaffed.

One bright spot for the outgoing chief is the drop in the number of fatal police shootings. That's happened since the Justice Department came to town and ordered police reforms.

But the bunker mentality so revealingly displayed in the Facebook controversy and the continuing testimony of Reynaldo Chavez shows no sign of abating. True to form Mayor Berry deferred a media inquiry on the latest APD blow-up to an APD staffer.

It will be up to the new Mayor who will take office December 1 to regain control of the city's police department and curb the crime wave that has so marred the quality of life here and hampered economic development. According to local experts, that will mean a new chief, a new upper command structure and a new approach to recruitment as well as community policing.

Eden, who built a reputation in state and federal government as an able bureaucrat, was outmatched by this crisis. His eruptions of rage and finger-pointing can be attributed to the frustration he must feel over his failures. But that's Eden's personal hell, even if it will be softened by a nice retirement check.

Our city's future is at stake and the mayoral candidates must now present a platform of substantial change that will begin doing the job that Chief Eden and Mayor Berry could not do.


Not again! Yes, yet another development that you thought you would never see in once on-the-go New Mexico:

The employment rate for New Mexicans of prime working age has seen the biggest drop in the nation since 2007, according to a new study. The Pew Research Center study looks at the change in employment among 25- to 54-year-olds between 2007 and 2016. It shows the decline in New Mexico amounted to 7.2 percentage points: from 79.1 percent employed in that age group in 2007 to 72 percent in 2016. That means for every 100 New Mexicans in the age group, about seven fewer held jobs by the end of 2016.

The economic transformation of New Mexico is the biggest story of the century. It permeates all others, including crime, stagnant population, poverty and education. And it's going to get bigger before this incredible era finally comes to a close.


About the Bernalillo County Democratic Party, an Alligator of the Senior variety opines:

The Bernalillo County Democratic Party had a record turnout at it's meeting on April 8. At that time they elected a Chair and Vice-Chair -- the Chair is 68 and the VC is 72, both Anglos. The committee chairpersons that the chair has now appointed are all over 60 (and mostly 65) and all Anglos. How does this reflect the future of the Democratic Party or even the Present face of NM or the country? is this because no one stepped up from a younger generation, no one cared, no one was recruited to run? How does this cast characters, all well intentioned, passionate folks, attract a new, younger, diverse group of folks to the Democratic party?

Come on. Everyone knows 65 is the new 45.


Reader Robert Palacioz sends this one:

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced 3-K for All, the most ambitious effort in U.S. history to provide universal, free, full-day, high-quality early childhood education for every three-year-old child regardless of family income. 

3-K for All will build on the success of Pre-K for All - through which New York City has more than tripled the number of four-year-olds enrolled in free, full-day, high-quality Pre-K - and is part of a broader effort to create a continuum of high-quality early care and education programs for New York City children from birth to five years old. Research has found every dollar invested in high-quality early education saves taxpayers as much as $13 long-term.

Well, there you go. Another dumb idea from New York City to pull New Mexico out of the cellar in the education and child well-being rankings. Everyone knows we have much better uses for that more than $15 billion stashed away in the state's Land Grant Permanent School Fund. Those New Yorkers are really something, aren't they?. . .

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National Pundits Weighing In On NM Guv Race As Another Candidate Announcement Nears And In The War Room With PED And APS  

Jeff Apodaca
The national pundits are starting to take their first look at next year's gubernatorial races and not unexpectedly one of them--"Inside Elections"--ranks New Mexico as lean Democrat":

Democrats believe this is one of their best pickup opportunities anywhere in the country. Republicans recently lost the state Legislature, Clinton carried the state easily, and the state economy has been struggling.

It appears Jeff Apodaca, ABQ businessman and son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, will be the next hopeful to jump in. He is excepted to formally announce his candidacy for the Dem nomination in early May. Apodaca is known as a centrist but he has hired political consultant Alan Packman who has handled mostly progressive Dems.

Las Cruces Dem state Senator Joe Cervantes has said he is running but has yet to formally announce. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced last year.

We don't see AG Balderas or Santa Fe Mayor Gonzales as highly likely to get in the Dem Guv race but if Gonzales wins his battle to impose a soda tax at a May election, he may be encouraged to make a go of it.

Supporters of NM Dem Party Chair Debra Haaland are saying she would be the first Native American woman elected to the US House of Representatives, if she were to succeed Grisham in the ABQ congressional seat next year. Haaland's term as chair ends in a matter of days and soon after she is expected to make her congressional candidacy official.

In the campaign for ABQ mayor, backers of Republican businessman Ricardo Chaves are expressing a high level of confidence that he will qualify for the Oct. 3 ballot by submitting 3,000 petition signatures from registered city voters. Friday is the last day to turn in the signatures to the city clerk. If Chaves, 80, does make the ballot he may be the oldest candidate for mayor or city council to ever do so. He has salted his late-starting campaign kitty with $300,000 of personal funds.


In the ongoing war between the state Public Education Department (PED) and ABQ Public Schools, PED claims:

APS schools are not producing results. Compared to other schools, APS’ graduation rate is below average while our state is at an all-time high; their school grades are dropping while the rest of the state increases; and students are at a lower achievement while statewide more students are on grade level in reading, math and science.

APS administrator Kizito Wijenje responds:

While APS works diligently to increase the achievement rates of all its 85,000 students, one has to understand that the APS school and student portfolio ranges widely and across the entire microcosm of the NM socio-economical spectrum. APS achievement rates are taken as an average of the whole (as they should be). However, comparing this average to school districts (Los Alamos, Rio Rancho, et al) that do not have the diversity of the Albuquerque area is simplistic and deceptive. 

APS also provides a variety of services for special ed students. 53% of the highest need students are served in APS, which has 29% of all the students in the state. New Mexicans statewide rely on and take advantage of by moving their needy students here.APS does this within its allocated budget and with no special dispensation from the state


From a reader email on your government at work. Or not:

Good afternoon, Due to budgetary concerns, the 1st Annual State Purchasing Conference is being postponed. We apologize for the inconvenience. We look forward to rescheduling this important conference at a future date. Thank you for your understanding. Regards, Lawrence Maxwell, State Purchasing Agent

Reader Alan Schwartz writes:

Joe, I don't know if you have noticed but the online version of the ABQ Journal no longer appears to allow reader comments on articles or opinion pages.

We have noticed that, Alan, and often found incisive reader comments on the news articles. Was it cost savings or some other reason for dropping the comment boards that have been a staple for years? We'll let you know what we hear.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Watching For Cracks In House GOP Caucus As Budget Battle Continues, Susana Sustains Political Damage Over Higher Ed Funding Veto, Fake News Alert On State Budget And Rich Says He Is In GOP Senate Race To Stay 

She's hoisted on her own petard now and the Democrats watch and wait for signs that more Republicans will start to flee this governorship, finally leading to a budget deal.

Martinez's veto of the entire state higher education budget is being widely condemned across the state and becoming a defining chapter of her tenure. Former GOP Governor and current NMSU president Garrey Carruthers is, in fact, leading the charge against Martinez's action. The Governor's veto was a political miscalculation of the highest order and combined with her infamous holiday pizza party may very well comprise the bulk of her dour legacy.

State Senate Ds and R's are, for the most part, united in their abandonment of Martinez and agree to a budget deal that includes some tax hikes. It is a radicalized Republican segment of the state House that is hanging tough and refusing to bargain. We say "radicalized" because of their belief that taxes should never, ever be raised--under any circumstance. And if any of the radical R's take umbrage with that definition, we welcome their explanation as to where and when they would vote to increase revenues for the state.


The political damage being done by their stance and that of the Governor is now palpable. A plunge in her approval rating into the 30's (she's currently at 43%) is a reasonable assumption. Ironically, that would place her where her predecessor Democrat Bill Richardson finished and made possible her 2010 gubernatorial victory and a brief GOP run as the majority party in the state House. Now they are giving it all back.

The radical R's are mainly in safe districts subject to political pain only if they receive primary challenges. An exception is their putative leader--ABQ Rep. Nate Gentry--whose ABQ NE Heights district grows more Blue by the month. If there is to be a big crack in the dam preventing the state from having a budget, it could finally be him wielding the jackhammer behind the scenes.


With the Republican governorship tottering the value of the 2018 Democratic Guv nomination continues to increase, but there don't seem to be many takers. You would think at least a half dozen credible candidates would already be lined up or rumored to be preparing to dive in. So why aren't they? Probably because of the immense amount of cash it takes to run these days. A primary costing upwards of $2 million keeps many wannabe Governors on the sidelines. And then there's the problem of governing this place, faced with limited resources as far as the eye can see and social and economic problems that continue to intensify year after year.

Will an independent business type with plenty of personal wealth be enticed into the race? The ground is fertile for such a play, given the gloomy condition of the state and its politics. Donald Trump did it. Gary Johnson did it here in '94.


Meantime, the Martinez administration seems engaged in its own version of "fake news" as it argues that the current budget year--which ends June 30--is in dire straits and that the Governor may have to furlough state workers to make ends meet. But the real news says:

A revenue forecast for the state indicates that Gov. Martinez is wrong about the need for employee furloughs or a hiring freeze to balance spending for the remaining two months of the fiscal year, according to a top university economist. The budget tracking report from the Legislative Finance Committee indicates “revenues continue to appear on track or exceed expectations from the December forecast.” It projects that the state general fund will close out the 2017 fiscal year at $54 million, or 1 percent, above expectations.

And even more on the busy Susana beat. . .

It was a bizarre sometimes contentious, sometimes even rowdy 27 minute news conference by Gov. Martinez in Taos last Tuesday called to explain her budget vetoes. Often it was upset citizens playing the role of reporters and challenging Martinez before an aide returned the event to the reporters. How did Martinez do? Audio is here.


Mick Rich 
If Lt. Gov. John Sanchez enters the GOP race for US Senate he'll have company. So says ABQ contractor Mick Rich who has been on the campaign trail for a year and tells us he is not about to get off it if Sanchez joins the fray. Rich shoots down speculation that he would withdraw from the Senate race if Sanchez gets in and instead seek the GOP Guv nomination:

I set my sights on the Senate race a while ago. . . I am on schedule and on budget and it's looking good to me. I am running for the Senate. If Martin Heinrich was doing his job and helping hard working New Mexicans, I wouldn't be doing this. If I thought there was somebody better than me I would be on their team, but there isn't. . .The Governor's race is not my race...

Rich also took this passive-aggressive stance on the Lt. Governor:

I think the ABQ congressional race would be a great spot for John. He is well-established in ABQ and I think he would do well there. My only business is to represent the state of of New Mexico as a US Senator.

The ABQ US House seat is being vacated by Dem. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who is running for Governor.

As we reported recently Sanchez is attacking Dem Senator Martin Heinrich publicly and appears poised to get in the Senate contest. Meanwhile, Heinrich has  $2.5 million in the bank in anticipation of an '18 clash. Rich says he has about $200,000 in cash on hand.

This Heinrich supporter says he welcomes a Sanchez Senate bid:

Joe, I am elated to hear that Lt. Gov. John Sanchez from the failed Martinez/Sanchez administration is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate. I believe that he is a grossly over rated politico because Big Bill wiped the floor with him by nearly 80,000 votes in 2002 when John ran against Bill for Governor. Plus, as you mentioned, Sanchez was forced to dropout of the 2012 U.S. Senate Republican primary. Sen. Heinrich plays hardball politics. Just remember how he ran for the US House and destroyed Darren White and did the same in his Senate run against Heather Wilson. As Sen. Heinrich salivates I say, Run John run!

Back on the congressional seat, former US Attorney Damon Martinez is a new name floating as a possible for a run at the Dem nomination.


We comment on the  budget mess in Santa Fe for Dateline New Mexico and host Tom Trowbridge. The program runs four minutes.

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