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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pre-Fourth Fireworks: Chamber Public Safety Award For Mayor Berry In The Middle Of The Crime Crisis is Scorched And Scorned, Plus: The Latest Action From Candidates Who Hope To Replace Berry 

Mayor Berry
The news that Mayor Berry will be given an award by the ABQ Chamber of Commerce for advancing public safety set off the pre-Fourth of July fireworks, with most of those weighing in offering withering comments on the Chamber's decision and on Berry's dismal record in the public safety arena.

Coming as it did in the middle of an epic crime crisis, the outrage was fever-pitched but not without humor. One of our Alligators joked:

What's next? (Former APD Police) Chief Ray Schultz gets an ethics award from Taser?

Others commenting were not prone to humor, calling the award "disgusting" and "shameless," among the less profane adjectives.

The Chamber, led for decades by its president and CEO Terri Cole, has been scored repeatedly in recent years for not demanding more results on the crime front from the Berry administration, even as Cole and the chamber decry the damage being done to the city's economy by the wave of criminal activity.

In olden days the likes of GOP US Senator Pete Domenici would pay a visit to the 11th floor of City Hall and demand that Berry right the ship, but Pete's long gone. Add to that the shrinking economy. That has made the major contractors hungrier than ever for new government spending projects. They are all members in good standing of the Chamber,  NAIOP and the Economic Forum, business groups that have kowtowed to Berry even as crime and the economy have tanked his approval ratings and brought economic development here to a near halt.

Berry has rewarded them handsomely, with $300 million in construction contracts going out from the city this year alone. It's a final burst of pork barrel pending to cap his eight year run which ends December 1.

In that context the Chamber's bizarre award seemed more for Berry's substantial "public spending" rather than "public safety" as the Chamber again turns a blind eye to the crime crisis, one of the worst in the nation.

(And that the Chamber of Commerce constantly crows for more "free enterprise" but actually is heavily weighted with folks who make their livings off of the government is lost on only the very few).

Terri Cole
Writing for the ABQ Free Press, Dennis Domrzalski provided this provocative context for the mayoral award:

The chamber will give a public safety award to the worst mayor in the city's history, a mayor whose city is literally on fire when it comes to crime. That's why Albuquerque has always been, and will always be, an economic and social backwater, a place of self-and-rigidly-imposed mediocrity. . . Under Berry’s watch, the Albuquerque Police Department has been decimated, we’ve become one of the most dangerous cities in the nation, criminals are laughing and residents are fleeing to other states. 

For that, Cole and the chamber she has run for 35 years are giving Berry an award. Only in Albuquerque are public officials who are total incompetents and failures feted with dinners and awards. And that’s why Albuquerque has always been, and will always be, an economic and social backwater, a place of self-and-rigidly-imposed mediocrity. It’s no coincidence that Cole is giving a failed mayor an award. Cole and her organization, and pretty much every other business and political group, are part of a small clique of people who have run this town for decades. Their faces and names never change. . . 

THE RAGE GOES ON

Attorney and former APD officer Tom Grover, who often is hired to handle cases involving APD, was also roused to comment over the Chamber's award, an award that at first glance seemed like a political satire but is for real and will be given to him today at  5 p.m. at the ABQ Museum:

While the general contractors involved in ART, Paseo's overpass and other infrastructure projects may have benefited from Berry's tenure, the rest of us have not. Our city's budget is hemorrhaging millions of dollars because of the Dept. of Justice reforms ordered  over APD's mismanagement, our economy has tanked, our quality of life is suppressed because of crime and our primary protectors against crime--APD--has been decimated by its leaders. They remain uncommitted and motivated solely by personal enrichment and personal resentment. 

When has Chief Eden or his crew taken ownership of anything? It's always some other guy's fault. Well if anybody needed evidence of their delusion, one only needs to look at what this faux "award" and recognize what it means: failure. I loved being a police officer until it become unpalatable because of  leadership's corruption. In the years since I've left APD and fought to correct it's misdeeds by Chief Schultz and Eden, I'm amazed that it has gotten worse. This award does nothing but embolden continued bad behavior by the Mayor and his police chief. 

(By the way, a biting comment on the crime wave on the Wednesday blog that came from Veronica Garcia was not from the Veronica Garcia who is superintendent of the Santa Fe schools.)

ON THE TRAIL

Ricardo Chaves
Meantime, on the mayoral campaign trail, Dem Tim Keller has scored an important endorsement which raises the question of whether an independent political action committee will be formed to buttress the $380,000 in public financing he is receiving. The news:

The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 18 has endorsed Tim Keller for Mayor of Albuquerque, the union’s local chapter presidents announced today. AFSCME Council 18 represents about 2,000 City of Albuquerque employees and an additional 3,000 workers who live in the city.

Will unions be part of a PAC that weighs in with advertising and manpower for Keller? That's the talk.

This is just the latest of many union endorsements Keller has received and that positions him well for the October 3 election. Republican Dan Lewis put out a fundraising message this week saying "all the polls" show that he and Keller are most likely to face each other in a run off election on November 7th. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote Oct. 3, which is highly unlikely, the two top vote-getters will advance to the run-off.

Lewis is trying to shake off the challenge he is receiving from fellow R and BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson by dismissing Johnson's candidacy as a nuisance and arguing this is already a two man race. The new finance reports will be released July 15 and will reveal more about who stands where.

And in case you forgot, there is a third Republican in the eight person mayoral field. That would be 81 year old businessman Ricardo Chaves who is luring voters to a Sunday event by offering free barbecue:

Chaves, the only veteran running for ABQ Mayor, will be hosting a FREE BBQ in appreciation of ABQ's fellow veterans, service members, and their families this Sunday, July 2 from 1 pm-4pm at his campaign headquarters located at 1018 4th Street NW (4th/Mountain). This event is free, catered by Rudy's BBQ, and is open to all who appreciate our military men & women.

Free barbecue and free Fourth of July fireworks. Now that's making America great again.

AT THE MOVIES

Finally, reader Eric Lucero comes with some film reviews for the long holiday weekend ahead:

Dean (PG-13) Comedy/Drama *** Stars out of 5 This little picture showcases the ample talents of actor/writer Demetri Martin who through quirky impulse stars in the title role as the cartoonist son who can’t quite cope with his mother’s sudden death.

Dean returns to his boyhood home and immediately tangles with his equally distraught father played competently by veteran actor Kevin Kline. How we deal with and accept life’s travails is what defines us. Martin clearly understands this. Yes, this short runner is a diamond in the rough. The plot’s rocky road to resolution seems contrived and there’s the obligatory happy ending, but Martin, in his directorial debut, makes the journey worthwhile.

A Quiet Passion (PG-13) Historic Bio-Drama **** Stars out of 5 ‘Passion’ is a specialty picture that vividly illuminates the life and times of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s greatest poets. Director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea, 2011) has a reputation for blending known histories with personal memories in order to create a plausible, flowing and compelling narrative. He succeeds quite nicely with ‘A Quiet Passion.' Davies reveals to us the highlights of Dickinson’s creative years which are populated with memorable characters. This bio is about Dickinson the feminist ad her creative duality both a submissive woman of her times but also as a ‘polite rebel.' At the end of her life in 1886, at age 55, Davies’s characterization leaves no doubt that Emily had already transcended the world of her time. She knew such famous poetic men of her age as Thoreau and Wadsworth and though she lacked their renown today she’s rightly remembered as a giant among giants.

Happy Fourth of July, New Mexico!

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

They're Back: Readers Opine On the Big Issues Of The Day In NM And ABQ In Our Latest Edition Of Reader Vox Populi. 

The readers write and we report. . .

A lot of comment on our Tuesday blog on the latest developments in the ongoing ABQ crime wave. Reader Dennis Maez wrote on our Facebook page:

Again, Joe Monahan hits the nail on the head, this time with a really big sledge hammer. The Mayor, Police Chief, the whole current city administration along with the DA are blaming the Supreme Court for the "crime wave." Everyone is so incredibly tired of the finger pointing and the blame game. There could be 30 to 35 more cops on the streets each shift starting today if we had an innovative police Chief that would order every officer not assigned to Field Services (detectives, admin, academy staff, etc) to work one shift a week as a street cop.  There really isn't any function of a police department more important than answering the call when someone's life is in danger. 

Also, we need to be arresting those who offend repeatedly--until these bad guys get tired of going to jail, even if it's a revolving door, and they move on. Quit worrying about the policies of the district attorney and the courts and arrest bad guys until they get tired of being arrested and Leave! So much can be done, but it takes leaders that will lead. Maybe that will come in December when we have the next mayoral election. 

THE FEAR FACTOR

This comment from ABQ reader Veronica Garcia (not the Santa Fe school superintendent Veronica) will resonate with those of you who have been in town a while and are seeing, hearing and feeling much the way she is:

It's so true, we have to be vigilantes in this city. My eyes are constantly moving and watching for the possibility that I may need to protect myself, my stuff or others. I can't just relax and go to the grocery store and walk in. I have to be paranoid and prepared for a possible hit on me! Homeless drug people are aggressive. If you stop giving panhandlers money ( their job) they will move away! Stop paying them! 

Garcia's fear of everyday life is one of the the worst repercussions from the crime crisis that has turned ABQ from a laid-back city--where crime was always prevalent but contained--into a war zone that continues to claim more acreage monthly. That fear ripples out and blacklists this city across the nation.

DO THEY KNOW?

This anonymous reader is concerned about the candidates lining up to become the next ABQ area congressional representative, replacing Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham who is running for Governor:

With the stench of a possible base closing commission--a BRAC which could impact Kirtland Air Force Base--and Los Alamos Labs on the ropes and its funding possibly threatened because of safety concerns, are any of the Democrats running for Congress in ABQ equipped to deal with these major issues and the possible losses in employment? Have any of them talked about defending our major installations? Have any of them ever been to the Los Alamos Labs or toured Kirtland operations?  Will they seek to join the House Armed Services Committee in Congress? I wonder . . .

A pointed observation since KAFB and Sandra Labs here are the region's major economic driver.

NO ONE WATCHING?

Hector & Michelle
Attorney General Hector Balderas, who toyed with the idea of seeking the Dem nod for Governor next year, never did and this week he formally endorsed Michell Lujan Grisham for the nomination. That brought this Alligator comment:

What's with MLG rolling out major endorsements in the middle of summer when no one is paying attention?

Hmm.. Maybe they'll do it again when everyone is paying attention? Just don't ask us what's up with the goofy pictures of Hector and Michelle that we've been running. Either they're having a whole lot of fun, or Jeff Apodca's campaign has their photographer on his payroll.

LEADERLESS AMID CRIME

Reader Michael Corwin, a longtime critic of Gov. Martinez and Mayor Berry, takes us back to the crime crisis:

The "leaders" who are blaming NM Supreme Court rules for the ABQ crime crisis are simply proving what we already knew. They are not leaders. Period. But, if we are looking for explanations for the serious destabilization in our city and state that has taken place, let's start with Governor Martinez's gutting of the behavioral health system  by alleging widespread fraud that was never there. 

Gutting treatment services to substance abusers, and those with mental health issues leads to...drum roll please... increased problems stemming from substance abuse and mental health issues. Exactly the kinds of folks committing the petty crimes downtown that are demoralizing to our quality of life.

Then there's Mayor Berry's fluff piece marketing campaign touting his "innovative" approach to homelessness, which has lead to an explosion of homeless people panhandling at every major intersection in the city. Then there are the business boosters, like the Chamber of Commerce, who have no clue how to boost business, so instead they cheerlead the failing policies of Martinez and Berry.

Reader Mick piles on:

The threat high-tech company LAVU made about leaving ABQ put the spotlight on the effects of downtown crime. And hizonner seems to think that his new development at First and Central NW will fix all of downtown's problem? Wait until the new tenants have to put up with all of the antics that LAVU and the Chamber of Commerce--also located downtown--have had to. Not a good thing. There's more, but maybe your column will generate some fire and heat where it will do some good.

REFORMED REPEATER

Reader John Adams wrote on our Facebook page:

I could chime in on many facets of the crime wave, particularly about the gross lack of rehabilitation available for those so called "repeat offenders" but I have to go to work as I am one of the majority of repeat offenders who actually straightened out his life.

Good for you, John, and good luck.

THAT OTHER CRISIS

Reader David Ley takes us to that other crisis--the one in behavioral health--that has been so much in the news in recent years:

The State has settled one of the alleged 2013 fraud cases against one of the behavioral health providers for .02% of the initial claims. Alleged over billing was so low that the state financial staff said they could not extrapolate it.

Please note, this is the same provider that then Human Services Secretary Squier and Governor Martinez both publicly attacked for using a private plane to fly from Las Cruces to Santa Fe (in order to attend state meetings). This was held up as exhibit 1 of alleged corruption, as they found this provider guilty in advance of due process.

The state then decimated the state behavioral health system on these justifications and wasted millions of dollars, besides interrupting critical services for vulnerable populations. I remember that during this time, there were lots of muttered suggestions that these varied providers were shady or engaged in poor business practices. I truly believe that mistrust and fragmentation was what allowed the state to get away with this.

Jim Farrell, who is a spokesman for the NM Senate Democrats, also wrote about the behavioral health settlement:

The state Human Services Department has settled with at least one of the accused 15 behavioral health providers - in this case, SW Counseling of Las Cruces. We wonder about the other 14 provider organizations that were maligned, and mostly put out of business, though. But this one is remarkable--after accusing SW Counseling of defrauding Medicaid of $2.8 million, HSD settled with them for $480. The damage has been done, as this story spells out.


We still wonder what was ultimately behind the administration's charges of widespread fraud when it turns out to be so obviously wrong. Follow the money is always a good place to start. But what money? Campaign funds? Money for the providers who were brought in to replace those kicked out? Perhaps an enterprising reporter will someday piece together this dark episode in its entirety.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Clouds in The Summer Skies As Kirtland AFB Mentioned For Possible Downsizing; That Follows Funding Threat To Los Alamos, Plus: Politicos Deflect And Deny Over ABQ Crime Wave But Impact Grows 

Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico are trying to get in some hammock time but they keep getting jolted by the headlines as they seek some solace in this Summer of '17.

First, they are told that billions of federal dollars intended for Los Alamos Labs could be jeopardized because of the Labs' safety record. On the heels of that humdinger came a bolt out of the blue--that the Feds will take another stab at consolidating the nation's military bases and that ABQ's Kirtland AFB could find itself in the crosshairs as it was back in '95 when it dodged the downsizing bullet.

Not that any of this will ever happen or happen overnight (a Kirtland review would not be completed until 2021) but  it does cast a cloud over hopes that New Mexico, down so far and so long, might soon climb out of its going-nowhere-fast hole.

THE CRIME WAVE

And then there's the crime wave. ABQ residents might want to hire armed guards to protect their backyard barbecues this Fourth of July, or at least anything with an engine attached to it as the city clings to the #1 national ranking for auto theft.

Violent crime and other property crime is also soaring and the powers that be--the Mayor, his chief administrative officer, the district attorney, the police chief and the Chamber of Commerce have now decided the entire problem is caused by a Supreme Court rule that lets repeat offenders run the city like some kind of permanent goon squad.

Blaming "lily-livered liberal judges" for crime is a time-honored tradition that lets everyone off the hook (i.e. your elected officials) and makes the citizenry feel good for a while--at least until the next wave of crime rocks them awake in their hammocks.

The politicos can defer, deflect and deny all they want, but it won't stop the exodus from here caused by crime and the economic and social decline. Reality will not be denied in the real world.

Just ask high tech firm Lavu which has put Mayor Berry and Gov. Martinez on the spot by threatening to pull out of the state because of the crime epidemic in downtown ABQ. Ironically, Lavu is just a block away from Mayor Berry's Innovate ABQ project which is supposed to promote just the kind of high tech, millennial attracting jobs that Lavu has brought here. You're going to build a high-tech economy when you can't keep one of your most prized assets because you can't clean up downtown?

(Oops. We forgot. It's all those "repeat offenders" taking a crap and peeing in the downtown alleys, shooting dope in the open air and harassing passer bys and we're simply helpless to stop them. Thanks for straightening us out yet again, Mr. Mayor.)

Restoring law and order requires, well, law and order. How about for starters a fully staffed police department that includes vigorous freeway traffic enforcement (in 2010 the APD traffic unit had about three dozen officers. Now there are less than 12.)

investigation of all city property crimes and cleaning up the decrepit downtown?

It is the atmosphere of lawlessness that has engulfed our city--not just violent, repeat offenders--that has emboldened the entire criminal element. Never mind repeat offenders. How many arrests of any kind of offender are being made by APD? A heckuva lot fewer than when you had a full-fledged department and one unencumbered  by a high level command more concerned about covering its rear end over questionable behavior instead of dealing with the crime crisis now at hand.

In 2015 there were 9,049 felony arrests. In 2016 that number fell to 8,744 felony arrests,

NOW THE ABSURD

Look at this bizarre episode from downtown and that made the national wires as the city crime wave goes from tragic to absurd:

While a television news crew was gathering footage for a story about crime in the Albuquerque downtown area, a thief drove off in the station’s SUV. KOB News Director Michelle Donaldson says the vehicle was recovered within a half hour without police assistance by following the GPS tracking device that was on board. She says the thief had fled the scene and the SUV was locked with the keys missing.

Recovered without police assistance? Well, if things don't improve soon, we might see more old style vigilante justice. Charles Bronson would be proud.

THIRTY YEARS 

Congrats to NM Voices for Children on their 30th anniversary which they noted this week as they sponsored their Fifth Annual Kids Count conference. The executive director of Voices is James Jimenez, a state government veteran who has worn many hats including chief of staff to Gov. Bill Richardson. At the conference this week the group honored former NM first lady Alice King for her work in establishing the Children, Youth and Families Department and former Oklahoma US Senator Fred Harris for his efforts to alleviate childhood poverty.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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