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Thursday, December 05, 2019

More From ABQ Crime Beat That Dominated Week; The Stats Backlash, Plus: Council Run-Offs Get Testy In Final Days; Charges Of Carpetbagging And Cop Cutting 

The week  here has been spent mainly on the ABQ crime beat, and we have more . . .

One suggestion for crime-fighting is to bring back the state police to help APD patrol the streets as was done temporarily earlier this year by order of Governor MLG. But this suggestion comes with a twist: have the Governor and Legislature use the record surpluses to beef up the permanent state police presence in the ABQ metro area. The thinking being that the addition of a couple of dozen officers would give APD breathing room for several years as it tries to staff up.

Any takers for this among the BernCo state legislative delegation?

STATS BACKLASH

The erroneous numbers that inflated the success ABQ is making in the fight against crime sparked an uproar this week and our expert readers continue to come with insight and analysis.

Government watchdog Charles Arasim contributes his thoughts on the Monday night city council meeting where the stats snafu was discussed:

At the nine minute mark in this video, you will hear APD Deputy Chief Armijo say that in 2018 APD switched from the UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting) system to NIBRS (National Incident Based Reporting System). She goes on to say at some point, those numbers went into a black hole. You can read about the FBI mandating police departments across the nation make the switch from UCR to NIBRS by Jan 1, 2021, here.

Saying that, I’m bewildered how it can be that APD’s IT staff, Records Staff, Chief Armijo, Chief Geier and, his boss, Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair all missed the boat on successfully integrating/implementing the NIBRS software package. It simply makes no sense.

COUNCIL RUN-OFF ACTION

(click to enlarge)

It looks though we could have a close run-off race next Tuesday when the votes are counted in ABQ City Council district 4 in the NE Heights. Both sides are firing ammo in the final days.

The latest comes from Republican Brook Bassan who mailed a flyer accusing Romero of being a "political opportunist," who recently moved into the council district. That flyer is posted here. Dem Ane Romero's campaign came with this response:

Brook Bassan has sent a desperate, last minute mailer, lying about my background saying I've rented an apartment and moved into District 4 just to run for office. It's a flat-out lie. My husband and I are homeowners and moved to the Northeast Heights after we got married in 2015. . . I serve on the Northeast Community Policing Council and my husband is a board member on our Homeowners Association. I have voted in every city election since we bought our home in January, 2016 in District 4. Brook shouldn’t throw stones. She moved into the District just a few years before me, chose not to take the most basic step in our democracy and didn’t vote in most city elections, and then deceived Heights voters by changing her party affiliation six times. . .

Bassan says she switched political parties six times so she could vote in certain Dem and GOP primary elections.

The early District 4 vote trend, according to consultants, has tilted toward the R's but the Dems hope to catch up in the final days of early voting which ends Saturday and in Election Day voting which is Tuesday, Dec. 10.

In District 2 in the Downtown/North Valley area, Zack Quintero has been firing crime salvos at Dem City Councilor Ike Benton, saying that Benton voted to cut 100 police officers from APS, so no wonder we have a crime problem. Benton put out a mailer to refute that powerful charge, saying:

In 2015, ABQ was coming out of a recession and gross receipts tax revenue was flat. A unanimous city council vote redirected funds in Mayor Berry’s APD budget for 100 vacant positions (not projected to be filled that year) to 5% raises for officers and to comply with the DOJ settlement. As a result in 2015, police department funding increased $8 million from the previous years. To say we cut 100 APD jobs is an intentional misrepresentation.

Benton won the initial November election by 21 points over Quintero but his 28 year old rival has been pushing hard in the close and winning endorsements from other first round candidates like  Robert Nelson. Former candidate Joseph Griego has endorsed Benton.

AND SO IT BEGINS:

Five days into the start of service, one Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) system bus is off the street after colliding with a vehicle on West Central Wednesday afternoon. . . The driver of a pickup truck made an illegal left turn and crashed into the bus as it headed east on Central, near 52nd. The truck driver was taken to a hospital to get “checked out” but there were no other injuries reported. . . 

Thanks for tuning in. We welcome your news, comments, criticisms and thoughts on your own personal existential angst.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Keller May Get To Make City Council Appointment, Plus: Botched Crime Numbers Befuddle Council And: Want A State Job?  

ABQ Mayor Tim Keller may get the rare opportunity to appoint a member of the City Council.

Veteran Councilor Ken Sanchez has been hospitalized since Nov. 25 for a "medical emergency" and it's uncertain if he will return to the nine member panel that he has served on since 2005. If he doesn't, Keller would appoint a replacement who would fill out the remainder of Sanchez's term which expires in 2021.

Sanchez is a Democrat and Keller could be expected to appoint another Dem to replace him. However, Sanchez is one of the few prominent moderate Dems in the metro and Keller would be lobbied to name a more progressive personality who could tilt the council further left.

The last councilor to be appointed was Republican Janice Arnold-Jones by then Mayor Berry in 2013 when Councilor Mike Cook resigned after being arrested for DWI.  However, Arnold-Jones lost the seat in an election later that year to Dem Diane Gibson.

BY THE NUMBERS

At Monday's ABQ City Council meeting Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair said it is uncertain whether crime statistics dating back to the beginning of 2018 are flawed. The response came as councilors explored the botched numbers that were released by Mayor Keller this year that compared the crime rate for the first six months of 2019 to 2018 and found a dramatic drop in most crime. It turns out there was no big drop, to the embarrassment of the administration, which released revised numbers and have resulted in a public outcry.

Nair said the city will look back at the stats and make any necessary corrections. Meanwhile, Keller is asking the state legislature for $20 million to update APD crime reporting software.

While the reporting system was blamed for being flawed there was no mention at the meeting of any specific city personnel bungling their duties.

Here's a 27 minute video from the meeting posted by government watchdog Charles Arasim in which Nair and an APD deputy chief try to explain how there could have been such a large reporting error.

City Councilor Pat Davis, who worked in the records division of the DC police department, said at the end of his questioning, that he still did not understand how APD arrived at numbers so much at odds with the final and presumably accurate ones touted by Mayor Keller at a news conference.

Attorney and former APD cop Tom Grover weighed in:

What a pile of BS. Like they’re finding this out now. And if true, explain why they sat on the job for 2 years. And if not, explain exactly why the Real Time Crime Center even exists. None of this is new news to this administration.

To be continued. . . .

WANT A STATE JOB?

After years of retrenchment state government employment is growing--thanks to record surpluses. And that brings us to this item of interest for job-seekers:

Gov. MLG announced a four-day Rapid-Hire Event to be held in ABQ aimed at fast-tracking hiring for hundreds of vacant state jobs. . . Every state agency with vacancies will participate in the event Dec. 11-14. . . Screeners on-hand will review applicant resumes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. . . The event will be held at the Tingley Coliseum at Expo New Mexico. However, job seekers outside ABQ and Santa Fe may participate by going to their local Workforce Connections office to set up interviews by video-conference. Rapid-hire events are designed to attract applicants and simplify the hiring process by providing on-site job interviews. Selected applicants can receive a conditional job offer the same day or shortly after. 

More info and the specific job openings are listed here.

One reason state jobs are attractive is because they offer security. Well, as long as you're not a cabinet secretary.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Alligators, Insiders and City Hall Watchers Weigh In With Advice For Mayor: Shake It Up, Tim, Plus: Apartments And Immigration Stir Voters In ABQ Council Run-Off  

Rael and Keller
If ABQ Mayor Tim Keller is going to shake things up in the wake of the crime stats fiasco as he begins the third year of his term, the Alligators, Insiders and City Hall watchers have plenty of advice for him. Let's take a look. . . .

--Shift Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair to the Chief Operations Officer (COO) position currently occupied by Lawrence Rael. Make Rael CAO with marching orders to straighten out the APD mess--once and for all.

Rael held the CAO job for years under previous mayors and knows where and how the bodies are buried. The 11th floor has been unable to take control of the city bureaucracy. Get Rael on it. If he can't put points on the board, show him the door. Nair makes $190,000 a year and Rael pulls down $185,000, after getting hefty pay raises. Time for results.

--If the Mayor can't let go of friend and APD Chief Mike Geier he could still dip into the APD command structure, cherry pick those he needs to oust and replace them with Keller loyalists who will have his back. APD is one embarrassment and (humiliation) after another.

Sarita Nair
--Restructure the mayoral communications team so it concentrates more on meat and potatoes matters and less on the fluff. Some observers say Keller is starting to look like Republican Mayor RJ Berry, lost on policy and too heavy on the PR. They argue for a new approach to re-establish credibility and put forth a more serious tone on crime.

Despite what former Mayor Marty Chavez did, a Mayor does not need a news conference or photo-op every single day.

--How about poring over all the crime stats released since the administration's 2017 start and make any necessary corrections as was done to the mid-year report that has inflicted so much damage? If the 11th Floor doesn't, someone else will, possibly causing even further credibility problems.

We blogged Monday that the "political fortunes" of Keller and Chief Geier are on the line. Actually, it is just one of them--Mayor Keller--who has to face the public's judgment directly. The Mayor's friends and enemies agree on one thing--if he's going to shake things up, now is the time.

CAMPAIGN ACTION

Meantime on the '19 city council campaign trail, building more "luxury" apartments and ABQ's status as an immigrant friendly city are issues stirring voters in the District 4 council run-off election in NE Heights District 4.

Republican Brook Bassan has received considerable financial support from real estate interests. John Adams Ingram, former president of the Nor Este Neighborhood Association, who is backing Dem Ane Romero in the run-off, says there are development issues in the district prompting the involvement:

Real estate developers want to build another huge “luxury” apartment complex in our neighborhoods, this time at Barstow and Alameda NE. We already have three of these huge apartment complexes surrounding our far NE Heights neighborhoods:

# 1. Alameda &San Pedro NE.
# 2. Wyoming &Carmel NE.
# 3. Barstow & Carmel NE.

Developers are trying to persuade city planners to allow them to build a fourth apartment complex at Barstow & Alameda NE. These new apartments, if allowed, would be less than a mile (or two) from the apartment complexes listed above. Neighbors in Vineyard Estates and NorEste Estates are organizing. We are trying to stop these developers from breaking ground at Alameda & Barstow NE. Romero supports our position. 

Ingram says opponents of the new apartments have hired attorney and former GOP City Councilor Hess Yntema to help them fight the development.

SANCTUARY OR NOT

While Ingram rallies for Romero, Bassan is filling mailboxes with criticism of ABQ's status as a "sanctuary city" as she works to firm up GOP support in the Republican leaning district.

Bassan’s campaign ads criticize “sanctuary city” policies. Bassan said she wants local authorities to collaborate with federal immigration authorities, checking the citizenship of those they arrest for other crimes and reporting those who are undocumented to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I believe before anyone is released from jail, a thorough background check, including status of citizenship, should be conducted to discover if they are wanted by any other law enforcement agency or here illegally. This should not be limited to only those who have been convicted of a crime.". . . 
Romero said she supports the city’s immigrant-friendly resolution, calling it a “matter of public safety.”

The seat is being vacated by longtime GOP Councilor Brad Winter. It leans R. Bassan scored 49 percent in the initial balloting and Romero 42 percent. The run-off election is slated for December 10 with early voting now underway.

Political operatives working the district report that GOP early turnout is good and give Bassan the edge, forcing Romero to pop a surprise in the Election Day balloting.

There is also a run-off in ABQ Valley District 2 featuring Dem incumbent Ike Benton and Dem challenger Zack Quintero.

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Monday, December 02, 2019

Botched Crime Stats Shake City Hall As Keller Marks Second Year As Mayor  

Welcome back. Off we go to the merry month of December.

Well, not so merry for ABQ Mayor Tim Keller and his crime-challenged APD Chief Mike Geier. The news that dropped on the first day of December revealing that an optimistic set of city crime stats were botched was equivalent to the proverbial lump of coal in their Christmas stockings.

Actually it was worse than that.

The news came on the exact day the Mayor was marking his second anniversary as the city's chief executive. Drop another lump of coal in that stocking.

Keller is in over his ankles in the city's crime quicksand and his kneecaps could be next. In the old days they called what happened with the crime stats a "credibility gap." Credibility is still the currency of leadership and the administration--caged with a police department that seemingly cannot be tamed--continues to see it shredded.

The apologetic city PR mavens awkwardly blamed the bum numbers on lousy software and a staff shortage in the records center. The assertions that they were doctored or designed to deceive the public was left to the social media aficionados. They did not disappoint. Caryn McGinley wrote:

What’s even more alarming is the fact that it took someone to notice inconsistencies and to ask questions for this to be reported to the public. They had the correct data at the end of September, and yet we’re only hearing about it now. They chose not to hold a news conference about crime statistics for the third quarter and while APD provided the revised statistics to City Council in October, they did not disclose the change in numbers. Does this not seem deceptive?

The Alligators warned here when the big crime drop was reported for the first six months of '19 compared to '18 that the news should be received with caution. They said the Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics reported to the FBI could tell a different tale. And that's just what happened.

Geier and Keller
It's not as though crime did not go down some during that time. The Mayor made that point in response to the revelation of the botched numbers. That's the same hook that commenter Michael Garcia made on Facebook:

APD and the mayor never reported or stated that violent crime is down. In fact, he has stated that violent crime is a huge problem, and he is doing what he can as mayor to try to curb it. He has previously stated that property crime was down. And here, the ABQ Journal reports by its own investigations, indeed it is down. This is nothing new, nothing revelatory. It's a typical rightward leaning paper, gotcha story. There's nothing mistaken about reporting crime is down, and the Journal is reporting that crime is down but not by quite as much. . . 

Crime is indeed down, but you don't need a degree from the Columbia School of Journalism to know that this is a straight forward story and not a production of Steve Bannon. A dramatic drop in crime or a modest one is a major difference for the lives of thousands of crime victims as well as for measuring progress the city is making in halting the epidemic.

Not to mention a measurement of the city's competence and integrity as questions now swirl over other APD crimes stats.

APD misinformation has a long, long history. We recently reported how the city council and APD could not agree on how many officers were charged with enforcing the federal consent decree, instead of being out on the streets on the crime beat. Now this.

Before the consent decree the cops were shooting left and right and the city paid up something like $70 million in lawsuit settlements. Now millions go out the door annually to pay for consent decree enforcement. Then there's the 2018 tax increase the mayor and council approved for APD that brings in some $60 million a year.

At APD the truth is still looking for a friend. It's a very expensive search for taxpayers and a politically perilous one for the Mayor and his Chief of Police.

CRIME BEAT

City Hall watcher Art Tannenbaum questions the numerous crime fighting plans from the city:

People have been asking why some of the things announced about crime-fighting haven't been done already. For example, why has APD now just begun the "Metro 15" plan, targeting the most violent offenders? Why is an APD staffing analysis being asked for by the union leader only now, in what seems to be an afterthought to the "public safety" tax imposed last year? As long as everybody involved has somebody else to blame and the money keeps flowing regardless of unacceptable outcomes, nothing will really change. These politicos ought to be thanking the public for our extraordinary tolerance.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2019
 
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