Monday, October 19, 2009

Transition Tremors: Berry's CAO Pick Runs Into Council Headwind, Plus: Chugging Along in Santa Fe, And: Our Monday Bottom Lines 

RJ Berry
What is usually a sure thing for an ABQ mayor has turned into a transition tremor for Mayor-elect RJ Berry. City Hall insiders are abuzz over the less than warm reception corporate attorney and Democrat David Campbell is receiving as the mayor's appointee as the city's chief administrative officer--the most important job other than that of mayor and one that requires confirmation from the nine member city council. Berry is getting grief from both left and right over his choice of attorney David Campbell and while no one is yet predicting he will be spurned by the council--that's never happened in our memory--what was thought to be a sure thing is now looking fuzzy and a nascent threat to the new mayor's authority. One of our Senior Alligators framed the behind-the scenes battle this way:

The liberal councilors--O'Malley, Garduno and Benton--are wavering because of Campbell's commercial clients. The Republicans want a Republican in the position. They have no bench but ideology is more important to them than success for Berry. This is a big test of Berry's authority over his right wing. What else will they want? He gave them Darren White. (GOP Sheriff White will leave that position to become Berry's Public Safety Director.)

The first volley over Campbell was fired by Republican Councilor Brad Winter who called the naming of Campbell "premature," but now insiders are saying that Winter's fellow Republican--Councilor Trudy Jones--is also shaky on Campbell. Combine them with the three liberal Dems who are not overjoyed, a question about where new GOP Councilor Dan Lewis comes down and you have enough votes to deny Campbell his dream job after the new mayor and council is sworn in Dec. 1.

The city has a history of bipartisanship, but hard-right Republicans are knocking Campbell, saying he will be an obstruction to the conservative agenda they want Berry to pursue. They also lament that White will answer to Campbell who is expected to keep the soon-to-be ex-sheriff on a tight leash, as he will with all key directors. The R's are flexing because they assumed the council majority--5 to 4-- following the Oct. 6 election.


One sticking point: If Dems joined with R's to reject Campbell, who would they get in his stead? Probably a hard-right Republican. That calculation could prevent a Campbell coup and a major embarrassment for the incoming mayor, not to mention a dilution of his authority to lead the state's largest city.

The city's business establishment has no major problems with Campbell who has practiced land use and zoning cases before the council. Berry might enlist them to help ease Campbell's path and Campbell himself is an old hand at council- mayoral elections.

As we said, the odds always favor a mayor getting the CAO he wants, but not necessarily without a test. At a minimum, Berry is being tested.


The Special Session trains went chugging along for a second day in Santa Fe Sunday, with no wrecks--major or minor--reported. Senator Tim Jennings (D-Roswell area) was in the conductor's seat, efficiently dispatching requests that measures to hike taxes be allowed into the session, despite Big Bill's proclamation to the contrary.

Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico, their hands always firmly on their wallets whenever the gang of 112 convenes, need not worry about their tax bills going up as a result of this special. The votes aren't there in the Legislature, and if that somehow changes Governor Big Bill will line item veto them.

Senators Jennings, Sanchez and Smith are playing it cool with Big Bill so far. They know the arguably over tight boundaries he put on this special raise some constitutional questions, but not serious enough to let it go off the tracks. The vibe so far from the Roundhouse is pretty good. The hope is we get a deal to solve the $650 million deficit for the current budget year without too much bloodletting. Speaker Lujan and the Senate heavies are best advised to get a deal done quickly and head down La Bajada. The longer everyone is kept around the playground, the more opportunity for unknowable mischief.


Liberal ABQ Dem State Senator and Dem Light Guv candidate Jerry Ortiz y Pino lambasted Big Bill with elan Sunday, coming with this statement on the decision not to allow any tax increase bills to be considered at the special. All you wanna be political attack dogs, here's how it's done:

There is no evidence in my mind that this administration in any way slowed down the spending in state government. Now, I've worked in administrations in the past, and as soon as there was any question that we were going to be in budget trouble, the word was out. Stop hiring, don't fill vacancies, no out-of-state travel, no contracts, no printing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, just make sure we get through this OK. Has this administration done anything remotely like that? They've brought us right up to the cliff and they say, 'You can't put a bridge across that cliff.'

Hey, that's some fire in the belly there. Look out Brian Colon, Lawrence Rael and Joe Campos--and the cast of thousands running for Light Guv. But don't bother telling ABQ Dem State Sen. Tim Eichenberg. He's done flirting with a run for the #2 job, according to fellow Senators he has passed the word to.


When was the last time the Republicans held a majority on the ABQ City Council? We asked that question in the aftermath of the Oct. 6 ABQ election in which the Republicans ended up holding five of the nine seats. Readers checking in say the last time the R's held the majority was also the last time there was a Republican mayor--in 1985. From the email:

The R's held the council in 1985 and lost it at the end of tht year to the Dems. Pete Dinelli and Michael Weiner (now a GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner) were elected that year. At that time, Weiner was a Democrat. The Dems held a 5-4 majority.


Some of our R friends have disagreed with our emphasis on the "sanctuary city" issue" and how we think this is dangerous territory for new ABQ GOP Mayor Berry. They say polls show Anglos and Hispanics both want tougher measures toward illegal immigrants. We don't doubt that, but we don't think they want enforcement done with a heavy hand or one that could raise the issue of racial profiling. But we defer to former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson who handled this hot potato often. She agrees that this is not an issue that needs to be high on the local agenda. Here's her position from 2008:

"My position on sanctuary cities is, the local government should not prohibit local law enforcement from talking to federal law enforcement--and the federal government should not mandate that local law enforcement report everyone...The responsibility of immigration enforcement and border enforcement is a federal responsibility. It is one the federal government has not done adequately.

Wilson never made the sanctuary city or illegal immigration a major issue in her ABQ area campaigns. There are plenty of other things to worry about--like the high property crime rate which is the primary focus of the new mayor.


Well, we got clever with a story on Steve Pearce's fund-raising numbers Friday and it backfired. We posted a photo of who we thought was Steve's chief fund-raiser, but the photo was apparently of a Colombian musical superstar (Please, don't ask). And we also got the name of fund-raiser Andrea Goff wrong. A friend of Andrea's had sent in the pic, and we mistook Goff's last name for the one on her email. We meant for the little riff on her good looks to be entertaining, but it turned out to be a comedy of errors. Apologizes to Andrea for giving her a fake identity.

Well, there is nothing fake about the $507,000 Republican Pearce reported raising in the July quarter in his quest to unseat Dem US Rep. Harry Teague from the southern congressional seat. But there is a hole in the story. We looked at all 530 donations Pearce reported and it appears only about 20 of them are from Dona Ana County--the most populous and politically important region of the sprawling district. That's less than four percent of Pearce's donations.

This reinforces the analysis that we have been carrying here from our Alligators that Pearce has lopsided strength on the east side, but still needs to break into Democratic Dona Ana if he is to oust Teague...

A couple of other bottom lines. We blogged that the "per diem" each NM legislator gets is $145 for each day they are in session. The ABQ Journal reports the rate went to $159 on Oct. 1. It is based on the federal per diem...And thanks to the Alligators for answering our request for the exact salary of the Bernalillo County Sheriff. It is $68, 308. Sheriff Darren White will leave his office to become the city of ABQ's new public safety director. Pete Dinelli was pulling down around $122,000 per year in that job. We don't know if White will go in at that amount, but he is bound to be getting a hefty pay raise.

This is where the campaigns start. E-mail your news and comments.

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