Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Berry: Out With The Old And In With The Old; We're On The Transition Beat, Plus: Lunch With Joe; Inside VP's ABQ Visit, And: Executive Order 2009-046 

Garcia & Madrid
Old government hands are beginning to populate the new administration of ABQ Mayor-elect RJ Berry, signaling that this is going to be a time of mechanics not architects. The big vision days are gone, a victim of the new and miserly economy. A trio of names were announced Monday by Berry. Here's the take.

John Garcia, former head of economic development in the long ago Guv administration of Gary Johnson and more recently the economic development officer for the University of New Mexico, will take the econ role for Berry. Garcia won't be the sort to set the city on its ear with shiny new proposals, but he should have accumulated enough wisdom to keep from falling head over heels for things like the now failed Eclipse Aviation.

Bruce Rizzieri will head the transit department, replacing Greg Payne. Rizzieri has "been there and done that," having served in high-ranking positions in the department during Jim Baca's term and more recently working at the Regional Transit Manager for the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG). That's the place where you hang out with MRCOG boss and Dem Light Guv candidate Lawrence Rael.

Berry will look to Rizzieri to administer but not necessarily innovate. The mayor-to-be campaigned heavily against a "trolley" car and even opposed the extension of the quarter cent gross receipts tax dedicated to transit and other transportation needs.

Tito Madrid was an underpaid aide (really) to former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson who will now head up Berry's constituent services, a new post. He was a key campaign aide for the mayor-elect and will be able to help Berry keep his ear to the ground at the neighborhood level.

Rizzieri and Garcia will make about $97,000 a year. That's less than the jobs paid under Chavez. It appears Berry has decided the $100,000 mark is the politically sensitive number in this environment. He may be on to something. Madrid will make about $75,000.

Meanwhile, outgoing Mayor Marty Chavez is getting $37,000--in a workers' comp settlement for a back injury he suffered on the job. That strange tale here.

Meanwhile, Berry has found what every mayor needs--a hatchet man. City Hall was buzzing with the news Monday that incoming Chief Administrative Officer David Campbell was personally delivering "thanks, but no thanks" letters to more than a few high ranking members of the outgoing Chavez administration.

The new CAO-to-be paid unwelcome visits to the offices of agency directors Valerie Vigil and Pat Miller, among others, to tell them the not so good news--that the exit signs are meant for them.

Campbell may have the sharpest axe in the bunch, but Darren White also took a turn swinging the blade Monday. We're told the Bernalillo County Sheriff--soon to be city Public Safety Director--visited another former Sheriff, Joe Bowdich, who is now deputy director at the ABQ police department, and personally notified him that he was out the door. Bowdich, a diehard Dem, was succeeded by White at the Sheriff's office.

Meanwhile, three of the conservative Republican city councilors--White, Lewis and Cook--are bitching mightily in the op-ed pages of the ABQ Journal that Democrat Campbell has yet to turn over personal financial information they've requested. The trio opposes the Campbell nomination, made by fellow R Berry, saying the land use lawyer has many potential conflicts of interest.

But there's only one relevant piece of information in this power game. Campbell has the support of six of the nine councilors, and they have all the information they need.

Councilors Lewis and Cook, welcome to La Politica.


Insiders say KOAT-TV reporter Chris Ramirez will become Berry's new public information officer, replacing Deborah James who held the post under Mayor Chavez. Ramirez is a NM native with no PR experience. But that means he will probably be nice to the press for a couple of months before he learns otherwise.

And another tidbit. Leonard Garcia, head of the Solid Waste Department, won't have to worry about broken trucks and filled up landfills anymore. Insiders say he is on his way to Exit City.


A car crash in the motorcade of Vice-President Joe Biden seemed to make the biggest splash of news during his Monday ABQ fund-raising visit on behalf of NM Dem US Reps Martin Heinrich and Harry Teague, but there was some news going on inside the Hotel Albuquerque. In fact, it was a bit of news that the Veep was even at that particular hotel. The just opened Hotel Andaluz downtown--the former La Posada--was supposed to host the event, but a throng of protesters outside the hotel holding signs indicating a labor dispute had Biden steering clear and heading to the Hotel ABQ near Old Town. Lunch was served there with the cheap seats going for $1000 a pop and $2400 for a private meet, greet and photo with Biden.

Alligators on the inside report a couple of dozen takers for the $2400 reception and about 100 for the $1000 luncheon featuring grilled chicken. Our estimators estimate the take in the neighborhood of abut $150,000 with the proceeds split between Teague and Heinrich.

If that doesn't strike you as striking for a lunch featuring the USA's #2, you're right. The economy is clearly taking a toll on fund-raising. But many of the usual top Democratic suspects reliably turned out. They included NM House Speaker Ben Lujan, whose son, US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, did not share in the booty raised by Biden but sported the nickname "special guest" for the occasion.

Also spotted in the crowd was Light Guv Diane Denish; University of New Mexico regents Raymond Sanchez and Jamie Koch; former US Senator Fred Harris who served in the Senate with Biden in the 1970's; former NM Dem Party Chairman Art Trujillo and current chair Javier Gonzales; Bernalillo County Assessor Karen Montoya; Santa Fe finance heavy Gerald Peters and Ed Romero, former US Ambassador to Spain and a long ago Bernalillo County Dem Party chair.

Biden was making western campaign swing that also included stops in Nevada and Arizona. Some of the national press is tagging along. They were not permitted inside the lunch, but the White House gave them the money quote as noted by CQ Politics:

Biden told the audience that Heinrich and Teague are "good Democrats, but they also have heads of their own and minds of their own and it seems to me that's what you guys produce out here."

CQ has Heinrich's seat rated "likely Democratic" and Teague's southern contest as a tossup. No one around here is arguing with that assessment.

Insiders say after the lunch Rep. Lujan caught a ride back to D.C. with Biden on Air Force Two. We don't know if Teague or Heinrich were also aboard, but if they were don't tell us the political newbies weren't at least thinking about pinching themselves.


They can't say US House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer isn't doing his part to protect New Mexico's two competitive US House seats in the 2010 cycle. Hoyer, who made an impromptu stop at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo with southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague in early September, will be on the cocktail circuit in D.C. for ABQ Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich today. Hoyer will host an evening reception for Heinrich. Contribution levels are put at $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000.


Is the bear market in Santa Fe and ABQ real estate over yet? In SF, the answer is not even close. There were near bubble conditions in that market and the unwinding is brutal and lengthy.

In ABQ, the Sunday paper said median home prices have now cracked below the $180,000 mark. If we lose more jobs or don't gain any in the coming months, we're probably going lower.


From the office of Governor Bill Richardson comes the official executive order that will have flags flown at half-staff until sundown Monday, November 23 in honor and mourning of former New Mexico Governor Bruce King. An excerpt:

Governor King’s patriotism, bravery, and dedication to the Nation and the State of New Mexico will always be remembered. The affectionately known “Cowboy Governor” was a true servant to the State of New Mexico whose legacy will continue for many years.

Bruce King was 85 when he died Friday. He will lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda from 9 am to 5 pm Friday. The public is invited to pay their respects.

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