Tuesday, November 24, 2009

GOP Consultant Turns Candidate; Takes On Berry's Roundhouse Replacement, Plus: Councilor Ken: Is This His Time? And: Campbell Answers Council Critics 

Antoon & White
Here's an interesting twist. The campaign consultant who helped elect new ABQ GOP city Councilors Dan Lewis and Michael Cook and who now are opposing GOP Mayor-elect RJ Berry on a key appointment to his administration, wants to join the ranks of elected officials. And that's not all. Republican consultant and attorney Doug Antoon says he wants the ABQ legislative seat that RJ gave up when he became mayor. He will run against recently appointed Rep. Jim White who Berry favored as his replacement.

It's another sign that despite having the first Republican-majority council since 1985, many of RJ's headaches are going to come from his fellow R's, not just the Dems. And why is that?

Berry's initial instincts have been to try to govern somewhat from the center. His pick of Democratic attorney David Campbell as chief administrative officer--expected to be approved next month with three Republicans dissenting--was the first indication that the hard right of the NM GOP--still the wing with the most stroke--was not going to take it lying down.

But Berry's instincts match up with history. Coming at this game from center court in the state's largest city is the proven way to score.

As for Antoon, 53, he is a relative newcomer to the scene, having arrived from Massachusetts n 2004. He received his law degree from Suffolk University in Boston and says he served as a city councilor in the Bay State.

He has shown he has the skills to rock the political boat. Whether he can apply them to himself is an open question. He'll get the chance. White, 67, is retired military and a former NM GOP treasurer, is expected to seek election to the seat next year. A White-Antoon GOP primary may be framed as an early test of Berry's political strength. But first things first. Berry won't even be sworn in until Dec. 1 and we're already off to the races.

One year ago ABQ West Side City Councilor Ken Sanchez was so confident that he would become city council president that he brought his family to the meeting to sit in the audience and enjoy the moment. But the meeting erupted in chaos, Sanchez was denied and his family walked away disappointed. Is this finally the year for the Dem councilor who is beginning his second four year term this month and previously served eight years on the Bernalillo commission?

City Hall watchers remain cautious, but the consensus is that Sanchez's time has indeed come and he will, for the first time, wear the title of council president. City Councilor Debbie O'Malley told us recently she will support Sanchez. He will need five votes to take the prize which he keeps for one year. He appears poised to get more than that.

We've blogged that the time seems right for a fiscally conservative Dem like Sanchez to head the council, given the severe economic challenges facing the city. He will also be able to work well with mayor-to-be Berry. Sanchez has struck a tone of cooperation and conciliation in the early going.

Sanchez, 53, is a VP for a tax and accounting service and who also dabbles in real estate. The president gets to name committee members, and has sway over the council agenda. The council is expected to vote on its officers at its Dec. 7 meeting. The Sanchez family is invited to attend.

As you may know, the three Republican city councilors--Winter, Lewis and Cook--have been livid that CAO-designate David Campbell, a longtime land use lawyer, has not submitted answers to their questions about what they see as potential conflicts of interest. Well, Campbell has now done that and then some.

The Alligators sent us this memo from Campbell that is now in the hands of the dissident trio. It runs nine pages. Campbell says he was not intentionally ignoring his foes, but that his mother recently passed away and that has consumed much of his time

On one hot button issue--a proposed downtown sports arena--Campbell responded to the councilors this way:

I have not personally represented any developer or person with a financial interest concerning the placement of an arena in downtown Albuquerque...

Campbell is still on track to win council confirmation by a 6 to 3 vote. Insiders think some of this tempest over Campbell may have been caused by Mayor-elect Berry not consulting with the disgruntled councilors before he made his pick. The rest of the bickering is seen as partisan politics.

Campbell has been around city government since 1981. We'll be charitable and say that perhaps the three councilors have done a public service by putting the administration on notice that they are on guard for any hanky-panky. Now that they have their answers, perhaps they will see the sense of approving the mayor-elect's choice of Campbell (as well as Sheriff White as public safety director).

Berry and his team are going to be traveling a bumpy road and all of us are ready to tell him and them how they are messing up (they're already getting grief). Unless there are some smoking guns, Messrs. Winter, Lewis and Cook may want to help start this four year run on a note of unity and give Berry (and Campbell) the benefit of their doubt. The voters of Albuquerque already have.


Speaking of the hard-right getting upset with Berry over picking Dave Campbell, you wonder how they will react when they learn that Lou Hoffman, an old City Hall hand and key advisor to Democratic mayoral candidate Richard Romero, has landed a plum job with Berry. Hoffman, who was city Treasurer from 1987-2006, comes aboard as head of the Department of Finance.

Hoffman is going to be on the front lines now in the battle against the raging recession, and conservatives may actually like much of what they hear, if Lou says the same things he was saying as Romero's man.

During the campaign Romero and Hoffman chastised the Chavez administration for shifting property tax revenue to the general fund. And he has been a critic of having deputy chief administrative officers as well as hiring too many political appointees. On that score, will he advise Berry to eliminate the ambiguous position of chief operating officer?

Here's a campaign quote from Hoffman:

“During the last 15 years the combined budget for the mayor and CAO has increased 282 percent from $742,000 to $2,838,000...The City Council budget, $845,000 in 1994 and now $3,805,000, grew by 350 percent.”

Well, Lou, here's your chance to recommend those budgets be trimmed.
Keep us posted.

Berry also named Deborah Stover as head of the planning department:

Stover has worked in the Planning Department as Manager of the Advance Planning and Urban Design Division. As a manager with the Office of the State Engineer, Stover developed and managed the drought planning and mitigation activities...Stover earned her Master of Architecture from the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning....

Her dad, Bob Stover, is a former ABQ police chief and Bernalillo County sheriff.


A new realism is emerging in the coverage of the Great Recession in New Mexico. The newspaper front-paged a no-spin assessment of how conditions have eroded here even more in the past few months. It may have taken out-of-towner and economist Mark Snead from the Federal Reserve bank in Kansas City to do it and a year or more of deep contraction, but the in-your-face analysis is just what state and ABQ economic policy makers need to hear. Some money lines:

"Conditions turned quickly and hard," Snead said. "What caused it? The energy cycle."

Federal unemployment numbers "tend to be very wrong in energy states," he said, adding that New Mexico was probably never growing as fast as the data showed it was.

Chunks of our economy are melting away, meaning your kids and grand kids are outta here for good unless we deal with reality as it is--not how we might like it.

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