Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Opening Night Of Berry Era: R's Celebrate, But Cash & Crime Problems Don't Pause, Plus: Di's Balancing Act; How Much Bill Is Enough? And: UNM Antics 

Republicans finally had something to celebrate last night and they took advantage. A large crowd of celebrants--mainly R's--gathered at the downtown ABQ Convention Center to watch Richard "RJ" Berry, the first ABQ GOP mayor in nearly a quarter of a century, take the oath of office and to hope that he can help them find their way out of the political wilderness.

"It was like the Lincoln Day Dinner times ten," joked one of our Alligators on the scene.

Former US Reps Pearce and Wilson were there and so were three of the four GOP candidates for governor--Weh, Arnold-Jones and Turner.

The talk was of how much of the fortunes of the smallish GOP are now tied to Berry who becomes an instant statewide political figure by virtue of being leader of the state's major city in the state's major media market.

"What he does is going to reflect on the party as a whole. He will be the symbol. If he fails, it is likely the party will fail in its comeback," analyzed one veteran Republican with long party experience.

It's a good point. Already acolytes of likely Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish are blasting Berry behind the scenes for not putting an end to government double dipping, a policy widely condemned by R's in the Legislature where Berry served before becoming Mayor. His constituent service director and finance department head are getting government pensions plus new and comfy government salaries. And we're informed there are more.

You can easily see how Berry's policies could be used for or against the eventual 2010 GOP Guv nominee.

Unfortunately for Berry, the first public division in his administration comes not from the Democrats, but from three Republican city councilors who are determined to vote against Berry's selection of Democrat David Campbell as the city's chief administrative officer.

Some R's are telling us they want to see Berry be more forceful and that turning around at least two of the three R councilors on Campbell would be a show of his strength. Easier said than done, of course. But the mayor's honeymoon could come to a messy end if the council's public hearing on Campbell breaks down into acrimony. Even minus a messy fight, an 8 to 1 approval carries a solid message of strength and power to the public while a 6 to 3 says the opposite.


Our Alligators at the convention center say there was a band playing in the background as Berry stood at the front of a long reception line and received congrats. Few danced to the beat, which fits the tenor of the time--there's not a whole lot to dance about.

The new mayor reminded us of that when he said the budget shortfall for the current budget year now appears to be in the $14 million to $24 million area, not the $12 million former Mayor Marty's minions had it at.

That again raised the specter of layoffs or furloughs at City Hall which in turn is really going to make all those city employees go out and spend a bunch of Christmas cash. Not.

Berry told the press that he has already saved $500,000 from cutting salaries and positions, but the press has not yet pressed for details. Not that we don't trust such boasts. It's just that we don't trust such boasts until they are proven.

If he is saving $500,000 off the bat he may have missed an opportunity to brand his administration (and his GOP) as fiscally conservative and aggressive in facing the budget crisis. But one supposes with this economy, there will be plenty of opportunities for Berry to demonstrate his cost-cutting credentials.

So far, the record is mixed on that, as seen in the aforementioned sanctioning of double dipping and the reluctance (or caution) in announcing the elimination of obvious political patronage positions. But we're not going to crash this honeymoon and will wait to hear more from the new mayor before declaring the champagne too warm to drink.

And he deserves some breathing room. On the night of his swearing-in, ABQ was shocked as TV news led off not with Berry's ascension, but the apparent murder of a nine to ten month old baby girl in the city's NE Heights. Ex-Mayor Chavez said the part of the job he will miss the least is the daily crime briefing. One suspects Mayor Berry will come to commiserate with that sentiment.

For most Duke City denizens, whether the mayor is a D or an R matters little. They just want the city to make progress. Even though last night's festivities naturally attracted many Republicans, in the end Berry will be judged not on how he builds a political party, but how he builds an even better city. In that endeavor, he and his wife Maria have the best wishes of all.


Media estimates said 1,000 to 1,500 turned out in Roswell last night to get a look at political phenom Sarah Palin and have her sign her name to their freshly bought copies of "Going Rogue." That was a heck of a turnout, considering the snowy weather down there. But then she drew about 10,000 when she appeared in Roswell as the 2008 VP candidate. No wonder she sidestepped ABQ. She would be challenged to get a thousand book buyers in this more moderate region.


Di in D.C. this week at the Democratic Governor's Association tells the political press, including the Politico:

I’m a different kind of leader, and I think it’s well established in New Mexico that my style is distinctly different than Governor Richardson’s...I’ll be running on my own record, I want to be clear about that… I don’t think I have to say I’m going to be different than Bill Richardson. I am different than Bill Richardson.

And we told Politico:

She’s a plain, low-key candidate, while Richardson is much more buoyant and animated,” said New Mexico political analyst Joe Monahan. “She’s the direct opposite of him. After eight years of Richardson, she may sell well when the electorate is looking for a more low-key personality.”

The National Journal's "Hotline" also interviewed the NM LG.

Asked why she wants to be governor in a time when chief executives of nearly every state in the country are under fire with difficult budgets, Denish said now is the time to rise up and be a leader.


How many degrees of separation will there be between Big Bill and Light Guv Diane Denish by the time the 2010 Guv race is in full swing? For months, she's been laying the groundwork to distance herself from Bill's dark side--the ethics messes--but not so much on other issues. He remains relatively popular among the nominating wing of the Democratic Party and Di, running unopposed for the nod, doesn't need to stir the nest. But as the campaign goes on, pollster Brian Sanderoff, among others, thinks Di will gradually assert more independence as R's continue their mantra of "The Richardson/Denish Administration."

But don't forget that Richardson, despite a rough going of late, is not an extremely unpopular governor. His approval rating hovers around 50 percent. If that number holds up, the R's could get sidetracked if they make the campaign too much about him.


And then there is the continued chatter--a bit louder since Big Bill was on the exclusive guest list for the President's first state dinner--that he just might get out of here before finishing his Guv term. He says not, but the Las Cruces Sun-News editorial pages are the latest to join the guessing game:

The governor has seemingly used up all the political capital he brought to Santa Fe in 2002. His last great, ambitious plan--to pass sweeping health care reform-- was shot down in flames two years ago. Now, there is nothing left but budget deficits and legislative battles to look forward to. Should he leave early, he would also give Lt. Gov. Diane Denish the advantage of running as a quasi-incumbent in 2010. Perhaps we're reading too much into all of this. But we can't help but suspect that if Obama made an offer, Richardson would jump to accept it


The state and city of Rio Rancho showered computer giant Hewlett Packard with millions of dollars in cash and tax incentives to locate a customer service center in the City of Vision, but one wonders if the projected number of employees will hit the target. A Ribbon cutting for the center is slated for today. From the Rio Rancho newspaper:

(A spokeswoman) couldn’t go into specifics on how many employees the center would have initially, but said HP is on target to have 1,350 employees by the end of 2012. She said HP is conducting business at its temporary site in Albuquerque and will move employees over to the new site into Rio Rancho.

But Rio Rancho Mayor Swisstack is quoted in the same article as saying the center will open with 600 employees.

HP is saying a majority of the jobs will pay over $40,000.

With the amount of public investment at stake, can we get the exact number of employees updated and published at least quarterly along with the average salaries? How else to measure the value of our investment?


University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs continues to sink into quicksand. The cover-up culture exposed in the scandal over football coach Locksley continues, with the news that Krebs is paying an out-of-state PR firm $5,500 a month to provide advice. We can give some advice to Mr. Krebs that won't cost him a dime, but will help him and UNM: Tell the truth.

The athletic department is loaded with PR types. Greg Remington has been there for years. What is his purpose if he can't provide PR counsel? And former ABQ Tribune reporter Richard Stevens, now working with Remington, has seen it all and done it all when it comes to Loboland.

When, oh when, will the pain stop at UNM? And who will stop it?

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