Thursday, October 22, 2015

Losing Command And Control: Tragic Slaying Of 4 Year-Old Renews Questions About The Downward Spiral And The City's Leadership Or Lack Thereof 

Lilly Garcia
Yet again Albuquerque collectively reels from the abhorrent--the abominable. But as repulsive as the road rage related murder of 4 year old Lilly Garcia is, it is not isolated. It joins a horrid tally of exceptionally violent crime that has reshaped the very persona of the state's largest city.

No matter the outrage--the killing of little Lilly, the Motel 6 attack on the former CNN reporters, the drive-by shooting of a 17 year old in the NE Heights, the slaying of another 17 year old at a NE Heights skate park, the parental murder of 9 year old Omaree Varela, the Dept. of Justice forced in here because of a diseased APD, the FBI reporting a soaring violent crime and property rate--no matter the outrage it is nothing the city's leadership won't slink away from, shirking responsibility and not only refusing to implement the transformational change essential if the city is to ever climb back to anywhere near its former self, but refusing to even acknowledge there is a problem.

It was only Tuesday that we blogged of how ABQ Mayor Richard Berry remains blameless through this darkest period in modern city history that features not only a crime-caused disintegration in the social fabric, but a feeble economy that has our hopes for the future fleeing here faster than the state's emblematic roadrunners can run. 

We are well aware that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, but if we and anyone else with a public megaphone doesn't continue to fight for change--to decry the apathy and aimlessness here--what purpose does the life and death of Lilly Garcia serve? Or that of Omaree Varela?

We turn it over now to our readers and Alligators of La Politica who so often say what others won't and what so indisputably needs saying. Up first an Alligator who calls to account ABQ Police Chief Gorden Eden and Mayor Berry:

Joe, it's a shame that Chief Eden chose in his news conference about the tragic death of Lilly Garcia to go yet again to the Berry talking points to divert attention away from Albuquerque's problems by saying the murder is "something we are starting to see throughout the nation." No, Chief, the lawlessness we see in Albuquerque is worse than the rest of the nation. Look at the FBI stats and your record: How are you doing chief, on prosecuting those that shut down I-25 to do donuts? How are you doing on solving the West Mesa murders? Have you found the person that randomly shot up the downtown neighborhood three nights last week?

The police and the Mayor do not have command and control of the crime situation in Albuquerque and it has everything to do with the incompetence of those in charge and their inability to recognize that the crime we are facing is, in fact, exceptional and not something that happens everywhere else.

Late Wednesday an ABQ officer was shot near Eubank and Central, giving the city an ever deeper chill in the wake of the Lilly Garcia shooting. The violence is as breathtaking as it is disturbing.

And more on Chief Eden's comments from this reader:

"This is one of those crimes that is unexplainable. It is 100% preventable; It did not have to happen. We need to rise up as a community and say enough is enough" so says APD Chief Gordon Eden after a 4 year old is killed in a road rage shooting. So exactly what is Chief Eden or even Mayor Berry going to do about it and gun violence? You will get nothing from Berry and Eden has absolutely no credibility as APD Chief. Eden has been in charge for close to two years. Under Eden, there are only 404 sworn APD officers out of 850 patrolling our streets and handling 69,000 911 priority 1 calls. Violent crime has spiked dramatically and Eden says APD is only going to get worse with still fewer officers over the next two years. APD needs a complete reorganization to get more cops patrolling the streets as deterrent to crime. The department is top heavy with overpaid management. It is likely the Federal Monitor for the Dept. of Justice will be reporting Albuquerque needs 1,300 sworn officers. But, hey, Berry says APD is on the right track with Eden in charge.


Berry and Eden
We all know the city's freeways where Lilly was killed have become a "take your life into your hands" adventure with infrequent or no law enforcement of the speed limit which is treated as seriously as a stand-up comedian. More now from the Alligator pond:

This is the face of Austerity. Imagine if we did not have 432 fewer cops since Berry started his police austerity), there may have been an officer in a car on I-40 and by mere presence crimes would have been stopped. But we don’t have those cops, you never see an officer as they are swamped with calls and the bad people do whatever they want.

 I honestly believe he intended to reduce APD by 300 cops because he was convinced he could show that the job could still be done without all the fat. Well, 6 years later we have Priority 1 calls response times up to 12 minutes (from 9 minutes). We have cops fleeing this department and it will not stop. This is what a community and police department look like when austerity is the policy.

The average response time to the most serious 911 calls has slowed from 8 minutes and 56 seconds in the 2010 fiscal year to 10 minutes and 43 seconds in the 2015 fiscal year, which ended in June. In 2010, there were 30,663 violent and property crimes in Albuquerque. In 2014, there were 35,371, according to FBI statistics. While APD is losing officers and trying to recruit new ones, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is close to fully staffed.

Excellent point. Why is it that Mayor Berry and APD remain so mired in crisis while the Bernalillo County Sheriff's office under the command of Sheriff Manny Gonzales goes about its business competently and without costing us tens of millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements? Is Sheriff Gonzales interested in becoming APD chief? Someone at City Hall ought to ask him.


For just a minute we thought there might be a chance that some fresh thinking would invade the city when it comes to revising the moribund convention business here but it was not to be:

Catalyst Creative CEO Mark Astone. . . will not protest a recommendation to award the city’s “destination marketing and group sales and service” job to the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau despite his objections to the process. An ad hoc committee tasked with reviewing four bids has recommended awarding the contract to ACVB, a private, not-for-profit organization that the city has contracted since 1980. That recommendation has the support of key city officials, though it remains subject to City Council approval.

But Astone has questioned the process since the committee’s recommendation was announced . He talked then about protesting but has since decided against it.

“It’s clear now that the administration never had any intention of making a change and are prepared to do anything to keep the status quo, including violating their own ordinance."

Too bad Astone doesn't have the stomach for the fight that is needed to pry that contract form the cold, semi-dead hands of ACVB, but he probably has better things to do with his time---like service cities that are serious about attracting convention business.


In our Wednesday report on ABQ District Judge Judy Nakamura possibly becoming a Republican member of the State Supreme Court, we got our commissions mixed up. A Legal Beagle writes:

Re: your story on Nakamura:

The "Judicial Standards Commission" disciplines judges for misconduct. Judicial "nominating" commissions screen qualified candidates for judicial vacancies and nominate them to the governor for appointment. You mixed 'em up.

While I can see some might view Gov. Martinez appointing a Republican to our Supreme Court to be some sort of exotic punishment or trip to the dog house, you really have no excuse to cause such confusion.

No, I do not have an excuse but I do have a wet noodle. I will now use it to self-administer ten lashes to my backside in atonement for my errant ways.

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