(We just had to add the exclamation point!)
Looks like a headline from the Enquirer or from the golden age of yellow journalism. Another public official caught with their hand in the till. Another Robert Vigil taking money for favors. Who was this Council President? Who was this criminal giving away your farm for their own personal gain? None other than Council President Debbie O'Malley.
Now before you think you've found yourself on Joe Monahan or the Duke City Fix, hear us out. We have serious differences with Councilor O'Malley. Particularly her belief that the city should become a landlord in the name of affordable housing... but that's another story. In Thursday's Albuquerque Journal (a.k.a The Yellow Pages) they all but accuse the councilor of taking a bribe.
"...a financial report filed with the City Clerk's Office shows that Forest City Covington recently gave O'Malley a political contribution of $450, which O'Malley says is the most that can be contributed to a council campaign. She's up for re-election this year and says she has been collecting money to cover old campaign debts."Lest you forget councilors receive a salary that's 1/10th of the mayor's, which is somewhere over $9,000 a year. The City Charter stipulates that a councilor or candidate for council can only receive a campaign contribution from any one person or corporation of 5% of their total salary. That's somewhere around $465 these days. The contribution in question is just $450. In other words, perfectly legal.
So why run a story that isn't a story? One of the first rules of damage control is to accuse the accuser. In this case Councilor O'Malley was highly critical of the $80,000 "donation" given to the city to finish Marty's My-centennial... uh, Tricentennial towers, saying "We have a large developer in negotiations with us ... essentially bailing the city out of a quandary in terms of money. I don't think that's very good policy."
There's absolutely no doubt that the Mayor was hurt by the publicity surrounding the Tricentennial Towers cost overruns. First supposed to cost less than $500,000, then no more than $840,000 (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). Eventually, they needed a private donation of $80,000 to finish the project. That donation came from Forest City Covington.
Now, we're not against private donations for projects like the Tricentennial Towers. In fact, we would prefer voluntary contributions as opposed to taxpayer funded monuments to... whatever they're supposed to be a monument to. In fact, if the project had been run by a private company that relied solely on donations, we believe that the final cost would have been somewhere near the originally estimated $500,000 if not less. We mean the towers are nice but...
(Sidebar)So, who do you really think is going to be more influenced by Forest City Covington's contribution? A councilor whose social and political positions are already in favor of the type of development proposed by Forest City Covington at Mesa Del Sol? Or a Mayor, whose pet project and monument to... whatever, is running over budget and still needs another 80 grand? Let's see $450... $80,000. Even by ABQ PAC standards that's a lotta' cash. What's more, who do you think Thursday's hit piece in the Yellow Pages benefits?
If you add up all of the money spent on just those two towers it equals $920,000, almost $1,000,000. Do you think the residents of Martinez Town could have used even $840,000 to fix the failing pumps that kept their homes from flooding last summer? We do.
That's right... our illustrious mayor. The Journal either was fed a story and failed to think it through or were willing accomplices to Marty's spin machine. That's the politics of money and the way to turn the accuser into the accused.
---------- CORRECTION ----------
We must have had something in our Eye because we originally indicated above that the salary of a City Councilor is 1/3 that of the Mayor. That is incorrect. A City Councilor's salary is 10% of the Mayor's. Oddly enough, Councilor O'Malley sponsored a ballot initiative in 2004 to increase the council's salary to 1/3 that of the Mayor's making a Councilor's salary over $30,000 a year. The voters rejected that idea and it remained the 10% figure currently in place. All of the other figures above are correct.