Quote of the Day
Apr 27, 2007
Fast forward to April 17th, 2007... According to our Eyes an officer made a traffic stop on suspicion of DWI. The driver of the vehicle turns out to be retired AFD captain Ralph Ortega, who is also the brother of AFD Chief Robert Ortega. Following procedure, the first officer called in the DWI officer on duty who performed a field sobriety test and determined that Ortega was intoxicated and began the long booking procedure.
So far nothing untoward has happened. While in the midst of booking Mr. Ortega, the DWI officer received a phone call from the acting lieutenant for the Valley Area Command and was instructed to expedite the booking process for Mr. Ortega and to personally transport him out to the West Side jail. According to our Eyes, the order to expedite came from Chief Schultz and Nick Bakas, who until this week was in charge of public safety (AFD and APD) for the City of Albuquerque.
Normally DWI suspects are taken to the PTC (Prisoner Transport Center) to await transport to the west side jail. The PTC was established so that officers could return to duty as soon as possible and not have to take each prisoner out to the jail personally which could take them off the streets for hours.
In this case, the Chief and Nick Bakas decided that it was more important to expedite the booking of Mr. Ortega, than to make sure that the arresting officer was freed up to protect the public from other drivers who might be out over indulging. In addition, our Eyes suspect that Mr. Ortega was "walked through" the jail and was out the back door shortly after he arrived. Normally, the jail will not release you until you are at least below .08 BAL. In this case, Ortega asserted his right not to take a breathalyzer, which more than likely meant he would be spending the night.
Why is all of this important? After all, this is just another one of many DWI cases that plague the city and clog the courts. The problem here is preferential treatment and it happens far too often down at city hall. If you know somebody or give enough money, you'll be treated better than the average citizen. That's flat out wrong.
Whether you are a patrolman or the chief, the mayor or the director of public safety, you have the obligation to treat everyone fairly and by the same standards. Those standards should not change depending on the person's race, creed, color, position, who they're related to, or how much money they gave.
In this case, Nick Bakas and Chief Schultz did exactly what officer Ben Kirby was fired for. They ordered that the fire chief's brother be walked through the process, circumventing the standard procedures and inconveniences that everyone else must face. The result... An arresting officer was so steamed that he put the order in his report. And to make matters worse, the media is after that arrest report and the fifth floor is worried that it will make them look bad. It will and you do.
Perhaps Chief Schultz should have made a better decision... because his decision is certainly something that all of us cannot condone in our police department or in our city government.
----- EDITORS NOTE -----
We have intentionally withheld the names of the lower level officers involved even though they will end up part of the public record. Our intent is to protect these officers from the reprisals that all too often follow revelations like these.
Apr 25, 2007
We've got to admit it's a great storyline... immigrant son rises to head the agency that his father worked for as a janitor. We were even treated to the obligatory "only in America" quote. Yesterday, the city announced that the city's chief public safety officer Nick Bakas, would be taking over the reins at the Albuquerque Sunport.
The Journal jumped on the storyline (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required) and a glowing article about the immigrant son led readers to believe exactly what the city wanted you to believe... that the move was a promotion for Mr. Bakas. Our Eyes were buzzing almost before the presses stopped running.
The Eyes have it that the move of Mr. Bakas from Deputy Chief Administrator in charge of public safety to director of aviation is a result of some dissatisfaction with his tenure as chief of chiefs. We've told you of his role in the Mark Shepherd hiring and The Eyes are saying that he played a role in the firing of officer Ben Kirby who according to our Eyes is to be re-hired because he was improperly let go. A re-hire more than likely means that the city will be paying officer Kirby some money as well.
No matter how you characterize it, the move can't be seen as anything better than a lateral move. In fact, Mr. Bakas goes from a high profile position running two public safety related agencies to an almost no profile job running an agency in a field in which he has absolutely no experience.
According to the Journal's lemonade piece "Chávez said Bakas will continue to have a role in emergency management and anti-terrorism issues. It's unclear if he will be replaced as chief public safety officer." (Subscription Required) Our Eyes beg to differ telling us that retired APD Captain Rob Debuck has been tapped to replace the outgoing Bakas. We'll see what develops as we have heard Debuck's name floated for the Deputy Director position currently held by former Sheriff Joe Bowditch.
We don't know how this will end up going down. But we've got a suggestion... perhaps it would be a good idea to eliminate both positions and save Albuquerque taxpayers some money. Or maybe the approximately $200,000 could be used for officer recruitment and retention... Maybe we'd end up with some lemonade after all.
Apr 24, 2007
Heinrich could be considered the darling of the left side of the Democratic party. He's young, well spoken and extremely, uh well... "progressive." He's the type of candidate that would be hard to beat in a Democratic primary. It makes perfect sense that the Guv would implicitly endorse Councilor Heinrich as Richardson is in the process of wooing the same group of "progressives" that Heinrich represents, for his (Vice) Presidential bid.
Democrats believe that Congresswoman Wilson is vulnerable because of her narrow victory over former AG Patricia Madrid. They also hope to stoke the David Iglesias non-story for the next year and a half, further weakening the congresswoman. What they have failed to calculate is that Wilson's victory over Madrid can also be seen as a sign of strength and even with the aid of Chuck Schumer and Joe Monahan (who seems to be able to make everything about David Iglesias) in the end, the David Iglesias story is a story about nothing.
Madrid also had a number of things that Councilor Heinrich does not. First, she had incredible name id. Second, she had no real legislative record that could be hung around her neck. Third, she was riding what turned out to be a wave of discontent with the Iraq war and Republican mismanagement of congress. Madrid failed, narrowly to be sure, but failed none the less.
Despite serving as city council president, Councilor Heinrich isn't well known outside of his district. We'd argue that half of his own constituents in District 6 would have a hard time naming him (not that it's that unusual for a city councilor). Councilor Heinrich also has a long legislative history of supporting things like the minimum wage and the use of condemnation to further his environmental goals (some of you make think that it's noble... we think it's a tyrannical abuse of governmental power).
Lastly, who knows what will happen in Washington or Iraq for that matter... The Democratic leadership seems determined to press the position of troop withdrawal and have tied their future to an anti-war position. This could easily backfire. Terrorist attacks at home, a nuclear Iran, or general instability in the Middle East could leave the Democrat leadership holding the bag. And if they don't succeed, they'll be held accountable by party leftists who are already unhappy that the troops haven't started "re-deploying" stateside.
Either way the DCCC and the Democrats are busy fighting the last election with a potential candidate that couldn't have won that one either. The only difference... 11 seconds. Heinrich will not be caught with his mouth open and nothing intelligible coming out.
Apr 20, 2007
As a result, our earlier report regarding a no confidence vote for Chief Ray Schultz was only partially right (which means partially wrong for all of you half empty types). Last night's meeting put the wheels in motion for a no confidence vote as there is a motion to hold a vote and that motion was seconded, which should result in a vote sometime next month.
Our Eyes are also telling us that the driving force behind the vote is a group of young officers who are unhappy with their pay, the favoritism shown re-hire officers (retired officers who are receiving retirement and pay), as well as what they consider to be Chief Schultz's excessive disciplinary actions. Specifically, the termination of officer Ben Kirby whose termination came after walking developer Jason Daskalos out of the DWI detention van.
We'll have to see whether these young officers have the muscle and determination to accomplish what they have set in motion. A 30 day period will provide time for the chief to "campaign" against the no confidence vote, and for outsiders like city councilors and the chamber of commerce to weigh in on the issue. It is said that both the council and the chamber are big supporters of Chief Schultz, not to mention Mayor Marty's sure to be out there drumming up support.
Frankly, for a no confidence vote to succeed, those opposed to Chief Schultz will have to get organized and be ready to confront a whole host of Schultz supporters and perhaps even some dirty politics. Remember, the 5th floor is more about politics than law enforcement, and the 30 day "cooling off" period moves the game onto their home court.
Apr 19, 2007
You'll recall that just this morning the Journal ran a story about APD asking for $1 Million to be used for officer recruitment and retention (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). We noticed something curious in that story... "Last year, APD set a record when 67 officers retired." Whether it's as the Chief claims that this situation is something that has "come to a head in the last couple of years," or whether it's another indication of dissatisfaction with the leadership of the department (or lack thereof) is yet to be seen. Or perhaps it's the confusion over whether the mayor is the chief or the chief is the mayor. However, it's been our experience that when people don't have to stay they vote with their feet. Tonight those that can't or won't leave voted no confidence.
Eric is not what we would call a limited government type, so when he starts wondering "if local leaders are getting just a little too eager to tackle problems that are best left to citizens to work out for themselves," something is REALLY wrong.
From cameras to animal husbandry, the Mayor and this City Council have decided that they know what's best for you. They seem to believe that they have all of the answers and all of the good ideas... low flow toilets, cell phone bans, types of water dishes, trolleys, arenas, limiting public comment... where will it end and how far will they insert themselves into our lives?
"Thinking of cruising Downtown? Better not, or you'll be fined. Forgot to fix your dog? Better get a loan. Too many cars parked in your driveway? Better give them away or have them towed. Shady activity going on at your local pub? Not to worry: The nuisance abatement team, aka the Safe Cities Strikeforce, will take Õm down.Freedom isn't free and it's also becoming a much rarer commodity in our fair city, so much so that even those who favor activist government are concerned about its intervention in our lives. It's something we should all be concerned about. Nanny Town indeed!
Sarcasm aside, there are many great local ordinances that make Albuquerque safer and cleaner for us all. However, I can't help but wonder if we shouldn't limit the number of new ordinances in a year to maybe a few hundred." (ABQ Tribune)
We normally don't talk about fatal 45's (a little police lingo there) on this website, but in this case we believe that it's important to point out that Wyoming and Montgomery is one of the intersections "protected" by Marty's photo enforcement system. During Councilor Winter's Red Light Camera Town hall meeting supporters often cited previous accidents that they or a loved one had been involved in, as a reason to keep the system. This morning's accident points out that you cannot replace police officers with cameras.
We're quite sure that Mr. Hollis or more precisely his grieving family will be receiving a "ticket" for his actions in about 10 days. However, the cameras while dutifully recording this tragedy are worthless when it comes to preventing it.
Police officers can do things that cameras cannot - they can prevent tragedies. When someone is stopped for running a red light, speeding, weaving, or even the heinous crime of putting a license plate protector on their vehicle, the officer's standard procedure includes running the plate, the license, and checking the driver's insurance. More importantly, the officer has the opportunity to observe the driver and any passengers in the vehicle for suspicious or illegal behavior. In other words, he can use his judgment.
We know that there are not enough officers out there to prevent every accident. In fact right now, APD is facing a serious manpower shortage and is asking for $1 Million dollars to recruit and to retain officers (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). Our Eyes in the department also tell us that the 998 officers claimed by APD is shall we say... an inflated number. Otherwise, why would they need the $1 Million dollars?
It all comes down to this... you can't replace the police with cameras because cameras cannot prevent crime or tragedies like this morning's. The Red Light Camera system simply enriches companies like Red Flex and governments like the City of Albuquerque; they don't make us safer. That's the problem with the cameras... that's their fatal flaw.
Apr 18, 2007
"As a matter of public safety, personnel are encouraged to strictly enforce violations of the State of New Mexico Traffic Law Manual regarding the obstruction of license plates. The appropriate statue is 66-3-18, Display of Registration Plates and Temporary Permits and Plates; Displays Prohibited and Allowed. Enforcement of this statute will assist law enforcement personnel in identifying suspects of crimes including, but not limited to: hit and run accidents, traffic offenses, auto thefts, burglaries, and robberies, where officer safety is of utmost concern."We agree that a police officer needs to be able to easily read a motorists license plate and that it is a legitimate safety issue for officers. However, we've noticed these license "protectors" popping up all over town and can't help but believe that they're starting to cut into profits over at Marty's toll booth center.
Our information is that you can have a license plate cover as long as the plate beneath it is clearly visible from a distance of one hundred feet. It will be interesting to see if APD actually starts writing citations for obstruction of license plates. Our Eyes tell us that despite the official line that must be towed by officers in uniform, officers are generally against the red light camera program and as long as these covers don't pose a threat to officer safety...
Apr 17, 2007
We want to remind those on the 5th floor that investigating individuals for political and not criminal reasons is illegal, not to mention a serious misuse of department resources. Freedom of speech, particularly political speech, is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Our founding fathers believed that we should have the absolute right to criticize those that govern. Like it or not, Mayor Marty, APD, the City Council, and every other department fall into that category.
It's this type of stuff that makes us hoppin' mad! You may work for a politician, you may answer to a politician, but you are not his personal geschtapo charged with investigating the Almighty Marty's or your own detractors. That's a breach of public trust, and a waste of your time and our money. We would recommend that instead of trying to hide your dirty laundry... clean it up and start investigating crime.
On that note, if you are one of our readers down at City Hall, be aware that using a city owned computer through a city owned and operated Internet gateway, your activity can be easily traced by the city's IT department. We would recommend that you view the Eye at home on your own computer and through your own Internet gateway, particularly when posting comments that Big Brother (or Little Brother) doesn't want to see.
The Chavez administration has a history of working the media in order to shift public perception and kill a story. They worked this way with the APD Evidence Room scandal and the ABQ PAC fiasco. It typically works because the public perception is that the administration is moving to fix the problem and the public has a notoriously short attention span.
The bad news for the 5th floor is that according to our Eyes, two of the women who filed EEO complaints have in the police vernacular, lawyered up. The Eyes have it that prominent Albuquerque attorney Mary Hahn has been retained by the pair. The news is particularly bad for the administration because it may mean that Tortillagate could end up on the front page... again.
Apr 16, 2007
Since being elevated to his current rank, DC Castro has been in charge of overseeing the police academy, the IT department, and the 911 call center. As of 8am today, he was reassigned to overseeing just the IT department and the academy. We haven't heard a specific reason for the move, but we can't help believing that it is related to the Michael Padilla situation.
Speaking of Mr. Padilla, our Eyes started buzzing when the Journal reported that he "he plans to stay in Albuquerque and build a small consulting business." (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required) The word out of our Eyes is that Mayor Marty has already agreed to hire the fledgling consulting firm to run the 911 unit as soon as the furor over Tortillagate subsides.
From what we've heard, Mr. Padilla did a very good job over at 311 and the Mayor has decided to implement Padilla's recommendations over at 911. However, is it really wise to rehire - even as a consultant - the same person who was accused of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment?
KOAT TV is reporting this morning that Michael Padilla, former head of 911 and $4000 golden boy has resigned effective today. A 10 am news conference is scheduled for the city to address the resignation that came following allegations of sexual harassment.
We told you about Padilla, the accusations against him, and his suspiciously timed $4,000 contribution to Mayor Marty (read it here). Our Eyes on the Inside also told us that one of the accusers, 911 director Pauline Sanchez had been transferred out of the unit (read it here). It should be interesting to hear what city officials have to say about the case. We suspect that there's more to the allegations than $4,000 can pay for.
Meanwhile Over at the Department of Municipal Development... Mark Shepherd Update
Our Eyes on the Inside tell us that former Marty Body Guard and DMD Security Manager Mark Shepherd has been quietly promoted. We told you about Mr. Shepherd and the EEO investigation into allegations regarding his hiring. Among other things, the investigation found that Mr. Shepherd had been untruthful on his application and that there were irregularities in the hiring process (one of Shepherd's references Nick Bakus, served on the hiring committee - read it here).
Despite the findings of the investigation, despite the settlement paid by the city, Mr. Shepherd continued to serve as Security Manager and in fact continued to tell the same stories that had been found by the EEO investigation to be untruthful (read it here). Now the city has actually promoted Mr. Shepherd to Deputy Director of the Department of Municipal Development.
We had been hearing from our Eyes that Shepherd had been acting in an interim capacity and now our Eyes are telling us that the city has been trying to keep this promotion quiet in order to keep it off the web. Seems to have worked... for a while.
Apr 15, 2007
It will be busy over at the city's hearing office if The Mayer (Councilor Mayer) gets her way. The Mayer is leading the charge to decriminalize some 72 misdemeanor offenses. Things like violations of the noise ordinance, failure to obey a police officer, purchasing ephedrine (which is used to make meth), illegal wood burning, and of course The Mayer's very own HEART (not head) ordinance, just to mention a few.
We're sure that the reason for decriminalization of these dastardly deeds will be to take the burden off the court system. In fact, at first glance it seems like a pretty good idea. However, when you look deeper you'll find a few facts that are very disturbing.
The ordinance O-06-25 (scheduled to be heard Monday, April 16) if enacted, will make all of these criminal offenses civil offenses. If this sounds familiar to you it should. It's the exact theory that Albuquerque's photo enforcement program runs under. Running a red light in one of these intersections is a civil offense (apparently committed by your vehicle because the driver is unknown). The same will become true of the 70 plus offenses that are currently petty misdemeanors.
Like the red light camera program, you will be issued a civil citation that will require you to pay up or request an administrative hearing. The fine structure should also sound familiar, $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second, and $500 for the 3rd and all subsequent offenses for the rest of your life (and that of your children if they could get away with it).
This is where we really start to have problems, the first of which is that of due process. As we've already established, the complainant and the hearing officers both work for the administrative branch of government, in this case King Mighty Marty I. The opportunity for a fair and impartial hearing is immediately diminished by the very fact that the mayor is the hearing officer's boss.
In addition, by changing a criminal offense to a civil offense you also change the standard of judgment from beyond a reasonable doubt, to a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, a lower standard that leans towards guilt rather than innocence. A standard that favors the accuser. A standard that favors the city in these cases, even if they were heard before a judge, which they're not.
Finally, when you pay your fine (not if you pay), the money is then collected by the city. Let's see... control the accusing agencies, control the hearing officers, cut out the court system, and collect the money; motive and profit opportunity. Sounds like the perfect system for a banana republic or a tyrannical dictatorship; certainly a system where you are guilty until proven innocent.
Apr 13, 2007
Our Eyes on the Inside just got some new information on the Michael Padilla sexual harassment case. (Read Marty's Minions: Michael Padilla) According to our Eyes, 911 Director Pauline Sanchez, one of the women who filed a complaint with the city's Employment Equity Office, has been transferred out of the unit by Chief Schultz. Our Eyes also tell us that she did not request a transfer, which could easily be taken to mean that it is a direct result of her EEO complaint.
We don't know whether it is or not, but you can bet the city will have cooked up some excuse to move her. Could it be retribution or is it a case of protecting Marty's $4,000 golden boy? Either way, it's a dangerous move by the city that could end up costing us all some money.
The Citizen broke the story March 30th, now two weeks later, The Journal is trying to clean some of the egg off of its face after running what could only be described as a glowing promotional piece last Saturday, that completely ignored the troubles and accusations surrounding Katersky and Arnold (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). Interestingly enough, today's Journal story (Subscription Required) bears a striking resemblance to Part 5 of The Citizen's series and not a word of credit goes to Ms. Velasco for her hard work breaking the story.
Apr 12, 2007
"Ten supervisors, including 911 director Pauline Sanchez filed a complaint with the city's Employee Equity Office claiming Padilla had created a hostile work environment.Don Imus has nothing on this guy... but where are Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton when you need them?
A three-week investigation conducted by the office determined Padilla told some of the center's employees that "it may be 2006 out here, but in my house, it's 1969 and the women make tortillas, take care of the kids and clean the house."'
Not too terribly long ago, Padilla was the rising star at city hall. He had successfully started up the city's very popular 311 call center and was reveling in the praise being heaped on him by the public and the media. (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required)
The 311 call center was so popular and successful that Padilla was tapped in January to revamp the city's 911 call center that had drawn criticism for poor performance. (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required)
(Sidebar)Padilla claims that it's his work to reform the 911 center that has created these claims not his actions on the job, telling the Journal "[t]here is a team of folks here who have worked here a long time who are circling the wagons."
Running a customer service call center is far different than running an emergency response center. For one thing, calls are considerably longer as operators need to stay on the line to help direct responders to the location. For another, someone can quite literally die if they screw up. Other than using a phone their mission is totally different and telling callers to "have a nice day" when some crazed maniac is trying to kill them, probably won't help.
Today's article got us wondering... where did Padilla come from? And why was such a young man chosen to develop the 311 call center in the first place? That's when one of our Eyes popped up and noted that according to campaign financing reports, 28 year old Michael Padilla contributed $4,000 bucks to none other than Mayor Martin Chavez in his first 2005 campaign report.
The timing looked a bit suspicious to us, so we ran down a few things and it turns out that the 311 call center opened July 1, 2005. Marty's campaign report was due July 15, 2005. Since the call center opened July 1st, work had to have begun on the center at least 30 to 60 days prior to opening. Padilla's contribution was made somewhere between April 15th and July 15th of that year. Further, Padilla claims that he worked for Altivus CRM Solutions, LLC at the time of the contribution. Yet somewhere in that 90 day period he got a job with the city and successfully started the 311 call center.
Forgive us if we're a bit skeptical... A 28 year old coughs up $4,000 dollars and gives it to the Mayor of Albuquerque and just happens to get a job running a new city department. That donation puts Padilla in the top 4% of contributions to the Almighty Marty's campaign going back to the 3rd quarter of 2004. Of 77 total contributions of $4000 or greater, he's in a group with only 21 other individual donors. That's a pretty select group with names like Don Chalmers, and Will Ferguson; and companies like Premiere Distributing, Brad Francis Ford Mercury, Jason Daskalos Properties, and Hunt Uptown LLC.
When we were 28 we didn't have $4,000 sitting around and even if we did we weren't going to drop four grand on something like a mayoral candidacy unless we were sure to get something out of it. Can you say quid pro quo?
Apr 11, 2007
Looks like the star players over at Albuquerque Studios Dana Arnold and Hal Katersky, are finding themselves in the lawsuit limelight as the owners of The Culver Studios are suing the pair for fraud, misrepresentation, racketeering and more. We told you about the investigative series by The Citizen Media Group's Diane Velasco (www.thecitizen.info) that raised questions about the propriety of one of Mesa del Sol's main attractions, the Albuquerque Studios. (Read about it here.) They continue their series in part 5: Culver Sues! ABQ Studios Owners Face Fraud, Racketeering Charges.
We've long held that a development like Mesa del Sol is a fine idea as long as taxpayers are not left holding the $500 MILLION bag, or the TIDD. The market should dictate whether the live, work, play model proposed by Forest City Covington at Mesa del Sol, is among the many choices available to New Mexicans. The development should not live off of the taxpayer while providing politicians with campaign cash. And we as taxpayers need to be very concerned when the box office draw for Mesa del Sol may be run by hucksters.
Apr 9, 2007
Let's wander into the realm of Marty's reality for just a moment and assume that father Marty's only goal in life is to keep us safe, and that all of the statistics that have been thrown our way are 100% accurate. After pumping over $6 MILLION into the city coffers in the way of "fines," shouldn't we be getting a break on our car insurance?
After all according to the Mayor, the city is safer, driving habits have changed, and accidents are down, therefore we should be paying less to insure our vehicles. That's the question that Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Brasher is asking state Superintendent of Insurance Morris J. Chavez, in his letter dated April 3, 2007. (The text of the letter is reprinted below.)
Dear Superintendent Chavez:The Commissioner is right on here. If we are now safer drivers because of the Red Light Districts, then it follows that our insurance rates should reflect that improvement. If however, Marty's Money Makers are more about money and really don't make us any safer, then the program is really the Cash Cow that we've said it is.
As you may know, the Governor recently vetoed Senate Bill 365 which addressed the issue of penalties and fess related to the City of Albuquerque's Phototicket Program, which is designed to issue civil citation for speeding and running red lights. Based on statements issued by the Mayor of the City of Albuquerque on of the intended consequences of the Phototicket Program is a reduction in the frequency and severity of traffic accidents in Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque.
Assuming that the statements from the City are accurate, in addition to improving the safety of our community, we expect that the Phototicket Program will also lead to reductions in automobile insurance premiums. I am writing to respectfully request whether your office intends to track reductions in vehicle collisions at traffic light intersections in Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque and/or whether insurance carriers submit such data to your office in determining the establishment of premiums for automobile insurance. Finally, I would like to suggest that your office make an inquiry of the City of Albuquerque for information related to vehicle collisions at traffic light intersections in order to maximize all available reductions in automobile insurance premiums for the taxpayers of Bernalillo County.
Thank you for your consideration.
Michael Brasher, Bernalillo County Commissioner
Apr 7, 2007
However, they support the council's decision to buy the land because we need landing sites for the Balloon Fiesta; which is a simple excuse for the council to exercise their anti-Wal-Mart passion. How many years has the Fiesta been at the Alameda site? They just now noticed that the site needs to be preserved for balloon landings?
The balloon argument has actually been floated before by the NIMBY neighbors with little notice by the council or the Journal. Now that the Reflecting Pool waters have parted and the landing excuse is uttered by the holy ones at the Fiesta, the city council and the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Department are in favor of wasting at least $6.1 MILLION tax payer dollars AND unleash the city's eminent domain thugs to steal the property.
The council and the Journal are no better than the residents of Vista del Norte. In fact, they are considerably worse. They're trying to disguise their own version of NIMBY under the cover of hot-air. A little advice to the neighborhood associations of Vista del Norte, keep negotiating with the developers of Wal-Mart.
Apr 6, 2007
Wednesday night the Albuquerque City Council authorized a little less than half that amount to purchase a 22 acre site on Osuna Rd. just west of I-25. (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required) For the past couple of years the site has been mired in controversy, primarily because a little known company has plans to build a store there.
Ok... Wal-Mart isn't a little known company and the original Super Center was to be upwards of 180,000 square feet. Like a number of Wal-Marts across the country and indeed within Albuquerque, the Osuna Wal-Mart has been opposed from the very beginning by the adjacent neighborhoods, in this case the neighborhood associations of Vista del Norte.
According to the directive of the council, the mayor has been given permission to spend up to $6.1 MILLION in an effort to acquire the property from the developer. And if necessary, use the power of eminent domain to force owner Vista del Norte Development, LLC to sell the property to the city.
"The resolution gives the mayor the authority to negotiate with the property owner or to condemn the land." (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required)The move by the council is being hailed by representatives of Vista del Norte as they see this as the solution to their problems. In reality, this is just the beginning of all of our problems.
"...the property, which is owned by Vista del Norte Development LLC., a subsidiary of Sundt Corp., an Arizona-based development company. Sundt officials have said they have a contract with Wal-Mart which Sundt intends to honor."So according to the Journal the developer has already executed a contract with Wal-Mart to sell the property. Wal-Mart has been working on the development for a year and a half or so, and has spent a whole lot of money on everything from multiple sets of plans to public relations. Now here comes Marty and the council ready to make the Osuna purchase.
Why? It wasn't the complaints of the neighborhood. It was the sudden discovery by Balloon Fiesta officials that they needed the property to land on during the yearly fiesta. What?! After all this time, after all this publicity, the Balloon Fiesta discovers that it needs the property?! What's even worse, the council bites, hook, line, sinker, and fishing pole!
The city and the council regularly do some pretty stupid things, but this one is a doosy! If you believe the council, they are willing to purchase the Osuna Wal-Mart site for the simple reason that as many as half of the balloons that take off at Balloon Fiesta Park may land on the 22 acre site, during an event that lasts for 11 days out of each year. Of course that assumes that the wind carries them directly south every day and they decide to land on the site rather than float on by.
Best case, the council is willing to put the city in a fight for a piece of property that is properly zoned for the Wal-Mart use, that is under contract to Wal-Mart, and against an opponent who has already spent thousands of dollars in development costs, in order to use it for the Balloon Fiesta 11 days a year. We can't even begin to figure out how much this is going to cost per landing, particularly after you figure in the court costs that are sure to accompany any attempt to condemn the site.
(Sidebar)The council was simply looking for an excuse to stop the Wal-Mart development. Something that would give them cover with developers and the public. When the folks over at the Balloon Fiesta floated the idea that they needed a landing site they just couldn't help themselves. No one could argue against the Balloon Fiesta... could they?
The Balloon Fiesta has been good for the city of Albuquerque. But we've now reached the point where anything that is good for the Fiesta is assumed to be good for Albuquerque. That's dangerous and flat out wrong. Look no further than the idiotic and hypocritical reflecting pool if you need an example of the blank check and lack of critical thinking surrounding the Balloon Fiesta.
We can and we do. The Osuna purchase is at best, a waste of tax payer dollars. At the worst, it will end up being yet another money pit and an abuse of governmental power.
Apr 5, 2007
The first thing you will notice is that Councilor Benton engages in a bit of revisionist history that would make Lennon proud, claiming "on Nov. 6, after much debate and public comment, on a 6-3 vote we approved the proposal to fund the streetcar project..." The "much debate and public comment" Councilor Benton is referring to is a series of presentations made by Transportation Director Payne intended to sell the trolley not to solicit public input.
The other thing to remember is that there was a hotly contested national election taking place the day after the council took up the question of the Transportation Infrastructure Tax extension. Railroading a $270 MILLION project through the City Council the day before that particular election was a great strategy for proponents, but hardly provided for large public participation, much less debate. (Talk about politics.)
Benton makes clear that his opinion is that the 19th Century Streetcar is inevitable which makes any "taskforce" created to "study" the issue suspect to say the very least.
"[R]oad building will not by itself take us though the 21st century without other multimodal options. We have an aging and more-transit-dependent population, global warming, air pollution, diminishing fossil fuel supplies and limited river crossings to contend with."The simple fact is a 19th Century Streetcar will not make any discernible difference in any of the talking point justifications listed above. Streetcars operate on electricity. Electricity is generated largely by burning fossil fuels. All we're doing is moving pollution, and energy use.
"Multimodal options" sounds good, but this study is designed to support just ONE mode... rail. Not having a 19th Century Streetcar does not take away options like buses, bikes, cars, or good old fashioned shoe leather. Further, adding a 19th Century Streetcar does not help the majority of those aging in our city, and being able to get to Atrisco Plaza from Nob Hill doesn't count as a river crossing, because there's already a river crossing in place.
We've said it before... Albuquerque is primarily a suburban city, which is why forms of mass transit struggle here. The only areas of town that are even close to being dense enough to make mass transit work as a means of reducing traffic is the Central Nob Hill to Downtown corridor. What possible justification is there to spend $270 MILLION on a 19th Century Streetcar for that single corridor? Transportation money would be better spent on bikeways, trails, roads, and upon improving our bus system.
It's about the efficient use of our tax dollars. It's about efficient mass-transportation. It's about time proponents of the trolley stop pursuing it as the only solution to our transportation problem. With this "Letter to the Editor," Councilor Benton has gone from selling streetcar snake oil to selling a product that is most often transported with a shovel.
Apr 4, 2007
Movies are famous for their special effects. These days some movies would be impossible to produce without extensive use of computer generated imagery (CGI). The movie 300 is a perfect example of a world that only exists inside a computer. During production the actors themselves never saw the spectacular scenic world that audiences are treated to in the finished product.
What does any of that have to do with Mesa del Sol's anchor tenant Albuquerque Studios? According to The Citizen Media Group, the movie 300 may be more real than the studio that is supposed to produce such amazing virtual adventures.
We've told you about how messy lawsuits can become. (In fact, our Eyes tell us that the current Manny-Ken scandal came directly out of a civil lawsuit between business partners.) Albuquerque Studios principals Dana Arnold and Harold Katersky are being sued by their former business partner F. Lee Tomlinson and in the process corporate records are becoming part of the public record.
Those records call into question a whole set of claims used by the pair and by Forrest City Covington to secure the creation of Tax Increment Development Districts that would send between $350 and $500 MILLION tax dollars to Forrest City Covington to be used for Mesa del Sol infrastructure.
The series of four in-depth articles paint a picture that is at the very least alarming. Our concern is that the first major tenant of Mesa del Sol, the tenant that was used to sell the development and its associated tax breaks to the city, county, and state, is nothing but a Virtual Studio or a soon-to-be ghost town.
In addition the series of four articles raises questions about our governments due diligence and their ability to be involved in speculative ventures. You can find the complete series at www.thecitizen.info.
Part 1 - Special Report: ABQ Studios Owners Target of Lawsuit, Culver Audit
Part 2 - "All the World's a Stage": Pacifica Venture's International Claims
Part 3 - Albuquerque Studios Owner's Star Performance Belies Backstory
Part 4 - Forest City's Supporting Role: Developer Has Most to Gain, and Lose, from ABQ Studios
If you only have time to read one of these in-depth articles, we recommend part 4. There's a lot more going on at Mesa del Sol than meets the eye.
In light of the courthouse scandal, it's important to monitor big money developments like Mesa del Sol that involve large amounts of public money. With that much cash being thrown around, it would be easy to siphon off a little here and a little there in order to secure political cooperation. No wonder Forrest City Covington coughed up $85,000 to finish off Marty's MyCentennial Towers (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required).
Apr 3, 2007
We told you about the city's new website venture last Thursday. (We know... we told you it would be launched last Friday, but we forgot to factor in City Standard Time calculations). Today Marty, surrounded by APD's most vocal (and highly paid) supporters announced its grand opening.
KRQE News 13 (read about it here) reports that the site is designed to show how the system works and to answer questions about the program. The website reads like a VCR user’s manual and provides readers with technical details about how the cameras operate, but fails to address any of the most pressing concerns about the program (like where is the money going and how can you expect a fair and impartial hearing). The city's interest here is to make us all believe that the cameras are infallible and above reproach. Don't bother to ask about calibration and maintenance; you don't really need an impartial hearing, you're guilty... see. Now PAY UP!
One of the big features of the city's red light district website is the peep show. Voyeurs can take a gander at a few (3 anyway) examples of dastardly red light runners... one accident, one near accident, and someone following an emergency vehicle through an intersection (we're sure there's a lawyer joke in there somewhere).
We sure hope that Marty's holding back some REALLY scary stuff for his own personal viewing, because if these are the best examples of why we've poured over $6 MILLION into the city's coffers, then this thing is more of a scam than we thought.
Apr 2, 2007
As you are sure to know by now, Governor Richardson in one of his pit stops in the state, decided to veto Michael Sanchez's Senate Bill 365. So, the Almighty Marty will be able to continue to run his kangaroo courts and his red light toll booths with impunity.
Governor Richardson explained his veto saying "I see no reason for the state to micromanage this program and jeopardize the impressive results in order to fund other programs." (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required) In other words, the ends justify the means. SB 365 was designed to send as much as a third of the revenue from the Candid Camera system to the state to be used to replace monies that would normally be collected from criminal citations, which the red light "tickets" are not.
"[The Mayor] said that charging $100 for all the tickets would provide enough revenue but that he wasn't positive the City Council would be comfortable charging third-time offenders the same as first-time offenders." (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required)
We showed you how the revenue split worked. We showed you how the city could still run the program and still clear over $9 bucks a citation, but His Honor the Mayor says the City Council would be uncomfortable with lower fines for the 2nd and 3rd toll uses.
To say the least were skeptical that once the dust settles, the mayor, council, et al. will lower the fees to any significant degree. Further, even if they do lower the 2nd and 3rd offense fines, the two year time period serves to make sure that citizens are kept in servitude and fear.
Folks, this is about money not safety. The mayor emptied city hall in order to lobby the legislature to prevent these bills from passing. Our legislators decided that the program had problems and although their legislation didn't address all of them (like the total lack of a fair hearing process) they passed legislation that would at least keep the red light districts from running unchecked despite the full-court press from Marty's many lobbyists.
Presidential Candidate and part-time Governor Richardson decided that Marty's tenuous promises and incomplete statistics trumped public outrage and Legislative direction. After all, who cares about a little thing like due process?
Since the Guv has jumped on board with the Almighty Marty, we'll be living with these things at least for the foreseeable future. So don't forget we've posted information on how to defend yourself at one of Marty's tax collection hearings. Read "Red Light Cameras - How to Beat'em" for more information. And, we've got our Legal Eye working on tips for the speed vans and will be posting them soon.