Our first fire was started some seven or so years ago when the Chavez administration began what can only be called a spending spree.
Budget growth has been substantial since Mayor Martin Chávez took office in 2001. Annual spending is ahead of inflation by $125 million.That Journal story was from over a year ago. At that time the city was projecting a budget shortfall of $22 MILLION for 2008. Today we found out that that shortfall has grown almost three times to a whopping $65 MILLION (ABQ Journal - Subscription). To put that in perspective last year's budget was some $490 MILLION, $65 MILLION is over 13% of last year's budget.
Worse, even though the mayor and the council knew about a $22 MILLION shortfall, they continued down the road of blowing our tax dollars on $9 MILLION gifts to the county and the inclusion of Trolleys in the city's Transportation Improvement Plan or TIP. Marty was even back in the hunt for a teddy bear (read it here).
Talk about ignoring reality! Of course at the time the Almighty One still had aspirations of becoming governor, then senator, then mayor... You get the idea.
Another smoldering city situation is our increasing problem with property crime. Back in September the Journal did a little statistical analysis and found that Albuquerque was one of the most dangerous places to live in the country (Subscription). But never fear Albuquerque's top cop (that's not an elected official) Ray Schultz feels safe and besides we just report crime too often.
Which brings us to our most dangerous governmental conflagration - the almost total and complete meltdown of Albuquerque's police department. APD is in crisis and if you've spent any time at all reading the comments of various police officers on this site you know this to be true.
A series of moves ranging from 5-8's to a new contract designed to pit officer against officer, the Chavez administration has managed to divide a dysfunctional department against itself. Folks, we already had a crime problem. Marty's move against the department's senior officers has the potential to make an already bad crime situation worse.
Now, don't think for a second that these officers would neglect their duties... they won't. They took an oath to protect the rest of us and they will fulfill that oath regardless of the utter stupidity of the 5th and 11th floors, not to mention the foolishness of the APOA board. However, there are consequences. First, as soon as it is possible for them to do so they will leave - either through retirement or by finding a better department that appreciates experienced law enforcement officers.
More importantly, almost the entire force is busy arguing over a contract that nothing short of poison for APD unity. It's a HUGE distraction for officers whose attentions should be more properly directed at reducing crime. Frankly, we don't blame them. It's hard to focus on your job when you're caught between management and the APOA who have agreed on a contract that will cost you money in just a few short years.
Meanwhile, younger officers are busy trying to hang on to a gain that they probably should have never gotten. In a few years they'll find themselves in the same position as the current senior officers - looking for a department that appreciates them for their experience or trying to hang-on until they reach their retirement. The only problem is they won't be just a couple of years away from retirement - which means today's rookies will never be tomorrow's seasoned APD officers.
We haven't even begun to talk about the other fires burning down at city hall like red light cameras, falsified animal adoption numbers, or inflated "green" statistics. If you're smelling smoke it's because there's a fire. All we need to do now is buy the Almighty Alcalde a fiddle and probably get him some lessons.