The Piercing Truth

This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque, Berry and Schultz. Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach. Compliments of one of our Eyes

Feb 28, 2008

Torraco Enters DA Race

We've been critical recently of the actions of DA Kari Brandenburg. It seems that her prosecutorial motis operendi is to grab the low hanging fruit, prosecute those protecting their families, and plea bargaining for convenience despite pledges to the contrary.

We were glad to hear that Tuesday Lisa Torraco announced her intention to challenge DA Brandenburg in the upcoming race for District Attorney of the 2nd Judicial District. It's time to have a District Attorney who will work with law enforcement and prosecute crime.

Welcome to the race Ms. Torraco. We've posted her campaign announcement below.


It's time for strong leadership in the District Attorney's Office.

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Lisa Torraco today announced her candidacy for the office of Bernalillo County District Attorney.

"I can not in good conscience stand by and watch as our legal system continues to fail those it is designed to protect and prosecute those whose greatest crime is protecting their families and property from criminal predators," Torraco stated during a press conference on the steps of the District Court.

At a recent Crime Convention Conference sponsored by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, it was noted that everyday 17 houses are broken into and every 95 minutes a car is stolen.

"Crime is an ever increasing problem in our city," added Torraco. "Yet, the District Attorney's office is focusing their efforts on sending message to law abiding citizens that it is not okay to protect their families by throwing a decorated Marine behind bars for protecting his family from being burglarized by a twice convicted felon.

"The DA zealously pursues cases against law abiding citizens and dismisses others against repeat offendors – there seems to be no rhyme or reason." Torraco adds "The police are doing their jobs, we deserve a District Attorney that does hers.

"I am stepping up to the plate to do the job that needs to be done. I live here, I'm raising my children here, and I will fight to throw criminals, not heroes behind bars."

Lisa Torraco is a 1991 graduate of University of New Mexico School of Law. Upon graduation Torraco worked as an assistant district attorney for the Second Judicial District. In 1993, she worked for the Santa Fe District Attorney's office where she was appointed to lead the Child Abuse Division for Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos Counties. A career prosecutor, Lisa Torraco has prosecuted all levels of felony and misdemeanor cases and was awarded "New Prosecutor of the Year" in 1993.

Meet the Candidates

As you all know by now, APS is in the midst of a search to find a new superintendent. APS has certainly got a multitude of problems and they won't be solved without finding a superintendent that has the courage to make the changes necessary to finally make education APS's top priority.

We received an email recently suggesting that we help to publicize an upcoming meeting that will give the public an opportunity to meet these candidates. We think it's a good idea. After all, we seem to spend a great deal of time complaining about the quality of the education offered at Albuquerque schools and not nearly enough time doing anything about it.

We'd encourage anyone interested in participating - in being part of the solution - to take the time to meet these candidates Friday March 7th, in the John Milne Board Room. If nothing else, you'll have the opportunity to visit APS's bastion of education and educators - the former City Center 6400 Uptown Blvd. NE.

Feb 26, 2008

In Justice

We’ve been watching New Mexico’s judiciary and the system that surrounds it for some time. It is with a growing sense of alarm that we have watched judges inexplicably dismiss cases, involve themselves in illegal behavior, and generally treat their offices and the public with disrespect.

Before we begin, we believe that there are a number of honest, hard-working judges in New Mexico that take their jobs seriously. Their devotion to the spirit and the letter of the law are admirable and deserve praise.

However, the reality is that judges hold positions of great power and little public scrutiny. They have the authority to punish offenders and the responsibility to protect the public from those same offenders.

Last week we all found out about the punishment recommended by the Judicial Standards Commission for Metropolitan Court Judge J. Wayne Griego’s 14 counts of judicial misconduct (ABQ Journal - Subscription). Griego was found to have misused his publically granted judicial authority to help friends, family, staffers, and colleagues avoid proper judicial review and potential punishment by intervening on their behalf.

Even though this wasn’t the first time that Judge Griego has been caught with his hand in the judicial cookie jar (ABQ Journal - Subscription), the Judicial Standards Commission recommended only a 90 day suspension without pay and a $12,000 fine to pay for hearing costs. Of course this is just a recommendation, the Supreme Court could decide on a stiffer punishment or none at all.

Our question is a simple one… If Judge Griego has run afoul of judicial standards not once but twice, how can the public trust any decision made by the Judicial Gerrymanderer?

Our system of justice is based on the faith that we the governed can receive a fair and impartial hearing on any civil or criminal charge. Judges that make exceptions for friends, staffers, and family call into question the impartiality and the essential fairness of the system.

We understand that court rooms often become a kind of members only club where the judges all know the defense lawyers and the district attorneys, the district attorneys know the defense attorneys and the judges, and the defense attorney’s know the district attorneys and the judges. It’s an incestuous little group that knows good from bad, favored from disfavored.

The result is that in places like Metropolitan Court where public scrutiny and/or attention are at the absolute minimum, judgments are often made based on the personalities of the players rather than the guilt or innocence of the accused.

It’s a sad fact of life that the public does not hold our judges to a higher level of scrutiny. A judge who engages in rigging cases either directly or behind the scenes should not be returning to the bench to have the opportunity to continue to wreak havoc on the court system and simultaneously destroy the public’s faith in the judicial system.

In this case Judge Griego is charged with and been found to have engaged in practices directly related to the impartial implementation of his job; and for the second time. The State Supreme Court should act to restore faith in our judiciary by removing Judge Griego from the bench where he has repeatedly abused the authority entrusted to him.

Feb 21, 2008

Eye on the Grapevine: Another Castro Resigns?

The Eyes have it that rumors are flying downtown that yet another Castro is set to resign. No, not Raul Castro of Cuba but Michael Castro, Deputy Chief of APD's 5th floor. It's interesting because the deputy chief is known in the rank and file for his devotion to the mayor monetarily and otherwise. We don't quite know what this signals if indeed it signals anything, but we'll keep our Eyes on it.

----- Update -----
It looks like the Grapevine got it wrong. Our Eyes tell us that - as often happens - DC Castro's comments about being dissatisfied about recent happening were either exaggerated or misinterpreted to mean that like Fidel he was heading into the sunset. Apparently, those rumors were untrue and DC Castro will be staying right where he is.

Feb 20, 2008

Letters to The Eye: On the DWI Front

From time to time we receive letters about various events, happenings, miscarriages of justice, and various things that public officials don't want anyone talking about. We check the content and when we can verify the stories we like to publish them in their entirety.

The following is one such letter. As you know, we've got a problem with DWI here in New Mexico. Part of the problem is the most frequent offenders tend to somehow avoid incarceration. Sometimes it's not only the habitual offenders that somehow get off easy but those who have friends in powerful places.

On the DWI Front

New Mexico State Statute 66-8-102.1 NMSA 1978 reads “no other disposition by plea of guilty to any other charge in satisfaction of the charge shall be authorized if the results of a test performed pursuant to the Implied Consent Act disclose that the blood or breath of the person charges contains an alcohol concentration of: A. eight one hundredths or more”

It is the policy of the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office headed by District Attorney Kari Brandenburg that no charge of DWI will be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge including any driving offenses that the offender may have committed. NO MATTER WHAT THE BREATH SCORE!!!

What all of this means is that if you are stopped for a traffic offense, like speeding, and then charged with DWI you cannot go to court and plead guilty to the speeding and have the DWI charge dismissed.

So why is it that Kari Brandenburg’s doctor was allowed to plead guilty to Careless Driving and have his DWI dismissed when he had a breath score of .08?

On August 7, 2007 Dr. Michael Flax was driving northbound on the frontage road to I-25. Dr. Flax struck a car that was stopped for a red light at Martin Luther King Ave. Dr. Flax struck the car so hard that it forced the car to hit the car in front of it resulting in one of the drivers being transported. An Albuquerque Police Department DWI officer saw the crash and stopped. When the officer talked to Dr. Flax she was concerned that he might be drunk. Dr. Flax was given Standardized Field Sobriety Test which he failed miserably. Dr. Flax could not even say his alphabet or count correctly either. The officer arrest Dr. Flax and he was later given a breath test. Dr. Flax blew a .08 and .07.

Dr. Flax was given “the deal of the century” and was allowed to enter into a plea that no other violator of a DWI would have been offered in Bernalillo County. Dr. Flax plead guilty to Careless Driving and the DWI charge was dismissed.

This was actually a case that was not the fault of the Metro Court Judge. Elizabeth Jaenicke is a special prosecutor that was brought in from another county to handle this charge because the DA’s Office was concerned that there would be a measure of impropriety if the case was handled by Kari Brandenburg’s office. ADA Jaenicke gave Dr. Flax a plea bargain that no Metro ADA would have been allowed to give. So was she called in to handle this case just for that reason? Having a special prosecutor gives Kari Brandenburg a certain amount of deniability. DA Brandenburg can say that her office was not responsible for this plea.

This plea bargain was in direct violation of the law and the policies of the 2nd Judicial District Attorney's Office. My question is whether the special prosecutor Elizabeth Jaenicke is incompentent or was she told to fix the case?

So folks unless you are rich like the Dasklos Family or the doctor of the District Attorney I suggest that you don’t drink and drive. They shouldn’t drink and drive either, but they know that they are above the law.

They're On - They're Off - They're On Again

The Mayor of Albuquerque continued to play his childish games today when he announced the return of his red light scam at high noon tomorrow. The Almighty One claimed that the scam has squirreled away enough money to keep it running for another 4 years before the "excess revenue" runs out - that is of course if the city's looming budget crisis doesn't catch up with him first.

For those of you who have some kind of political ambitions or are simply political junkies, since bringing the scam-eras online, Marty has provided you with an example of how not to implement a controversial public program.

Last week's attempt to stick it to Big Bill and the Legislature by taking his shovel... uh, scam-eras and going home has clearly failed. Now he's making the attempt to save face by turning the scam back on under the cover of needing the past week "to study the effects of the Legislature's action and what would happen if the cameras weren't sending people tickets (ABQ Journal - Subscription)."

Horsepuckey! We'd love to hear the Almighty One's technical explanation of how the operation of the scam-eras would affect an audit of the system and a review of the legislation. Those damn cameras have been flashing away since 2005 and the administration has been making all sorts of claims about their effectiveness. They haven't had to pull the plug to manufacture those numbers... Why now?

Even more unbelievable is the claim that "
Red-light and speeding violations doubled after the cameras were turned off, Chávez said (ABQ Journal - Subscription)." That's an even bigger load than that "study" crap. We don't know about you but we didn't observe any madcap rush to go out and run red lights. Besides, how could we believe any numbers presented by the city after their recent history of using creative math (intersection crash statistics, the number of police officers at APD, the number of animals in shelters, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.).

Marty's claims are simply idiotic. We should all be insulted by his attempt make us swallow this crap. More importantly, we should also be terrified that this impulsive, vindictive, childlike mayor is making the decisions that directly affect our wallets and our safety.

Feb 19, 2008

Upside Down and Backwards

Tuesday's Albuquerque Journal featured an editorial penned by the Journal’s editorial board that chastised the Governor, the Legislature, and the Almighty Alcalde himself for their actions regarding Albuquerque’s red light scam-era program. Their apparent position is that the Legislature is trying to grab the money, the mayor has pulled the plug too quickly and Governor Richardson is simply playing politics because he vetoed a similar measure last year (ABQ Journal – Subscription).

The whole editorial is based on the assumption that the program is fair and working to reduce accidents at scam-era enforced intersections. Despite numerous attempts to cook the books, countless news conferences, and even a Task Farce report, the city has not provided one shred of evidence that the scam-eras have been working in the interests of public safety. The only thing that the scam-eras have demonstrated is an unblinking ability to fill the city's coffers with "excess revenue."

To be fair, The Journal’s editorial board has long been supportive of Marty and his scam. They have repeatedly (and we believe intentionally) overlooked some of the very real problems with mercenary style law enforcement as a replacement for live police officers whose only motivation is enforcing the laws that they have sworn to uphold. To make matters worse the STOP program based on nuisance abatement ,deprives defendants of their right to a fair and impartial hearing.

We have never been able to understand why many in our society are so quick to defend the rights of convicted murderers and terrorists yet fail to fight for the common everyday rights of their fellow citizens. The scam-era program is a perfect example of how we’ve got everything upside down and backwards.

It’s the everyday rights of ordinary people that are being relentlessly stripped away not the rights of murderers and terrorists. The STOP program is a perfect illustration of how the Constitution is being shredded for the claimed benefit of “public safety.” Even if claims of accident reductions are true (which there has been no conclusive evidence to support), the system of “justice” created by the STOP ordinance strips the accused of their rights as fast as a scam-era can snap a photo.

It all starts with that first flash. More often than not, drivers are unaware of a "violation." The first clue that a motorist may have violated the administrative law created by the city is the “citation” they receive in the mail some ten days after the fact. Ask yourself, can you remember where you drove ten days ago and if you can the specifics of any particular intersection?

It’s our contention that most drivers cannot remember the alleged offense and as a result are not only deprived of the ability to gather evidence in their defense but are even deprived of the ability to accurately and truthfully testify in their own defense.

To further aggravate the problem, Redflex receives a bounty for each citation issued. That’s little different than hiring someone off the street to write down license plate numbers at intersections and paying them per vehicle. There’s a direct incentive to deprive the accused of their right to a fair trial by delaying notification and forcing the accused to rely on the accuser’s evidence for their defense.

When the citation is contested, the recipient is forced to go before an administrative hearing officer whose primary objective is the same as the accuser’s – to find the accused guilty. If you have any doubt about the veracity of that statement, why does the city continue to prosecute “violations” even when they know that there is a high probability that many of the citations issued over a particular time period, were in fact issued in error. The drivers who failed to contest their citations were simply "convicted" and their money taken illegally.

Unlike criminal allegations, if you wish to appeal an administrative decision the burden of appeal rests with the accused who is in essence, required to sue the city in District Court in order to get their money back. When you study the process, it doesn’t take long to realize that the burden of proof lies squarely with the accused.

Tuesday's Journal editorial continually disregards the most offensive components of the scam-era system consistently defending the indefensible.

Governor Richardson needs to sign SB442 not to pay for courts, but to make sure that criminal violations of New Mexico’s traffic law end up there. Marty needs to leave the program’s suspension in place not because he’s trying to out-maneuver the governor, but because his golden goose has been revealed to the pig it really is.

More importantly, it’s long past the time to right our concept of justice by placing the emphasis on everyday rights and freedoms. If we are courageous enough to protect our everyday rights and those of our fellow citizens, then we will be protecting the rights of those who are accused of far more serious crimes while simultaneously protecting the rights of their victims. Otherwise we will remain upside down and backwards, frittering away our daily liberty for the promise of security while letting murderers and terrorists walk freely among us.

----- Update -----
We originally identified the Legislature's raid on Albuquerque's traffic scam as SB422. The correct bill is SB 442. Thanks to a reader with a sharp "eye" we have corrected the error above.

Feb 18, 2008

Arrested Development?

We got word from some of our Eyes this morning that Chief Ray has told the media that he has ordered his officers to arrest red light runners. We welcome the return of officers to red light traffic enforcement, but Ray and the Almighty Alcalde himself do not have the statutory authority to arrest anyone for a petty misdemeanor traffic violation. The only exception to that rule is if the motorist (not vehicle) refuses to acknowledge receipt of the citation by signing it.

The announcement by Marty's right-hand man may indicate a major crack-up (we may have to start calling the Chief Crazy Ray). It's foolish for a police chief to make threats that he does not have the statutory authority to enforce. Furthermore, it's irresponsible for a public official in charge of public safety to be making what can only be termed as empty threats that have only one purpose - to frighten the public.

Law abiding citizens should never be afraid of their police department or its chief. Today's development is a clear abuse of power; one that should concern everyone regardless of their position on the red light scam-eras.

----- Post Script -----

It is true that you can be arrested for intentionally running a red light. The offense is more commonly known as reckless driving. However, running a red light in and of itself is not an offense that you can or should be arrested for. We'd love to see an officer, ADA, or Chief Schultz himself trying to prove intent in a court of law (not one of Marty's Kangaroo Courts) when the only charged offense is the running of a red light.

Unless the accused admits to wantonly running a red simply to rub Ray and Marty's noses in their scam's failure, it's nearly impossible to prove reckless driving without some other evidence that would support the charge that resulted in the drivers arrest. In any case, the accused is the motorist himself not his vehicle, the accuser is a sworn police officer not an electronic device operated by a corporation that profits from your vehicle's guilt, and all of the above are seen by a real live judge not an administrative lackey hired by the mayor to rake in "excess money."

The threat to arrest a motorist for simply running a red light is just that - a threat. Is this really the type of law enforcement we want here in Albuquerque? Criminals should fear law enforcement not the average citizen and if Albuquerque’s crime stats are any indication – the criminals do not.

Feb 15, 2008

Pure Scam-era Sophistry

Yesterday's mayoral news conference announcing the shuttering of Marty's scam-eras and the parking of the scam-vans was an obvious and ham-fisted attempt by the ex-senatorial candidate to put pressure on Big Bill; that we know. But the news conference also featured a few statements that bear further examination.

The first and most obvious statement is the assertion that "violators pa[y] for everything (" Damn straight, and they paid for $6 MILLION in "excess revenue" to boot; profit that the mayor has already admitted to using to balance the city budget. We've got news for the mayor, law enforcement should never be about turning a profit; when it is the innocent are convicted, due process is non-existent, and those running the scam are the only ones who truly profit.

Along with gambling and prostitution, organized crime ran a similar scheme where individuals and businesses paid crime bosses for "protection." Arguably the system worked for the most part as your everyday thugs and thieves were kept at bay by the more brutal organized crime boss. It was called protection money and it's an example of what "law enforcement" will become if allowed to let money determine what laws are or are not enforced.

What's apparent in the mayor's news conference is that our "safety" is obviously not worth the $1.3 to $1.4 MILLION that Chavez claims the program costs. We don't know the amount that the state would be supplying to the city to continue to run the scam, but Senator William Pane successfully amended the original bill that would have taken all of the scam-era booty to include a provision to pay for the program (ABQ Journal - Subscription). Wouldn't that allotment at least pay for part of Marty's claimed operation costs?

The funnier part of Marty's act was when he used a two pronged scare tactic, "if you're involved in a fender-bender something of that nature, expect it to take a little longer to respond particularly during school hours, because officers have been re-deployed to school zones." When is the last time you saw one of these scam-vans in a school zone?

We got word of one speeding up Comanche the other day (read it here). We also know about the 1306 citations issued erroneously in 3 hours on I-25 (read it here). What we don't see is the valiant vans out protecting the children as the Almighty Alcalde would have you believe.

What's more important is that our Eyes claim that the Chief isn't planning to re-deploy anyone to school zones despite the mayoral assertions to the contrary. So, nothing has changed except that we don't have to worry about having to defend ourselves from a system that is designed to deprive us of a defense.

In the final analysis, we don't care why the scam has come to a halt; we just want it to stay that way. Yesterday's news conference was about fear through sophistry and attempting to put pressure on Big Bill.

We bet Marty's regretting his foolish misstep last month when he jumped the gun and stole Governor Richardson's thunder by announcing Fidelity Investments' decision to move to Mesa Del Sol (read it here). From the look on Bill's face when he was asked about signing the legislation, we're pretty sure he remembers the mayor's misstep.

Feb 14, 2008

Shuttering the Scam-eras

The Almighty stepped down from his perch on the 11th floor to inform the drivers of Albuquerque that they're safe from the scam-eras... for now (ABQ Journal - Subscription). Apparently the Legislature passed legislation that would take at least part of the recently reduced scam-era fines. So, the mayor - claiming that he can't afford to run the scam without taking in all or most of the loot without a state subsidy - has ordered the scam-eras shuttered.

Remember folks, this was all about public safety not about the profit... uh, "excess revenue" that the scam-eras generated. So, now that the city doesn't benefit from the misdeeds of your motor vehicle it's time for the scam to end.

Wait a second... Wasn't the city contractually obligated to continue scamming motorists through 2009? Now that the legislature has taken Marty's largess there's suddenly a way out of the contract? Something is not adding up here.

Don't get the wrong idea, we're thrilled that the scam-eras won't continue to prosecute malicious motor vehicles, but we suspect that Marty's announcement has more to do with manipulation. The mayor seems to be attempting to put pressure on Big Bill almost daring him not to veto the legislation.

Think about it... Governor Richardson indicates his willingness to sign legislation stripping the City of Albuquerque's largess, so the Almighty Alcalde calls a news conference to announce that there's no way the program can continue without the ill-gotten gain or at the very least a state subsidy.

Those who are foolish enough to give up their due process rights in the name of the illusion of additional safety are going to be emailing and calling the governor telling him their very lives depend on the continuation of Marty's red light scam. Never mind that they very well may be facing one of the fictitious violations with absolutely no way to prove their innocence. They need these scam-eras to feel save.

This has never been about public safety. It has always been about the money that these electronic eyes bring in and your inability to effectively defend yourself against their charges. It would be more honest to simply charge every driver $150 every year because they might run a red light, stop sign, or exceed a speed limit at some time during the year. Think of it as a kind of traffic indulgence.

Make no mistake... Marty is trying to out maneuver the legislature and the governor. Marty can win by forcing the governor to veto the state takeover, or by getting the state to subsidize his scam. He only loses if the governor calls his bluff by signing the bill ending the program and proving once and for all that the scam-eras have always been about the money.

Feb 13, 2008

Piling Up

Albuquerque's got a problem with property crime and violent crime; by now that has been well documented (ABQ Journal - Subscription). Less well known is Albuquerque's growing problem with white collar crime - you know embezzlement and identity theft.

This particular crime wave doesn't appear to be due to any outside influence, it's simply due to the fact that white collar crimes are piling up. Our Eyes tell us that there are somewhere close to 11,000 cases that are waiting to be fully investigated and only four detectives tasked with solving them.

Make no mistake we're not bashing the four hard-working individuals that are busy trying to shovel their way out of an avalanche of white collar cases, we pointing out that APD has made a priority of violent offenses. Maybe that's the right approach, but we doubt that someone who has had their identity stolen, their credit wrecked, and now find themselves in serious debt due to the unlawful use of their credit would agree.

The Eyes have it that if you are currently a victim of some white collar crime - like identity theft - you better hope you have a federal case, because there just aren't enough detectives assigned to clear the cases.

In our last post we were complaining about lowering standards for hiring officers and we certainly believe that APD is over specialized. However, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you have 11,000 cases waiting to be solved four detectives won't cut it. The cases are piling up and those involved deserve better than having to wait for one of four detectives to get around to solving their case.

Feb 12, 2008

1,100 At Any Cost

Monday the Almighty One held a meeting in his office with the APD academy staff and APD's top brass. The subject was APD's seemingly impossible dream - 1,100 officers. The meeting was supposed to take place sometime last week but due to some mayoral obligation or the other it was moved to this week.

As you can imagine this wasn't a pleasant meeting for the contingent from the 5th floor. As we've told you right here, it doesn't seem to matter how much money they spend or how much time they spend turning over rocks APD can't recruit, rehire, or retain enough officers to meet Marty's mandate.

According to our well placed Eyes, His Honor pulled rank on the assembled crew and ordered them to reach 1,100 no matter how they have to do it or who they have to hire. At one point our Eyes tell us that the maddened mayor told his Chief of Police that he had ordered him to reach 1,100 officers and if the Chief couldn't obey his orders he'd find someone who could.

There's a lot to be concerned with here. If the mayor has truly mandated that APD will have 1,100 officers at any cost then he's sacrificing our safety on the altar of political expediency. APD should not be hiring just anyone to enforce our laws (even if it's some silly cell phone ban) as the integrity of the entire department rides behind the shield of each and every officer.

When even one officer engages in some kind of unscrupulous behavior, the whole department gets a black eye. (Can anyone say Matt Griffin?) It's impossible for the public to tell the good from the bad, especially since they both wear the same uniform. The result is a public that doesn't trust the police charged with protecting them.

We cannot afford to have anything less than the best qualified, best trained, hard-working, honest officers on our streets - and for the most part they are all of those things and often much more. Lowering standards and hiring just about anyone in order to reach some arbitrary number for the sole purpose of making the mayor look good at a press conference is dangerous and foolish.
Marty would be sure to miss that next news conference where the Chief is having to explain to the media and to the citizens of Albuquerque that one of these substandard officers just got caught doing some of the things they are hired to catch others doing.
(End Sidebar)
Yesterday's meeting exposes the very real problem that we have with our current city police structure - the Chief of Police is an at-will employee of the mayor. As a result, the Chief is and must be as political as the mayor's Chief of Staff or any of his directors. This type of political involvement would place just about anyone who is unfortunate enough to be chief in an untenable position - do they answer first to the law or to the mayor.

In light of Albuquerque's property crime problem, there's little doubt that we need 1,100 or more officers on the street. But, you can't get there by counting PSAs, officers on leave (often to sunny Iraq), civilian support staff, and reserve officers, which our Eyes tell us APD is doing now. More importantly, you shouldn't try to get to 1,100 by lowering APDs standards and allowing just anyone to become an officer.

We'd rather have 500 good officers than even 3,000 questionable ones. For a police department to be effective it must earn and maintain the trust of the public. APD is on the verge of losing that trust and achieving 1,100 at any cost would certainly push the department beyond the very fine line of public trust and tolerance.

Feb 10, 2008

Lightning in a Bottle - Or at Least a Bottleneck

Senator Boitano's Tax Lightening Bill passed the State Senate Thursday by a significant margin. This is the bill that extends the current 3% cap on assessed property value to buyers of properties. The bill now heads to the house and faces the standard two committee gauntlet before it will be heard on the House floor.

If you haven't heard by now many Bernalillo County property owners were struck by the state's tax lightning - some to the tune of as much as 400%. Senator Boitano's bill would cap the increase at 3% and lower assessed values to 2004 levels. The objective is to make sure that two property owners in the same subdivision in houses that may be identical and even right next door to each other are paying similar amounts in property taxes (ABQ Journal - Subscription).

Our Eyes told us about one case where the property taxes went from $1,900 a year to $8,000 a year. That's more than a 400% increase making the monthly property tax bill $667 a month an increase of $408 a month. Unfortunately, large increases aren't uncommon and tend to hurt older property owners on a fixed income the most -their move to a smaller home to save money and effort only results in being struck by "tax lightning."

These tax inequities are particularly pronounced in the older areas of the city where homeowners can be and often are the original owners. The result is that one neighbor is often paying 2, 3, 4 hundred percent more than the other for the same services.

We've long maintained that the best tax policy is one that is wide (spread out over the maximum number of people) and shallow. The result is a revenue stream for the state that doesn't punish achievement and is less susceptible to the natural cycle of the economy; most people call that stability.

Right now just about every county and every municipality in the state is facing budget shortfalls due to the correction in our economy. Unfortunately, almost every governmental entity has been spending the largess of the last eight years like drunken sailors. Even more distressing is that they've been spending our cash on new programs that will require on-going taxpayer support.
A perfect example of this short sighted party like it's 1999 spending is the Rail Runner that is projected to cost you and me $20 MILLION a year just to keep the trains running, even if they're not on time!
(End Sidebar)
SB 450 does something that we haven't seen in quite a while; it imposes restrictions on spending by disallowing egregious jumps in assessed values maintaining taxpayer equity and tax predictability.

So who doesn't want this type of sensible tax legislation - just about every governmental entity that relies on property taxes for a large portion of its revenue. Can you say the City of Albuquerque?

The only way to reduce government spending and stop our spiraling tax burden is to restrict the amount of money going into the system. Legislators will be forced to create priorities for spending not just new programs for our tax dollars.

SB 450 is a step in the right direction. If you'd like to help move this legislation through committee contact one or all of the legislators listed below. The first hearing is Tuesday in the House and Government Affairs Committee - then it will move on to the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

The problem is time. The Session ends Thursday and getting it through committee in a couple of days will be difficult to say the least. You can help it along simply by letting the committee members know that you want the bill heard on the House floor.

Representative Edward C. Sandoval Chair Democrat

Representative Roberto "Bobby" J.Gonzales Vice Chair Democrat

Representative Janice E. Arnold-Jones Member Republican

Representative Ernest H. Chavez Member Democrat

Representative Nathan P. Cote Member Democrat

Representative Anna M. Crook Member Republican

Representative Keith J. Gardner Member Republican

Representative William J. Gray Member Republican

Representative George J. Hanosh Member Democrat

Representative Ben Lujan Member Democrat

Representative Rodolpho "Rudy" S. Martinez Member Democrat

Representative Andy Nuñez Member Democrat

Representative Daniel P. Silva Member Democrat

Representative James R.J. Strickler Member Republican

Representative Thomas C. Taylor Member Republican

Representative Richard D. Vigil Member Democrat

----- Post Script -----
We received a comment that greatly concerns us. It's the first comment below. The poster argues that somehow it's OK for someone to have a 400% increase in taxes simply because the taxpayer may own a more expensive property than others.

Fairness is a value and a virtue that must apply equally to everyone or it ceases to exist. There is no such thing as being "more fair" even though society is replete with examples of government attempting to do so. Affirmative Action, admission quotas, and "progressive" taxation are all examples of society attempting to be "more fair."

The truth is that creating a system that favors one individual over another is by definition unfair, discriminatory, and just plain wrong - whether or not the favored individual is in the minority, majority, poor, or filthy rich.

As a community and as a nation it's long past time we get past this idea that being fair somehow requires us to be "more fair" to one group and "less fair" to another. When we finally understand and implement that concept we will truly have thrown off the shackles of our past.

Feb 7, 2008

Arraignment Kirby

We got a heads-up that former Officer Ben Kirby is set to be arraigned Friday (today) at 10 am. Apparently, he's being charged with assisting escape, tampering with public records and conspiracy to tamper with public records.

Looks like the DA found it a bit too difficult to answer the whole "who's the other conspirator" question that according to our Eyes, was raised by an astute member of the grand jury. For a while it looked like Officer Fisher was going to be on the hook for the conspiracy role in the whole fiasco, but as of early January that option seemed to be taken off the table (read it here).

The DA has obviously changed tactics and decided to directly charge the former officer which is interesting in its own right, but what about the escapee? Amateur (or immature) race car driver, developer, and general traffic menace Jason Daskalos was the prisoner who made his own prison break. Despite his acquittal on DWI charges, to our knowledge he hasn't been charged with his own escape.

It's hard to imagine Kirby dragging a struggling Daskalos away from the paddy wagon against his will. Perhaps it's time for the DA to show a little equity in prosecution. Shouldn't all of the parties involved in a crime be prosecuted for that crime?

Feb 6, 2008

Just What We Need

Take a moment and think about all of the governmental and quasi-governmental agencies that have the authority to directly take money from your pocket book. Let's see... right here in Albuquerque there's the state, county and the city. Then add APS, MRGCD, the Water Authority, and the Public Regulatory Commission. Those are just some of the more obvious ones.

Now if Albuquerque Representative Dan Silva gets his way we'll get to add the Rail Runner Transit District to the list. The district will have the authority to impose a gross receipts tax on the citizens of Belen, Los Lunas, Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Placitas, and Santa Fe in order to pay the $20 MILLION a year operating cost of the commuter train.
Silva told his House colleagues that if voters don't pass the tax, the state of New Mexico would have to look elsewhere— possibly to the state's road fund or general fund— to pay for the train's operations.
There are a couple of things here that bear considering. The first is that the state's road fund has already been raided to help pay for the Rail Runner. In fact, the state is close to $500 MILLION in the hole when it comes to road maintenance and repair.
Some estimates are that New Mexico is already half a billion dollars short of money for dozens of highway construction projects around the state, although state Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught said the exact figure is unknown.
-ABQ Journal (Subscription)

The latest estimate for the Bernalillo-Santa Fe line is $259 million. An estimate published earlier this summer put the cost at $250 million.

The preliminary costs for the Rail Runner's new crossings on the Belen to Bernalillo portion of the train's route represent an additional expense to a project already estimated to cost more than $400 million.
When you think about it it's perfectly clear, the Rail Runner has cost at least $400 MILLION (probably closer to $500 MILLION) so far and now we've got close to a $500 MILLION shortfall in our transportation budget. A recent budget panel is recommending raising the state's gas tax which currently stands at 17 cents a gallon by 6% to pay for the roads whose funding went to the Rail Runner instead. (ABQ Journal - Subscription).

The second consideration is that we were never asked whether or not we wanted this Billion Dollar Boondoggle. According to the Journal it costs taxpayers $8 MILLION a year to run the State Employee / Tourist Transit Train that's in operation from Belen to Bernalillo. That number is expected to jump to $20 MILLION a year when the $259 MILLION (for now) Santa Fe extension is complete.

Silva would like to pay for this revenue sinkhole by creating a transit district with the authority to tax and to make matters worse, the power of eminent domain. They'll be empowered take both your money and your property to run a rail road that we didn't vote for, by a quasi-governmental board that we didn't approve, for state employees that will be forced to use the system (ABQ Journal - Subscription). If that weren't enough, we'll also get to pay a higher price at the pump to pay for the road work that should have been paid for by our current gas tax but went into the Rail Runner instead.

That's just what we need... Another government bully with the authority to steal our money and a track record of raiding funds that were already allocated for other uses.

Scam-era Sightings

There were some strange goings on at the scam-era intersection of Carlisle and Montgomery this morning right around 9:30am. Our Eyes reported that a couple of what looked like maintenance men were out with a $5,000 laser radar checking the speeds of east bound and west bound traffic. The radar operator would "shoot" a vehicle and call out the speed of the target. Then the second guy would dutifully write down the number on his clipboard.

We don't know exactly what was going on this morning, but according to our Eyes it looked as if the two workers - who didn't appear to be law enforcement officials - were checking the Redflex scam-era site. Could it be that the intersection is malfunctioning... again? You'll remember that a KOAT TV employee proved that the Carlisle and Montgomery scam-era site was malfunctioning back in May (read it here).

The city has routinely denied requests for full discovery including maintenance logs and claimed that calibration is unnecessary because the units are "self-calibrating." Makes us wonder what the heck they were doing out there with a laser radar. The only way to find out is to specifically request information about today's goings on either through a Freedom of Information Request or insisting on discovery regarding today's activities.

In another recent scam-era sighting, one of our Eyes spotted a scam-van NM license 456PCP, hurrying up Comanche. Our intrepid Eye clocked the scam-van doing 46 in a 35. Where was the fire (or emergency speed trap)? Our Eye spotted the scam-van sitting in a residential driveway at 3708 Camino Sacramento NE; and unless the house there was suspected of speeding there was no way that the scam-van was in operation.

In keeping with the procedures of the scam-era program we waited 6 days to notify all of you and hopefully the driver of the scam-van that he had been caught speeding. That's still 4 days better than the STOP program provides the rest of us.

Feb 5, 2008


What we needed was freedom. What we got was appeasement. Monday night the city council voted to reduce fines for dastardly Dodges and frenetic Fords who run one of Albuquerque's 20 scam-era intersections (ABQ Journal - Subscription). Remember it's not drivers who run through red light scam-era intersections - it's their vehicles that are the motorized miscreants.

In general the council brought the fines associated with both the scam-eras and the scam-vans in line with their criminal counterparts.
Councilor Don Harris said city residents are beginning to accept the cameras, adding that making the fines equal to officer-issued citations was a step in the right direction.

"We have to accept that we have this technology and make sure it is fair and (that) due process is protected," Harris said.
We beg to differ with the councilor from district 9... We certainly do not have to "accept" this technology and the tweaks the council made last night do nothing to address the program's inherent due process problems. Technology has never been the issue except in its implementation that necessitates a delay in notification and a reliance on the state's "evidence" for your defense.

Right now, it is possible to put GPS tracking devices in every vehicle registered in the City of Albuquerque. These devices could continuously monitor our vehicles every move - more specifically every mile per hour over the posted speed limit. That data could automatically generate a citation that would be sent to the vehicle under the STOP Ordinance scheme. Not only would the city be a safer place, but the city could keep tabs on each and every one of us so that we were never in any danger. Little brother Marty would always be there to protect you.

You can bet that a system like that would make money for the city and The Almighty Alcalde at an astronomical rate. It might even be more effective at "changing driver's habits" than the current Redflex system. But even if it increased overall traffic safety by over 50%, would you want it?

Last night's action by the council only makes the STOP program appear more equitable by reducing the penalty. Offending vehicles and their owners will never, we repeat never get their day in court because they will never have the opportunity to appear in one.
What a difference a year makes. Marty, after claiming that there's no way to keep the program operating with these fine reductions is now in favor of them. Hmmmm... Seems that His Honor agrees with us (read it here).
(End Sidebar)
Now there are rumblings in Santa Fe that Big Bill and the Legislature have their collective eyes (no relation) on the scam-era green. Since the fines have been reduced, it's likely that it'll be the state that's taking Marty's "excess money" from now on. How long do you really think it'll be before scam-era revenue is just another income stream for the state to waste?

It's the Economy Stupid... Or is it?

Being an election year, candidates are all clamoring for a reason... a reason for you to vote for them, and a reason for you to fear voting for anyone else. The Democrat's equivalent to the Big Head James Carville once said "it's the economy stupid." The problem is it wasn't then and from a historical perspective it isn't now.

If you haven't already voted in the Democratic primary today, take a look at the piece below put together by Drew Carey and In it, Carrey takes a look at the economic realities of being in the middle class and how that compares to the rhetoric of TV pundits and politicians. You may want to consider what your chosen candidate is saying and whether or not it has anything to do with reality.

By the way - the same goes for Republicans even though you won't be voting in a primary until June.

Is it really the economy or are we letting fear make us stupid?

Feb 4, 2008

The Cost of Green

It starts with taxes and moves on to mandates; many of which have little to do with ensuring freedom, public safety, or any of the fundamentals of government but all of which cost us more and more money. The drain on our paychecks is undeniable and seemingly unstoppable.

Last year in the council decided it's time that we all turn green and soon it'll be time for all of us to start paying for the council's foray into social engineering. You see the council has decided that scientific consensus should translate into the rest of us paying for expensive 90% efficient heaters for our homes when when our current furnaces need to be replaced.

The ordinance (O-07-73) sponsored by Councilors Benton, Cadigan, and former Councilor and Congressional candidate Martin Heinrich, was passed unanimously last September and goes into effect in April.
Replacing that broken furnace is about to get more expensive in Albuquerque.

Requirements that go into effect April 1 call for homes to have 90 percent efficient furnaces. The rules apply to new homes or people who replace the furnace in their existing home.
According to the Journal story, the city has mandated that you will have to be paying $400 to $900 more to install a furnace whether it's a new installation or a replacement; that's somewhere between 25% and 35% more than installing an 80% efficient furnace. What's interesting is that Comrade Benton tries to make a market argument (something he knows absolutely nothing about) to appease those of us who understand that we will be paying for his social agenda.
Benton suggested the cost of 90 percent efficient furnaces may come down.

"The market is going to change," he said. "People will start to get competitive with high-efficiency products as time goes on."
What?! What the #$@% is competitive about mandating high end expensive furnaces? Here's a refresher course on market economics, when choices are limited costs go up. When government mandates, costs go up. Councilor Benton is restricting the number and variety of heating units available by mandating a specific efficiency in order to reduce carbon emissions which have not been proven to have anything to do with global warming. The result is predictable - higher costs for consumers.

The folks over a Scott Ruch Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Electrical claim that the new heaters will save you money and make your house "more comfortable" and more evenly heated. However the savings according to the federal government, will average about $10 a month. In New Mexico that's probably no more than $30 a year, which means that it will take more than 13 years to pay for the increased efficiency and more likely 20 to 30 years. Your new furnace will probably need to be replaced long before the savings pay for the upgraded unit.

We also have a hard time believing that a new 90% heater heats a home more "evenly" than a new 80% model. Efficiency is a function of transferring heat from the furnace to the heated space rather than losing it through the exhaust. Even heating in a forced air unit would have more to do with air flow than with firebox efficiency.

Now let's take a look at the unintended consequences. Since the cost of replacing a furnace will be higher starting in April, there will be a rush on 80% (or less) furnaces. After April, people who weren't able to make the switch to a new 80% model will simply keep their old inefficient models as long as possible - a course of action that can even be life threatening.

In addition, some people will simply buy a cheaper model from a vendor outside the city limits and either install it themselves or have a contractor who's willing to "bend" the ordinance a bit and install the banned furnace. These are just a couple of the predicable unintended consequences - there are bound to be many more.

It costs a lot to be green and we don't believe that the citizens of Albuquerque should be forced to pay for the council's collective faith that man is at fault for so-called global warming. It's silly, it's foolish and it's an abuse of government power.

Booing the Alcalde

As you probably know by now, Albuquerque's Mayor, Martin Chavez has picked his horse in the Democratic primary - Hillary Clinton. It doesn't come as much of a surprise that the Almighty Alcalde chose the former first lady as the Clinton's and His Honor share many of the same qualities. (We'll let you decide whether or not that's a good thing.)

The Albuquerque Journal (and just about every other MSM outlet) reported on Senator Clinton's Saturday rally here in the Duke City (Subscription). They talked about the candidate's "enthusiastic" reception, the 3,000 in attendance, her new stump speech, the comparison to Obama's 8,100 person overflow crowd at the convention, heck they even talked about the music being played before the arrival of the candidate.

What The Journal didn't talk about was Clinton's local backer Martin Chavez and his reception at the event. At these types of things it's customary for the headliner to recognize their high ranking supporters, particularly when that supporter is the mayor of the town where your rally is being held. Our Eyes tell us that while the headliner may have been warmly received, The Almighty Alcalde was treated to a chilly reception that included quite a bit of booing.

If any of you are still wondering why Mayor Marty dropped out of the U.S. Senate race and is now trying to have his term limits overturned, Saturday's rally should provide the answer. Marty is not considered a true Democrat by the party faithful - particularly those of the more left leaning persuasion. Thus, the mayor will find just about any race that includes a primary almost impossible to win.

Since Albuquerque's municipal elections are "non-partisan," he has the ability to pull votes from the Republican Party and run in a crowded field. In that type of environment, name ID becomes more important than policy. In short, it's the only race in the state that Marty has any chance of winning - assuming his popularity among Republicans holds. If our Eye Polls are any indication, Marty is in deep trouble even if he does manage to overturn the city charter's term limits.

Feb 3, 2008

Lack of Trust

It's always been our opinion that the trust of the governed is an absolute necessity if any governing body is to operate efficiently. It may be simply a sign of the times or a sign of something specific to the current city administration, but Eye On Albuquerque readers overwhelmingly distrust the current administration.

In our unscientific poll of 355 readers, a whopping 76% have no trust in the current city administration, 6% trust it some of the time, 11% most of the time, 8% all of the time, and only one person didn't know (read the results here). A healthy skepticism of government is imperative, but when over 3/4 of a governed body have lost trust in those that govern it's an indication of a serious problem - a problem that will take more than the few months between now and the next city election to fix.

This week were casting our gaze on national politics - something we rarely do. Since everyone is all a-twitter about the upcoming caucus by New Mexico's Ds and of course Super Tuesday, we thought we'd get in on the act adding the Rs into the mix just to be fair. Don't forget to vote!

Feb 2, 2008

How Not to Learn

We've been resisting the urge to comment on today's story about developer Jason Daskalos. It's simply amazing to us how someone who can be so successful on one level can't seem to figure things out on another. By this evening, our resistance failed and we just can't help ourselves.

Jason Daskalos made the front page of the Albuquerque Journal today... again (Subscription). A prominent man with at least 37 speeding citations, a recent DWI charge (and acquittal), and a pending domestic violence charge (read it here), should probably consider laying low for a while, but instead he took a rental car for a lap and managed to get himself back in the papers for driving 83 in a 40 MPH zone.

He's probably the only person we know that has his misdemeanor traffic citations making the front page of the state's largest newspaper. It's tempting to question the news judgment of the Journal - which might be warranted - but his continued disregard for the law simply amazes us in light of his prominence and the fact that he's obviously under public scrutiny.

There's really only one way to characterize Daskalos' continued misbehavior... stoooooopid. Someone needs to convince him to hire a driver, or a keeper even to keep him out of the papers before he jeopardizes one of his many developments by having to cash-in just one too many of his political chips.

Feb 1, 2008


When was the last time that the consumer benefited from an absolute monopoly? The answer is simple - never. That's why we have anti-trust laws to keep any one company from becoming the only provider for a good or service.

Competition has always been the cornerstone of high quality and low cost. If there were only one grocery store (or grocery store company) here in Albuquerque, that store could set the price of its goods at whatever level they chose. Fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, just about anything with a shelf life would sit longer because consumers wouldn't have a choice to purchase better fresher produce somewhere else and the stores lose money when they have to dispose of spoiled goods.

It's called the market and it's really quite intuitive. If you were able to sell some product or service that was in demand and you were the only one able to produce that good or service, you could pretty much charge whatever you wanted. Food is certainly one of those items that every one of us needs and must buy - so is health care.

Yesterday, the House Health and Government Affairs Committee passed unanimously a single payer health care scheme that would in essence create a state run monopoly on health care in New Mexico (ABQ Journal - Subscription). How does the saying go...? If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free.

Nothing, we repeat... nothing is free. We all pay for health care. In fact right now, in addition to our own health care we pay for indigent care with our tax dollars. Currently, every emergency room must treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. How much more "universal" can you get?

What so called "universal" health care schemes do is create a government run health care system complete with all of the coercive influences and legislative power of the state. It would be similar to centralized control of the economy. The state is not equipped to make the millions, even hundreds of millions of decisions required to keep an economy moving, much less healthy.
The 70 year Soviet experience proved our point. Shortages were the norm and the quality was so poor that when they finally started to open their markets, McDonalds had to build their own meat processing plant in order to obtain high enough quality ground beef. We're talking McDonalds here. Not that we have anything against them but their ground beef isn't exactly filet mignon.
(End Sidebar)
Hospitals are complex operations (pardon the pun) that require thousands of decisions that directly affect quality and cost. More importantly, theses decisions often have life or death consequences.

We are often told that the goal of "universal" health care is to get those who can't afford health care out of the state's emergency rooms. Single payer healthcare plans won't get the poor out of emergency rooms (or their "universal" scheme equivalent); they'll simply put the rest of us in there with them.

Long lines, poor care, shortages of doctors, nurses, and staff, not to mention strikes will be a very real part of our health care future should a single payer scheme be implemented. Governor Richardson's plan would be better than a single payer scheme but would bring the full weight of government to bear on doctors by forcing them to accept all insurance plans regardless of whether or not the payment covers their expenses.

Once you get past the class envy - do you really believe that doctors should or would work anywhere for free... would you? We already have a problem keeping or getting doctors in this state, it simply makes no sense to create a health care system that covers everyone but results in a situation where there are no doctors and nurses to cover them.

In the final analysis, government intrusion into health care is dangerous at best - and would more likely be a complete disaster. What we need for government to do is to create an environment where competition can flourish and the consumer can make informed decisions about the health care plans available. Comparison and choice are the heart of competition - something a single payer health care scheme cannot and will not provide.