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

Jan 28, 2009


Bernalillo County Fire Chief John Garcia made an appearance Tuesday night in front of the Bernalillo County Commission. His objective was to get commissioners to approve a 1/4 cent tax increase in hopes that a large portion of that tax revenue would be used to replace the aging equipment and infrastructure in his department.

According to our Eyes, the Bernalillo County Fire Department needs about $5 MILLION for station renovation and equipment replacement. All or part of a 1/4 cent tax increase would be used to fund the endeavor.

We don't blame the chief for asking for the tax increase as the Eyes have it that he genuinely needs at least part of the money that he's requested. Our problem is that it has become necessary for the chief to ask for a tax increase to pay for needed equipment and infrastructure in the first place.
County commissioners approved a $4 million bond deal to finance the purchase and some renovations of Hiland in 2003. They took ownership of the theater from Musical Theatre Southwest, then rented it back to the nonprofit.

County officials intended for rent from the group to cover debt payments on the theater purchase. Eventually, however, Musical Theatre Southwest was unable to afford keeping the Hiland open, and the county began looking at other options.
As you can see, back in 2003 the county was able to come up with some $4 MILLION to purchase the decaying Hiland Theater. Two years later the commission slipped another $1 MILLION past tax payers in a bond issue that was used to fix up the Hiland but sold as a general fixer upper for county buildings.
The county is closing in on a $42 million deal to acquire the 500 Marquette office building, once home to the swanky Petroleum Club. The 15-story building lies across the street from the County Commission's current home, the City Hall complex it shares with Albuquerque city government and the water utility authority.
The county seems to be able to come up with $4 MILLION or even $42 MILLION on short notice as long as it's for a cathedral for themselves or a theater for the profitably challenged. But when it comes to public safety - you know, police, fire, detention - there's not enough money to go around, so we need a tax increase.

What that tells us is that the county is busy spending money on things it shouldn't to the detriment of the things that it should. Government is tasked with certain functions that are core responsibilities, public safety is chief among them. In the county's case, they are also responsible for the operation of the West Side Jail.

When voters are forced to decide whether or not to vote for a tax to fund basic services, they are actually funding other non-essential spending - usually benefiting a very few. Whether it's a theater for the profitably challenged, a crystal cathedral for the commission, a downtown arena, or a shiny new trolley, spending outside of the core functions and responsibilities of government inevitably result in higher taxes.

We are -and have been - in a crisis of upside down priorities. Our governments are spending money meant for core functions on programs that are not a part of government's intent. Meanwhile, governments raise taxes to pay for core functions that should have been a top priority to begin with.

In reality, public safety taxes are an admission that government is failing at its job and ignoring its responsibilities - much like a gambler betting their food or rent money. The difference being one ends up being homeless and hungry, the other simply raises taxes.

Jan 26, 2009

Damn the Fuel Pumps...

We've been tell you about APD's E85/bio-diesel debacle for a few weeks now. APD decided to abandon the corn-fed fuel because it was wrecking engines and fuel pumps in their Ford Crown Victorias. While business was good down at the motor pool, it wasn't good for a city in a budget crisis. Not to mention the fact that using E85 exclusively voided the vehicles warranty.

Our Eyes tell us that E85 is on its way back. No... Nothing has changed - the fuel still wrecks fuel pumps and destroys engines. However, last week the Almighty Alcalde was besieged by greens. So, in a move reeking of political expedience and utterly devoid of common sense, Marty has reinstituted his E85 edict- with one difference.

Officers now get to put 30 gallons a month of good old unleaded - probably in an attempt to keep a whole bunch of fuel pumps out of the landfill. According to our Eyes the program will be "closely monitored."

None of this makes a whole lot of sense. The vehicles were not designed to use E85 exclusively. Adding 30 gallons of unleaded - about two days of fuel for an APD vehicle - won't have an appreciable impact when the manufacturer recommends running a full tank of gasoline every third tank. It also doesn't change the fact that they've already voided the warrantees of every vehicle purchased before January.

Apparently, it doesn't matter to the mayor or the environmentalists that he's trying to appease that the fuel destroys engines, voids warrantees and makes maintenance costs skyrocket as long as Big Corn gets to fuel the vehicles. Damn the fuel pumps! We're gonna be green despite the waste, despite budget crisis, and despite common sense. After all, it's not their money anyway.

Jan 25, 2009

Eye Poll: Wrong Direction

A couple of weeks ago Marty's Minions were circulating a poll - paid for by them and without the poll questions attached - whose conclusion was that the Almighty Alcalde was unbeatable. We weren't buying it. Let's just say we were suspicious considering the source.

The big question that Marty's folks cited was the wright/wrong question. Generally, this is a good indicator that voters are either contented or at least apathetic, or they're in a mood to throw the bums out. For incumbents the former is great - the latter, not so much.

So... with all of Marty's supposed glowing poll numbers staring us in the Eye, we decided to see if they were really as shiny as they were portrayed. In last week's unscientific poll, Eye readers overwhelmingly rejected the idea that the city is headed in the right direction.

67% of participants indicated that the city is headed in the wrong direction, 28% in the right direction, and 5% didn't know (view it here). We've been very critical of the current holder of the 11th Floor throne, so it wouldn't surprise us if we're a bit oversampled on the detractor side. However, a 39 point difference is significant even in an unscientific poll.

All recent indications are that the city's crime problem is deepening. Today's story on the recent take down of a sophisticated Mexican meth ring here in the Duke City demonstrates our vulnerability (ABQ Journal - Subscription). Do you feel safer today than you did four years ago? That's the question in this week's Eye Poll. Don't forget to vote!

Jan 23, 2009

Scam-eras and Profit

Arizona's Pinal County residents can drive without fear of having to pay a Redflex ticket for exceeding the speed limit. The county's Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to shutter the speed cameras at the urging of their new County Sheriff, Paul Babeau.
"I'm against photo speed enforcement completely," Babeu said, walking the three-member panel through a detailed PowerPoint presentation. "Here in Pinal, it's failed miserably."
Interestingly, the reason that Babeu gave for pulling the plug on the program was that only a third of the citations were actually being paid. The paid citations brought in $134,199.43, but after paying Redflex the county only netted some $12,391.58
Moreover, Babeu said, total motor-vehicle accidents increased by 16 percent in the same time period, and fatal collisions in the Queen Creek area doubled from three to six.

The sheriff said he couldn't be certain that speed cameras were to blame for the crashes, but he believes they were a factor.
Babeu's reasoning is only half right. The sheriff cites public safety concerns as only part of the reason that he wants to replace scam-era vans with deputies. What seems to be the real concern is the "paltry" profit generated by the program.

Last week Councilor Harris told KOB-TV that Albuquerque's scam-era program could only operate for another 4 years without costing the city money unless the legislature repealed the restrictions on Albuquerque's program (read it here). Just today it was revealed that some unnamed administration official signed a five year contract extension with Redflex (ABQ Journal - Subscription).
Exactly which bonehead signed this contract? It has to be someone with some level of executive authority. Marty's Minions are acting like a bunch of children who got caught eating stolen cookies. No one seems to know who was responsible for the cookie caper despite the chocolate smeared all over their faces.

That leaves just one person who's ultimately responsible... Mayor Martin Chavez. He hired these guys, he brought the Redflex scam-eras to Albuquerque, and he's responsible for both the new contract and the chaos surrounding it.
[End Sidebar]
Scam-eras are proliferating across the state - Farmington wants them, Santa Fe is negotiating with Redflex, and Las Cruces has signed on to the scam. Folks, this is about money - yours flowing directly into government coffers.
A quick search of news articles shows that local governments in San Jose California, Tulsa Oklahoma, and Richmond Hill Georgia have already or are considering raising traffic fines to pay for various government programs. The small community of Richmond Hill anticipates that the added fees will generate around $20,000 to pay for internet service inside their police cars. In California, speeding drivers who request a driving school to keep their insurance rates down saw that fee rise from $24 to $94 after January 1st.
Governments all across the country are trying to find ways to generate revenue. At the top of the list are items like scam-era programs and traffic enforcement. These types of programs can be instituted under the cover of "public safety" with the sole purpose of funding government programs and the excuse that if you don't want to pay don't break the law.

Who cares about due process, the right to face your accuser, or even whether or not you are guilty. In scam-era court you are guilty until proven innocent and are forced to rely solely on the state's evidence without any ability to question its accuracy (see a scam-era malfunction here).

To make matters worse, when government makes revenue its primary objective there's pressure to make sure that a certain amount of revenue continues to flow into its coffers. The simplest way to maintain revenue is to shorten the duration of yellow lights or change the light's timing (read it here).
Short yellow light times at intersections have been shown to increase the number of traffic violations and accidents. Conversely, increasing the yellow light duration can dramatically reduce red-light violations at an intersection.

Some local governments have ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.
Unfettered, the Redflex scam-eras are a great way to raise revenue for the city. If you'll remember the program brought in over $6 MILLION in just a few months (read it here). The money has been so addictive that Marty and his Minions have even lied to the public about the effectiveness of the program (read it here).

Look... It all comes down to what you believe the role of law enforcement in society truly is. Should we use our sheriffs and police officers to protect the public and punish criminals or should we use them to collect revenue for the state - a tax collector behind a badge?

We've said it before... Law enforcement should not be about profit. Whenever the state relies on enforcement action for a source of revenue there's an incentive to break the very laws that government is tasked with enforcing.

Jan 22, 2009


New Mexico's former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias has a new job - prosecuting terrorists. Yep... the very same prosecutor who failed to prosecute Manny Aragon and company has a new job prosecuting terrorists as a member of the Navy's Judge Advocate General corp.

We've been laughing all morning about the appointment. Here's a man who's claim to fame includes being the "inspiration" for the movie "A Few Good Men" and a failure to find governmental corruption in one of the most corrupt states in the union. Not to mention a prosecutorial style that most closely resembles the blinding speed of a glacier.

Of course, what makes this really funny is that one of Obama's first moves was to halt the tribunals down at Gitmo and today Obama signed an executive order to create a taskfarce on closing the detention facility.
The national security orders would mandate that interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual be used by all intelligence and law enforcement services; would call for a task force to look at closing the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within the year; and would order a strategy be developed for handling detainees in the future.
Good luck closing Gitmo. Even the tamest individuals being held at the facility are people that no one wants. States don't want them and foreign governments won't take them. Each and every one of the detainees is persona non grata.

We've got a pool going to see how long it takes for Obama to actually close the facility. Our bet is that a year from today Obama's Gitmo will be quietly detaining the same detainees with nary a word from the star struck media.
[End Sidebar]
So now David Iglacial has a job prosecuting terrorists whose prosecutions have been halted and whose detainment may be at an end. Sounds like the perfect job for a prosecutor whose not really all that interested in prosecuting.

Don't worry Mr. Iglesias, you're still the darling of the kook fringe left and there's always your book career.

Jan 21, 2009

Eco-Folly Update

A couple weeks ago we told you of the tossing of the green - APD's move to run good ol' unleaded in all of their E85 vehicles (read it here). It turns out that running the corn fed fuel ruins fuel pumps at an alarming rate, even if the engines were supposed to run on the stuff.

Our Eyes have given us a little more details regarding the eco-debacle. The Ford Crown Victorias that comprise a large percentage of APD's fleet are the vehicles popping their fuel pumps. In fact, fuel pumps are failing every 2,000 miles or so.

To put that in context, the average mileage for an average driver is about 12,000 miles per year. If you owned one of the vehicles in question and decided to save the world one E85 tank at a time, you'd end up replacing your fuel pump 6 times a year - that's every couple of months!

APD vehicles can't be considered average under any circumstances. They generally receive far more mileage and run more continuously than your average mini-van, SUV, or eco-friendly hybrid. As a result, APD's mechanics are kept quite busy replacing fuel pumps. So busy in fact, that the switch to carbon spewing petrol became an absolute necessity.

You're probably thinking that there has to be some kind of warranty, right? Well there is, except that the Almighty's edict from the 11th floor ordering APD to burn the eco-fuel voided that warranty. You see, Ford requires that a tank of regular unleaded fuel be run every third tank. Running E85 all of the time apparently ruins the fuel pump and voids the warranty.

Politicians know how to manipulate fear in all of its forms for their own political gain. Marty's eco-edict to use E85 was nothing but an attempt to tap that fear and use it to advance his personal ambition. Never mind the fact that it made little sense and has ended up wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars at a time when there are precious few of them coming in to the city.

Before making radical edicts, it's a real good idea to get all of the facts. The facts in this case are that the Fords were never designed to run exclusively on E85 - just like the new trucks purchased for the K-9 units were never designed to run on bio-diesel (read it here).

When politicians like the Almighty Alcalde grandstand on public fears, they inevitably make bad decisions. In this case, Marty turned Eco-friendly into Eco-folly.

Jan 20, 2009

The Experiment Continues

Today marks a historic day. You've probably heard that Tuesday, January 20th President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. By now you no doubt have seen every talking head, read every news report, and realize that Barack Obama will be the first African-American President.

While Obama will certainly usher in a new era in U.S. race relations, that's not today's most remarkable achievement. At noon Eastern Time, we will witness the peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time.

Many lesser countries, lesser peoples have succumbed to the egos and ambitions of those who would be tyrants. Since April 30th, 1789 - despite often tremendous egos and boundless ambition - each new president in succession has handed over the reins of power to their duly elected successor.

Becoming President is no easy task. It takes MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars, great political skills, and a whole lot of luck. Giving up the power, the privledge, and the ability to quite literally change the world is an act of selflessness that we as a people have been fortunate to witness repeatedly since President Washington first handed the presidential mantle to John Adams in 1797.

Today our great experiment in democracy continues. It's certainly a tribute to the two men and their administrations but more than that it's a tribute to the people of the United States who demand that their leaders give up power after serving. Today Obama begins his 1st term. In four or eight years he too will be required to follow in the steps of the 42 Presidents before him and cede power to the next man or woman who will be his replacement.

----- Correction -----
We originally implied erroneously that there were "43 Presidents before" the current President Barack Obama. We were kind of half right. There were 43 Presidents but only 42 men who have served as President of the United States before Obama. Grover Cleveland served as both the 22nd and 24th Presidents of the United States making Obama the 43rd man and the 44th President.

Jan 18, 2009

Approval? Really?

A little over a week ago Marty's Minions were running around with a poll from Lake Research Partners that made the Almighty Alcalde look like a lock for a 4th term. Of course the poll was trotted out by Democratic consultant Joe Monahan.
Voters continue to hold Chavez in high regard. Two-thirds (66%) say they have a favorable impression of the man, including 28% who have a very favorable impression of him. Only 27% have an unfavorable opinion of Chavez.
Marty's poll didn't quite square with our impression so we decided to run our own unscientific poll last week. Eye readers were no where near as generous as Marty's Lake Research Poll. 44% of Eye participants said the mayor was doing a terrible job, 19% not so good, 8% fair, 11% good, and 17% said the mayor was doing an excellent job (view it here). No matter how you slice it 63% of respondents weren't all that happy with the job Marty's doing as mayor.

Look, we understand that our little poll isn't exactly scientific, but even Monahan admits that Marty's Lake Research poll seems a bit off noting that Marty's Minions failed to release the questions that led to their conclusions.

We suspect that the Almighty Alcalde was simply trying to scare potential opponents into staying out of the race. You may have noticed that his intimidation tactic hasn't worked as he now faces two councilors from his own party and our Eyes tell us that two time 1st Congressional District candidate Richard Romero plans on running under the Eli Lee banner.

This week we're taking up the right/wrong question. Is your city headed in the right or the wrong direction? Let us know what you think.

Jan 15, 2009

Red Ink in Scam-era Land

Wednesday, KOB-TV reported that Marty's Scam-eras are losing money ( Councilor Don Harris told channel 4 that because of the state mandated caps on fines and the associated transfer of funds from the city to the state.
The city was getting rich until state lawmakers stepped in and voted to take a big chunk of what the city makes.

City leaders say the state is taking so much that it now has to use its own money to keep the program going.

The state capped fines at $75 and is taking a huge cut, so big that Albuquerque is now losing money.
Look, this system has been bankrupt from the start. It was installed for revenue, runs on a principle of guilty until proven innocent, and makes the accused rely on the veracity of the state's evidence.

More importantly, we were fed a constant diet of, well... aromatic platitudes the smelliest of which was that the system was for public safety. We never bought it and now Councilor Harris is simply admitting what we knew all along.
Harris says the problem is that the city no longer gets enough money to even pay for the program.

Officials say in 2009, the city will pay about $1.5[MILLION] out of its own pocket.
Ask yourself, when's the last time APD turned a profit? Even if APD could turn a profit would you want them to? Adding a profit motive to law enforcement leads inevitably to corruption.
"It's like a tax on the city from the state or confiscation from money from the program. I think it goes one step too far," says City Councilor Don Harris.
Funny how Councilor Harris compared the state's raid on scam-era money to a tax on the city. The scam-eras are a tax on the drivers of Albuquerque - levied for the sole purpose of filling city coffers. Now that the program is costing the city money we no longer hear about safety, just revenue - which is what it was all about in the first place. Let the scam-eras drown in their red ink.

Stifling Speech?

We've seen it before - The 5th Floor seeking retribution when an officer acting as a private citizen voices painful opinions. Last year, Sergeant Paul Heh stood before the City Council and voiced his opposition to the latest APD contract (read it here). Agree with the outspoken sergeant or not, he has the guaranteed Constitutional right to voice his opinion.

Our Eyes tell us that today the 5th Floor sent out a memo instructing all officers to obtain permission before speaking before any group. Obviously, APD has something to say about what an officer says and to whom when in uniform or representing the department. However, as long as an officer is not in uniform and is not representing the department, the 5th Floor cannot prohibit or attempt to prohibit an officer from speaking their mind in public. Regardless of how embarrassing that officer's opinion is to the department.

Liberty requires freedom of expression. We cannot be truly free without the freedom to express our ideas and opinions. The 5th Floor ought to be very careful when writing memos. If their intent is to underscore existing SOP - that's one thing. If on the other hand, they are attempting to discourage officers from publically speaking their minds - that's quite another. The former is understandable. The latter is an attempt to stifle speech and is contemptible.

Jan 13, 2009

Legacy: The Problem with Politicians

We stumbled across a post by former Mayor Jim Baca on his blog Only in New Mexico that pointed out exactly what the problem is with most politicians - they want to be remembered. We all would like to think that we made some sort of mark - some kind of impression - that will outlast us. Perhaps that's why so many people have children. To find a way to leave a footprint in the sand that says we were once here.

Politicians are no different than the rest of us, but their desire to be remembered is substantially stronger and more immediate. We'd bet that desire is at least partially why former Mayor Baca blogs.

Last week the far left former mayor was busy taking shots at The Almighty Alcalde - who just so happened to be the one who turned him out of office.
A few us sat around lunch yesterday trying to figure out what Mayor Chavez has accomplished in the way of "Big Things" in the last seven years. We could not think of one thing.
Politicians (even former politicians who want back in the game) can't pass up an opportunity to toot their own horns.
During my administration the "BIG THINGS" were downtown revitalization, a new baseball stadium, passing a quarter cent tax for increased transportation services, and the Art Summer Institute for talented kids in High School.
We'd remind you that the city was in serious financial trouble when Baca left office, and the former mayor's "Big Things" consisted primarily of things that we're still paying for today.
If you look at how people view a city they look at these kinds of projects and get a feel for leadership that enables it. The leadership is recognized because these aren't easy things to do.
It doesn't take leadership to spend other people's money and it shouldn't take "Big Things" to build a legacy. That's the problem with politicians. They believe that if they don't have that stadium or trolley, people will forget who they were.

Truly great leaders don't build monuments to themselves. They do their often thankless job without fanfare and let those who come after build monuments to their service should that service warrant the attention.

That's the problem with politicians - too many of them are not true leaders. They spend our money to build monuments to themselves with little regard to the job that they're supposed to be doing. Police, Fire, keeping the water mains intact are not sexy, but they're the first and most important job of any mayor or councilor and they're the difference between a politician and a leader.

Payroll Pandemonium: Backwards

The payroll problems continue for the City of Albuquerque. Employees still haven't gotten the paychecks straightened out and the payroll department is telling employees to keep track of everything themselves in order to receive what they're owed.
Keeping your own records is probably a pretty good idea even if the payroll software isn't screwed up, particularly if your job requires extensive overtime.
(End Sidebar)
Our Eyes tell us that payroll was closed most of the day Monday for training. Huh? Let's see... some genius at the city thought it was a good idea to buy a new payroll system from PeopleSoft, put the system in place, and then train personnel how to use it?

If indeed the city failed to train their employees on a new system before implementation, someone needs to have their head examined and perhaps lose their job. And don't bother trying to call payroll. They're locked behind their office doors and not answering the phone.

Meanwhile, the geniuses over at APD decided to change how officers logged on to their Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. Of course they didn't bother notifying officers that they were changing the login much less tell them how to log on.

As a consequence shift changes Monday featured officers wasting their time trying to figure out how to use the new login - tying up the City Tac frequency not to mention being unavailable to take calls.

What is it about technology and the city? It's hard enough learning to use new technologies without having to learn it on the job. In the case of the payroll debacle, the incident is likely to cost the city a considerable sum of money. In the case of last night's Tiburon incident, officers were busy hassling with a new login scheme when they should be doing their job protecting the public.

So to review... the proper procedure for implementing new technologies:

1. Notification
2. Training
3. Go Live

Please write that on the board at least 15 times and make an effort to remember it. People's livelihoods and maybe even their lives depend on it.

Useful Idiots

Over the weekend Council President Isaac Benton made a foray into international relations calling Israel's current incursion into Gaza "oppression and genocide" (ABQ Journal - Subscription). From a political standpoint, Benton chose to step into a political minefield on a battleground where at best he's a spectator. More importantly, the District 3 councilor is just flat wrong.
"For the record, this is not genocide, and no rational person can justifiably call Israel's actions of self-defense genocide against any people," said Sam Sokolove, executive director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico.

Webster's New World Dictionary defines genocide as the "systematic killing of a whole people or nation."

Asked Monday whether he believes Israel's actions are, in fact, genocide, Benton referred to the United Nations' definition. A 1948 U.N. convention said genocide involves trying to destroy all or part of a national group and can include "causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group."
Imagine having anywhere between 20 and 100 rockets randomly hitting different parts of the city. Imagine that despite a declared cease fire, these rockets continue to maim and kill your friends and family. Imagine always having to wonder whether or not your next trip to your local pizza parlor or ride on a bus will end in a fiery death. How long would it take for you to demand that your government do something?

Israel has the right and the duty to protect its citizens. It's unfortunate that the Palestinians in Gaza chose Hamas to run their government, but choose they did. Hamas is responsible for the firing of rockets into Israel. The Palestinians in Gaza are responsible for turning their government, their future, and their lives over to Hamas.

While Israel is by all accounts making every attempt to minimize civilian casualties, there has never been a war where the innocent didn't die alongside the combatants - a fact that Palestinians living in Gaza should have remembered before they put a terrorist organization in charge of their government.
Benton said he didn't want to discuss his "genocide" comment further.

"I regret it," he said. "I'll leave it at that."
-ABQ Journal (Subscription)
It's no surprise that Councilor Benton doesn't want to discuss his foray into international politics. His loose tongue reveals a profound lack of understanding of not only what genocide really is, but of how terrorists use the media to claim victim status. In World War II, Germans taught the world what genocide was. Hamas uses the media and "useful idiots" like Benton to confer victim status that they do not deserve. In both cases, the real victims have been Jews and Israelis - who continue to pay on a daily basis with their lives.
"My response is we have freedom of speech," [Rabbi Arthur Flicker of Congregation B'nai Israel] said. "He can say whatever he wants, and we have freedom of the ballot, so we can vote him out of there."

Jan 12, 2009

Livin' the Dream

First the housing bubble burst then Wall Street melted down - the result was a HUGE decline in new home construction in Albuquerque.
[N]ew home construction is way off in Albuquerque. The Bureau of Business and Economic Research expects home building permits will be down 60 percent this year compared with last year.
The drop was hardly surprising considering the fact that new housing starts in Albuquerque had already been declining due to onerous impact fees and ever increasing regulations regarding everything from toilets to insulation.

At first glance, it doesn't seem to be a problem other than underscoring the country's economic decline. However, the city depends on income from things like impact fees and even building permits to pay for its ever growing bureaucracy.

Our Eyes tell us that the planning department is starting to feel the pinch as their force of tax collectors, uh... building inspectors are not busy red tagging contractors, but wiling away their time at home. You see, when permits aren't pulled there's nothing to inspect.

Unlike their private sector counter-parts, the inspectors are employees of the city (who probably got double paid last week) which means that it doesn't matter whether or not there's work to do they still get paid. Meanwhile, private contractors are busy trying to scare up some business just to put food on the table.

The inspectors are a perfect example of the difference between public and private sectors. Private companies must adapt to market conditions to stay alive. They'll reassign, retrain, and even let go of workers when there's no work to do. Otherwise, a private company cannot stay in business.

On the other hand, government simply digs into our pockets to pay for workers who have no work to do unless or until developers start building again. Meanwhile, city inspectors are livin' the dream - being paid despite the absence of any real work.

Jan 11, 2009

Dipping Into Obama's Well

President-elect Obama hasn't wasted any time drilling yet another well into taxpayer pockets. Before he's even placed his hand on Lincoln's bible the candidate for change is relieving all of us of more than our change - all in the name of stimulating the economy.

Before we get started, understand that government does not create wealth it moves it from one pocket to another. Whether it's President Bush or incoming President Obama, you can't spend yourself out of debt any more than you can drink yourself sober.

Obama has promised to spend over a TRILLION DOLLARS in a misguided attempt to better the Bush administration's $750 BILLION bailout boondoggle.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, what exactly is doing the same thing - only more - and expecting a better result?
(End Sidebar)
With all of that said, last Thursday the Almighty Alcalde met with the Anointed One's transition team in Washington D.C. in order to stick his bucket as deep into Obama's well as he possibly can.
The city is seeking about $2 billion for solar-power plants, a wind farm, a streetcar down Central Avenue and a Downtown events center, among other things. It might not be clear until February what projects will make the federal list.
You'll note two of the items on Marty's wish list are the Trolley and the Downtown Arena - both of which require ongoing taxpayer subsidies and can never turn a profit. Of course, that's no surprise since - as you'll remember - government doesn't create wealth.

Our extended Eye Poll on the Downtown Arena couldn't have been clearer - 70% of the 717 participants in our Eye Poll said "No Way," while only 28% thought it was a good idea (view it here).

It's distressing enough that Obama wants to spend a TRILLION DOLLARS of our money on projects that can't sustain themselves, the Almighty Alcalde wants to blow a couple of BILLION on projects like the 19th Century Street Car and the Downtown Money Pit, uh... Arena when the city has more pressing - albeit less sexy - infrastructure needs. Things like sewers, water mains which seem to be bursting regularly these days, and rebuilding the I-25/Paseo interchange.

Meanwhile the council's Finance and Government Committee will meet Monday on extending the Transportation Infrastructure Tax to pay for Marty's toy trolley. Yep, that's the same tax that was shouted down by taxpayers two years ago and the same one that was supposed to sunset at the end of this year.

Look, an empty arena and a trolley that serves a miniscule portion of the city's population just don't make any sense. If we're to dip into Obama's well, at least let it be for projects that have long lasting benefits and don't create additional burdens on Albuquerque taxpayers.

Jan 10, 2009

Payroll Pandemonium

Yesterday's tardy payment followed by a double payment by the city to its over 2000 employees who have signed up for direct deposit is snowballing into a real mess. In addition to employees being paid later than usual, some checks are missing overtime while others include overtime but at the wrong rate, while still others have incorrect or inexplicable overtime hours. In addition, most checks are missing holiday pay.

Our Eyes tell us that city employees are understandably in a bit of an uproar over the whole debacle. Monday should make for an interesting day for the city's Tanda Meadors, as we hear that a number of city employees plan to pay her department a visit.

The Journal reported today that "the city is already correcting the double deposits (ABQ Journal - Subscription)." If you're a city employee, keep an eye on your bank accounts. If the new city software can screw up the deposits, it stands to reason that they can screw up the withdrawals.

Jan 9, 2009

A Day Late - Double Down

The City of Albuquerque is in the throws of installing a new computer system. The new system - bought with our tax dollars - no doubt has a long list of benefits that will allegedly save all of us money. Hopefully the claims are true, but with the way things are being run in this state it wouldn't surprise us if someone gave something to someone else to sweeten the deal.

In any case, the system is up but as you might expect not quite running. Normally, city employees get paid bi-weekly on Thursdays. Like any other business with a large payroll, the city pays those employees via direct deposit.

As with any new computer system, there are bound to be a few thousand snafus (more if it runs on Windows... but that's another discussion). The city notified all of its employees that their January 8th check might be a little light because overtime probably would not be included in their paycheck. The city allowed that they would consider helping anyone with overdraft charges due to the lack of proper payment.

Oops! Thursday, January 8th came and went and city employees got nada, bupkis. The good news is that following January 8th came Friday January 9th and city employees not only got their paychecks they got double their paychecks.

Our Eyes tell us that in some cases some of the double payment was withdrawn. But in most cases they could find, employees simply got twice their paycheck.

First of all, the city shouldn't consider making good on overdraft charges - they should simply do it. Most of the employees of the city aren't like the Almighty Alcalde and his 11th floor denizens, they make modest salaries and rely on the city to pay in a timely manner. In this case, they didn't even make their promised goal of making sure base pay made it into employees accounts on Thursday - they were a day late.

Then they doubled down effectively doubling the payroll. Even if the error is caught and reversed, the city looses money and you disrupt cash flow which affects other payments to vendors, etc.

It wouldn't be the first time the city bought substandard software or failed to understand the system requirements. (Can you say Tiburon?) Let's hope that the installation of the new software and its attendant glitches are simply the result of transition pains and not the result of substandard software or money changing hands behind closed doors. In New Mexico it's hard to tell.

Jan 8, 2009

More Eco-Folly

Yesterday we told you about APD's decision to start using pure regular unleaded in their E85 vehicles. Today we find out that our assessment that common sense had broken out downtown was, shall we say... premature.

APD has just purchased a whole new fleet of vehicles for the K-9 unit. These trucks run on diesel fuel. (Yep, you know where this is going.) The decree has come down from the 11th and 5th floor mountains that like their AFD diesel counterparts, these diesel drinking machines will run on biodiesel.

The problem is that when these trucks are fed the eco-friendly fuel derived from grease, they make so much noise that they're bound to deafen their K-9 passengers. More importantly, our Eyes tell us that the owner's manual for the new K-9 carriers specifically states that running bio-diesel voids the vehicles' warranty.

So, why do you suppose the manufacturer doesn't want to pick up the tab for fixing bio-diesels? We suspect that at the very least the manufacturer suspects that biodiesel might damage the engine. Remember, these engines were designed to run on diesel fuel pumped from the ground and not taken from McDonalds.

You would think that APD would think twice before embarking on another experiment with our money. If the engines are not running correctly, they are not running efficiently. If they are not running efficiently, it stands to reason that they are probably using more fuel than they would if they were running the fuel the vehicle was designed for.

All of APD's vehicles run for long hours in rough conditions. It's foolish and unwise to risk taxpayer money and public safety in order to win awards for going green.

Jan 7, 2009

Gone Green

Last April we told you about Marty's March toward the Green. Marty mandated that the city would buy only E85 vehicles where possible. In short, vehicles burning E85 end up costing 20% more than conventional vehicles due to their significantly decreased mileage. If that weren't bad enough, it takes over a gallon of good ol' fossil fuel and 1,700 plus gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of E85 (read it here).

As you might have noticed, we aren't fans of global warming, climate change, or whatever they're calling it these days. Scientific "consensus" created a political movement whose only effect thus far has been to restrict individual liberty. We'd remind you that at one time scientific "consensus" held that the world was flat.

In any case, common sense seems to have broken out downtown (or at least a $50 MILLION budget shortfall). Our Eyes tell us that APD is abandoning E85 and filling their vehicles with good old fashioned gasoline. You know... petrol, gas, carbon based dinosaur juice.

It seems that the relatively new E85 fuel - in addition to costing all of us 20% more than regular unleaded - also does quite a job on fuel pumps. Since Congress has yet to develop a bailout plan for APD and the city doesn't have a money printing press in the basement, Marty has pulled the plug on his E85 experiment.

We could have told the Almighty Alcalde that his rush to be green (and get some ink) would cost all of us. Oh yeah... we did. So, in order to save some green APD's green is gone. Let's see if the Almighty Alcalde holds a news conference about this one!

Jan 6, 2009

Game On

The first candidate out of the mayoral gate is... Councilor Michael Cadigan. The two term councilor told the Journal today that he plans on building his campaign on fiscal responsibility - the first example of which is to spend $328,000 of taxpayer money on his own campaign (ABQ Journal - Subscription).

To be fair, Councilor Cadigan has been generally good on budget issues. However, he's completely blind when it comes to the trickle-down effect caused by his penchant for regulation. Let's take for example the requirement for city residents to use 90% efficient furnaces when replacing their old furnaces.
Scott Ruch, whose firm has installed furnaces for years, said the 90 percent models typically cost $400 to $900 more than the standard less-efficient furnace.

One person who contacted the Journal said the cost would be several thousand dollars more for installation
Let's say that gas used by your furnace in winter months is equivalent to $120 of your overall gas bill. It would take over 33 winter months for you to recapture the additional cost of your furnace imposed by the city. If you use your furnace for 4 months out of the year and you are lucky to purchase a furnace that only costs $400 more than the 80% efficiency models, that's over 8 years in operation.

Councilor Cadigan is currently sponsoring an ordinance requiring the city to replace all of their porcelain thrones with low flow toilets by the end of the year.
Cadigan said he was open to giving the city more time to complete the transition. But he said it was important to pass the bill because residents will have to make a similar move.

An ordinance set to take full effect in 2010 will require private residents to change out their toilets before selling their property.

"It's not right to ask residents to do it until we do it," Cadigan said.
In principle the councilor is correct. The city really should have begun their transition to low flow before forcing the rest of us to do so. However like the ordinance that goes into full flush in 2010 requiring home owners to replace their toilets before selling their property, we're paying for the change using tax dollars that are in short supply down at city hall. A common sense approach would be to replace the fixtures as they require replacement. But of course, it's hard to generate headlines for common sense.

Impact fees are another way that Councilor Cadigan has worked against the fiscal interests of Albuquerque residents. Impact Fees were instituted as a way to cut down on eeevil sprawl. The idea was to charge more money for housing in areas that aren't a part of the urban center.
Unfortunately even before the housing bubble burst, the number of building permits issued for home construction dropped significantly as builders simply chose to build outside the council's jurisdiction.

Builders understand that there's only so much that they can charge for a product. The additional $10,000 added by Cadigan's Impact Fees and a whole litany of city requirements made their houses too expensive and/or not profitable to build. The result was that sprawl increased and home prices rose (which of course required that we make housing more affordable by using your tax dollars subsidize housing for people who can't afford to buy a house... but we digress).

Folks, understand that these types of mandates cost you money. It doesn't matter whether or not they require the city to spend your money or you to spend your money... it's your money that's at stake and it's your money that you end up with less of.

If Councilor Cadigan wants to run on fiscal responsibility, he should start by reigning in his own tendency to over regulate. Make no mistake, unfunded mandates and ridiculous regulation cost you money - it's only a matter of whether the government takes it through taxes or forces you to spend it directly out of your own pocket.