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

Aug 29, 2009

Not Over Yet

Friday, The 5th Floor continued its campaign to shift the blame. The David Young debacle has the brass worried that the apparent multiple civil rights violations and repeated fraud will spur another law enforcement agency to take a long hard look at the department.

We told you that Sergeant, uh... Chief Schultz would try to shift the blame to someone. We just didn't expect that he'd shift it to an entire program. Somehow in the Chief's mind the problem with the program is the program not the paid, sworn supervisors in charge of using the reserve officers.
[Sidebar]
The 5th Floor has never, ever provided anyone with proof that it has 1,200 officers on its rolls. Our Eyes have contended for some time that their "count" included reserve officers. Now would be a good time to get a full accounting of all full-time, state certified, sworn officers on the payroll. What do you bet that Marty's claim of 1,200 evaporates along with the reserve program?
[End Sidebar]
The Chief's attempt to shift the blame to a bunch of volunteer officers who donate their time to the department in order to make us all just a little bit safer is simply reprehensible.

Meanwhile, the Root Beer Float Queen has flopped and flipped over whether or not it would be appropriate for an outside agency to do some digging on The 5th Floor.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Thursday she will look at the cases her office prosecuted. She also said she feels APD can investigate the allegations involving the reserves making arrests.

She previously said an independent investigation was warranted, but clarified that APD should do its own independent investigation.
It's not exactly surprising that Brandenburg would throw Marty and the Chief a bone - after all, she's carried Ray's water before. (Can you say Ben Kirby?) Besides, she's not exactly known for her prosecutorial prowess.

The last thing Marty and his minions want is an independent investigation of APD. But we'll remind our readers on The 5th Floor and the City Attorney's office that there's plenty of reason to launch a criminal investigation and more than enough evidence to file a series of civil suits that will keep them busy for years to come.

Folks... It's not over yet. If for no other reason than attorney Mary Han isn't about to let it go. One of these days Marty's minions will go too far. Our Eyes tell us that they already have on more than one occasion. Stay tuned...

Aug 26, 2009

Taking Cover

The Wanna Be Cop scandal has claimed it's first victim... sort of. Tuesday in the dead of night, Lt. Rob Smith was quietly reassigned to the Valley Command. The move was intended to keep the "reassignment" quiet and was an effort not to embarrass the lieutenant.

Our Eyes tell us that Lieutenant Smith was one of the officers who signed off on Civilian David Young's overtime hours that were used to pay for Young's fondle, uh... police work. As of today, Lt. Smith's supervisor Commander Joe Hudson - who also signed of on Young's nocturnal O.T. activities - was still over at SID.

In looks to us as if The 5th Floor is trying to simultaneously protect itself and one of their favored officers. Reassigning Smith to uniformed duty in the Valley allows Sergeant... rather, Chief Schultz to look pro-active when his "investigation" comes back claiming that illegally using David Young to arrest and prosecute prostitutes and paying him to do it, is a result of poor training.

Meanwhile over at Metro Court one of the first of what is sure to be a long string of cases in which Young was the arresting officer, was dismissed. You can also be sure that "the accused" will shortly become "the plaintiff" in what's sure to be an equally long string of civil cases against APD and the city.

For some unknown reason, The 5th Floor is working hard to provide cover for Smith and Hudson. Our Eyes tell us that most officers would have at least the subject of an IA and more than likely be forced to muck out Marty's kennels while on admin leave.

The boys on The 5th Floor are certainly trying to sweep this one under the rug. But while they're taking cover, they're trying waaay too hard to cover the two officers who seem to be directly responsible. Why?

It's either friendship or the two know too much. If the former, expect The 5th Floor to burn them if things get bad and promote them if they survive the October election. If the latter, look for a Smith and possibly Hudson to be summarily thrown under the bus.

Aug 25, 2009

Sweet Deal

Tonight the Bernalillo County Commission will take up - as it does every two years - County Manager Thaddeus Lucero's employment contract. After a review of the contract, we have to admit that it's a swweeeet deal.

The county manager basically runs the day to day county administration with direction from the County Commission. For his service to the county, Mr. Lucero will receive $150,000 for the period of September 20, 2009 through September 19, 2010 at which time the manager's compensation jumps to $162,500. And it gets better...

Should the county commission approve a pay raise for "full-time regular unclassified employees," the county manager would receive the same percentage pay increase. No, we're not done yet...

Lucero in his role as county manager will have both employer and employee P.E.R.A contributions paid for by the county. In addition, his travel expenses, registration fees, private office, vehicle, expense account, administrative assistant, and professional societies memberships all picked up by the county. And there's more...

Under the terms of the county manager's contract, Lucero receives 6 hours of sick leave per pay period convertible to annual leave upon termination, 40 leave days per year, and 3 personal holidays a year all of which can be carried forward "from year to year without limitation." Don't worry, despite the apparent lack of leave (that's sarcasm) Lucero also gets paid for all county recognized holidays.

Did we mention healthcare? Well... it's in there too.

Like we said... It's a sweet deal that guarantees an 8% pay increase in the second year and pretty much picks up every other possible expense including retirement all at a time of high unemployment and increasing governmental revenue shortfalls.

In light of the current economic status, we wonder how the county commission can justify a guaranteed pay increase. Here's another little problem... county receipts are down and spending is up. Shouldn't the county manager be subject to a pay reduction if revenue shortfalls force the county to reduce compensation for its other employees through pay reductions or furloughs? We'd think so, but then again we're not getting $312,500 in guaranteed money with just about everything else in our lives paid for.

The county commission tends to fly under the radar. If this were the city, you can bet there'd be hell to pay.

----- Update -----
It didn't take but a few moments for our County Eyes to chime in with one very important factoid. County employees have not had a raise in two years, yet this new county manager contract includes a programed 8% raise in addition to a raise this year.

We understand that the county is suffering from a drop in revenues that require adjustments to spending. But shouldn't the county manager suffer from the same economic realities? We're just sayin'...

Target Kirby: The End?

We've long believed that former Officer Ben Kirby was APD's patsy in the Daskalos paddy wagon affair. Yesterday, the former officer plead no contest to interfering with a public official (krqe.com). [hat tip: Eye Reader] Kirby was initially charged with 3 felonies - assisting escape, tampering with public records and conspiracy tampering with public records.

We have long believed that Kirby's actions in the August 2006 Daskalos day trip (yeah we know it was night but we couldn't help it - the alliteration was too tempting) from the paddy wagon was initiated by a third party. One of the questions that neither APD nor the DA's office has ever answered is - if there's a conspiracy (even to tamper with public records - something the 5th Floor should know all about) - who are the conspirators (read it here)?

Kirby was drummed out of APD rather quickly following the incident (unlike probationary officer Levi Chavez who's a "person of interest" in his wife's death). However, the DA didn't charge Kirby for some 14 months after the DA had initially decided not to prosecute and after he had filed suit to get his job back (read it here).

A well connected developer - friend and major contributor to The Almighty Alcalde - gets special treatment after a DWI arrest (read it here), and APD would have you believe that Kirby acted alone even after initially charging him with conspiracy. Now Kirby pleads no contest to misdemeanor charges that will be dismissed if he stays out of trouble for six months.

The only conspiracy we see here is the CYA conspiracy to cover-up yet another 5th Floor mess. We hope after six months Kirby files suit to get his job back and spills everything that happened that fateful night - August 25, 2006.

Incompetence or Corruption?

So which is it? Chief Schultz would have you believe that no one knew that reserve officer David Young was out there making illegal arrests, yet the Journal reported Monday that Lieutenant Rob Smith recommended him for the "Civilian of the Month" award back in June (ABQ Journal - Subscription). The nomination included the little tidbit about Young making misdemeanor and felony arrests.
Schultz on Friday said that he receives "letters all of the time" nominating people for the award and that, when he received the letter from Smith, he turned it over to a nominating committee.

Schultz said he didn't know Young was earning overtime to do police work.
The first thing this reminded us of was the Chief's reaction two years ago to the news that Albuquerque was indeed a dangerous city where Schultz opined "I feel safe" (read it here). Our second thought was of the character in the classic sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," Sergeant Schultz. That's when we realized that the real Chief's reactions were not too different from the fictional Sergeant's - "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!"

Apparently, in addition to not reading state law regarding powers and authority of reserve officers, and time sheets, he also doesn't read his mail.

Meanwhile, David Young is out getting paid to fondle perps and make illegal arrests with the full knowledge of his supervisors. He was even put up for an award.

Our Eyes tell us that The 5th Floor actively tried to shall we say... loose the memo but it surfaced and a copy was given to the Journal's T.J. Wilham. Remember folks it's illegal to destroy public documents. More importantly, it's a violation of someone's civil rights to arrest them illegally. At best, detaining someone against their will without the proper authority to do so is a crime - a crime called kidnapping.

All of this potentially illegal activity is bound to draw the attention of outside investigators like the FBI or the Attorney General's office - perhaps both. Neither investigation would be particularly welcome to a mayor seeking re-election.

Last time The Almighty Alcalde faced an APD scandal before an election there was enough time for him to fire the Chief and effectively bury the story. This time around the timing couldn't be worse. Absentee ballots go out September 1 and our Eyes tell us that Young playing cop at the behest of his sworn superiors is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

But let's be clear... Chief Schultz and his cronies either knew about Young and are lying or like Sergeant Schultz knew nothing, heard nothing, and saw noooothing! You choose... incompetent or corrupt. In either case, Marty is responsible and there's no one else to share the blame.

Eye Poll: Cook

Last week's Eye Poll was rolling along when councilor Mayer shook up her race by leaving it. At the time the incumbent held a comfortable lead over both of her opponents - a lead that evaporated following her withdrawal. In the end, Michal Cook cooked up a solid lead over his opponent and his former opponent with 50% of Eye readers support, Mayer still garnered 32%, and write-in David Green 18% in our unscientific poll (view it here).

This week we swing our attention to the District 9 race between incumbent Don Harris and challenger David Barbour. Hopefully, no one else will fall out of the remaining races or we won't have anything to talk about. Don't forget to vote and you might want to hurry!

Aug 23, 2009

Quota - Good News, Bad News

First the good news... Fewer people are out on the streets driving drunk. According to our Eyes behind the badge, either because people are getting the message or because of the economic downturn it's getting increasingly difficult to find drivers who've loaded up and started up - which means we're all a little safer these days.

The bad news is that it's getting increasingly difficult to find drivers who've loaded up and started up. Bad news? Yep. When drunks were plentiful on the city's roads, catching them was like shooting fish in a barrel. Simply wait for an illegal lane change or a serving vehicle and odds are you've found a drunk. It seems that these days, the drunks are staying home or finding rides home.

The problem is that the men and women of the DWI unit are having to work a lot harder to keep us safe from the remaining people who just can't seem to get the message. Understand, it's not due to a lack of effort, it's simply because drunk drivers are harder to find these days. We doubt we'll ever see it but, the true measure of the DWI unit's success would be its obsolesence.

Since arrests are the measuring stick by which politicians and bureaucrats determine success, fewer arrests mean trouble for supervisors in the DWI unit. Never fear, Sergeant Josh McDonald has found a simple way to make sure that his unit maintains their arrest numbers... simply require officers to make a certain number of arrests per night.

Of course, quotas in law enforcement are highly illegal - they lead to officer desperation and law enforcement by any means necessary. It doesn't take a lawyer to figure out that quotas lead at the very least to questionable arrests and potential civil rights violations.

As of Friday night, officers in the DWI unit are required to bag 1.75 drivers per night who are allegedly already in the bag. We're really not sure what the hell the .75 thing is about. Does that mean 1 drunk and someone who's 3/4s drunk? Does that mean a BAC of .08 or above and a .06? In any case, it puts pressure on officers to arrest regardless of reasonable suspicion - perhaps even to manufacture arrests.

If an officer fails to meet their quota, they will receive a verbal reprimand. The second "offense" results in a written reprimand. The third quota failure results in removal from the unit. Our Eyes tell us that there is currently a DWI officer on a Personal Improvement Plan (PIP) for failing to meet Sergeant McDonald's quota.

Look, the officers of the DWI unit work hard. A reduction in the number of arrests because there simply aren't as many drunk drivers on the road is a good thing. The officers should receive a pat on the back not reprimands for failing to meet quotas.

This is just another example of poor management and arrogance of The 5th Floor. Just like over in SID, the DWI unit is playing fast and loose with the law. It's a state of affairs that is simply unacceptable. APD must be above reproach and the officers who lead the department must likewise be above reproach.

Certainly responsibility rests with Chief Schultz and his DCs, but ultimately the responsibility for the behavior of APD management rests with the mayor.

The good news is that we're all safer on the roads at night. The bad news is that - thanks to quotas - there's pressue on officers to make arrests regardless of merit.

Aug 22, 2009

Playin' Ball

If you're a police officer with the Albuquerque Police Department and you happen to find yourself at Isotopes park this evening, take a gander at the mayor's luxury suite. Besides spying the dictator of the 11th floor Martin "Hugo" Chavez, you'll see members of the Executive Board of APOA.

Our Eyes tell us that the Executive Board was invited to take in an Topes game from the luxurious confines of the mayoral luxury suite. The event includes free food and boo, uh... adult beverages. Apparently a luxury night at the ballpark is what you get for playin' ball with the mayor. Remember the tickets to this particular game were bought with the membership's endorsement even if the membership never agreed to the price.

Aug 19, 2009

What They Knew

Shortly after the Journal's Wednesday story "Wanna Be Cop" (ABQ Journal - Subscription) hit the stands our Eyes started weighing in. The first comment was "there's no @#%@!# way that they didn't know."

At issue is reserve officer and APD civilian employee David Young. Young is a civilian working in APD's Special Investigations Unit who works on radios and "wires." The unit has also been using him as a detective in undercover operations and paying him overtime for police work through his civilian paycheck.
He has arrested 18 people since January 2008.

He has written criminal complaints testifying under "the penalty of perjury" that he is a detective with the Albuquerque Police Department.

One of his specialties: working as an undercover "john" busting prostitutes.

But Young isn't a certified law enforcement officer in the state of New Mexico.
Sure Young was a reserve officer, but he can't be the primary arresting officer because he's not state certified.
[R]eserve officers can't make arrests, book someone into jail or write a criminal complaint and prosecute cases — all of which Young has done, according to Metropolitan Court records.
In the course of his "duties" as a "detective" over at SID, Young testified under oath that he was an APD detective. He wasn't. As a result, Young could be subject to multiple charges of perjury.

But Young isn't the only officer or officers who might be under scrutiny for fibbing. Young's sergeant and lieutenant are on the hook too. Both men had to sign off on Young's civilian timesheet stating that the hours and the overtime worked were "true and accurate." Young's job description didn't include police work and his status as a reserve officer actually precluded him from getting paid for any police work.

As a result, every timesheet approved by Young's supervisors were not true and nowhere near accurate and both men had to have known it because David Young's daytime job was fixing their radios.

It's a bit frightening to think that the supervisors over in the SID don't know state law well enough to know that a reserve officer can't work alone and that signing off on documents where you attest to the fact that someone is doing one thing when they're really doing something else is fraud.

Our Eyes further contend that knowledge of Young's activities went straight to the top. Except for the normal hind quarter pucker that comes from embarrassing stories breaking in the press, no one on The 5th Floor was surprised by the news.

So, you ask... How did the Journal's T.J. Wilham get his mitts on this juicy little screw-up? Like a lot of leaks to the press, an officer had an axe to grind. In this case, it was a rehire officer with a drinking problem and a nasty habit of beating his girlfriend.

The department had put the rehired officer on administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation. The officer in question probably didn't like mucking out Marty's kennels and tried to use the Wilham story as leverage and perhaps a little payback. Now that the story's out, the leverage is gone and our Eyes tell us that the leaker will soon follow.

All of this has certainly ruined The 5th Floor's day. They're currently in damage control mode (which they typically do very badly) where they deny knowing anything and then promise to launch an "independent" investigation.
Police Chief Ray Schultz said this week he was not aware Young was making overtime as a police officer until contacted by the Journal.

When Schultz was presented with documentation showing how much money Young had made, he ordered that Young not be allowed to wear a gun and he not be eligible for overtime. Schultz also opened an investigation.
According to our Eyes, the "independent" investigator is a close friend of Deputy Chief Kevin McCabe - which makes him not independent in the least. You can bet that the "investigation" will be about as complete as the department's "investigation" into the evidence room scandal 4 years ago.

Since it's an election year, expect someone to be fired (David Young unless we miss our guess) followed by a declaration that the problem has been fixed and will never happen again. After all, Marty can't let his 5th Floor mess stick to him. He'd throw his own mother under the bus if it'd get him re-elected.

What we know is that defense attorneys all over the city are busy checking their client's files to find out if Reserve Officer David Young was the arresting officer. What they know is that if he is, there will be a whole bunch of cases dismissed. Meanwhile, The 5th Floor will be trying to hide what they knew in order to protect you know who.

Couldn't Have Said It Better...

Every now and again we get a post in the comments section that really sums up what we believe most (certainly not all) people are feeling. The following post is one such comment that was and is attached to our Town Hall Hoax post and is a response to the first comment in the thread. We think the anonymous commenter's sentiments stand alone and we're not sure that we could have said it any better.
It's one thing to vote for "change you can believe in". It's another thing to try to change what we believe.

This country does not believe in socialism. Never has. Never will. It's one of the many things that makes us a great nation.

The Obama some of us voted for is not the Obama we now have in office. If he did what he said he would do during the campaign (fiscal restraint, govern from the middle, open and transparent government, etc.) his poll numbers wouldn't be in free fall.

Try turning us into a bunch of welfare state, government dependents and you'll find (as you already are) that the MAJORITY of us still have backbones, clear heads and an unyielding desire to be free citizens.

We also vote, pay our taxes (unlike half the Obama Administration) and go to Town Halls since dissent, as it was during the 2008 elections, is so gosh-darned patriotic.

We have no interest in being told by the best and the brightest (who usually are neither) how to live our lives.

We have [no] interest in supporting jokers like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who "worry" about people having government doled out health care while they buy Gulfstream Vs so they can travel like rock stars.

We have no interest in people like you who are realizing that you elected a very erudite dumbass who is now in the process of doing to your party and the U.S. what Jimmy Carter did and, in desperation, resort to BS rhetoric about gun-toting crazies.

Let's see what you have to say after the 2010 elections. I suspect those gun-toting crazies will also be "racists". Because you can't discuss [disagreement] with Obama without being one of those either, can you?
Amen.

Aug 18, 2009

Toulouse Out of Distirct 5 Race - Endorses Lewis

District 5 Candidate Jeremy Toulouse dropped out of the race for the District 5 council seat Tuesday evening. In a surprise move, the former candidate endorsed his Republican rival Dan Lewis.
I entered this race for west side city councilor because I believe our families and community have been in desperate need for a new, collaborative approach to meeting the needs of our neighborhoods and our City. My heart still holds fast to those ideals and aspirations.

Sometimes, however, it becomes clear that our desire to achieve such honorable goals, and our role in that process, can change but yet still contribute to the ongoing effort to achieve great progress for our community.

That is why I have decided to alter my role in this important city council race and withdraw my candidacy for west side councilor.



My family and I have thought long and hard about this decision and after seeking input from many people, we believe the best avenue to successfully bringing the overdue change that our district is in need of will be by working for a candidate who shares with me many of the goals I have been pursuing. That candidate is Dan Lewis.

Dan has already made great strides in reaching out to our community, meeting thousands of our people going door to door, and working hard to achieve many of the priorities that we both share. Dan Lewis is a good and decent man. He has both the ability to be an effective city councilor and the moral compass to be an ethical city councilor.

I believe that the 8 year incumbent candidate Cadigan likely started out with good intentions. Since we first elected him in 2001, however, it has become clear that many of his judgments have been left wanting, which has been costly for our district and city.


Therefore I sincerely believe that the time has come to redraw the ethical line on our city council representation back to a place of honest public service, without so many personal business and ethical conflicts that the record reflects Mr. Cadigan clearly has. Continuing his “status quo” is not good for our district nor a good example for our children and our families.

Though I have decided not to maintain my candidacy for west side city councilor, my goals and priorities for our district and its people have never been more focused. I strongly believe Mr. Lewis has demonstrated his commitment to these same priorities. Dan and his wife have built a wonderful family and as a small business owner and employer, and through his leadership as a westside pastor, and with his energy as a teacher, youth coach, and mentor he will bring us the sense of community and family focus that my candidacy was seeking in the first place.

I look forward to helping Dan help our District move ahead with a new and positive attitude, and with the new set of eyes we need to tackle the many challenges we face in a collaborative, "can do" manner.

There will certainly be other avenues of service through which I can contribute to my district. For now, helping Dan Lewis is the best way I can do this.

Thank you
Jeremy Toulouse
Dan Lewis has seen his fortunes change dramatically over the past couple of weeks. First was District Court Judge Ted Baca's finding that Councilor Cadigan acted improperly costing the owners of 7.7 acres of Westside property over $136,000 in interest - interest that you and I had to pay because of Cadigan's actions.

Now Jeremy Toulouse bows out and does the unthinkable... endorses his former rival Dan Lewis. The one two punch of scandal and endorsement could be just enough to bring down Cadigan's reluctant return to the council.

Frankly, with all of the candidates falling out of the race we're wondering if we're going to have a council race worth talking about before long. Sheeeesh!

Town Hall Hoax

There's an old saying... "It's better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove everyone right." Martin "Hunky" Heinrich has announced that he'll have a "Town Hall" this coming Saturday, August 22nd starting at 3:00pm.

Now before you start picturing scenes from other town halls across the country where angry constituents ask tough questions and Congressional Democrats dance, dodge, and dis their constituents, Hunky's town hall will be different. Despite being billed as "another town hall meeting on the critical issue of health care reform with constituents in the First Congressional District,"(heinrich.hose.gov) Democrats are determined to limit Heinrich's opportunities to prove his constituents right by limiting the number of questions he has to answer.

Their first ploy was to hold his "town hall" on a train... yes, a train. What better way to limit public exposure than to have a limited number of people in a confined space speeding down a track (at a harrowing 40 MPH) in a diesel locomotive belching CO2 into the atmosphere? Well one way would be to have a panel discussion and call it a "town hall."

That's what Hunky's got up his sleeve for this Saturday. The Heinrich folks aren't really talking about it but they've assembled a panel of "experts" to do Hunky's talking for him. Our Eyes tell us that the Rio Grande Foundation's Paul Guessing was included on the panel Tuesday, but the other members are sure to be Hunky's Handpicked Helpers.

Here's the problem... The "town hall" is only 90 minutes. Even if Heinrich's folks have put together a balanced panel of experts, the Congressman himself won't be answering many questions.
"The event will bring together New Mexicans from across the district to ask questions as Representative Heinrich works to address the health care crisis in our country."
There's little doubt that "[t]he event will bring together New Mexicans" to ask questions, but don't be surprised if they don't get to ask many of them and don't be shocked if Hunky doesn't do a lot of answering. Democrats are determined not to have Heinrich open his mouth and prove everyone right and they really couldn't hide Hunky completely, so they've done the next best thing which is hiding him behind a panel. Make no mistake - Hunky's town hall is a hoax because the town won't be participating in the hall.

----- You Should Know -----
If you plan on heading down to UNM's Continuing Ed to attend Heinrich's Town Hall Hoax, you'll need to get there well before 3pm. There are a number of rumors that the timing of the "town hall" was designed to coincide with the end of another event that would take advantage of a large number of Heinrich "friendlies" who would already be in the building. Or that Democrats are planning on busing in ACORN or union members as they've done at other town halls across the country.

We don't know whether either rumor is true, but there are a lot of folks that want to be heard. We'd suggest getting there well before 2:30pm.

Aug 17, 2009

Mayer Out

The topsy turvy world of politics continues to amaze us. We just got confirmation from our Eyes that as 770KKOB reported earlier today, Councilor Sally Mayer is dropping out of the race for District 7 council. The departure leaves an almost unobstructed path for Michael Cook to take the District 7 chair.

Rumor has it that Mayer could even be leaving before her term is complete which would pave the way for Mayor Chavez to fill the seat until December. Either way with only one name on the October ballot and the only other candidate - David Green - a write-in candidate, it looks like Michael Cook will be the next councilor from District 7.

----- Update -----
770 KKOB reporter Peter St. Cyr is reporting that Councilor Mayer will be staying through the end of her term. The move takes away the potential for a temporary replacement to be selected by The Almighty Alcalde.

Impact Tax

The imposition of an Impact Tax began July 1, 2005. The tax was part of the Planned Growth Strategy - a scheme primarily designed to promote in-fill development on Albuquerque's Eastside rather than promote growth in the city as a whole.

Impact Taxes - or Impact Fees as they are more inaccurately labeled - were sold to the public as a way of making developers pay their "fair share" of infrastructure costs associated with extending infrastructure to undeveloped areas of the city and discourage "sprall" among other things. Never mind that developers were already paying for their development's internal infrastructure. Never mind that developers were also paying for external infrastructure through a system of exactions.
"[E]xactions" — [required] that developers build roads, intersections, drainage works and other facilities off-site to support their subdivisions. The improvements eventually become city property.
Developers at the time felt that the exaction system was often arbitrary and inequitable. As a result, they actually supported the idea of imposing Impact Taxes on themselves (and consumers) believing that Impact Fees would correct the arbitrary nature of exactions and make development costs more predictable.

What developers got was a system of expansion fees, arbitrary exactions, and onerous Impact Taxes designed to social-engineer development. The cost of a new home went up by $10,000 overnight. Many commercial developments were simply made too expensive to build. With the stroke of a pen and the imposition of a tax, homes - the places where people live - moved to Rio Rancho, Los Lunas, and the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County, and commercial development - the places where jobs live - followed suit.

Tonight, citing the current economic crisis and the dramatic drop in new development in Albuquerque the City Council will readdress Impact Taxes, uh... Fees through a series of 1 year reductions (O-09-70, O-09-71, O-09-72). The idea is to reduce the Impact Taxes for roadways, drainage, and parks by at least 50% and 100% for "green path" developments. Bernalillo County has already reduced their impact fees recognizing the need for development and growth.

We have never approved of regressive taxation for the purposes of social engineering. We'd much rather see the complete abolition of the current Impact Tax scheme. But, we'll take a 50% reduction in any tax even if it's just for a year.

Understand, the kind of taxes imposed by Impact Fees punish those seeking to get better value for their dollar by making the areas where their dollar goes farther less affordable. In addition, Impact Taxes make nearby jobs less available by making the developments that house said jobs less likely to be built. In short, Impact Fees raise the price of housing, reduce the number of nearby jobs, and move needed goods and services out of the area.

More importantly, developers do not pay these taxes - consumers do. If consumers are unwilling to pay the additional amount artificially added by government, then developers stop developing. But make no mistake, developers are businessmen and women. They must make money here or they will take their developments where they can make money. Wouldn't you?

At a time of high unemployment, we need to encourage growth not impede it. Many arguing against the temporary moratorium on Impact Taxes believe that doing so is some kind of gift to developers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Developers provide jobs, buildings for jobs, and homes for those who have jobs. When we stop developing, we stop creating new jobs. When we stop creating new jobs, we start to lose people. When we lose people, we lose tax revenue. When we lose enough tax revenue, we lose city services. Eventually, tax revenue will drop to the point where the basic city services of police, fire, sanitation, and infrastructure are threatened.

The monies collected through Impact Fees aren't collected from developers, rather they are fees collected by developers from consumers. We need lower taxes across the board not just temporary relief from Impact Fees. But even temporary relief is better than no relief at all. And who knows? Maybe we'll create a few jobs in the process.

----- Update -----
The very first question asked an important question:
"what am I missing here? someone has to pay for roads and sewers and water and ...

why not the people who create the need by sprawling instead of infilling?"
To borrow an Obamaism, let's be clear. Every development whether commercial or residential does pay for itself and more even without Impact Taxes. It has always been in the interests of municipalities to encourage growth not only within its boundaries, but to annex developable land and adjacent developed areas whenever possible.

Growing the city likewise grows the tax base. Each home, each retail center, each office complex, each factory, is like a tax revenue generator that not only pays for itself but pays for needed infrastructure projects in other parts of the city.

Traditionally, the existing tax base has paid for the relatively small additional costs not covered by the developer. That's how the Eastside grew from a small group of businesses and homes along Central Avenue to the distant boundary of the Sandia reservation.

The imposition of additional "fees" - particularly the way the City of Albuquerque imposed them - is simply another way for the city to put more money in its coffers.

But like many such tax schemes, Impact Taxes didn't achieve their objective. Surrounding communities benefited from our onerous tax policy because developers simply move their developments to their more profitable environments. Those communities now benefit from their small initial investment through the taxes paid by these businesses and residents who now reside in their communities.

Impact "Fees" are another example of governmental short-term thinking that create negative consequences in the long run. Couple bad policy with an economic downturn and you've a formula for drastic drops in revenue collected by the city.

It is absolutely in the city's best interests to pass a moratorium on Impact Fees - even considering the silly green enhancement. More importantly, it's in all of our best interests for the city to encourage growth and economic activity.

Aug 16, 2009

Eye Poll: Benton Blowout

In what can only be termed a blowout, City Council Commissar Isaac Benton scored a decisive victory over County Commissioner Alan Armijo. In our unscientific poll Councilor Isaac Benton received 65% of Eye readers support while Alan Armijo ran 30 points behind with 35% (view it here).

What we originally believed to be a close contest looks to be leaning heavily toward the incumbent councilor. Of course these numbers are unscientific, but no campaign likes to be 30 points behind in any poll. When you add these numbers to the fact that the Armijo campaign has been next to silent since qualifying for the ballot, the October election very well could be a Benton blowout.

This week we take a look at what had been a sleepy little race that looked to be a rerun of the 2005 district 7 council race. That is until one of the candidates - David Green - failed to file his Declaration of Candidacy last Tuesday. That failure changed the entire dynamic of a race that our Eyes told us was leaning toward incumbent Sally Mayer. Will the incumbent solidify her position? Will challenger Cook make in-roads with Green voters? Will the Green campaign wage a successful write-in challenge? All questions to be answered in this week's Eye Poll! Don't forget to vote!

Aug 12, 2009

Gotcha! Green Gone

There are no fewer than 19 deadlines in a typical Albuquerque City Council race. Each deadline has its own set of requirements and may or may not apply to every candidate in a specific race. One of the more arcane - and perhaps ridiculous - requirements is a candidate's Declaration of Candidacy.

The Declaration of Candidacy is usually due sometime in mid-August. By that time council candidates have already qualified for public financing (or not), met with the city clerk, attended classes on campaign reporting, collected nominating petition signatures, and filled out or filed a whole host of other forms. Missing most of the deadlines might result in an automatic ethics violation or - in the case of public financing - taxpayer money might be denied a candidate, usually the prospective councilor is allowed to continue in the race.

There are only two deadlines that result in a candidate not being printed on the official ballot - failing to submit enough signatures for ballot qualification and failing to file the Declaration of Candidacy form with the City Clerk between the hours of 8am and 5pm on the proscribed day. That day, in this election cycle was yesterday, August 11th - it's a day that District 7 hopeful David Green isn't likely to forget because that's the day he fell off the city council ballot.

Failure to file the Declaration of Candidacy doesn't technically end a council candidacy, but it does mean that they will not appear on the printed ballot. A qualified candidate can opt to run a write-in campaign, but must file to do so by August 25th.

David Green is a first time unknown candidate. It's highly unlikely that he would be able to run a successful write-in candidacy. His failure to file yesterday effectively ends his bid to unseat incumbent Sally Mayer.

You would probably guess that both of the remaining candidates for the District 7 seat would be happy to see their mutual rival gone. In this case, the enemy of my enemy isn't my friend.

Green - a Democrat - would likely appeal to anti-Mayer Ds. By falling out of the race those Ds will be looking for somewhere to go. Their logical new home would be over at Michael Cook's place. That is of course, if they don't just stay home.

The publicly financed Cook campaign should have the money to lure the anti-incumbent vote to their cause. The question is will the Republican Cook be able to build a coalition of anti-Mayer votes (Rs & Ds) and still attract enough Democrats to tip the race in his favor.

Until recently, we thought that the D7 race was a bit of a snoozer. A three-way race favors the incumbent by lowering the threshold of victory and watering down the vote. A two-way race
makes a runoff impossible and gives the challenger more of an opportunity to make his case.

In the final analysis, incumbents have a huge advantage over their challengers. In a multi-person race, that advantage is multiplied. Unless Michael Cook finds and convinces voters in District 7 that incumbent Sally Mayer needs to be fired, Mayer will continue to hold her council seat.

Aug 11, 2009

The Alcalde Files: A Sense of Entitlement

Plagued by scandal but blessed with a forgetful constituency, The Almighty Alcalde seems to have found ways to fill his pockets - at least until he gets caught. Of course, Marty's punishment is generally a slap on the wrist rather than an indictment. The 2002 ABQPAC scandal was one such incident.

After taking back the Alcalde's chair from Jimmy "Carter" Baca to begin his 2nd term as mayor, Marty decided that this whole mayor thing was costing him too much money and that the $90,000 or so a year that he received for the position just wasn't covering his expenses. The easiest way to cover those expenses was to pass the hat and ABQPAC was born.
Mayor Martin Chávez is using thousands of dollars donated by private contributors to defray family expenses, ranging from his wife's telephone bills to the cost of taking his family on a goodwill trip to Japan.

Money has been donated by high-ranking city employees, real estate developers, lawyers, bankers and other supporters to a political action committee known as ABQPAC, formed during Chávez's first week in office.
The ABQPAC scam was simple - shakedown a bunch of contractors, businesses, and city employees. Their "voluntary" donations would go to the Alcalde's laundry where Marty could then pick-up his cleaned cash to be used any way he chose. It's a neat trick more worthy of mobster than a mayor.

At the time Marty defended the use of his personal PAC slush fund by claiming that spending donations from the PAC saved the taxpayers money.
Using a political action committee "seemed to be the most proper way" to raise money, [Chavez] said, because there is public disclosure and it does not depend on government funds.

It saves money for taxpayers, he said, because it involves the use of private donations to cover some expenses that might have reasonably been charged to city government — such as certain travel costs and his cell phone.
There are a number of problems with the mayor's logic. First and foremost, receiving "donations" from city employees, contractors, and those who have business with the city is prohibited (even waaay back in 2001) by the City Charter - even if the money had been laundered through the ABQPAC laundry. As it turns out, some of the donations to the PAC were on checks written to "Mayor Martin Chavez."
Some checks in the files of ABQPAC were written to Mayor Martin Chavez personally, not to the committee that he has said provided a buffer between him and contributors.
-"PAC Checks Made To Chavez.(Final)." Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM). 2002. AccessMyLibrary. 11 Aug. 2009

But attorney Jerry Walz, whose law firm has a city contract, says he didn't know ABQPAC even existed when his firm paid $125 through a check made out to "Martin Chavez."

Walz said he was later dismayed to learn how the money was used and wouldn't have contributed "if I would have had full and complete knowledge."
-"PAC Checks Made To Chavez.(Final)." Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM). 2002. AccessMyLibrary. 11 Aug. 2009
In addition, there were a number of city employees that thought giving a few bucks to the boss to defray his personal expenses was a good idea. People like former Chief of Staff Teri Baird, Deputy Fire Chief Ron Bustos, and Fire Chief Robert Ortega all gave at least $1,000. You can't believe that high ranking city officials "voluntarily" cough up a THOSAND DOLLARS plus if they don't believe they have to (theblueflier.com).

We've got to hand it to Marty this time. When the story broke and it was apparent that the whole "saving taxpayers money" thing wasn't going to work, The Almighty Alcalde ate some humble pie and and two weeks later offered to repay "every dime."
"All monies expended by ABQPAC regarding travel, phones and even campaign-loan reimbursement will be tallied and repaid by me personally," he said. "I will have no association financially with ABQPAC. Every single dime will be repaid."
Folks, that's a little bit like the bank robber offering to repay the bank after he's already stolen the money. A crime was committed and even if all of the money is recovered the criminal should still be prosecuted.

At the time, Attorney General Patricia Madrid - a political ally of The Almighty Alcalde - did what she always did when it came to New Mexico corruption... nothing. And the council - taking the AG's lead - followed suit and voted not to request the AG's involvement after fierce behind the scenes lobbying by the mayor and his staff.

The argument at the time was that the ethics board should be allowed to do its work without being "poisoned" by a criminal investigation. Since when does a non-criminal proceeding take precedence over a criminal proceeding? There's little doubt that a criminal investigation of ABQPAC was not in Marty's best interests. The ethics board can rule on whether or not Marty violated the City Charter's ethics regulations, but doesn't have the authority to determine whether or not Marty broke state law.

Predictably, Manny's in-law at the time got by with a slap on the wrist from the City of Albuquerque Ethics Board which found:
Chávez accepted gifts from people with an interest in city affairs, failed to report certain campaign contributions and failed to abide by a legal limit on the size of those contributions.

Chávez received nearly $60,000 in assistance from ABQPAC, a political action committee that raised money from city contractors, city employees and others. The money helped pay for Chávez family travel and other expenses.

He voluntarily refunded the money when the issue sparked controversy.
This whole ABQPAC thing is remarkably similar to Marty's more recent mayoral thuggery - Bode Aviation. In a recent deposition, John Bode of Bode Aviation claims (among other things) that the mayor tried to get free services for his senatorial campaign and free trips to Mexico.

It's hard not to believe Mr. Bode since Marty has a history of shaking down businesses in an effort to fill his mayoral pockets. Unlike ABQPAC, it appears that the FBI is interested in taking a look at Mr. Bode's claims and Bode's federal lawsuit is going forward. This time The Almighty Alcalde won't have the political influence to guide or stop either proceeding. This time The Almighty Alcalde's sense of entitlement may cost him an election and maybe even his freedom.

Aug 9, 2009

Eye Poll: Cadigan Clobbered

Councilor Cadigan got his keister clobbered by almost 40 points in this week's Eye Poll. Of course, the news about District Court Judge Ted Baca's decision excoriating the councilor's conduct regarding the Westside Equestrian Center and the Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association broke about mid-week.

However, Lewis started out with the nod from a healthy 60% of Eye readers and never relenquised his lead. The numbers bode poorly for two-time Councilor Cadigan as his Westside constituents tend to be on the conservative side.

In our unscientific poll, Dan Lewis took 62% of the vote, Cadigan 26%, and Jeremy Toulouse 13% (view it here). To us it looks like Jeremy Toulouse is having an impact on Cadigan voters while Lewis is pulling the more conservative vote and the anti-Cadigan camp.

We're sure that these numbers will be considerably different on election night but the real question is are there enough undecided votes on the table for Cadigan to make up a 36 point difference?

This week we're taking a look at the other race that's in play - District 3. The Downtown district is currently held by Uber New Urbanist Isaac Benton who's being challenged by the more moderate former Councilor and County Commissioner Alan Armijo.

Not surprisingly, both candidates are Democrats but that's not what makes this race interesting. Since both men currently hold office, there isn't the name ID edge that normally goes to the incumbent. Councilor Benton has his hand in our pockets through public financing while Commissioner Armijo chose to go the old fashioned route and ask for financial support. But given the nature of District 3, we doubt that public financing will even end up being an issue.

We think that development or re-development will be come the issue around which the election will revolve. Councilor Benton has an unabashed New Urbanist belief system that seeks to take design choices away from private business and place them firmly in the hands of the city's planning department. Meanwhile, Armijo seems to be from the old school meaning that government should worry about parks and roads, not trollys and density.

So far, the race has been relatively quiet with most of the press going to the District 5 race now that Commissioner Brasher has withdrawn from the District 9 contest. We really don't know which way District 3 will go... but we're sure that it will be held by a Democrat. Don't forget to vote!

Aug 7, 2009

Game Changer

June 17th, 2005 then city council candidate Don Harris received a gift. It was discovered that incumbent Councilor Tina Cummins had lied not once but twice on her Albuquerque Journal questionnaire. Specifically, Councilor Cummins had denied ever being accused of driving while intoxicated. The truth was she had been accused, just not convicted.

The Journal - of course - made it front page news and the councilor's response was, shall we say... a bit bizarre and involved a "fetching" Bolero jacket and tulip skirt (ABQ Journal - Subscription). The whole affair ended Cummins race for a time, but she was back in by mid-July (ABQ Journal- Subscription).

Ultimately the race ended in a runoff between Cummins and her nearest rival Don Harris. Harris prevailed and now faces probably his easiest contest to date.

The questionnaire debacle was played out on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal and Tina Cummins failed miserably in her efforts to get beyond the questionnaire crisis. It was a game changer that gave voters a couple of good reasons to doubt her abilities and therefore send her packing.

Friday's Albuquerque Journal delivered what can only be considered a game changer for District 5 hopeful Dan Lewis. The incumbent and off-again on-again candidate for his own seat was found largely responsible for a "temporary taking" of 7.7 acre parcel of property on Albuquerque's west side (ABQ Journal - Subscription).

The property in question was the previous home of the Westside Equestrian Association who had a very favorable lease with the original owners that required them to pay $1 per year plus property taxes. The original term of the lease was 20 years - a period that ended June 26, 2002.

In 1993, the original owners sold the property to R. Edward Robertson, Sandy W. Thompson, Baron Brumley. The new owners decided to sell the parcel at end of the lease with the Westside Equestrian Center for a handsome profit. Not surprisingly, the decision didn't sit well with the equestrian center or the nearby Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association - who wanted to be the last ones into paradise before the gate was permanently closed.
[Sidebar]
Despite what you may be hearing about the eeeevils of capitalism, profit is a good thing. Land owners should be able to make a fair return on their property either through sale or development. That fair value should be determined by the market and not artificially set by government through regulation and restrictive zoning.
[End Sidebar]
The only thing blocking the sale of the property was an SU-1 Special Use for an Equestrian Center zoning requirement. When the new buyer - Jude Baca - offered to buy the property from Robertson, Thompson, and Brumley, he made his offer contingent upon a zoning change to SU-1 Special Use PRD for 43 single-family residences.

The site development plan and the zoning change was presented to the city's Environmental Planning Commission for review and ultimate approval. During the EPC process, the court found that Councilor Cadigan was in communication with WEC and that "[he] and his family were invited to the WEC to take buggy and horse rides in an attempt to influence him to vote against the Zone Map Amendment." Councilor Cadigan was also found to have attended facilitated meetings involving the controversial project.

Cadigan - an attorney and officer of the court - should have known that his actions would become a problem if the final decision of the EPC were to be appealed. The EPC decided in favor of the developers and the land owners and the decision was promptly appealed.
[Sidebar]
This is one of the problems with the city's land use process. The Decisions of the EPC are appealed to the city council. The proceedings are quasi-judicial and are intended to determine whether or not the EPC's decision was correct under the law. However, the council is a political body and that consistently gets itself into trouble because the councilors overturn the EPC for political reasons. Frankly, it costs the city quite a bit of money and that money came from us.
[End Sidebar]
The appeal of course went to the city council where Councilor Cadigan served as chairman of the Land Use, Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) committee. The LUPZ committee decided to send the appeal to the full council where the appeal was upheld and the zoning change denied. Councilor Cadigan worked Councilors Payne and Griego and voted himself in the 5-4 decision. Had Cadigan properly recused himself from this vote, the appeal would have failed and both the zoning change and the sale of the property would have gone through.

In his decision, District Court Judge Ted Baca found a number of problems with among them:
1. The actions of the City in refusing to uphold the decision of the EPC and to grant
the zone map amendment were wrongful.

2. Petitioners established their right to a zone map amendment by showing changed
conditions.

3. The actions of the City in refusing to grant the zone map amendment were
unreasonable.

4. Petitioners were deprived of all economically viable uses of the property for a
period from August 5, 2002, through February 72005. Consequently, the City's refusal to grant the zone map amendment constituted a temporary taking.

5. The zoning designation of equestrian center was so restrictive that the wrongful
refusal of the City to grant the zone map amendment deprived Petitioners of all economic use of
their property.

7. In light ofthe Council's quasi-judicial role, Councilor Cadigan should have
recused himself from the appeal hearing at City Council on August 5, 2002.

8. In light of the Council's quasi-judicial role, Councilor Cadigan knew or should
have known he should have recused himself from hearing the appeal at the City Council hearing
on August 5, 2002.

9. If Councilor Cadigan had recused himself, the appeal would have been denied,
and the zone change would have been approved on August 5, 2002.
As a result, the judge awarded Robertson, Thompson, and Brumley $136,500 for being wrongfully denied the interest on the sale of their $650,000 property. The court also called into question Councilor Cadigan's veracity when he asserted that he could not remember the WEC buggy ride used to lobby him for his support.

It all comes down to this... Councilor Cadigan was found to have wrongfully involved himself in a process that amounted to a temporary taking of private property. His actions not only cost us $136,500, but call into question the councilor's ethics, veracity, and sense of fairness.

In light of his decision earlier in the year to exit the political stage after being unable to qualify for public financing, we wonder how much he really wants the job. After wrongfully involving himself in a land use dispute, manipulating council votes in a quasi-judicial proceeding, and potentially lying about his actions prior to his vote, we wonder why anyone would want him to continue as their councilor.

This incident very well could be the game changer that Dan Lewis is waiting for. It certainly gives voters a very compelling reason not to vote for Councilor Cadigan and could be the reason that Dan Lewis becomes the next District 5 Councilor.

----- Update -----
One of the provisions of District Court Judge Ted Baca's decision was that the court retained jurisdiction over legal fees. KRQE is reporting that those legal fees could reach as high as $400,000 (see it here). The city could have to pay for the entire tab, making the city's legal fund - filled with our tax dollars - over a HALF MILLION DOLLARS lighter. [Hat Tip: Ched Macquigg]

Aug 5, 2009

Yet Another Airport Scandal?

We've got to hand it to KOB... They've been on their game of late. Wednesday, Eyewitness News reported that the new tower at the Double Eagle II Airport was not only years behind schedule but cost over 4 times the amount that of a similar tower in Denton, TX (KOB.com). Hat Tip: Eye Reader
"There were six or seven years between the time those funds were allocated by the federal government and the time the tower was actually operational, which was just this year," said Derek Larson, the airport advisory board chairman.

Another issue is the tower's price tag.

Larson says a similar tower in Denton, Texas was built in only three years, at a price of $800,000. The Double Eagle tower took $3.5 million to build.
What is it with Marty and airports? It appears that his administration can't seem to do anything without obscene cost overruns. If the Double Eagle II tower should have cost $800,000 and cost $900,000, we wouldn't be too concerned. But when the tardy tower ends up costing $2.7 MILLION more we're a bit concerned that perhaps the money's not going where it's supposed to.

This is far worse than the observation deck fiasco (read it here), that only cost us twice the original $1 MILLION no-bid contract. Is this yet another airport scandal and will The Almighty Alcalde have to pay a political price?

Aug 4, 2009

Once, Twice, Three Times the Security

Back in 2003 the City Council passed an ordinance with the explicit purpose of reducing false alarms. As you would expect, the legislation created a system of fines for businesses and homeowners whose alarms habitually went off in error.
(B) An alarm user shall pay a service fee of $150.00 for each false intrusion/burglar alarm, duress/hold-up alarm, or manually activated emergency assistance alarm notification emitted from an alarm system that is in excess of three false alarms in a permit year; $300.00 for each false fire, smoke, carbon monoxide or heat alarm notification emitted from an alarm system in a business in excess of three false alarms within a permit year; and $150.00 for each false fire, smoke, carbon monoxide or heat alarm notification emitted from an alarm system in a residence in excess of three false alarms within a permit year.
- § 9-3-13 City of Albuquerque Code of Ordinances
For those alarm systems that trigger more than 10 times in a year, the fine jumps to $500 per occurence. In addition, every alarm is required to have a permit.

Look, we don't have a problem with the fines. Those of us who use alarms have the responsibility to keep those alarms in good repair. However, we as taxpayers support the Albuquerque Police Department through our tax dollars. Charging $25 a year simply to have the use of an alarm regardless of whether it has ever been tripped is nothing but a money grab by the city. We get to pay extra taxes because we've taken steps to make sure our homes and businesses are more secure.

Yesterday, KOB-TV ran a story on the Armed Response Team. ART was a business quite literally created by Albuquerque's Alarm Systems Ordinance. Their business model is simple. When an ART covered alarm goes off, the Armed Response Team sends out a trained, armed professional to investigate the alarm. If there's evidence of a break-in, the ART responder contacts APD and waits for them to arrive.

ART's responders are made up of retired APD officers. In fact, ART was founded by a retired APD officer - Larry Sonntag.

Here's where things get a little strange... The City of Albuquerque has hired ART to provide alarm monitoring for its buildings.
The city just hired the Armed Response Team (ART) to follow up on alarms at about 40 city-owned buildings, like community centers.

ART's system includes several tiny, infrared cameras set up around the property. When people enter the area, an ART dispatcher finds out and watches what is happening in real time, then dispatches an officer.
Our Eyes tell us that one of the most frequent violators of the Alarm System Ordinance is the City of Albuquerque itself. So... In order to get a handle on their own violations, they brought in ART.
"For an Albuquerque police officer to respond to a burglar alarm is about $150. Our cost is significantly lower than that," said Sonntag.
Gee... we wonder where he got that $150 number. Seems as if the city is racking up those $150 fines fast enough to make it economical for them to bring in outside help. But of course, when has spending our money ever been one of The Almighty Alcalde's concerns?
Security Services

We provide uniformed security services at City-owned facilities in an effort to establish a safe and friendly environment for both visitors and employees.
The above is one of 12 services provided by the Department of Municipal Development. You'll note the heading reads "S-e-c-u-r-i-t-y S-e-r-v-i-c-e-s."

In fact, DMD is in charge of providing security for all city-owned buildings and facilities. Our question is... why is the city hiring an outside security firm to provide security at city-owned properties when they have their own security force?

Our Eyes tell us that one reason may be that ART was running ads telling prospective customers that APD's response time to alarms was up to 8 minutes. In an election year when we've just discovered that a SERIAL KILLER had been and still could be operating in Albuquerque, having a local business harping on slow APD response times isn't good for the bosses' election chances.

Besides, even that 8 minute number is misleading. That's the time that it takes for an officer to arrive after the call has been dispatched, not the time it takes for APD to arrive on scene following a call for help. Even more disturbing, Chief Schultz doesn't seem to care.
video
"Folks when I started this job [2]7 years ago, we were stacking calls. When Joe Bowdich started his job they were stacking calls. Who cares? Who cares if calls are waiting? I don't care if calls are holding."
It all boils down to this... The taxpayers of Albuquerque are paying not once, not twice, but three times to secure their public buildings. We're paying for APD. We're paying for DMD security. And now - thanks to a bad ordinance and mayor worried about yet another public safety embarrassment - we're paying for ART.

Eye Poll: Marty's Biggest Scandal

We've been taking quite a bit of flack for not publishing the results of our early summer Eye Poll. One poster claimed that we were "pissed-off" by the results. Actually, concerned is the word we'd use but in either case, we hadn't posted the results due to some rather pressing vocational issues.

So here they are... According to May Eye Readers the biggest mayoral mishap over the last 8 years was (insert drum roll here)... coming in with 26% of the vote, exaggerating red light camera statistics! The ABQ PAC, Evidence Room, and Bode Aviation Scandals each came in with 10% of the vote, Marty's greenhouse gas got 8% and 2% didn't know.

What has us concerned (and what more than likely our pernicious poster wanted brought out) was that 36% indicated that they didn't care (view the results here). We suspect that Marty's Minions were busy clicking away at the only selection that they could vote for. And obviously if your job is dependent on Marty remaining on the 11th floor throne, it's in your best interest to not care.

Apathy is what got us to this point - locally and nationally. Too many people don't take the time to judge the content of the character of the people they elect. Multiple scandals that are brushed under the rug by election time are an indication of a character flaw - one that's easy to miss if you don't take the time to care.

Aug 3, 2009

The Alcalde Files: Bad Observation

After occupying the city's mayoral throne for almost 12 years, one would expect a few scandals and Marty's unprecedented reign is no exception. In fact, The Almighty Alcalde's tenure is replete with scandals but Marty has always managed to cover his scandals much like he covers the signs of gang activity - with a layer of paint just thick enough to hide the graphitti below.

After all, if the public can't see it - it's not really there. And that's the operational model Marty subscribes to. If it's bad news hide it and act like it never happened. Governance through public perception - it's a great formula to get re-elected but it doesn't lead to good government.

In campaigns perception is reality and the mayor knows that if he can hide his scandals or shift the blame, he'll more than likely spend another 4 years on the Throne of the Alcalde. Unfortunately, the public seems to suffer from some sort of collective amnesia every time Marty's on the city ballot.

So... In an effort to remind you just who it is that occupies the 11th floor, we're taking you on a trip down memory lane called the Alcalde Files. This week features one of The Almighty Alcalde's early scandals - The Sunport Observation Deck debacle.

Bad Observation

It was late in the Almighty Alcalde's first term as mayor. The re-renamed Albuquerque International Sunport was in the process of creating a food court for travelers spending their layover in the Duke City. Then and now Mayor Martin Chavez wanted an brand new observation deck for people to view the majestic planes taking off and landing against the beautiful New Mexico sky.

The only problem... the food court plans didn't include an observation deck. That little obstacle was easily overcome through the simple expedient of having the contractor who was already building the food court build the observation deck. It didn't seem to matter to Marty that doing so violated the law.
Among the policies that were broken, the city failed to put construction work for the project out for bid and neglected to get City Council approval. The case led to a grand jury investigation that nearly culminated in criminal indictments against city employees. The only thing that saved the city from criminal prosecution was a Stipulated Disposition Agreement that was signed by the city and the District Attorney's Office in 1999 that conceded the mistakes made by the city and amended the city's Purchasing Ordinance.
You'll notice the settlement was in 1999, two years after Marty left his chair to Jimmy Baca - Albuquerque's Jimmy Carter. The agreement was crafted by a contract lawyer for the District Attorney's office, former City Councilor and current Chief Public Safety Officer, Pete Dinelli. Also involved - or rather not involved as usual - was then Attorney General Tom Udall who chose not to investigate.

Most of you have probably forgotten that in the late '90s Marty was an up and coming star in the Democratic party. His ability to pull Rs and his connections through wife Margaret Aragon de Chavez to the powerful (now convicted felon) Manny Aragon, made him a force to be reckoned with.

So it's no surprise (especially in New Mexico) that Democrats of all stripes either ignored or buried Marty's bad observation. He had the connections. He had the promising future. And he had more than likely broken the law. But we'll never know will we? Because in New Mexico that's just the way it's done.

Taking Leave out of Administrative Leave

Administrative leave has always been an annoying. A city employee is accused of wrong-doing or even criminal behavior and we tax payers get to pay them for doing nothing. Officer Levi Chavez is the most famous admin leaver. After his wife's untimely demise, Chavez was placed on administrative leave. As of last May, Chavez was still collecting a paycheck while the investigation into his wife's suspicious death continues.

Apparently, the Chavez administration has decided that if they're paying an employee then they ought to be doing some work. According to our Eyes, they've decided that when a city employee is placed on administrative leave they'll be expected to pull weeds or even clean out kennels even if pulling weeds or cleaning kennels are not part of their job description.
[Sidebar]
You may have read some of our posts about Levi Chavez. Our argument that Mr. Chavez should be terminated stemmed from the evidence found at the scene - in particular, a stash of marijuana which the last time we checked was an illegal substance. At the time, Chavez was a probationary officer and we'd call possession of a controlled substance a violation of that probation.
[End Sidebar]
We're pretty sure that the move would be generally popular with the public... at least until they think about it. Admin leave is used to get an employee out of the way until the allegations against them can be fully investigated. You know the whole innocent until proven guilty thing.

The Chavez administration has never been too concerned about due process. To wit, Marty's red light Scam-era program. Now the mayor wants to expand his guilty until proven innocent theory to administrative leave.

Let's say that you're an administrative assistant, a cop, a bus driver, or any other city employee whose job doesn't include weeding or cleaning kennels. If you were placed on administrative leave, you probably wouldn't appreciate having to muck out a kennel or be seen on the street pulling weeds. You might even consider it a form of punishment.

Now don't get us wrong... we need people to pull the weeds and clean the kennels and they're honest jobs. But forcing someone on administrative leave to join the city chain gang doesn't make sense and may not even be legal.

We doubt very seriously that the employment contracts of those not hired to pull weeds or clean kennels include that kind of service to the city. So, forcing city employees into alternate service in a different department is probably not going to happen.

Our Eyes Behind the Badge believe that the new policy is targeted directly at men and women of APD. Police officers deal with people on a regular basis and no matter where they're needed there's generally at least one person who's less than happy to see them arrive. As a result, police officers more than any other city employee generate complaints that can result in administrative leave.

The move makes it easy for The 5th Floor to punish officers without bothering to investigate or even finding a reason for administrative action. APD already has a track record of using never ending IA's as a weapon against officers who aren't in favor with the administration. Now they're going to have one more tool in their toolbox and this one can be used against any city employee.

Aug 2, 2009

Eye Poll: Berry

As summer begins to wane and the election season begins, Eye readers have chosen who they would like to be the next mayor of Albuquerque. In our unscientific poll, Richard "RJ" Berry took the honors with a solid 45% of the vote. The Almighty Alcalde came in 2nd at 28% edging out Richard Romero by 1 point at 27% (view it here).

Granted the Eye Poll is unscientific and our readers tend to be of the center-right variety, but these numbers have to be a concern for the Chavez campaign. After all, Republicans - particularly Northeast Heights Republicans - have been largely responsible for keeping Marty in the Alcalde's chair.

If Marty's numbers slip with Republican voters and Richard Romero mounts a credible challenge, it's pretty easy to see the mayor held below the magic runoff line. Should Marty be held below 40%, Berry could very well end up the new mayor. Of course Berry needs to run a solid campaign of his own, otherwise the beneficiary of a Chavez 40% failure would be Richard Romero.

In either case, if Chavez is kept below 40% the likely beneficiary would be the other guy that's left standing for the runoff. They would likely receive all of the anti-Marty / Marty-fatigue vote making them the new occupant of the Alcalde's chair.

This week we're looking at another race where the two Ds could split to put an R in office. That of course is the District 5 race where incumbent (and former mayoral candidate, then out of politics, then back in the council race) Michael Cadigan is trying to defend his seat against two opponents - Republican Dan Lewis and Democrat Jeremy Toulouse.

This race is interesting because the Republican is on the public dole (and you know how we hate public financing) while the two Democrats are earning their way with voluntary donations from contributors. We have a regulator, a candidate already feeding from the public trough, and a third candidate that probably can't raise enough money to make a serious challenge (unless there are enough District 5 voters on Facebook and MySpace where we're all cooler 'cause we're on line).

This is an interesting race folks and don't be surprised if there are a few surprises before the final votes are tallied in October. Don't forget to vote!

Aug 1, 2009

More Cash for Clunkers

Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives rushed to restore funding to the Cash for Clunkers program. The wildly successful program has started a stampede to car dealerships where people could dump their 1984 or newer vehicle in favor a brand new more fuel efficient model.

Apparently, the program was a bit too successful as Americans drained the available funding in a mere 4 days. Hence the rush to dump more borrowed money into the program.

The whole thing seems a bit odd to us. We're in a financial crisis precipitated by excessive debt that could not be repaid. Obama and his allies in Congress - acolytes of John Maynard Keynes all - decide to dump TRILLIONS of dollars into the system in an effort to "stimulate" the economy. The idea was to make enough money available so that people would begin to spend again. The problem is all of the "stimulus" money is borrowed.

The Cash for Clunkers program gives up to $4,500 for qualifying customers (one must always say "qualifying customers" like a bad disc jockey) to apply towards the purchase of a new vehicle that meets all of the qualifications of the program and the old vehicle must be sent to the wrecking yard in the sky.

Now last time we checked, a new vehicle is considerably more expensive than $4,500. Most people - even with the $4,500 Clunker Check - will need to take out a loan in order to purchase their shiny new vehicle.

So, we're using borrowed money to encourage people to borrow money in order to get ourselves out of a crisis precipitated by the wrong people borrowing too much money. To make matters even worse, the program was so popular that it emptied the Clunker Coffer of borrowed money so quickly that we needed to borrow more money so that even more people can go out and borrow even more money.

Is it just us or does it bother you that we're using borrowed money so that people can borrow money so that we can fix a borrowing crisis? Not to mention the fact that it now quite literally takes an act of Congress to extend an automotive incentive program.

We're living in strange times indeed.