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

Apr 22, 2010

A War on the Public

WAR! Screams the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. Apparently the union believes that its members will be irreparably harmed by Mayor Berry's proposal to cut city wages by a whopping 3%.
"Please understand that we are at war, a war of survival and a right to exist, and we will not go lightly into the night," [Andrew] Padilla wrote in a recent AFSCME newsletter. "Everyone must be prepared to assist the union in this most dire of situations."
 Sounds a lot like a line from the movie "Independence Day." More importantly, the highly charged rhetoric is ill-advised and factually inaccurate. First and foremost, Mayor Berry is not challenging AFSCME's "right to exist." In point of fact, the union's existence isn't being challenged or threatened in the least, but rather public employees' ability to continue living as if the Great Recession didn't exist.

Three years ago, Albuquerque's unemployment rate was 3.4% according to Workforce Solutions. Now, the Albuquerque's unemployment stands at 9.2% (New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions). In three years Albuquerque has gone from what is considered to be full employment to almost 10% unemployment. So what has been happening in the public sector workforce over the last 12 months?
Government added 1,100 new jobs for an increase of 1.3 percent. The lion’s share of the growth came from federal government, which was up 700. Local and state government gained 200 jobs each. Many of the new federal government jobs have come from the decennial census. 
Other winners during the current economic disaster are health care workers and you guessed it... teachers. Educational & Health Services added 600 jobs. Meanwhile, construction (-2,100); manufacturing (-1,500); professional & business services (-3,000); retail trade (-1,200); transportation, warehousing & utilities (-800); financial activities (-100); and miscellaneous other services (-200).

It's clear that the private sector has been hemorrhaging jobs while the public sector not only enjoys job stability but increases. Now, instead of being thankful for relative stability of their members' jobs - the organization charged with representing these lucky workers is marching to "WAR!"

Hmmm... we wonder just how well AFSCME's "war" will go over with the public when almost 1 in 10 of them are out there trying to find a job?

Like it or not, government workers do not create wealth. Government workers consume wealth created by others in the private sector. Each government job depends on the healthy existence of hundreds of private sector jobs. At a time when the private sector is shrinking, it's morally wrong and fiscally unsustainable to increase the burdens placed on a shrinking number of private sector workers and businesses.

They say it's wise to pick your battles. With 9.2% unemployment and 18 months of negative job growth, AFSCME is simply outnumbered. Mayor Berry and the City Council would do well to stand with the public that elected them and pass the mayor's proposed budget. This is a battle that AFSCME is unlikely to win in a "war" that should never be fought.

Apr 16, 2010

The Golden Rule

It's the public sector equivalent of the Golden Rule. No, not the one about treating others as you would be treated - the one about having the gold and making the rules or the parachutes as the case may be.

High ranking public officials are allowed to bank their vacation and make substantial withdrawals upon retirement - that is if you are high enough on the proverbial ladder.
The top two leave payouts in recent months went to deputy chiefs in the Albuquerque Police Department who retired in December. Michael Castro received a $141,000 payment, and Kevin McCabe collected almost $126,000. 
- ABQ Journal (Subscription)

Leonard Garcia, who headed the Solid Waste Management Department, received $116,000, and former Fire Chief Robert Ortega $114,000.
Six other employees received payments topping $78,000, including retired Cultural Services Director Ray Darnell and Chávez press secretary Deborah James.
Your average, everyday city employee lives under a cap that limits the amount of accrued vacation and sick leave. While the specifics vary, our Eyes tell us that most government employees have to use it or lose it after they've accrued about 10 weeks of leave. 

Caps are simply good business and so is providing adequate time off. The former limits the amount financial liability when an employee leaves and the latter makes for a more productive employee.

Mayor Berry has rightly ended the practice and City Councilor Brad Winter intends to make sure that future mayors don't reinstate the practice.

But banking vacation time isn't just for the City of Albuquerque. Last year, KRQE's Larry Barker exposed the Shah of the Rio Grande - Subhas Shah - for running the sever-retire-rehire scam (watch it here). Part of Shah's payout was almost $250,000 in, you guessed it... vacation.
Despite the furor over The Shah of the Rio Grande and his scamming of the system, Mr. Shah is still employed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District as its Chief Engineer and CEO. Sometimes even sunlight fails to cleanse government corruption.
[End Sidebar]
Meanwhile over at Bernalillo County, county managers and a few directors are busy filling their vacation banks with an unlimited amount of unused vacation to be cashed in at retirement. And we'd be willing to bet that there are numerous other high ranking government employees that are cashing in at taxpayer expense in the dark corners of the state's governments.

The public sector version of the Golden Rule... He who controls the taxpayer's gold makes the golden parachutes. Golden parachutes, they're not just for Wall Street anymore.

Apr 11, 2010


Late last month Eye told you about the new APD policy requiring officers to stop, test, arrest, book, and deliver each and every suspect accused of driving under the influence. We've already discussed the downside of the new policy (read it here), the result has been a 73% drop in DWI arrests and our Eyes tell us a 200% increase in alcohol related traffic accidents.

Saturday morning the Albuquerque Journal ran a story - undoubtedly on behalf of The 5th Floor - that attempted to defend the misguided new policy.
 Police Chief Ray Schultz gave two reasons for the new policy: 
• Cutting the $1.2 million the department spends annually on officer overtime at Metro Court, most of which comes from DWI cases.        
• And reducing the number of DWI cases dismissed in Metro Court because an officer doesn't show up.
"We are tracking overtime very closely as we try to manage our way through this budget crisis," city Chief Public Safety Officer Darren White said. "We just have less money now. It has become clear that there were some folks who had an incredible amount of overtime for DWI."
 If we didn't know better, we'd believe that the city's new public safety director was putting a price tag on public safety. More disturbingly, The 5th Floor seems to be publicly targeting yet another officer in their haste to save a few bucks.
APD Sgt. Paul Heh is one example.
Heh, who is not on the DWI Unit, made $54,709 in overtime in 2009, according to figures provided by APD. Most of that came from DWI cases in which Heh was one of at least two officers.
By using the DWI Unit, he could make multiple stops in one night. He would then get overtime for appearing in court for each of those stops.
Heh could not be reached for comment
 Note that last bit "Heh could not be reached for comment." Our Eyes tell us that even had he been reached, new APD policy forbids him from speaking to the media without receiving permission from his chain of command.
APD's brass has a history of targeting officers for retribution. Saturday's Journal article looks disturbingly familiar. Back in November, Chief Ray Schultz was found guilty of targeting former Officer Sam Costales. The verdict cost the City of Albuquerque almost $1 MILLION. Also named in the suit was Sheriff Darren White. The Sheriff's involvement was ended through an undisclosed settlement.

One would think that these guys would have learned by now. Or perhaps they're just trying to make more than a few officers very wealthy.
[End Sidebar]

The 5th Floor would have you believe that Sergeant Heh was somehow gaming the system in order to fill his pockets - at least that's their implication. The truth is far different. Officers like Sergeant Heh spend their nights taking calls for service and yes, stopping vehicles whose drivers appear to be intoxicated. They spend their days in court testifying only to return later that evening for work.

There's little doubt that overtime is a chronic problem when it comes to DWI cases in particular, however The 5th Floor's solution is to reduce overtime caused by arrests by reducing the arrests causing the overtime. So far it seems to be working - of course the price of saved overtime may be someone's life. Besides, our Eyes tell us that the primary reason for seemingly ever increasing APD court overtime is the court itself.

For years now the primary defense strategy for attorneys defending those accused of DWI has been to ask for as many continuances as possible hoping that one or more of the officers involved in the arrest wouldn't or couldn't make the trial. Judges down at Metro Court have gotten into the habit of granting continuance after continuance. Of course, now the defense bar is looking forward to new opportunities.
"For experienced attorneys, we will look upon the policy favorably," said Ousama Rasheed, the association's incoming president [of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association]. "We will be dealing with less-experienced, less-trained officers making less-specialized arguments.
"I would much rather be trying a DWI case involving someone who has been on the streets six months than someone who has been on the DWI Unit 10 years."
Public safety is the first and most important function of government. There's no room for politics or petty vendettas. The city budget crisis is real and Mayor Berry is doing a lot of the right things to fill in the huge whole that Marty dug, but we shouldn't sacrifice the safety of the public on the altar of budgetary expedience.

Saturday morning, the Albuquerque Journal aided and abetted The 5th Floor in their attempt to justify an ill advised new policy intended to save a few APD bucks. It's ironic that the target of that same story - Sergeant Paul Heh - received the Hero of New Mexico Award from MADD that very evening for putting in the time both day and night - stopping the drunks whose bad decisions put us all in danger.

Apr 7, 2010

E85 Eco-Fool

We thought that with the departure of The Almighty Alcalde to make "real money," the city's Eco-Fuel Follies would end. Not so fast! Four months into the new administration and the city is still pumping the feel-good fuel.

E85 is a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% good ol' unleaded. The mixture burns cleaner than its fossil fuel equivalent, but there are a number of drawbacks.

First off, a vehicle burning the moonshine fuel gets about 30% lower gas mileage. Second, it takes over a gallon of fossil fuel (and 1,700 gallons of water) to produce a single gallon of E85. Third while in New Mexico E85 averages 4.7% a gallon cheaper than fossil fuel, E85 is subsidized to the tune of $1.05 to $1.38 a gallon. So... with a subsidy of just $1.05 a gallon added to the average price per gallon of E85, the actual cost of the corn-fed feel-good fuel is 33% higher than its fossil fuel equivalent.

Fourth, the Eyes have it that APD pays $.10 a gallon more for E85 than it does for the regular stuff and add to that the $.19 a gallon surcharge tacked on by the city to provide fuel to APD and you've got some really expensive fuel. Once you factor in lower mileage, higher cost, and taxpayer subsidies APD is paying roughly $5.69 a gallon for a fuel that uses as much fossil fuel as it produces in "green" fuel (read about it here).

Admittedly, the $1.05 subsidy isn't shouldered exclusively by Albuquerque taxpayers and the $.19 surcharge amounts to an interdepartmental transfer, but taxpayers are paying $.10 more per gallon for 30% lower performance. When you factor in the reduced performance of E85, it would be like pay $4.64 a gallon.

But wait... there's more! We haven't even mentioned Ford's failing fuel pumps - pumps that weren't designed to burn E85 exclusively. As a result, the pumps are all pumped out at about 2,000 miles and our Eyes tell us that Ford has decided to stop servicing the pumps under their warranty.

According to our Eyes, new fuel pumps for the Ford Crown Victorias cost between $685 and $699 each.  If you figure that the average vehicle (not a police vehicle mind you) puts about 12,000 miles on the odometer, then each vehicle will need about 6 fuel pumps a year. We'd bet most of you don't even change your oil 6 times a year.

At a time when the city is looking under every rock to find a few bucks doesn't it seem strange that they'd continue to use a fuel that costs almost 2 bucks a gallon more, wastes 1700 gallons of water per gallon of fuel and causes every Crown Victoria in APD's fleet to have to replace their fuel pumps a minimum of 6 times a year? That's over $4100 a year per vehicle just in fuel pumps! And APD alone has over 700 vehicles!

The fact is, there's literally MILLIONS of dollars to be saved simply by dumping the E85 Eco-Fool... uh, fuel and yet APD is still using the stuff. Makes one wonder how serious the department and the mayor really are about saving money.

----- Update -----
In an attempt to compare apples to apples we inadvertently muddied the waters. If APD used the same number of gallons of E85 as they do unleaded (which they don't) the cost per gallon once vehicle performance is factored in would be $4.64 a gallon. The fact of the matter is that with the $.10 a gallon surcharge and a 30% reduction in vehicle performance, the department is paying well over 30% more for the same service. Which actually means that they're also dumping 30% more CO2 into the atmosphere it's just the CO2 is being dumped out at the farm as opposed to in the city.

Apr 3, 2010

The Children Thank You!

by Marita Noon

A reduction of Medicaid payments for services was announced in a State of New Mexico Medical Assistant Program Manual Supplement. One document addresses the fact that during 2007 and 2008 there was an increase in provider rates. Yet, in 2010, there would be a decrease of 3-10%.

Medicaid provides services to disadvantaged children—a population no one wants to hurt. Yet, in a time of increasing costs, payments for services are being cut. They say, "Program costs are outpacing available revenues." The only explanation given for the reductions is "a serious shortfall in state revenues largely related to gas and oil taxes."
Many have said the reduction is due to a drop in natural gas prices—and there is a bit of truth to this. However, plenty of blame can be directed at the state’s and counties’ anti-drilling policies which have chased the business out. For example, when drilling activity began in Santa Fe County, an anti-drilling fervor erupted and led County Commissioner Mike Anaya to institute a drilling ban while drafting strict drilling ordinances. "I want to make it a strong, strong ordinance," he said, pointing to a draft proposal to create regulations to control light and dust pollution and protect groundwater. The final ordinance stopped any future drilling and caused the one company extracting the resource to leave the state—taking their taxes and jobs with them. Other counties in northern New Mexico soon followed suit. For three years, these actions have successfully stalled new gas and oil development.

Again, some would argue that with the drop in prices, no one wants to drill here anyway. Not! Companies have been slowly working their way through the labyrinth of environmental impact studies, applications, permits, planning and zoning. It has taken three years and untold thousands spent on attorneys and environmental consultants.

During this time, New Mexico’s revenues from gas and oil have plummeted. Is it any wonder the revenues have gone down? Policies in the state have done everything they could to make the industry give up and go away. Many companies have. The children of New Mexico are suffering.

Due to lack of funding, facilities have closed. UNM’s Children’s Psychiatric Hospital has closed one of its cottages. When needed, children were once sent to a variety of other centers throughout the state, but they, too, are closing. Tami J. Lewis, Executive Director at Farmington’s Halvorson House, said she has already closed the Residential Treatment Center with the remainder of their programs closing by June 30. “After working so hard to develop programs that meet the needs of children in the community, it is difficult to have to close down. When our RTC was faced with the reality of Medicaid cost containment issues and rate reductions, we knew we had a tough decision to make. However, we had to stop the financial drain the RTC was having on our budget. In addition to impacting the availability of services, many excellent employees will be facing unemployment.”

Cuts are blamed on falling gas and oil taxes. Turn things around. Instead of being so worried about temporary dust and light pollution, think of permanent harm to the children.

Last week, in Rio Arriba County, they did just that. After three years, a drilling moratorium, and strict drilling ordinances’, eight drilling permits were approved—the final three on March 25 in a unanimous decision by the County Commission. During the meeting local residents (both current and former) spoke up in support of approving the applications. No one spoke in opposition. A far cry from the protests of the past few years.

Could this be the first stop in increasing revenues to the state?

New Mexico should go back to the days of surplus, when it viewed the gas and oil industry as a benefit--removing the unnecessary hurdles. New Mexico once said, "We want you! Come on down. We value you and your employees. We’ll do all we can to expedite your permits." Industry estimates say that activity could be increased almost immediately by 10-20%. The New Mexico State Land Office reported $497,328,404 in revenues from gas and oil in 2009. A mere 20% increase would be nearly $100 million—and these are just the SLO numbers--that could, according to the state’s Medical Assistance Program Manual, could go toward restoring the Medicaid funding for services to children.

In Rio Arriba, the Commissioners have shown bold leadership in their historic decision— benefiting the children of New Mexico. The children thank you!

Marita Noon is the executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE), a nonprofit organization that operates from the platform of "Energy Makes America Great" and supports all domestic energy development. She can be reached at or

Apr 1, 2010

All About the Money

Recently in a 5th floor conference room not far enough away... APD's brain trust met to talk about revenue, money, moolaah. The meeting's main man was more than a little miffed that the New Mexico Transportation Commission had ordered the city to take down the city's red light (and green light) revenue generators at 6 of the most profitable intersections.

The solution Ray and the boys came up with? Add another 50 scam-eras to intersections around the city that aren't on state roads - a plan that was apparently confirmed on 94 Rock this morning. And if our Ears heard right, Mayor Berry confirmed that the city needed the additional cameras for their revenue generating capabilities. Our Eyes confirmed for us that Chief Schultz' 5th floor confab focused on the need for additional revenue to help bridge the $54 MILLION chasm that runs right through the city's 2010-2011 budget.

Due process be damned! Public safety be damned! Liberty be damned! The scam-eras were always about the money.

The one good thing is that you won't have to waste your time wading through the creative writing project better known as the UNM "study" on the red light camera system. By confirming for radio listeners that the city can't afford to lose the revenue, they study's outcome is already painfully clear.

In fact, our Eyes tell us that The 5th Floor isn't taking any chances... they're cooking the study's books by releasing data that favors the STOP program.

It's about time someone drained the swamp up on APD's 5th floor. We're sure that there's more muck than water despite the efforts of a few who are simply trying to keep their heads above the water and their feet out of the mud.