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

May 31, 2007

Spinning for Dollars

This upcoming Monday night the city council is set to get its budget back complete with a line item veto from the 11th floor (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). Mayor Marty is peeved because the council decided to fork over $9 MILLION to the county in order to help support the Metropolitan Detention Center. If the vote goes the way it did on the 21st, the mayor's veto will be overridden.

Unfortunately everyone is trying to play politics with this one. Mayor Marty is all over the media claiming that he's "glad the council voted for my tax cut [emphasis added]. Unfortunately, they missed the point. I want to give a tax cut to Albuquerque families immediately. I don't want the City Council to suck out another $9 million from taxpayers" (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required).

Meanwhile the majority of the council is busy trying to have it both ways (voting for a deferred tax cut while giving $9,000,000 to the county) or trying to save face by being able to claim that they at least voted for a tax cut.

At this point it's all rhetoric. Council President O'Malley came out early and linked the tax cut directly to keeping the 1/8 cent gross receipts tax through July 1, 2008 and fell right into Marty's trap.

You may have heard by now that The Almighty One has shall we say, higher ambitions. Yep, the mayor wants to run again for governor. This tax cut move has been rightly characterized by some of our Eyes as a ploy to make him look like a fiscal conservative. We were suspicious of the move from the very beginning. Since Marty took over, the city has out spent inflation by some $125 MILLION (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required).
Remember this is the same Marty who wants to dump $240 MILLION into a 19th century streetcar benefiting a few hundred people along Central. Coincidently, that's about the same amount (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required) that it would take to fix the Paseo Del Norte/I-25 interchange that services tens of thousands of vehicles daily. But we digress...
(End Sidebar)
Right now, the mayor is winning the spin war. He's characterized the council as a bunch of fiscal oafs that want to send $9,000,000 to the county - no strings attached, while the valiant Marty battles to give you back your hard earned cash. Meanwhile his arch rival in the last mayoral election, Brad Winter is being attacked on the radio by a group calling itself the Committee for Responsible Budgets for not cutting taxes (which he did... just not January 1, when the mayor originally proposed).

The result is that the mayor will almost certainly look like the good guy no matter what happens Monday night. The only way that we see for the council to turn the table is for them to readdress the tax cut, moving the effective date to January 1, 2008 and then make the $9,000,000 contribution contingent upon excess city revenue that will hopefully be generated by the tax cut.

We really don't believe that the county should be hitting the city up for cash when their budget is light. After all, city residents are still paying for the jail through an increase in county taxes that was equivalent to a decrease in city taxes. In fact, the county should be taking in more revenue than the city for jail operation due to the increase in tax base.

This budget is not all bad. In fact, Councilor Cadigan shot us an email to point out that there's a 3% pay increase included in this budget for police officers. We just believe that our priorities need to be Police, Fire, Infrastructure, Administrative, Amenities. The Chavez administration has spent an inordinate amount of time and our money building amenities that continue to place an ever increasing burden on the city budget and our wallets.

May 29, 2007

Northeast Drivers Beware

No we aren't referring to drivers in New York or Boston (although you take your life in your own hands every time you put your foot on the peddle while driving in those urban paradises). We're talking about drivers right here in River City (AKA Marty's Magic Kingdom).

Not only does the Northeast Heights have the dubious distinction of being the first part of town to have the red-light scam-eras installed, but now the Northeast Area Command is enforcing the Schultz no plate cover edict with something close to a religious fervor.

Recently promoted Captain Bill Henz is making sure that his troops zealously enforce Chief Schultz's commandment by confiscating license plate covers that foil the "infallible" scam-eras.
Captain Henz is a recent promotion to Captain who replaced now Deputy Chief Kevin McCabe as commander up in the Northeast. Our Eyes tell us that Captain Henz was so "loved" by the officers he was chosen to command that during the most recent bid, all of the senior officers in the area command transferred out leaving behind officer who didn't have enough seniority to choose somewhere else.

Don't take this the wrong way... the new officers in the Northeast work hard, but simply don't have the experience to judge whether or not and enforcement edict sent down from on high (the 5th floor) is a legal order or not. They simply follow orders as one would expect them to do.
(End Sidebar)
The real problem here is that confiscation of property (license plate protectors) could very well be illegal. The New Mexico traffic code does not outlaw license plate covers, regardless of what Chief Schultz maintains. (We explained our position here.) As long as the plates are clearly legible from 100 feet at night, your plate is considered legal according to New Mexico law. Further, there is no city ordinance that we're aware of that outlaws the practice of protecting your license plate (and your behind) with one of these scam-era protection devices.

So, confiscating a license plate cover that leaves your plate clearly legible by law enforcement could easily by considered larceny. We're not hanging this one on the officers of the Northeast Heights - they're just following orders. We're placing the blame upon the people who should know better, namely Captain Henz and Chief Schultz.

Currently, we have no knowledge of a judge making a judgment regarding the plate covers with respect to their legality (The Legislature has most definitely been silent on the issue). And our Eyes tell us that judges will often dismiss charges without prejudice rather than making a precedent setting decision. Therefore, the written law can and is being interpreted by people like Chief Schultz who know that they can get away with it until some other authority (either legislative or judicial) weighs in.

We'd love to see someone whose plate cover was confiscated file larceny charges against Chief Schultz and Captain Henz. After all the Constitution guarantees us the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property with out due process of law.

Eye Poll

Inspired by another blog, Heath Haussamen on New Mexico Politics we've added a new feature to the Eye On Albuquerque... a non scientific poll! Yep, voice your opinion about various characters that make up the local political scene.

Since Councilor Heinrich has announced he plans to leave his position as city councilor for district 6 in order to run for Congress (Subscription Required), we thought he'd be the perfect candidate for the inaugural Eye Poll.

Memorial Day - A Time for Reflection

Memorial Day is a time of reflection (or at least it should be); a time to remember all of those men and women who sacrificed their lives on the altar of liberty. The very people who died so that we could sit here in safety, decked out in our favorite pajamas and tell you what we think. The Internet is the embodiment of free speech and as you navigate through the ether that makes up this cyber world, you'll find all sorts of opinions, facts, and fiction.

For about 7 years now, one of the email threads floating about is one attributed to Scottish history professor Alexander Tyler from about the time of our Constitutional Convention.

“A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.”

“From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years.”

“During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. from bondage to spiritual faith;
2. from spiritual faith to great courage;
3. from courage to liberty;
4. from liberty to abundance;
5. from abundance to complacency;
6. from complacency to apathy;
7. from apathy to dependence;
8. From dependence back into bondage"
Being ever curious we crawled around the web to see if this 18th century quote could be verified. We found it on Blogs (here and here) and we found it on at least a couple of websites (here and here). Some sites happily attribute the quote to the 18th century scholar others dismiss it as being unlikely. Our visit to revealed that the attribution is "very likely fictitious."

Our reaction... so what? The analysis attributed to Tyler seems to make sense even if it was invented by some other blogger and simply attributed to him in an effort to make it more credible.

We see the erosion of liberty every day here in Albuquerque. From H.E.A.R.T. ordinances to cell phone bans, from red light Scam-eras to "affordable housing" programs, the citizens of our fair city are becoming more dependent on government to solve their problems no matter how small; and dependence is a form of empowerment for those on which you depend.

A few months back during the cell phone debate, we remember Councilor Winter bringing up loss of freedom as a reason not to impose the ban. Councilor Benton scoffed at the idea that somehow driving and talking on a cell phone was an issue of freedom. On the contrary, every issue that comes before the council is an issue of freedom. When legislation steps beyond the bounds of the basic functions of government, or creates dependence in the citizenry, they have made us all just a little bit less free.

Take a close look at the steps into bondage that Tyler (we're going to go ahead and give him the credit since there's no proof to the contrary) describes. Apply it to what you see coming out of city hall... where would you place Albuquerque? We'd argue that over the last 15 years Albuquerque has rapidly gone from number 4 to number 6 or 7.

Memorial Day is over along with its accompanying backyard BBQs, but perhaps there's still a little time for reflection. We need to remember that these fallen hero's died for freedom, not for dependence and bondage. We need to make sure that we don't fall into dependence and bondage by supporting policies that promote personal responsibility and smaller, less intrusive government. Otherwise Memorial Day will become a day to mourn the loss of the very freedoms that our country's hero's died for.

May 22, 2007

The Path Unrecognized

We spotted a link to a Washington Post story on the ridiculously stupid David Iglesias non-story while prowling through the Journal Website (hat tip: Jim Belishaw). Mr. Belishaw was upset about the description of Albuquerque by Post staff writer Sridhar Pappu.
"At 9 a.m. on the very edge of the dusty, desolate collection of adobe homes and Vietnamese restaurants that seem to form this city, David Iglesias begins his run through the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. This is not easy terrain. The footing is terribly uneven. The altitude can be unbearable. At certain times one can hear the grumbling of mountain lions and the feasting of coyotes." - The Washington Post
The description is not only generally offensive but in light of the New York Times former correspondent Jason Blair, we were left wondering if Mr. Pappu had ever even visited our fair city. Vietnamese restaurants? Feasting of coyotes? Desolate collection of adobe homes? This guy should be writing fiction... after reading the rest of the Post article, perhaps he is.

In his story, Pappu chronicles the victimization of Iglesias and what a great guy he is/was and how he was wronged by the Department of Justice and the Republican Party, blah, blah, blah. All you really need to know about the "scandal" and the David Iglesias phenomenon is found in just two paragraphs.

"Maher was just one stop on the Iglesias media tour. In embracing the collective lens, Iglesias racked up televised appearances with, among others, Chris Matthews, Larry King, Katie Couric, Tim Russert and Chris Wallace. Strong-jawed and clean-shaven, said to have inspired the dreamy prosecutor played by Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men," a White House Fellow during the Clinton administration, he's become both the handsome, charismatic public face for the sacked attorneys and a genuine media star. And damn if he hasn't enjoyed it.

"I've loved it," he says. "It's a good fit. It feels really natural. I'll tell you what, from an exposure point of view it's been incredible. Had I stayed a U.S. attorney and not gotten forced to resign, no one would know who I was outside of New Mexico. In a perverse way this has already put me on the national map. My own test is: If it's a show I've heard of, I'll probably do it."' - The Washington Post

The irony here is that Mr. Iglesias - a political appointee - is upset because he lost his job because of politics. Now along with his congressional supporters, he's using politics to attack those who he sees as his enemies. By the way, those in congress who are busy "investigating" the dastardly firing of 9 U.S. Attorney's are calling for the dismissal of yet another political appointee - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Kind of makes your head hurt don't it?

After Gonzales' performance in front of Congress we might agree that it's time for him to go. So, if the A.G. gets the axe, are these same political opportunists (Mr. Iglesias and Senator Schumer you know who you are) going to call for investigation after investigation of the politically motivated firing of Alberto Gonzales? Somehow we doubt it.

A note to Mr. Iglesias, when you decide to write your tell all book and subsequent screen play, you'll want to remember Sridhar Pappu. He seems to have already written the first couple of chapters.

Money, Money, Money

Money was on the agenda Monday night down at city hall... money for budgets, a little less money from the scam-era system, and money for the county. Money, money, money... in fact $490 MILLION of your hard earned tax money was allocated as part of the city's overall budget plan (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required).

Talking about the city budget or taxes is like watching paint dry (or like trying to sit through a typical City Council meeting without falling asleep or attempting suicide). We bet that you didn't even flinch when you read that the city approved a budget of almost half a billion dollars. Let us say that again... HALF A BILLION DOLLARS! That's your money and that's our money and how it is spent is of tremendous importance to not only our pocketbooks now, but to our future ability to fill those pocket books.

The past six or so years Mayor Almighty with his willing accomplices on the council, have been on a spending spree increasing the city budget by $125 MILLION more (we told you about it here) than can be accounted for by the rate of inflation (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). The city has been and continues to act as if the party will never end and thus they believe they will always the revenue to support their ambitions and their insatiable appetite for our money.

What have we gotten for all of our taxpayer generosity? A whole lot of shiny new amenities (read as taxpayer responsibilities), a dysfunctional police department, and a trolley on the way. That's right, the council voted to include our mayor's favorite 19th Century Streetcar as part of the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

The move doesn't allocate funding for the trolley, but it makes its inclusion part of our overall transportation plan. I thought that at least the Benton sales... ah, "study" group would at least regale us with how important the trolley was before they included it in the plan. Must be some sort of governmental thing... plan for the need before you determine that you have a need, and if you already have (like more police officers on the street) a need - ignore it.

As for taxes (of all sorts) the council voted to keep the 1/8 cent sales tax in place until July 2008 citing the need to support the county jail with the $9 MILLION expected to come in through the continuance of the tax. We do know that the new jail is struggling to find space for all of the bad guys that are being shipped out to the West side. We do know that a large percentage of those miscreants come from our fair city and that the county often complains that the city isn't carrying its share of the fiscal burden (perhaps it isn't).

However, one hundred percent of those enjoying the hospitality of the county's west side facility are Bernalillo county prisoners; otherwise they'd be locked up in some other county jail. More importantly, whose hare-brained idea was it to give a one-time no strings attached, $9 MILLION bonus to the county? And exactly how does it solve the problem of the inability of the city to get along with the county? Here's an idea... give us back our money before you find another excuse to continue to waste it.

Finally, and at long last, the city council voted last night to move the deck chairs. After careful consideration and much debate, we'll get $50 off the first infraction, and $200 off the second, along with an additional 15 days in which to appeal our conviction (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). We say conviction because we long ago established that you are guilty until proven innocent under this Kangaroo Camera-Court system.

The only sense came from Councilor Winter who pointed out that moving around the deck chairs does nothing to repair the damage done by due process iceberg. Perhaps the councilors are trying to hurry along the abducted bride syndrome described by Chief Schultz by lowering the fines to make it appear that we can all live without the very foundation of our legal system - due process.

Money, money, money... they'll take more of it (an 1/8th cent for the county and MILLIONs from the Red Light Scam-eras). They'll spend more of it (Almost a HALF BILLION DOLLARS for the city budget). And they'll continue to work on ways to keep every cent of tax revenue (1/4 cent Transportation Infrastructure Tax for the trolley - 1/8th cent sales tax for the jail now and who knows what later).

This is our money folks... and as much as we at Eye on Albuquerque complain about, deride, and make fun of the mayor and council for their spend happy ways; it's everyone's fault that they get away with it. We keep electing them and they keep spending. Why are we surprised?

May 16, 2007

Ignore Him!

A couple of weeks ago Mayor Martin Chavez announced his open-government initiative. He was roundly praised for the idea of making government more accessible to those who are governed. We agree that our government should be open to inspection for any citizen that wishes to take the time to review the records and documents that are the byproduct of all government agencies.

The Albuquerque Journal in a story dated May 7th, 2007 outlined some of the proposal's main points the first of which was:
"An open-records ordinance would define city procedures for responding to requests for documents. It will call for cooperation from all city employees, elected officials, contractors and subcontractors. Every city department, board, commission and committee, as well as the City Council, would designate a records custodian to cooperate with the city clerk in responding to requests" - ABQ Journal (Subscription Required)
We found that particularly curious considering we already have a New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (PDF). Therefore, the city is already obligated to provide information and records upon request.
14-2-7 D. A custodian receiving a written request shall permit the inspection immediately or as soon as is practicable under the circumstances, but not later than fifteen days after receiving a written request. If the inspection is not permitted within three business days, the custodian shall explain in writing when the records will be available for inspection or when the public body will respond to the request. The three-day period shall not begin until the written request is delivered to the office of the custodian.
There are some cases where public records can be withheld, but in general the government agency that receives a request has 15 days to provide access to the records. Which brings us back to our friends downtown...

According to our Eyes, Silvio Dell'Angela, President of SWAT (Stop Wasting Albuquerque's Taxes) has been pursuing a formal request to review all documents relating to the formation of Councilor Benton's 19th Century Streetcar Task Force. As is usual for these types of requests, they're time consuming and in general a pain in the $#@ for the departments required to produce records. It's no surprise that requests of this nature often meet resistance.

So it goes in this case. According to our Eyes Mr. Dell'Angela has been nothing if not persistent and it comes as no surprise that he has ruffled a few feathers. We were forwarded an email thread in which city attorney Bruce T. Thompson apparently instructs other city departments to "ignore him." Unfortunately for Mr. Thompson, it looks to us like he used mother of all screw-ups button - "Reply All." Guess who was also on the distribution list? Yep! Silvio Dell'Angela.

Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 2:19 PM
Subject: RE: Inspection of Public Records Act Request dated May 12, 2007 and May 13, 2007

Ignore him!
As the city is already required by law to comply with records inspection requests, we hope that Mr. Thompson an attorney was not instructing city personnel to ignore Mr. Dell'Angela's request. We're not an attorney, but wouldn't that be a direct and willful violation of the law?

Open-government is not something that is legislated as much as it is something that is practiced. Creating laws like the state's Inspection of Public Records Act is a good idea, but what good does it do when city officials simply choose to "ignore" the request, misplace the records, or maintain that they don't even exist?

Average citizens don't have the resources to prove these claims false and must accept them at face value. We would suggest that before Mayor Marty worries about creating an ordinance addressing open-government, that he begin to practice open-government within his own administration. He can start by making sure Mr. Dell'Angela gets all of the information that he has requested AND by producing an APD roster complete with assignments for all of APD's sworn and non-sworn employees.

May 13, 2007

Trust Us!

The city and the Almighty Mayor have been telling us to "trust us" since the infallible red light scam-era system was implemented here in Albuquerque. It seems that the cameras are not as reliable as the city, the mayor, the chief of police, and APD spokesman John Walsh have led us to believe.

KOAT TV is reporting that one of their own received a citation from the scam-era at Carlisle and Montgomery (watch the story here). It turns out that the information provided by RedFlex was incorrect and the timing of the scam-era system was off. KOAT Production Manager Gary Williams proved that the system was creating erroneous citations by taking a broadcast camera to the intersection and timing the light.
How many other citations were erroneously issued? How many people simply paid up because they didn't have the ability to defend themselves?
(End Sidebar)
Mr. Williams was able to prove that the RedFlex scam-era system was not operating properly. The evidence was so convincing that even the Martyville Kangaroo Courts were unable to sustain the erroneous citation.

Before you go defending the red light scam-eras with the "system worked" argument... how many of you have access to the type of broadcast video equipment required to prove this type of case? The truth is that very few people understand the workings of the RedFlex system.

At a "hearing" there is no one available to testify as to the condition of and the calibration of the equipment installed at the intersection in question. The accused is simply shown a tape showing their vehicle violating either the speed limit or entering the intersection after the light has turned red. They are then pronounced guilty and are ordered to pay up.

The nature of the system presumes guilt by denying the accused the ability to defend themselves. The scam-eras are assumed to be infallible, ergo the defendants are guilty. Yet, as we now know, the city cannot prove that the red light scam-eras are operating accurately, just as you cannot prove that they are not. Even in a civil court where the standard is "preponderance of the evidence," we don't believe that the city's case would prevail. Of course, the city got around that whole judicial thing by setting up their Kangaroo Courts.

Now, after having bagged the wrong driver - a driver who had the ability to prove the all seeing, all knowing scam-era wrong - John Walsh has the nerve to tell us that APD will look investigate the Carlisle/Montgomery intersection to see if there truly is a problem.

In other words, "trust us" this is an isolated problem and doesn't really prove that the scam-eras are not working properly. "Horse hockey!" As Colonel Sherman T. Potter of M*A*S*H would have said. Without special equipment, the average defendant doesn't have the ability to effectively defend themselves in Marty's Kangaroo Courts. The city's position (who it just so happens the Kangaroo Judge works for) is that the cameras PROVE guilt. So, unless you work for a TV station, send in your money 'cause you're not going to win anyway.

We've been SCREAMING about the problems of due process that are inherent to this system. This story only proves our point. The scam-eras are NOT INFALLIBLE! You do not enjoy a presumption of innocence. And most importantly, you DO NOT APPEAR IN FRONT OF AN IMPARTIAL JUDGE. Why would ANYONE support such a clearly unfair and unjust system?!

Follow the Chain

Saturday the Albuquerque Journal's editorial department wrote about a problem that has existed for some time now. APD (the 5th floor anyway) has steadfastly refused to issue a list of personnel and their assignments. Without that documentation there's absolutely no reason to take them at their word when they claim to have a force of 998 officers.
"[F]ewer beat cops are taking more calls and say they're swamped. City Councilor Brad Winter is right to request a list of officers and assignments to help ensure the policing workload is distributed and the troops deployed in the most equitable and efficient manner possible." - ABQ Journal (Subscription Required)
The Journal has in essence, taken the position that we have here.
"We can sit around and argue numbers all day long, but that doesn't change the fact that APD will take longer to get to you when you really need them. All of the excuses - like having to respond to burglary calls, 10-44's (accidents without injuries), and animal in danger calls - don't change the fact that we are not getting the police protection that we are paying for. - The Eye
Who's responsible for the decline in response times, and the failure to be able to keep and even increase officers in the field? For an answer, follow the chain of command. The chain over at APD ends not on the 5th Floor of the city/county law enforcement center, but on the 11th floor of city hall. In fact, if you follow it link by link you'll find yourself sitting in Marty's chair.

We believe in elected officials being able to choose the people that work around them. They are elected to exercise their judgment; and they in turn should be judged by their choices. In the Mayor's case, he gets to choose the leader of APD. He also has the authority to remove a police chief if he feels that it's necessary or politically expedient (See Chief Gallegos). Therefore, if there's a problem on the 5th floor, Marty should feel the weight of that chain pulling at him until he has taken the appropriate steps to correct the problem.

Unfortunately, Mayors of Albuquerque have traditionally gotten a pass when it comes to problems over at APD - from the media and from all of us. The Chavez administration has been little different.

Organizations tend to take on the attributes of their leaders. There's no doubt that Marty has higher ambitions. There's no doubt that he is extremely media conscious. And there's absolutely no doubt that he is constantly trying to build a legacy. Is it any surprise then, that the 5th floor is so politically driven?

We've said it before and we'll keep saying it until it's no longer true... APD has a problem. The power and the responsibility to fix those problems lay with Mayor Marty and NO ONE ELSE. However, Marty is preoccupied with building a legacy (trolleys, arenas, pandas) to propel him to higher office, rather than fulfilling the first duty of any Mayor... keeping our city free of crime.

If Marty continues down the path that he has thus far chosen to tread, he will have a legacy of shiny new city toys and a police department characterized by poor performance and low morale. The responsibility will be his and his alone.

May 9, 2007

Making Up the Rules as You Go

Deputy Busted Over Plate!
(We had to add the exclamation point)

So declares Wednesday's Albuquerque Journal (Subscription Required).
The first line of the front page top of the fold story reads "[i]t didn't take a red-light camera to catch a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy breaking the law." Seems that a nefarious Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy has been caught with one of the plate covers that make viewing the license plate underneath difficult for Marty's scam-era system.

So what's the problem? Well, we can't find a law that was broken - if the cover in question was similar to the ones we've seen so much of around Albuquerque. According to the State of New Mexico traffic code:
66-3-14 B. Each registration plate shall have a background of reflective material such that the registration number assigned to the vehicle is plainly legible from a distance of one hundred feet at night. The colors shall include those of the state flag, except prestige and special plates.
Or if you prefer:
66-3-18 A. The registration plate shall be attached to the rear of the vehicle for which it is issued; however, the registration plate shall be attached to the front of a road tractor or truck tractor. The plate shall be securely fastened at all times in a fixed horizontal position at a height of not less than twelve inches from the ground, measuring from the bottom of the plate. It shall be in a place and position so as to be clearly visible, and it shall be maintained free from foreign material and in a condition to be clearly legible.
Now we're not an attorney, but it looks pretty obvious to us that the New Mexico traffic code doesn't say a thing about protective covers for license plates as long as the registration number is clearly visible from a distance of 150 feet.

A few months back we seem to remember APD spokesman John Walsh claiming that the license plate cover and sprays were ineffective when pitted against the superior technology of Marty's red light scam-eras. Well, well, well... looks like we were being treated to a bit of mis-information from APD's public information officer.

Now they're trying to make us buy that plate covers are illegal. We told you that APD was trying to "crack down" on all of those sinister drivers utilizing the scam-era invisibility shields. In fact they cited section 66-3-18 as the basis of their enforcement. Read the traffic code for yourself... where exactly does it prohibit license plate covers?
One of our Eye readers emailed us and let us know about APD's "enforcement" effort. They received a ticket (the first we've heard of) from an officer and plans to fight the citation in court. We asked them to let us know how the judge rules.
(End Sidebar)
It's obvious that Marty's scam-eras are seeing an awful lot of these plate covers and their use is cutting into revenue. It's also obvious that revenue concerns are now driving law enforcement. So what if we don't even have a law that prohibits the use of the plate covers... we'll just "enforce" the law the way we want to. Who needs legislatures, or even courts for that matter... we've got money to make!

We hope Sheriff White has the good sense not to discipline the deputy involved, particularly if his license plate was plainly visible from 100 feet at night as is required by law. In fact, we would suggest making the plate covers standard issue for those deputies that spend any time driving through Martyville.

May 8, 2007

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

Monday night the Albuquerque City Council convened to do what it so often does when faced with a controversial issue... nothing. Yep, our intrepid councilors couldn't figure a way to fix the red light camera problem even though the "fixes" amount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

As a result, the bucks continue to roll in and the council fiddles while Rome burns. (Yes, we're trying to use as many cliches as possible to sound as silly as the council often acts). KRQE Channel 13 is reporting that the city's take in 18 months is equal to over $3 MILLION. A Couple of months ago the city had collected a gross amount of over $6 MILLION. That's our money folks and here's the truth... not a single criminal was caught.

To make matters worse, those knuckleheads don't even care where the money is going! The only red light camera legislation to actually get to a vote was Councilor Harris' audit proposal and it was defeated 5-4 (ABQ Tribune) with Councilors Mayer, Sanchez, Benton, Winter, and Loy voting against passage.

What the council doesn't seem to get is that the public generally does not like the Almighty's Money Makers. As Councilor Winter said in his town hall announcement, "people have the right to determine how they are going to be policed." Not to mention the fact that the city has found a way to dispense with common concepts like proof beyond a reasonable doubt, innocent until proven guilty, due process, and making the punishment fit the crime - concepts that most reasonable people find appealing. Ah... What the heck? Who cares? The program is paying for itself!

Now Chief Schultz is counting on apathy and fatalism to make us accept being fleeced by the city (ABQ Tribune). Seems that after about 3 years we'll all get used to the red light toll system and even become fond of forking over our hard earned cash. He may even be right, after all when people are held captive against their will they eventually come to view their captors with affection. It's called the Stockholm Syndrome.
Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed. Stockholm syndrome is also sometimes discussed in reference to other situations with similar tensions, such as battered person syndrome, rape cases, child abuse cases, and bride kidnapping. - from

Bride kidnapping? Now that's funny! Now we understand what that APD recruiting poster is all about.
(End Sidebar)
Back to the deck chairs... Councilor Loy (who we almost wish was running so that we could hang these "photo enforced" intersections around his political neck) maintains "reduc[ing] these fines - that's outrageous" (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). What's "outrageous" is that he was ever elected. Wait a second... he wasn't. Four years ago he was the default choice of District 8 and has never run against an opponent. (Splains a lot don't it?)

Marty doesn't get it, the council doesn't get it, and Chief Schultz certainly doesn't get it. MOST PEOPLE DON'T WANT THIS SYSTEM! Even police officers are generally against it unless they are required by the 5th floor to attend meetings to support the red light scam-era program.

You can lower the fines. You can give an option of community service. You can even try to wait until we all suffer from a collective abducted bride syndrome. But you can't change the fact that the system is wrong and that it has struck the iceberg of public opinion.

May 7, 2007

The First Step Toward Recovery

A summary of yesterday's Journal article outlining the problems over at APD could be: Response times- up, officers available to take calls for service - down, apologies - up, morale - down, and excuses - waaaaay up. We want to point out here that many of the problems over at APD are not new and neither are the excuses, but they are problems none the less and need to be addressed.

Manpower levels at APD have been an issue for some time now. Councilor Brad Winter, while running against the current head of APD - Martin Chavez, made it an issue in the last election (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). There's nothing in Sunday's article that makes one believe that APD has addressed the situation, nor is there any indication that they have come up with a viable plan to correct it.

APD's claimed strength is 998 officers with (according to the Journal) 43.5% of those officers available to take calls. That's about 434 officers ready to come to your aid when your being robbed, beat, or criminally victimized. Our Eyes tell us that the bid number (434) is actually 409 and that the actual total number of sworn officers available is closer to 800. None of the above numbers can actually be verified because APD is keeping them locked away on the 5th floor where neither the Journal nor City Councilor Brad Winter can get a look at them.
The Almighty Marty (no doubt in an attempt to look more gubernatorial) announced an open government initiative last week. The Journal ran a story just this morning heaping praise on the mayor for his proposals (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required). We've got a suggestion for the aspiring governor... produce an APD manpower roster (sworn and not) complete with assignments for public review. If you're going to push for open government, try opening up APD.
(End Sidebar)
APD is simply asking all of us to take them at their word, which is particularly troubling considering that all of the empirical evidence suggests that they're playing with the numbers. In addition, APD spokesman John Walsh would like us to believe that they cannot account for calls for service taken by the 56.5% of the force that make up APD's specialized units. Are we really to believe that over half of APD's officers and their activities cannot be accounted for? If that is true it's a sign of colossal incompetence.

Our Eyes on the other hand aren't buying spokesman Walsh's assertions. Any officer that responds to a call for service is tracked and reports are generated... as they should be. The Eyes have it that APD just doesn't want to admit that their specialized units rarely volunteer to take a call for service and if they show at all, it's usually in a backup role. The Eyes went so far as to call Walsh's assertion a... uh, shall we say, falsehood.

We can sit around and argue numbers all day long, but that doesn't change the fact that APD will take longer to get to you when you really need them. All of the excuses - like having to respond to burglary calls, 10-44's (accidents without injuries), and animal in danger calls - don't change the fact that we are not getting the police protection that we are paying for. Chief Schultz maintains that if they didn't have to respond to all of those calls that response times would improve. That's like saying if they didn't have to enforce the law, there'd be more time to enforce the law.

The fact of the matter is that APD has a number of problems and they're doing everything in their power not to admit that they've got a problem. If you take a gander at a few of the posts on this site, you'll quickly identify a number of comments from various readers that can only be officers (hopefully off-duty for a number of reasons). Morale is obviously down, manpower levels are not what they should be, and officers are feeling the need to apologize to people when they finally arrive at a call.

It's obvious that, as APOA President Ron Alivas said, "[officers are] coming to us telling us they are getting their butt kicked out there." If that truly is the case, then they are losing as a department and we are losing as a community. It's time that the 5th and 11th floors take the first step toward recovery... admit you've got a problem.

May 6, 2007

APD Woes: De-Vested

Roots of No-Confidence Movement

We were the first to tell you about the APD no-confidence movement and the vote that will take place sometime later this month. In addition to pay inequities, officers have other issues with the 5th floor and the Chavez administration.

A few years ago, sworn officers were given the opportunity to upgrade their vests to an improved model that was rated to stop a rifle round. These vests cost significantly more so a deal was struck with officers to help pay for the improved protection. In addition to added safety for officers, the new vests were lighter, cooler, and more flexible. The latter is particularly important because police work also involves chasing and sometimes tussling with suspects.

The upgraded vests seemed like the perfect solution and many officers opted to pay up to $480 for the new vests. As an added incentive to purchase the vests, APD agreed to allow officers who stayed with the department for a year to keep the vests.

Everything was going fine until APD ordered officers to return the vests due to safety concerns. The new vests were then replaced with an equivalent vest in terms of safety. However, the replacement vests were thicker and no more flexible than the original vests. In other words, officers didn't get what they paid for.

Our Eyes tell us that the new vests were essentially recalled. Since there was no "official" recall, the local vest supplier Kauffman's West would not refund the officer's money and neither would the manufacturer. To make matters worse, officers are no longer allowed to keep the vests after a year's service.

Granted the APD De-Vestment took place on former Chief Gill Gallegos' watch and you could make the argument that Chief Schultz had nothing to do with the fleecing of APD officers. However, you can't excuse the departmental action simply because of a change of leadership. Besides the real leader over at APD doesn't work on the 5th floor at all... he works across the street on the 11th floor.

May 4, 2007

Revenue Roads

Cameras in our intersections. Cameras slinking around on our city roads. Now we're going to be treated to cameras on the Interstates. Yep, according to the Journal (Subscription Required) the Almighty One will be extending the jurisdiction of his Kangaroo Courts to the Interstate by placing speed vans and eventually a couple of speed cameras (we assume in fixed locations) on the city's two major freeways I-40 and I-25.

On the front page of the Journal we're treated to a photo showing how traffic enforcement should be done. Three officers with laser speed detection equipment, monitoring traffic for violators and issuing criminal citations. This is how you enforce the law.
The top of the fold photo shows two sergeants and a captain operating the lasers. Please tell us that it's just a case of rank trying to get some media face time... or at least media side time. Shouldn't officers receiving supervisory pay be, I don't know... supervising?
(End Sidebar)
The implication of the Journal's story is that Super Marty complete with cape, is coming in his speed van to save the day and all of us from evil law-breaking truckers. The reality is somewhat different. Marty's speed cameras don't enforce the law, they collect money. Perhaps the mayor should exchange the cape for the Hamburgler's mask.

Vehicle's caught speeding by intersection cameras, speed vans, or the - coming to an Interstate near you - freeway cameras will be issued a civil citation. In addition to all of the due process issues (like the complete absence of due process), there's a jurisdictional issue. Marty is extending his program to federally funded state roads.

Legislators around the state were already upset by the city pocketing all of the money that would normally go to the state from traffic enforcement. Now Marty's going to make a grab at the revenue generated by state roads.

We've got to hand it to the mayor... we can't think of a more profitable source of revenue than Albuquerque's two major freeway's. Cameras can snap away at freight traffic moving through the city. There's minimal danger that the city will have to hold hearings since the driver of the vehicle will be literally thousands of miles away by the time the "citation" catches up to them 10 days later.

Mayor Marty will have single handedly transformed the Interstates into Revenue Roads... at least until the Legislature gets back in session.

May 2, 2007

Eye on Elections - 1 In, 2 Out, and 2 Up

Sounds like baseball but as of today, the race for the City of Albuquerque's even numbered council districts is more of a walk, or maybe a crawl. City Councilor Brad Winter has announced to the Journal that he will indeed seek re-election (Subscription Required). District 6's current councilor Martin Heinrich, has decided not to seek re-election in order to go for Albuquerque's brass ring (federally speaking), Congresswoman Heather Wilson's First Congressional District seat. (Read our take here.)

So... District 4 will be defended by a twice elected incumbent, and District 6 is an open seat. That's all we really know for sure.

Our Eyes are telling us that Joan Griffin will be seeking Heinrich's open seat. In fact her brother, Rich Rosley president of A-Tech Security has jumped on the fundraising trail for Joan sending out an email asking for donations to her fledgling candidacy. In the email he states that "Joanie just registered this past week [the week of April 23rd] as a candidate." In yesterday's Trib, Griffin is quoted as saying that she's "seriously interested" in running. In our estimation, if she's filed the paperwork she's in.

Joanie is a long time fixture in the advertising biz here in Albuquerque with an extensive client list to prove it. One of her more notable political clients was none other than the Almighty One, Martin Chavez. According to her website Griffin served as Mayor Chavez' Press Secretary for his 2005 campaign. If elected, she would be the second city councilor to come directly from Mayor Marty's '05 campaign. Councilor Ken Sanchez originally served as Marty's Treasurer before being lured (some say by the Almighty One himself) into running against former Councilor Miguel Gomez.

Moving on to District 8, where left of center blogger Joe Monahan is reporting that Trudy Jones will run for Councilor Loy's seat. Loy, according to both our Eyes and Monahan's "Alligators" is planning not to seek a second term. That's about as far as we're willing to agree with Mr. Monahan as he also claims in the same post that Councilor Loy is a "conservative."

Trudy has demonstrated her ability to swim in the shark infested waters of commercial real estate for close to 30 years; not to mention she's been successful in the process. She will make a formidable candidate for anyone to try and beat in her largely conservative district 8. Raising money will not be a problem and our Eyes tell us that she is putting together an experienced campaign staff.

So... 1 in - Brad Winter, 2 out - Martin Heinrich and Craig Loy, 2 up - Joanie Griffin and Trudy Jones. Let the 2007 games begin!

Red Light Pile-up

One of the consequences of Marty's Red Light Districts... rear-end collisions rise. If you were near the intersection of Wyoming & Academy around 4:45 pm today you were treated to a real live example.

While approaching one of Marty's Red Light "photo enforced" intersections at Wyoming & Academy, a northbound vehicle slammed on it's brakes to avoid a starring role in Marty's home movies. The result... the vehicle directly behind him made an unwanted guest appearance in the first vehicle's back seat and a 3rd vehicle compounded the problem by slamming into the 2nd vehicle.

The accident (read consequence) tied up traffic right at rush hour and endangered emergency personnel who were on the scene braving rush hour traffic. The first vehicle avoided a $100 fine by endangering the lives of the drivers behind them and also endangered the lives of the emergency personnel who dispatched to the scene.

We don't know the condition of any of the drivers or passengers involved in today's Red Light Camera Calamity, but we do know that eventually a driver who's trying to avoid a $100, $250, or $500 "citation" is going to kill someone, maybe even be killed themselves. This is certainly a case where a driver's judgment might have led him to decide to continue through the intersection. But if they had, they wouldn't have been able to defend themselves in one of Marty's Kangaroo Courts, because they probably wouldn't be able to remember the incident.

May 1, 2007

Pondering Patterns

It's been pretty quiet down a city hall... It got us to thinking about patterns. The patterns we see in city government, the patterns we see in the media, the patterns we see at the council. They all add up to one alarming fact, our city government makes very few attempts to guarantee our freedoms.

APD Woes: What's Behind No Confidence Movement

As we told you recently, a group of young officers have forced the Albuquerque Police Officers Association to consider a vote of no confidence in Chief of Police Ray Schultz. As required by the APOA bylaws, the vote must take place after a 30 day "cooling off" period. So, that means the vote will be sometime this month.

Our Eyes have been taking a look into some of the complaints behind the move for a no confidence vote and found some expected things, some surprising things, and some truly alarming things. As expected, right at the top of the list is officer pay.

For years, Mayor Marty has been touting 1,000 officers over at APD. Just recently the Journal reported that "APD has 998 officers, including 18 part-timers." (Subscription Required) That was in the same article that reported APD's request for $1 MILLION for officer recruitment and retention. In the last Mayoral election manpower levels at APD became an issue with the administration claiming to have around 1,000 officers and Mayoral opponent and City Councilor Brad Winter claiming significantly less, particularly when looking at officers available to take calls. (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required)
Is this really the message that APD wants to send to potential recruits? "Join APD and catch a bride!" What genius thought this up?
(End Sidebar)
Our Eyes tell us that right now, today the number of sworn officers that APD could put into the field in an emergency is just north of 800. That's everyone folks, including the chief himself. The Eyes have it that the 998 number mentioned by the Journal is everyone at APD including clerical staff. If you look at these numbers in light of the $1 MILLION supplemental request it's not hard to believe that the administration is playing fast and loose with manpower numbers.
It's interesting to us to look back and see that APD seems to always magically have close to 1,000 officers, even when they have been faced with a record number of retirements and academy classes that have as few as 7 cadets.
(End Sidebar)
You're probably wondering what in the world does this have to do with the price of tea in China. One of the main complaints voiced by officers behind the no-confidence movement is pay inequity. The pay inequity that the officers are talking about is being created by the pressure to not only field 1,000 officers but to expand the force to Mayor Marty's 1,100 officers. It's the same pressure that caused APD to ask for $1 MILLION to throw at recruitment and retention.

Since APD is having trouble recruiting NEW officers they have put in place a series of incentives for retired officers to return to APD. These officers not only receive their retirement, but they receive a little more than $4,300 a year more than the same officer with the same rank and longevity (APD Benefits & Salary). Don't get us wrong, we don't think that rehiring experienced officers is not necessarily a bad idea; but when you have a system in place that
incentivizes return, then you have also created a system that incentives departure.

A patrolman 1st class with 20 plus years of experience makes $50,180 per year. If they wait and retire at 22 years and 10 months of service they will receive 80% of that pay equaling $40,144 per year. When they return they will earn $41,745.60 as a patrolman 1st class, jumping to $43,825.60 after 1 year. In other words, they will be making $83,969.60 per year. By retiring, they get a $33,789.60 raise. They'd be crazy not to retire, particularly since they've topped out in pay.

The rehire program is simply a stop-gap measure that only slows attrition. When you rehire a retired officer, you have a net gain of zero, better than a net loss but we're really incentivizing the wrong thing. Not to mention our Eyes tell us that senior officers have not received a pay raise in 10 years.

We've got an idea... Perhaps it's time that the city council and Mayor Marty get together and decide to pay all of the officer's better and incentivize continued service with additional benefits, instead of building arenas and giving HUGE tax breaks to developments like Mesa Del Sol and developer Forrest City Covington. After all, how can we have confidence in our businesses and our daily lives when we can't keep crime fighters on the street?

The bottom line here is that Mayor Marty and the council are responsible for police protection or lack thereof. It's their first responsibility. The very fact that this no confidence vote has been placed in motion should give us all pause; and it's a reflection not only on Chief Schultz but on the Chavez administration as well.