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

Jul 31, 2007

Not a Crime After All

By now everyone knows that most counties and the state itself face jail overcrowding problems. With the state's population growth of about 117 people a day, which according to UNM's Bureau of Business and Economic Research places New Mexico's population over 2,000,000 (ABQ Journal - Subscription), it's no surprise that our jails are full almost before they open. Bernalillo County's Metropolitan Detention Center is the perfect example.

In 2004, the average inmate population at the west side jail was around 2,000 on any given day (ABQ Journal - Subscription). According to jail officials the jail is now running at 122% of capacity or around 2,440 inmates. To us that means that the police are doing their jobs. By putting criminals in jail they protect the rest of us... end of story.

Unfortunately judges have traditionally taken a dim view of jails that are overcrowded. That's understandable to a certain point, but jails and prisons shouldn't be country clubs either. In our opinion, they should be a place that guests should want to do just about anything to stay out of. But we digress...

The result is that county officials are caught between population growth, the state who won't take charge of prisoners unless they serve over 364 days, judges who often gerrymander sentences to keep offenders out of the state "big house," and rising health care costs that the county is responsible to provide its inmates.

In typical bureaucratic fashion, the solution being proposed is not to build more jails to keep the rest of us safe, but to change what is actually a crime in to a "civil" offense (ABQ Tribune). We agree with former Chief Metro Court Judge William Lang when he says, "It never made sense to me that someone who didn't get their dog neutered ended up in jail." (With the possible exception of The Mayer's (a.k.a. Sally Mayer) HEART ordinance, which should have landed her in jail.)

Unfortunately when a law is decriminalized like say uh... running red lights, due process rights go out the window along with an impartial judge. The accused stands in front of an administrative lackey who presumes you are guilty. (Reminds us of the old joke... "We'll give you a first class trial, followed by a right proper hangin.'") Cities and Counties LOVE the idea because along with (allegedly) solving their overcrowding issues they get to keep all of the money.

The Mayer proposed just this type of decriminalization last year. Thankfully the idea was euthanized this past May. However, today's Tribune story threatens to revive the idea under the banner of relieving overcrowding. Bernalillo County's Public Safety Director John Dantis is in favor of the idea.
Dantis is pushing the traffic tickets measure as a way for at least 3,600 people a year to avoid jail for minor traffic offenses, including improper lane changes, failing to yield, some speeding violations and not paying tickets or not showing up in court for such offenses.
Like guilt, sentencing on minor offenses should be determined by a judge. Legislatures should determine sentencing guidelines that fit the nature of the crime and take in to consideration the danger posed by the offender to the general public. In other words, jail time should continue to be an option for judges, which means that the offenses must continue to be criminal in nature. Further, it is imperative that the accused be tried before an impartial third party... a judge that is not employed by the same party as the prosecution.

If the Legislature wishes to act to reduce sentences for those proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to reduce jail overcrowding, let them risk the ire of their collective constituents. It simply makes no sense to find out that all of those criminal acts that people have been prosecuted for in the past aren't crimes after all, just so we can reduce inmate population and make a little additional money on the side.

Jul 30, 2007

Throwin' In the Towel

We received an email from Recall Marty organizer S Pyke yesterday to let us know that he has decided to end his recall effort.
When people complain and take action, even if they do not resolve that complaint, they at least did something. Sometimes losing is winning! I have ended my recall effort and my blog. Thank you for your interest and best of luck getting whiners motivated to take action.
- S Pyke
From the very beginning a successful recall of Mayor Chavez was a long shot. Just getting it on the ballot would have required over 20,000 signatures, a feat that is only possible with a large well-funded organization (or a really hacked-off electorate). With that being said, we applaud Mr. Pyke for his efforts. Taking on the powerful is always an undertaking that requires personal courage as you often become an easy target for criticisim whether justified or not.

One thing that is abundantly clear is that the current recall system works. In our opinion, the charter changed proposed by the city council to make it harder to recall councilors is not only unnecessary but unjustifiable.

Jul 29, 2007

3rd Strike?

It's been a bad week for councilor Harris. First his foes in district 9 qualified to place a recall on the ballot in October. Second, his legal challenge fell flat as we predicted. Now, Eye On Albuquerque readers have panned him in this past week's Eye Poll. That's three strikes in just a week and while the councilor may not yet be out he certainly looks like he's headed that way.

Folks, this was never even close with 60% of Eye readers disapproving of his job performance, 19% approved, 17% didn't know and 3% didn't care. Remember, this was an unscientific poll but the results certainly don't bode well for a councilor facing a recall where there are few compelling reasons for those not involved in the recall effort to vote.

Our Eyes theorize that Councilor Harris will try and convince his fellow councilors to hold a special election instead of placing his recall on the same ballot as the currently scheduled municipal election. Unfortunately for Harris, 2 of his fellow councilors could be hurt in their own re-election bids if they voted to spend taxpayer money on a special election just for Harris; which might make it hard for his foes to garner enough votes to recall the councilor.

Our guess is that the council will generally be unsympathetic towards the beleaguered Harris and will place it on the ballot along with the Councilor Protection Act and Increased Pay charter amendments.

Jul 26, 2007

Funny Business

We've been watching with some amusement the de'Pascal taxpayer funded pleasure cruise in (sometimes called a campaign) trying to change the subject. Ever since the Honey Bee was stung by The First Mate Sandra Richardson's email, Ms. de'Pascal has been desperately trying to get out of the spotlight. Frankly, we don't blame her. The Richardson email raised some interesting questions about Ms. de'Pascal's ability to lead and her choice of campaign staff.

Her response... call into question Councilor Winter's aspirations at APS. Ms. de'Pascal claims that Winter's expressed interest (ABQ Journal - Subscription) in the top job over at APS proves that he doesn't want the job as councilor. We're curious about the Honey Bee's logic here.

De'Pascal has been running on an education platform since day one. It's one of the things that amused us from the beginning since the Albuquerque City Council has no authority over Albuquerque Public Schools (even though they both have Albuquerque in their names). There are co-operative agreements and programs that the city helps to fund, but APS is a state funded institution that answers to the state legislature not the city council. Perhaps The Captain should explain that she's not running for school board or for the legislature.

Today, Joe Monahan picked up the flag for the Captain and his Honey Bee.
Now comes a de'Pascal supporter returning fire, questioning Winter's recently stated public interest in becoming the new superintendent of the Albuquerque Public Schools. "Does Winter plan on resigning his council seat if he gets the APS job, and which job does he really want--Super or Councilor?" emails a de'Pascal backer.
Any doubt that Transit Director Payne is involved in de'Pascal's run against Councilor Winter just buzzed away, as Captain Payne is often used by Monahan for political analysis and is known to be one of Monahan's "Alligators." The question raised by Councilor Winter - a question dutifully ignored by local newsrooms - was whether or not Payne was Captaining the de'Pascal Pleasure Cruise on city time.
(End Sidebar)
Ms. de'Pascal's assertion and that of her "backer" is really quite funny. Why would Councilor Winter resign? Mr. Winter already holds the position of Facilities Manager for APS, a position that pays well north of $100,000. (Which incidentally, is more than the mayor makes.) He has already shown the ability to represent district 4 AND hold a high profile position at APS. Even if he were already APS's Superintendent, there would be no conflict of interest. In fact, it might be an advantage to his district and the city for the Superintendent of APS to sit on the city council. Who knows, we might even be able to increase cooperation between the two?

The only one who would be sure to HATE having the APS Superintendent on the city council is none other than one Mayor Martin Chavez. Besides having to deal with the council he would have to compete with the executive officer of another powerful government entity that just so happens to be the one that the Almighty Marty has his heart set on taking over. Now THAT would be REALLY funny business!

Jul 25, 2007

APD Woes: Someone's Got To Pay

You probably remember the arrest for DWI of undercover State Police officer John Lytle back in January (ABQ Journal - Subscription). You may also have heard that officer Lytle was found not guilty of drunken driving this June (ABQ Journal - Subscription). Unless you spend a lot of time down at Metro Court, what you won't have heard about is the story of APD Officer Dawne Roberto.

Officer Roberto was the arresting DWI officer involved in the incident, and was therefore called upon to testify for the prosecution at the bench trial of officer Lytle. As such, one of her obligations was to meet with the defense team in a pretrial meeting; most of the time these pretrial meetings are very brief and are not conducted under oath. In this case, defense attorney Sam Bregman subjected Officer Roberto to a 2 hour pretrial grilling.

After her meeting with the defense, Officer Roberto realized that she had given the defense team some inaccurate information. Realizing that this could present a problem at trial, she brought her misstatements to the attention of the DA's office and asked for their guidance on how to proceed. The DA's office knowing that this case could end up a high profile case put two of their most aggressive ADAs Jeremy Peña and Jason Greenly on the case. Their advice to Officer Roberto was simple - tell the truth - which is exactly what she did.

Judge Daniel Ramczyk subsequently found officer Lytle not guilty. It's important to remember here that not everyone accused of DWI is guilty of the offense and more importantly a finding of not guilty doesn't necessarily mean that the prosecution, the judge, or the arresting officer made a mistake. Sometimes defendants really are not guilty.

You would think that the story would end there. In this case, it didn't. You see... Our Eyes tell us that the State Police Chief was none too happy about Judge Ramczyk's finding and called APD Chief Ray Schultz to let him know about it. That's when things started to go wrong for Officer Roberto.

After the trial (and subsequent angry phone call to Chief Schultz), officer Dawne Roberto was subjected to what could only be called retribution. She was put on 2 days of administrative leave, and stuck on desk duty upon her return. Captain Ron Hetes (one of the Almighty Marty's four henchmen from Jim Villanucci fame), claimed that ADAs Jeremy Peña and Jason Greenly had indicated that she had a credibility problem with the DA's office and over at Metro Court with Judge Ramczyk.

If true, Officer Roberto would have a problem as all three are greatly respected by the department and at Metro Court. The problem is... when Peña and Greenly found out about the allegations against officer Roberto, they went straight to her attorney and denied the allegations and let him know that she had done nothing wrong at trial. Judge Ramczyk echoed the sentiment of the two ADAs and even called her in to his chambers to let her know personally.

To make matters worse, she was told that Captain Hetes was conducting his own investigation and that if he "found" anything she would be turned over to Internal Affairs. But, if she were to voluntarily transfer out of the DWI unit, everything would go away.

It's important to note that the DA's office and APD lose DWI cases all the time and officers are not (and should not be) punished for failing to convict the offenders. One high profile example is the recent case of developer Jason "Mario Andretti" Daskalos, who was found not guilty of DWI and reckless driving (ABQ Journal - Subscription). The Daskalos case hinged on the testimony of a Porsche expert; testimony that directly conflicted with the testimony of the arresting officer.

In the end, officer Roberto took the deal and asked for a transfer to the Valley Command; which was, you guessed it... denied. Despite an opening at Valley Command and despite her 8 years of service, she was sent to the Westside instead. Some of you are thinking... so what? Officers don't always get to go where they want. A true statement, but the position at the Valley Command was filled by a rookie with zero seniority.

Worse, Dawne Roberto is not only one of APD's finest - she's a single mom caring for two young children and her invalid mom. Her transfer puts her as far away from them as possible without joining the Grants police department, as her family resides in the Northeast Heights.

Unfortunately, we hear about cases like officer Roberto's all the time. APD seems to be replete with stories of petty retribution. One indication of a serious problem is that every officer with any time served seems to be lawyered up. In this case, a fine officer whose only crime was telling the truth was forced out of a job she loved because of an angry phone call. Someone has got to pay... especially if it's the wrong person.

Eye Told You: Harris Recall Goes Forward

We hate to tell you we told you so... (Ok, so we really don't) but here goes. The district 9 recall folks over at announced "We Win!" about an hour ago. The Albuquerque Journal (Subscription) is confirming the ruling by Judge William Lang earlier this afternoon that the recall will go forward in October. Councilor Harris will be the first city councilor to face recall in nearly 20 years and if this week's Eye Poll is any indication, he's in trouble.

Jul 23, 2007

Marty's Panda Parlay

We can't quite understand Almighty Marty's obsession with adult sized children's toys. Marty's toy trolley has taken a detour through the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) but is still in the works, and now Marty's on the hunt again for his real life teddy bear. The proposed panda project is back on the radar after Marty's recent visit to China to - among other things - try and convince the Chinese to lease one of the San Diego Zoo's pandas to Albuquerque.

The original panda plan was a hotly contested item during the 2005 mayoral election. The council by a narrow majority opposed the panda project and the ruler of the 11th floor erupted threatening vetoes (ABQ Journal - Subscription). In the end, the proposed panda project died of natural causes, the Chinese didn't want to lease one to Albuquerque; even at $1 MILLION a year.

One of the arguments against the panda was that while it's fuzzy and cute (not to mention dangerous), it doesn't add its weight in Yuan (or dollars for that matter) to an already fantastic zoo. We seem to recall the exhibit alone would cost taxpayers $3 to $4 MILLION just to build the habitat to house the $1 MILLION a year panda. Pandas have also put pressure on zoo budgets that have them and forced increases in admission fees to cover costs associated with panda exhibits.

We have to hand it to Mayor Marty, although his choices in legacy projects may seem juvenile, he shows the single-mindedness and determination of spoiled child who is at long last denied their heart's most fervent desire. We hope that the council and the public are wise enough to continue to block Marty's attempts to build his legacy on the backs of Albuquerque taxpayers and their progeny.

Jul 22, 2007

Eye Poll: Readers Approve Taxpayer Financing

As you know we have serious problems with taxpayer financing. However, a majority of Eye On Albuquerque readers support taxpayer financing by a margin of 9%, with 53% supporting taxpayer financing, 44% do not support taxpayer financing, 1% don't know, 1% don't care. (Read the results of our unscientific poll here.)

We've had some good discussion regarding taxpayer financed elections. The original intent was to take money out of elections in an effort to make them "clean." We wish to thank Matt Brix from Common Cause for his thoughtful posts on the subject, even though we couldn't disagree more.

We've just begun our first foray into public financing and have already found some scary opportunities for abuse. In light of the Court House scandal, the $15,000 party financed by taxpayers through the Las Vegas School District, and the recent Housing Authority scandals, it's hard to believe we'll have to wait too long before this system of funding political ambition is exposed for what it really is.

Taxpayer financing is based upon the premise that people who run for office are good and noble; and some regardless of financing actually are. The trouble is we've already got enough elected officials feathering their nests without giving them the ability to pay off supporters who no longer can be linked to them through their financial support. The Albuquerque Open and Ethical Elections ordinance hasn't removed money from politics, it's simply hidden it.

There's nothing dirtier than forcing taxpayers to fund the political ambitions of candidates, while at the same time hiding the influences behind their campaign. We've already spotted the hand of the Almighty Marty pulling the strings of the de'Pascal campaign... who's really behind the other taxpayer financed campaigns? You can be sure that we'll be watching their expenditures very closely because there's really no other way to spot the man (or woman) behind the curtain.

This week the Eye Poll takes a look at embattled Councilor Don Harris. According to our Eyes the recall campaign has turned in over the 922 signatures required to force a recall in this year's municipal election. So unless a judge decides that the city clerk's (and our) interpretation of the city charter are in error, the people of district 9 will have the opportunity to be the first remove a city elected official. You have the opportunity to weigh in with your opinion in this week's Eye Poll.

Jul 20, 2007

Payne-ful (of it) Response

Not too terribly long ago we saw how the Marty boys and girls respond when they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar. In light of the way the rest of the Chavez administration reacts when confronted with the truth, it's no surprise how The Captain responded to being confronted with his role in the $35,000 de'Pascal pleasure cruise.

Blogger Mario Burgos got a response from Captain Payne on his involvement in the de'Pascal campaign. Like "Linda" (CFO Gail Reese's "alter-ego") Payne reiterated his Journal denial (Subscription) of involvement (sort of), but managed to poke yet another hole in de'Pascal's campaign boat and his own credibility.

You see, The Captain claimed that he asked Sandra Richardson to "please forward this to Mike Collins. He'll be consulting Paulette on the campaign." Payne's response actually does two things... First it confirms the authenticity of the email posted on this site. Second, it's abundantly clear from Ms. Richardson's email, that The Captain is none other than Payne himself.

Perhaps Mike Collins is The Captain's Little Buddy? What we do know for sure is...
a. Greg is the only Captain of this ship. He creates the strategy. He decides.
b. I am his First Mate. I report to the Captain. YOU report to ME. Period.
c. You are the candidate. You report to me....NOT "if you get time" between all the "flowers." You MAKE time. I'm not your mother...I'm your coach. This is the PLAN. You want to win? You follow Greg's Plan. Period.
- Sandra Richardson Email
The Captain's Little Buddy (Mike Collins) is not mentioned anywhere in Richardson's email tirade. Payne desperately wants to create the impression that he has nothing to do with this taxpayer funded fiasco. His involvement not only raises ethical questions (Easily gotten around since Sandra Richardson's husband Cliff sits on the ethics board) but exposes the role that Marty is playing in the upcoming election.

Jul 19, 2007


According to our Eyes, APD's 5th floor is trying to at least appear to make amends with DETECTIVE Sergeant John Guilmette. No... they're not giving him back his job or a comparable one as required by federal law, but they are taking him out of the old broken down police cruiser they forced him to use instead one of the new Tahoes that his seniority should have earned him.

The Eyes have it that DETECTIVE Sergeant John Guilmette will be issued one of the new Tahoes tomorrow (Friday). Of course, if he had received a comparable job to the one he had before he left for Iraq, he wouldn't need one of the new Tahoes.

According to our Eyes, the move has not deterred Detective Sergeant Guilmette as he plans to move forward with the Tort claim. What this move does is give the 5th floor political cover. Look for the Chief or one of his spokespeople to claim that one of the new SUVs just became available. Who knows, it might even be true, but with their recent track record (number of officers on the street, tweaking the red light scam-era numbers, etc.) we tend to doubt it.

Cam-Payne de'Pascal

Any doubt that the Almighty Mayor himself is behind the de'Pascal candidacy has all but vanished. It looks like team Marty is trying to knock off a political rival and hide his involvement by sending in Transportation Director Greg Payne to "captain" Paulette de'Pascal's District 4 pleasure cruise for councilor.

In addition, the Eyes have it that Director Payne is doing his dirty work on our dime. (Of course that's not really any different than Ms. de'Pascal running her campaign on our $35,000... but we digress.) The following email was forwarded to us and it appears to be laying down the law to "honey bee" candidate Paulette de'Pascal.

From: "Sandra P. Richardson"
Date: July 14, 2007 7:39:55 AM MDT
Cc: "Sandra P. Richardson" Subject: Paulette, THE PLAN and the structure

While you ask for structure, you resist it like a honey bee, flitting from person to person, seeking their advice and opinion...wearing yourself and us out. Not a winning strategy in any political campaign...especially this one. Hard to be the candidate and not the consultant, isn't it?

Yesterday, I was talking with Greg. We worked out what HE needs YOU to do and I fully support because I trust Greg and know that if you follow this Plan, you WILL win. If you continue to avoid, you can cost yourself the election.

Here's the structure we're committed to:
1. Greg is THE Captain of the team. He's the ONLY person to whom you seek political advice. He's THE strategist...period. (He's "gold" for this campaign.)
a. Do NOT undermine his efforts by being a "honey bee." Frustrating for him, frustrating for me, frustrating for you.
b. Everyone else is just signature helpers...NOT strategists. If you indulge in the "honey bee," you sacrifice winning...period.
c. "Loose lips sink ships." In this case, being a "honey bee" compromises your campaign. You cannot discuss the elements with anyone else. Period. This is not a tea party, this is WAR. Period.

2. I agree with Greg. I have made a commitment to him and to you. My role is to work with Greg, find out what his game plan is for that period of time and then work with you to make sure you follow. Period.
a. If you have a concern, you tell me so that I can tell Greg. Period. No honey bee.
b. You have to follow this structure to protect Greg and me and yourself. Period.
c. Greg is held ethically to very strict guidelines...he cannot indulge your need to hear from him every day...that's why we've worked out this plan.
d. I'm your coach ,as I committed mid May!! Period. As such, you MAKE time for me, first.

3. THE PLAN-structure:
a. Greg is the only Captain of this ship. He creates the strategy. He decides.
b. I am his First Mate. I report to the Captain. YOU report to ME. Period.
c. You are the candidate. You report to me....NOT "if you get time" between all the "flowers." You MAKE time. I'm not your mother...I'm your coach. This is the PLAN. You want to win? You follow Greg's Plan. Period.
d. Caleb is the manager of compliance and your schedule. He does NOT take a trip or day off to play without checking The Book first, assuring that nothing is due. He let's me know if and when he leaves...and assures ME that nothing is due. Period. He earns the money funded by the pubic. period.
e. EVERYONE else is a helper ONLY for door-to-door.

4. . Everyone else, EVERYONE else is NOT for you to discuss any cannot indulge or you will sink your candidacy and us along with it!
a. They help with going door to door. Period.
b. They are NOT the ones you turn to for "What should I do."
1) Tony, et al, help you by walking door to door...period. He is NOT your strategist...he works for Greg in this campaign. He is not the "go-to” guy.
2) Eddie is NOT. You do NOT discuss stuff with him. He keeps you company on the door-to-door, Talk about other stuff. "Loose lips..."
3) Not your old buddies, relatives, especially girlfriends.
4) Not other candidates. This is not 8th grade.
5). NO one, nada, nil.

5. THE PLAN-Per Greg, this is what you focus on...and only this:
a. Keep walking getting signatures...lots and lots of signatures. that’s ALL.
b. You do not need to do anything else unless it falls under "compliance."
6. Caleb, as the publically paid person, has the responsibility to organize the paperwork from the City Clerk's Office and be responsible for your compliance with the rules.
a. As promised, I will coordinate with him...not you.
b. He will inform you when and what you need to do and you will comply with whatever the paperwork says.

c. He can always check with Kelli on your do NOT.
d. as the paid manager, he does not take off unless he let's me know that all is okay, nothing is due. He tells me.

5. Caleb will maintain your do NOT schedule without clearing with him...remember, "I have to check with my manager."
a. Real easy to do.
b. You cannot "try,"
c. You have to make that commitment to the campaign.
d. You make that commitment to those of us who are working (Greg, Caleb, me) for your success.
You wanted structure...I've been trying for several months to bring you structure with a little success but there's still too much frustration for all.
You owe your campaign the commitment to follow what Greg and I have the experience to know. YOU WOULD DEMAND THIS OF YOUR OWN CLIENTS!
The only way this campaign will fail is if you do not follow The Plan.. You absolutely must. Or, you're wasting your time and ours.
You have a tendency to bring this to everyone you know, get their input and cherry-pick what you think will work for you. BUT YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN THE CANDIDATE. You are not objective and the people you ask are not experts nor do they know the District 4 political scene nor will they have to "pick up the pieces" if this campaign "goes South."
No more 8th grade stuff. This is serious...for Greg, for me and for you. We all have a great deal at stake. You absolutely need to put your candidacy in Greg's hands. You have to trust him...
He's won every campaign. He's savvy and experienced and believes strongly in do I. BUT, Paulette, you can be your own worse enemy. When you're unsure, you indulge in the "honey bee" syndrome, trying to get a secure feeling inside.
Campaigning takes personal discipline. Do what you do best: get signatures.. Can you imagine if you had 5,000 signatures what the impact would be on your campaign???
So, focus on just one thing: getting signatures...get to know as many constituents as you possibly can. You do this so well. Capitalize on your strength. Only you can do this part well.
Make time, first, for me to coach you on the background for issues that you will need at debate and forum time.
I expect your compliance to Greg's plan. Greg expects your compliance to his Plan.
Starting now...
As you can see, the $35,000 de'Pascal pleasure cruise has already sprung a serious leak and the "First Mate" is clearly irked with passenger de'Pascal for her lack of discipline. More telling is that "Captain" Payne is clearly setting the course; a course that meets with the approval of the 11th floor.

The "Captain" denied his involvement in the de'Pascal candidacy just today (ABQ Journal - Subscription) saying that he had been approached but he didn't have the "time or energy to get involved." Ms. de'Pascal claims that Payne "is not affiliated with my campaign in any way." Rrrrriiight.

Mayoral involvement in a campaign is nothing new, particularly when knocking-off a rival and replacing them with a handpicked successor; one that will help you advance your own agenda (pandas, trolleys, arenas, red light scam-eras, the take-over of APS, etc.).

Transit Director Payne is known for running effective and particularly brutal campaigns, traditionally for Republicans. Our Eyes tell us that he's managed to alienate a large number of the party faithful over the years, so registering with the Party of Marty comes as no surprise.

However, the involvement of a top Chavez administration official that makes over $100,000 a year of taxpayer money looks pretty bad. Payne has every right to work on any campaign he chooses on his own time, but his denials of involvement in the de'Pascal effort ring hollow in light of the above "honey bee" email. Further, Mr. Payne either needs to be up front about his (and the mayor's) involvement and do it above board, or he needs to disassociate himself from the campaign and prove that he's done so.

Jul 18, 2007

Returning Fire - Tort Claim Filed

Friday, we told you the story of APD Sergeant John Guilmette who went to serve and fight in Iraq only to find he'd been stabbed in the back by APD at home. After a 9 month tour of duty, Detective Sergeant Guilmette returned not to a hero's welcome, but to what amounts to a demotion at APD.

The APD brain trust including Deputy Chief Michael Calloway decided not to give the sergeant his old job back or even a comparable one as required by federal law. Instead, they put him back in uniform and placed him in an almost used up vehicle at a time when every other sergeant with his level of seniority was getting brand new Tahoes.

Our Eyes tell us that yesterday Sergeant Guilmette fired back when his legal team officially filed his tort claim against APD. It will be interesting to see how the city and APD handle the situation now that the legal process has been set in motion.

Jul 17, 2007

The Missing Piece of the Puzzle

How do you really get to know a candidate? One way is to go to a website (Rey Garduño, Paulette de'Pascall, Brad Winter, Debbie O'Malley). Now that you're back... how much do you really know about the candidates or the incumbents?

You could also go to candidate forums, read campaign literature, surf the net and read blogs like this one, follow them through the mainstream media, or perhaps you'll be lucky enough to meet one of the candidates on your very own doorstep. If you manage to check each of the above sources of information off your list... now how much do you really know?

Each of the above items is a piece of the puzzle. When combined, they can form a picture of a candidate or an elected official. However, there's still one important piece missing; one that cannot be spun, suited to individuals or situations, and although it's often tried, this piece can't be denied (even if you forget to hit the "finalize" button). The all important piece, the one that not only completes the puzzle but brings it into absolute focus is the one that shows who a candidate associates with.

In today's Tribune there's a story about a group called the Committee for Responsible Budgets who ran ads attacking Councilors Winter and Harris over the most recent council / mayoral spat that had to do with the budget and $9 MILLION for the Westside Metropolitan Detention Center. Turns out three of the group's backers can be tied directly to the Almighty Mayor himself.

That story and its implications can not be written about any of the 5 candidates taking taxpayer money to further their political ambitions; not because they're not backed by special interest, but because those interests can remain unknown. A giant piece of their ideological picture can remain missing. What do they really stand for? Are they really telling you the truth in their campaign literature or when they're standing on your doorstep?

Our Eyes tell us that Transit Director Greg Payne has been spending time with Paulette de'Pascal. Some say that the mayor himself recruited her to run against his council rival Brad Winter. If we had a contributor list to look at we could make comparisons. If her contributors are the same people that donated to the mayor, then we'd know a lot about how she'd vote if elected.

Garduño, running for the District 6 seat vacated by Martin Heinrich... Besides using a taxpayer funded email and being an advocate for "clean" elections, what else does he stand for? And what special interest group (if any) has encouraged him to run?

The Albuquerque Open and UN-Ethical Elections ordinance has created a veil of secrecy that surrounds these candidates. Who do they associate with? What do they really believe? Frankly, a candidate that's freed from their associations can tell voters whatever the voters want to hear because there's no record of a contradiction based on association to compare their statements with.

Matt Brix from Common Cause is a frequent poster here on Eye On Albuquerque, particularly when we talk about taxpayer financing of elections. He's eloquent and makes good arguments for taxpayer financing. Further, we're going give him credit for genuinely wanting to make elections more accessible. However (you knew this was coming), his advocated system of "clean" elections doesn't take money out of politics, it takes money out of our pockets while allowing candidates to hide their true colors; both are fundamentally wrong.

Every piece of a candidate's picture is important. Who a candidate's supporters are is probably MORE important to judging a candidate and their character, than any other piece of the puzzle. We don't have a problem with contribution limits and we believe that contributions should be made public, but forcing a group of people to fund another's political ambition is wrong. Obfuscating their supporters and their true objectives is undeniably dangerous.

Jul 16, 2007

Eye Told You: Sour Apples

It seemed like the electrons hadn't dried on our last taxpayer financing of municipal elections post before the poster child for why we shouldn't use taxpayer money to fund elections went out and bought herself a $3,000 apple (hat tip: Joe Monahan). According to Paulette de'Pascal's most recent campaign expenditure report, the District 4 council candidate purchased a $2,990.26 computer from the Apple Store at ABQ Uptown.

According to Monahan, Ms. de'Pascal cleared the purchase with the city attorney's office. The fact is, like it or not the purchase of a computer even a $3,000 computer is allowed by the Albuquerque Open and UN-Ethical Elections ordinance.
8. Communication Systems Purchase or lease of computers, telephone systems and other related communication devices used in campaign activities.
To our knowledge, the ordinance does not address the disposition of purchased items after their use in a campaign. Besides, who would want some of the crap produced by campaigns for unsuccessful candidates (or for successful ones for that matter)?

Meanwhile over at one of the other "clean" campaigns, Rey Garduño's defending his decision to use his UNM email for campaign purposes. First of all, it's clearly unethical and according to the Journal article (Subscription) campaigning using university supplies or equipment is not allowed by UNM. Get ready for Garduño's defense... he's not a university employee because he's retired.

That's got to be the dumbest excuse we've heard in a long time.
Along with the other retirement benefits that he may be receiving he's receiving a free email account from the university. Since the University of New Mexico is a state institution, it receives large amounts of tax dollars. In fact, UNM depends on tax money to stay open. That email account is no different than a pencil, or paper, postage, our tax dollars purchased the computer that hosts it, pays for the salaries of the people who maintain it, and the connection to the Internet that allows Mr. Garduño to access it.

That's the simple reason that regular employees of cities, states, and state universities are not allowed to campaign using their computers or email accounts. Retired or not, it's clearly unethical even if it's not specifically disallowed. Not to mention, there are more than enough email providers like yahoo or gmail that would provide a FREE account. Plus, since the Albuquerque Open and UN-Ethical Elections ordinance has generously provided $25,902.50 for his campaign he could easily afford a paid email account.

There's more to this little taxpayer funded fiasco. According to Paulette de'Pascal's July 13th campaign expenditure report, in addition to the dubious and legal Apple purchase she gave $400 to the Democratic Party of New Mexico. We'd love to know exactly what type of "expense" she incurred, because it looks an awful lot like a donation to her party.

We would like to believe that the original framers of this "clean" elections bill didn't intend for it to be used to fund political parties. There's something fundamentally wrong and inherently dirty when taxpayer money is given directly to political parties, and we don't care if it's Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or the Nudists for New Mexico party. (Ok... We made that last one up.)

Whether it's an email account, an apple computer, or a donation to the party, it's all taxpayer money being spent for political purposes. The only difference between Rey
Garduño's email account and Paulette de'Pascal's Apple computer is that the university recognized that state employees should not be using taxpayer money for their own political ambitions. It's a lesson that we should re-learn here in Albuquerque.

Jul 15, 2007

Eye Poll: Pay Them

Last week's Eye Poll turned out to be somewhat of a surprise. The city council has been busy fighting with the mayor and has made some controversial moves lately like the 19th Century Street Car tax and the Councilor Protection Act. Even so, Eye On Albuquerque readers voted to give councilors a raise from approx $10,000 a year to almost $30,000 a year.

In our unscientific poll 46% voted to raise the compensation for councilors to 33% of the mayor's salary, 35% believed that the current compensation was adequate, 10% thought they were already paid too much, 6% believed they should receive more than $30,000 a year, and 3% didn't know. (See the full results here.)

We believe that despite our displeasure with a number of councilors, their job takes more effort than dropping in to city hall 3 Mondays a month to vote. It's really a full time job and compensation should reflect both the expectations of constituents and importance of the office.

This week we're taking a look at taxpayer financing of municipal elections. As you may have guessed the Albuquerque Open and Ethical Elections ordinance is one of our pet peeves. We think it's madness to give taxpayer money to candidates to run for office. In New Mexico we've already got a problem with elected officials feathering their own nests with taxpayer money; we don't need the unelected getting in on the act too.

This week it's your turn to tell us your opinion by voting in the Eye Poll. Don't forget to vote!

Jul 14, 2007

Don't Like the Rules...

According to the Albuquerque Tribune embattled city councilor Don Harris has decided he doesn't like the city clerk's interpretation of the City Charter. You see the clerk ruled that 922 signatures would be required to force a recall election of Councilor Harris; a number determined by the charter in the following manner:
The number of qualified voters required to sign the petition shall be a number more than 25% of the total number of votes cast at the election of the officer whose recall is proposed;
Since the councilor was elected in a runoff election ("the election of the officer whose recall is proposed"), the total number of votes cast was just 3,689. Harris would like a judge to rule that the charter really meant the regular election. In our opinion, the clerk's interpretation was the correct one. Mr. Harris did not become Councilor Harris until he defeated former Councilor Cummins in the run-off election. Had he lost that run-off, Councilor Harris would have remained Don Harris - former candidate.

Despite Councilor Harris' wishful thinking, the election in question is the run-off and the signatures required remain 922. We don't see how a judge could rule in Harris' favor, but it wouldn't be the first time that a judge created law out of thin air. Frankly, it comes as no surprise the the ghost writer of the Councilor Protection Act would sue to try and change the rules simply because he doesn't like them, or in this case because they don't work in his favor. After all the ruling Councilor Harris is seeking is identical to the charter change that our Eyes told us he suckered Councilor Loy into sponsoring; a ballot question that will appear on October's ballot.

Our Eyes tell us that the councilor's intentions were known to folks involved in the recall. You can bet Admiral Lowe is ready with a response. We bet that Councilor Harris' decision to sue will do more to help the recall effort than it does to help his cause. It's a little like trying to put out a fire with gasoline... or maybe jet fuel. You generally just create a highly combustible situation.

Other Recall News
While Mayor Marty is off on his panda hunt in China, S Pyke's recall effort goes on. According to a recent email Pyke has just under 30 days to finish getting the almost 22,000 signatures required. Albuquerque has never seen a successful recall of a city elected official so it's unlikely that this one will be successful even if a recall election takes place in October. But, you never know... who would have thought we'd be reading about not one, not two, but three recall efforts underway for two mayors and a hapless councilor?

Jul 13, 2007

APD Woes: Supporting the Troops?

Back in April, a group of rank and file officers moved to force a no-confidence vote regarding APD Chief Ray Schultz (read about it here). Ultimately the vote was averted after Mayor Marty and the Chief worked out a deal with the officers who made the motion. Shortly after the motion was withdrawn, we held our own vote... well; poll to determine what Eye readers thought about the performance of Chief Schultz. The result, 60% of Eye Poll participants disapproved of the Chief's job performance and only 33% approved.

As you may have noticed from the comments left on this blog, Eye On Albuquerque enjoys a large law enforcement readership. Our Eyes over at APD tell us that it's no surprise that the Chief's job approval rating was so low... it mirrors the morale of APD's rank and file.

There are a number of reasons officers give for their dissatisfaction, but generally speaking it boils down to a feeling that the 5th floor is not treating them fairly. Take for example the case of Detective Sergeant John Guilmette.

Sergeant Guilmette worked as a supervisor in the Impact unit at APD. The Impact unit investigates just about every type of crime excluding homicides and rapes. On October 1, 2006, Detective Guilmette was deployed to Iraq.
It takes a special person to answer his country's call to arms. As hard as it is to be a police officer here in Albuquerque, it's infinitely harder to face brutal adversaries whose only objective is to kill you in the most graphic and highly visible manner possible. Terrorists make our worst gang-bangers look like small school children by comparison.
(End Sidebar)
Sergeant Guilmette resumed his law enforcement career with APD July 2nd, after an 9 month deployment (that's 3/4 of a year to those of you on the 5th floor). His position in the Impact unit, that had been left vacant for almost his entire 9 month deployment, had just been filled. Since he held the rank of sergeant and is qualified to be a detective, Sergeant Guilmette requested to be assigned to any other detective unit.

Seems reasonable to us that an officer who is qualified to be a detective and holds the rank of sergeant should at the very least be returned to an equivalent position as a detective. In fact that's exactly what federal law says.
If you are eligible to be reemployed, you must be restored to the job and
benefits you would have attained if you had not been absent due to
military service or, in some cases, a comparable job.
To us this isn't the least bit ambiguous. Service men and women who are eligible to be reemployed (those serving for 5 years or less of cumulative service with a specific employer), must be returned to their job and benefits. Not only can you not be penalized for you absence, but job advancement is also required. The worst case scenario for a returning service man or woman is that they must be given a comparable job.

The brain trust on the 5th floor (specifically Deputy Chief Michael Calloway) didn't see it that way. DC Callway not only denied Sergeant Guillmette's request to be assigned to any detective unit, but he returned him to uniformed duty.

Now, uniformed sergeants make the same pay as detective sergeants. However, detective sergeants must be qualified through testing to become a detective sergeant. In other words, a uniformed sergeant can't just bid (the bid system allows officers to move from one position to another based on seniority) to be a detective sergeant. A detective sergeant can choose to enter the bid process and put his uniform back on.

Sergeant Guillmette of course contacted his attorney (What does it say when every officer has an attorney?) who contacted the city attorney's office. When asked about Detective Guillmette's case, the city attorney confirmed that APD must return Detective Guillmette to his job and subsequently notified APD and DC Calloway of the requirement.

Despite the notification by the city attorney's office and despite the very clear language in USERRA, DC Calloway refused to return Sergeant Guillmette to his position as a detective. To make matters worse, Sergeant Guillmette was subsequently assigned a vehicle with over 90,000 miles at a time when every other uniformed sergeant is being assigned brand new Chevy Tahoes. (Can you say reprisal?) Vehicles, like many things, are assigned on the basis of seniority and Detective Guillmette has over 20 years of service with APD.

Our Eyes tell us that the Chief's position is that a sergeant, is a sergeant, is a sergeant. With the additional requirements to become a detective sergeant that is clearly not true. In addition, the Eyes have it that there are detective sergeant slots available.

According to our Eyes, Detective Sergeant Guillmette contacted another veteran, Congresswoman Heather Wilson, for help today. It seems that he already has his attorney, the law, the city attorney (although don't expect them to admit it when their client gets charged with a USERRA violation), and hopefully his congresswoman on his side.

It's too bad that while Detective Guillmette was braving IEDs and terrorists in Iraq, that the 5th floor was busy stabbing him in the back at home. It's no wonder APD has a morale problem. They simply don't support their own troops.

----Editor's Note----
It has been called to our attention that we made two errors in the above post. The first, we referred to an 18 month deployment, which was actually 9. The second, lest we start taking ourselves too seriously - had Detective Guillmette braving enemy birth control in Iraq (IUDs), when in reality he was braving IEDs. We are currently unaware of any incidents where our troops were endangered by enemy IUDs. Both errors have been corrected in the above post. Sorry for the confusion and the unintentional humor.

The Eye

Jul 12, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Play

Wednesday, the Journal ran a story about the Albuquerque Open and Ethical Elections code (ABQ Journal - Subscription). As we told you in June, council candidate Paulette de'Pascal who is running against incumbent councilor Brad Winter, is in the midst of both a bankruptcy and a bitter divorce. (You'd think that now's not the best time to be running for public office.) The thing about the Journal story is that it glossed over the very real problem of public election financing abuse.
In the case of de'Pascal, City Attorney Bob White said her campaign money won't be tied up by the bankruptcy. He said the money was distributed to a campaign account, and her personal bankruptcy should be irrelevant.
The fact is it doesn't matter whether the money starts out being co-mingled with Ms. de'Pascal's personal finances when she controls the distribution of funds. Take a look at the list of allowable campaign expenditures created by AOEE:

1. Salary or other payment to those providing bona fide services, including
but not limited to consulting, polling, communication and advertising services to
the campaign, provided that such person is compensated at a fair market value.
2. Admissions to sporting events, concerts, theater or other forms of
entertainment for the purpose of conducting campaign activity.
3. Dues, fees, parking or gratuities at a country club, health club or other
recreational facilities where such costs are a part of a specific fundraising event.
4. Purchases of food, beverages and/or supplies used exclusively for a
campaign fund raising event, but not including alcoholic beverage.
5. Minor Cost Items Purchase of clothing or other items of de minimus
value used in the campaign. Clothing shall be a valid campaign expense only
when it has a campaign message as part of the clothing or is used as a uniform
for campaign staff and/or volunteers.
6. Campaign Materials. [See definition in Part A].
7. Compensation to Campaign Staff.
8. Communication Systems Purchase or lease of computers,
telephone systems and other related communication devices used in campaign
activities. [Section 8 (D) (1) – (6)].
9. Campaign headquarters and offices and expenditures related to such
headquarters and offices such as, security deposits, utilities, television reception,
and janitorial services.
Pay particular attention to items 1, 7, 8, and 9; salaries, staff, purchase of computers and communications equipment, and even headquarters - all are allowed. We don't know about you, but we can think of at least a half dozen ways to spend the money (generously provided by taxpayers) that are allowable but could have nothing to do with getting elected.

You may remember the stories about how some "victims" of hurricane Katrina decided to use their government issued $2,000 debit cards. Tattoos, Strippers and Louis Vuitton handbags were among the items purchased using our money (WorldNetDaily). There were criminal investigations into the abuses (ABQ Journal - Subscription) that totaled as much as $1.4 BILLION or 16% of the total amount of aid distributed to victims.

The accusations against Ms. de'Pascal include embezzlement; specifically using company money to purchase personal items and jewelry. We don't know for whether she has committed the acts that she is accused of or not. After all, divorces can be a terribly messy business where accusations of improper conduct abound.

The truth is when you give someone money, they don't always spend it in way that you would or even in a ways that you would approve of. It is impossible to govern the funds in order to make sure that they are not used in a way that was not intended. On the other hand, privately funded campaigns are self-governing.

If a candidate uses money for things like say... $400 haircuts, there's a price to pay politically AND a candidate's fundraising will certainly suffer. Certainly there's pressure to make donors happy, but that pressure is balanced by the voters who may object to the association.

Publicly financed candidates can and will find a way to "legally" spend money in ways never intended. Taxpayers will simply continue to pour money into these campaigns as long as their opponents able to raise money in more conventional ways.

The Journal made Ms. de'Pascal look like a victim by noting that "she was
granted a domestic protection order" against her estranged husband. Our Eyes tell us that the judge also entered a protection order against her. It's the judicial equivalent of "just stay the heck away from each other."

We don't know who's at fault in the Ziemann - de'Pascal divorce. Frankly we don't care. The situation simply illustrates the dangers associated with this risky public financing scheme. You can be sure that eventually a candidate will abuse the public trust, will squander our money, and it will all take place before we even have a chance to vote for them.

Jul 11, 2007

Justifying the Means

We've all heard the old saying that the ends don't justify the means. It's a concept that implies hard work, fair play, and justice. These seem to be concepts that County Commissioner Teresa Cordova doesn't understand.

By now you've more than likely heard about the controversy caused by Ms. Cordova when she used her political influence to get APS upper management to change her son's grade from an F to a D in order for him to graduate (ABQ Journal - Subscription). An investigation into the incident by the State Board of Education exonerated the boy's principal and teacher who both refused to change young Jose Acosta's grade despite the pressure applied by Commissioner Cordova (ABQ Journal - Subscription).

Today, the commissioner decided to try and save her political career by dragging her son onto 770 KKOB to give her side of the story. In so doing, Ms. Cordova proved that the apple didn't fall very far from the tree. Her defense of her actions amounted to "I acted as a mother" and it's APS's fault for not intervening. Never in the hour long interview with host Bob Clark, did the commissioner even consider the idea that her son was to blame for his poor performance.

Young Acosta admitted, forging a grade report for his basketball coach, admitted turning in make-up work late, admitted being absent 17 days of some 45 in the third 9 week period, admitted that he only earned a 7% during the same report card period, and yet somehow believes that he EARNED his diploma. What's worse is his mother Commissioner Cordova - a PhD. and UNM associate professor - believes it too!
Makes us want to review Commissioner Cordova's doctoral work. Is it even possible that her students learn anything?!
(End Sidebar)
Diplomas are a cumulative effort. If you don't complete the requirements ON-TIME, you should NOT GRADUATE ON-TIME. Further, if you don't complete the requirements AT ALL, you should not graduate... EVER. There should have been a consequence associated with Acosta's actions (or lack of thereof). Instead, mommy commissioner stepped in to fix the problem and her little darling boy learned that for him, there are no consequences.

The ends justify the means... and it doesn't matter who gets hurt or how unfair it is. Elected officials who think this way are inherently dangerous and invariably gather power, money, and influence to themselves while taking it away from you.

Jul 8, 2007

Eye Poll: Keep it Easy

So much for suspense. Unlike other Eye Polls, this one was never even close. In fact, we're pretty sure the votes not to change the charter to make it more difficult to recall a councilor never dipped below 90%.

The final tally of our unscientific poll of 149 Eye On Albuquerque participants... 92% believed that the current rules for recalling councilors (and mayors) should remain the same, 6% believed it should be made harder (thank you councilors Loy and Harris for your participation) and 2% either didn't know or didn't care. We don't believe that these results would be too far off a poll of the general public, certainly not enough to predict a charter change come October. Looks to us like councilors will still be directly accountable to their constituents for the foreseeable future and will not have the protection of a friendly mayor or city clerk.

This week's Eye Poll takes on the question of whether councilors should receive additional compensation. Don't forget to vote!

Jul 6, 2007

Lack of Evidence

Way back in March of 2004 (ABQ Journal -Subscription) Attorney General Patricia Madrid agreed to look into APD's evidence room. There were allegations of theft, mismanagement, and lost evidence. There were scapegoats (Subscription) and reprisals (Subscription) and promises made by the mayor to fix the evidence room problems.

The scandal even claimed one victim, Chief Gilbert Gallegos, who was fired and then drawn and quartered in a 1,000 page report for failing to "launch an immediate criminal investigation into the alleged thefts from the evidence room, despite the recommendation of senior staff" (ABQ Journal - Subscription). The mayor then brought in current Chief Ray Schultz then lured former Sheriff Joe Bowdich out of retirement to lend credibility to the APD makeover that was supposedly underway.

We have been concerned that the moves by the media conscious mayor were more about creating the impression of fixing the problems than about actually correcting them. Our Eyes tell us that we were right to be suspicious. You see, it seems that the media spectacle created for the benefit of the masses hasn't resulted in the elimination of the underlying problems.

According to our Eyes the APD evidence room is still a sloppily run outfit. Evidence is often mis-tagged, misplaced, and improperly recorded. Evidence including money and jewelry can often be found on the floor with no indication where it came from or which case it belongs to.

Most disturbingly, the Eyes have it that when a defense attorney for Brandon Craig visited the APD evidence room to review their client's case evidence, many of the items were missing.
Brandon Craig stands accused of the 1999 murders of Kevin Shirley, Luis Garcia, and Matthew Hunt. Craig was arrested back in November after BCSO cold case detectives took a fresh look at the case and found enough evidence for the arrest. Read more about the investigation in the Albuquerque Journal (Subscription) here.
(End Sidebar)
Anyone who has ever watched a single episode of Law and Order knows that the first thing any defense attorney will claim is that the evidence no longer in the prosecution's possession or that is not made available to the defense is somehow exculpatory. The evidence room's main function is to make sure that any evidence stored within its confines remains secure, in good condition, and can be found for trial.

APD seems incapable or unwilling to correct the chronic problems associated with the evidence unit. Perhaps that's what happens when the Chief of Police hired to clean up the evidence room used to be in charge of the evidence room. That's certainly what happens when the mayor decides to fix a public relations problem during an election, rather than fixing the very real systemic problem in the evidence room.

Jul 5, 2007

Thoughts on Freedom

In CONGRESS, July 4th, 1776
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
These words started a revolution and a unique experiment in representative democracy that continues to this day. If you haven't had an opportunity to read the full text of the Declaration of Independence or haven't read it for some time, we suggest you do so.

The Declaration is truly an amazing document, not just for its main intent - the severing of ties with Great Britain - but for its acknowledgement of human nature.
...all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
In other words, we fear change and as a result we are willing to put up with just about anything in order to preserve the system with which we are familiar; particularly when the injustice or loss is perceived to be minimal or in the name of some greater good. Thus, human nature often forges the chains of our bondage.

We tend to view things on this blog in terms of freedom and liberty. We're always skeptical when government regulates, legislates or generally sticks its nose into anyone's business. The result is always a loss of someone's liberty... someone's freedom. The question becomes - is the loss of freedom just and necessary for the peaceful operation of society?

Let's take a look at Marty's favorite cash cow... the Red Light Scam-era system. The system has "liberated" over $9 MILLION from Albuquerque drivers, accident rates at intersections are in many cases on the rise, and lives are still being lost. Public safety arguments are clearly invalid and no one can name a single fatality that would have been prevented by scam-eras.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
Sounds like a description of Marty's Kangaroo Courts that are hearing up to 500 cases per day. As you can see, it actually came from the Declaration of Independence and was one of the reasons the founding fathers gave for severing their ties with England. The Almighty Mayor (King Marty the First?) has set up a "court" system that is beholden to him and serves at his pleasure. The "court's" objective is predetermined and therefore its impartiality is non-existent.

Therefore, the Red Light Scam-eras are an unacceptable loss of freedom; one that is neither necessary nor just. We're not arguing that drivers have a right to endanger others by recklessly running red lights. We are arguing that the safe operation of a motor vehicle requires the freedom to exercise one's judgment in order to safely clear an intersection.

We can apply this same argument to a number of pieces of legislation that have been enacted recently. Take the cell phone ban - a ban that isn't enforced as frequently as the non-existent license plate cover ban; or how about the city's foray into animal husbandry - H.E.A.R.T. Are these areas that were either uncovered by other law or required the coercive influence of government?

What would the people who risked their lives by signing the Declaration of Independence think of our city government? Would they believe that it empowers those from which its powers derive, while protecting their liberty? Or would they believe that it is an ever increasing burden on those governed, slowly stripping them of their liberty?

Freedom dies the death of a thousand cuts and what is left is tyranny. Our city government uses the knife far too frequently and far too freely for us to remain truly free.

Jul 2, 2007

Wrap It Up!

So says Mayor Martin Chavez. You see the Chavez administration has entered into an open-ended contract to wrap city vehicles with a vinyl wrap that would transform them into... well we're not really sure actually.

We've spotted some of Transportation Director Greg Payne's city buses cruising around town sporting the GEICO Gecko. We've assumed that the city is charging GEICO (or any other advertisers) for the wrap AND hopefully for the ad space on the city buses. Now, the mobile billboard company and perhaps the other outdoor advertisers might have a problem with the city entering their domain, but we don't as long as the advertiser is paying for the service.

In fact, it's certainly a better way to subsidize a mass transit system. After all the advertiser is paying for a service that he deems valuable and the city is presumably using the money to offset the cost of mass transit so that we taxpayers aren't left holding the bag (or at least not all of the bag). That's how the free market is supposed to work.

What we're curious about is what the city plans to put on say... garbage trucks. As an advertiser do you really want your company associated with garbage? What about all of the other city vehicles? What are they going to put on the zoning inspectors car or Animal Control paddy wagon?

At a minimum of $2,000 per vehicle (garbage trucks may cost up to $7,000), there ought to be a darn good reason to put wraps around them; something like the vinyl wraps add 50 years to the vehicles useful life. As it is, the council doesn't like the idea of the unilateral decision to spend taxpayer money on wraps that don't seem to serve a purpose and that haven't been approved by the council.

Councilor Cadigan in a prepared statement, characterized the expenditure as "the most frivolous waste of taxpayer money [he has] seen in [his] six years on the City Council." As a result, Councilor Cadigan and Council President O'Malley have asked the City Auditor to look into the contract and see whether Mayor Marty has the authority to issue a contract that will potentially be worth MILLIONS of dollars without council approval. You see contracts of over $50,000 are typically subject to a competitive bid process and council approval.

There's no doubt that this is yet another shot in the escalating war between the 11th floor and the council. In our opinion, discord between the two is actually good for the public. If those two get along, the rate at which the city gathers power to itself and freedom from the rest of us is truly terrifying. Plus we'd hate see all of the city vehicles looking like this!

Jul 1, 2007

Chief Ray Schultz: Disapprove

A few weeks back the much talked about (at least on this blog) no confidence vote involving Chief Ray Schultz was withdrawn by the APOA members that originally called for the vote. Our Eyes tell us that Chief Schultz and Mayor Chavez really didn't want risk the chief getting a vote of no confidence, so they quickly met with the officers involved and addressed their concerns. We believe that problems go deeper than the few issues raised by the no confidence movement, so we decided to do a little vote of our own.

In last week's unscientific Eye Poll of 261 voters, Chief Schultz got an approval rating of just 33%. Eye On Albuquerque readers overwhelmingly disapproved (60%)of the job Ray Schultz is doing as Chief of APD, while 5% didn't know and 2% didn't care.

We want to remind our readers that the chief serves at the pleasure of the Almighty Mayor and that any disapproval numbers should reflect directly on the policies of the Chavez administration as well as the leadership of APD.

This week's Eye Poll takes on the issue of making it harder to recall city councilors. We talked about it here. In October, voters will get the chance to make their opinion law. This week, Eye Poll voters will get to voice their opinion on what should happen in October. Don't forget to vote!

Letters to The Eye: Tales From Scam-era Hearings

We're starting a new segment called Letters to The Eye. These are unedited letters that we found to be informative and are being published with the consent of the author. The content is being presented without any editing so that the integrity of the original letter is kept in tact.

Our first letter is from James Reich, a not so proud recipient of one of the Almighty's scam-era fines. Mr. Reich decided to fight the "citation" and the following is his tale... so far.

Tales From Scam-era Hearings

I am not a lawyer, just a regular guy. Nothing in the following is intended to be nor should it be used as legal advice. I do not have the knowledge or background to argue “due process” or constitutionality with the big boys. This is just my story and opinion so far.

I had an administrative hearing at City Hall on January 30, 2007, one-hundred and five days after the effective date of the notice of violation of my vehicle. The administrative hearing process was created by the STOP Ordinance and the administrative hearing officer is employed by or works for the Mayor’s office in city government. Per language in the STOP Ordinance, notices were and are routinely dismissed (if you ask for dismissal, they may not offer) if the hearing occurs after 90 days of the “effective date.” Hearing Officer Roberto Albertorio made up a new definition of “effective date” that afternoon for all who appeared and as the owner (they couldn’t identify the driver), I was ordered to pay up. I’ve been in Albuquerque 18 years and this was my first contact with City Hall. Never been in court, closest was jury duty.

Because I believe the hearing officer ignored clear and unambiguous language in the STOP Ordinance, within 30 days I filed (with a $122 filing fee) a request for an appeal with State District Court under rule 1-075, Rules of Civil Procedure. Legally, this is called a “petition for writ of certiorari.” In effect, it’s asking the District Court Judge to grant a review of the hearing. Under the STOP Ordinance, there is no right to an appeal, one may or may not be granted.

As I researched legalese while writing the petition and in preparation for writing a follow-up brief, I learned much about red-light cameras and their use in this country. Since the beginning of this year, they’ve been ruled illegal in Iowa and Minnesota, and the Michigan Attorney General issued an opinion letter against their use in that state. A decision should come from Ohio soon. A District Court Judge in Iowa ruled against their use in Davenport, which implemented an ordinance very similar to the one here in Albuquerque. In fact, I believe the ideas and much of the language in these ordinances actually comes from the contractors that lease the cameras. (The research has been a great civics lesson.)

The Minnesota case, recently upheld by the Minnesota State Supreme Court, struck down an ordinance in Minneapolis because it conflicted with Minnesota state law. The rationale was simple, straightforward, and similar to that used by the Michigan Attorney General. It made me take a good hard look at New Mexico state law.

And there it was:

Municipalities can pass ordinances that are "not inconsistent" and "not in conflict with" state law (NMSA 3-17-1 and 3-17-6).

Here's the state law that the STOP Ordinance is in conflict with: (begin excerpt)

34-8A-3. Metropolitan court; jurisdiction.

A. In addition to the jurisdiction provided by law for magistrate courts, a metropolitan court shall have jurisdiction within the county boundaries over all:

(1) offenses and complaints pursuant to ordinances of the county and of a municipality located within the county in which the court is located except municipalities with a population of more than two thousand five hundred but less than five thousand persons in the 1980 federal decennial census; provided that the metropolitan court shall not have jurisdiction over uncontested municipal parking violations;

(2) civil actions in which the debt or sum claimed does not exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000), exclusive of interest and costs; and... (end excerpt)

The key words are "shall" and "all,” it covers ordinances and civil actions.

So, the city's administrative hearing process set up under the STOP Ordinance appears to be in conflict with and inconsistent with New Mexico law because of jurisdiction. Therefore, the ordinance should be declared invalid. According to New Mexico law, jurisdiction belongs to Metro Court. Municipal home rule within New Mexico grants broad powers to cities, but does not allow conflict with state law. Now, my interpretation is worthless. It’s what a judge decides that counts.

So if my appeal is granted, I’ll ask the judge to declare the ordinance invalid. Failing that, we’ll cover what occurred during the actual hearing.

So, as you can tell by now, I’m against the STOP Ordinance and how it’s being practiced by the city. I must admit, I like the basic intentions espoused by the city, I just don’t believe they believe them. The “it’s all about safety” line rings hollow, “it’s all about money” is more like it. I am not against using traffic cameras in all instances, but I do believe their use to be very specific and very limited. So limited as not to be very profitable, especially not for the city or any contractor. Enforcement for profit is a dangerous road to travel and is “unsafe at any speed.” The city wants to implement more “civil penalties” for more infractions in the future, taking all of us further down this dangerous road.

Mr. Villanucci’s recent programs have provided ample evidence of questionable practices and the equally questionable rationale of our city’s leaders. I am very glad to hear of the class action suit led by attorney Richard Sandoval. I am very glad to hear of the ongoing efforts of attorney Paul Livingston. Faced with an administrative hearing officer that either was unfamiliar with, or chose to ignore language in the city’s own ordinance, I am fortunate enough to have the resources and desire to try and do something about it. Many that went before him that afternoon are not able to. Maybe I’ll win, maybe I won’t. I do believe that eventually this ordinance will be shot down or shut down. The city must win each challenge to maintain status quo, and I do not believe the odds are in their favor. I don’t believe the legislature, public opinion or the law is on their side.