Wednesday, November 29, 2006

No Child Left Behind at Highland?

What's wrong with this picture?

This is the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education meeting November 15, 2006.

It was not a very good display of democracy in action.

APS’s Uptown Blvd offices’ DeLayo-Martin community room is small with a Fire Marshal’s 60-occupant capacity, I counted 67 plus in the cramped room. There were an additional 20 chairs set-up as overflow in the hallway. A loudspeaker, put up hall that did not work, to the point that some spectators and even fellow journalism class students left, because they could not hear.

Citizens wishing to address the board must fill out an “individual’s request to speak” that might well have been written by a kindergarten teacher. It has the standard two-minute time limit imposed at most local governmental meetings. However, it also requires that the person promise to “refrain from emotional outbursts, directing personal attacks on any individuals, and agree to respect the duties of the presiding officer…”

Public comments are limited to only thirty-minutes.

Coordinator of Stop Wasting Albuquerque’s Taxes (SWAT) Silvio Dell’ Angela, seated, center in white shirt, questioned the potential impact of the “Mayor’s streetcar” on APS and announced a rally at La Cueva High school for Sunday Nov. 19. Calling the $80 to 100 million in state matching funds, to help pay for the “Trolley Folly,” a diversion of money that could go directly to the education system instead, he said.

Asking those who supported ethical standards to stand, several students who had gone through APS’s “Character Counts!” initiative program and a couple of parents stood. Ched MacQuigg, above standing, a candidate for the board said a senior APS administrator, with whom he had a dispute over the ethical conduct of a principal, quoted the administrator, “… it doesn’t hurt a kid when their principal lies to them.” MacQuigg called the administrator a liar over remarks made at an arbitration session.

This brought District 2 Board Member Robert Lucero, above, to call for the forfeiture of the remainder of MacQuigg’s time and his removal.

The Four Hills boundary change was the most hotly debated issue of the evening.

Of the 208 students in Four Hills 158 of them do not attend their assigned schools this year, including 62 of the 71 high school students. Only nine students attend their assigned high school, Highland while 19 attend Sandia and 18 attend Manzano, while the other 25 attend four other regular and alternative high schools.

The Four Hills neighborhoods approached APS asking that their area be redistricted to the closer high school, and that younger students attend the feeder schools in the Manzano cluster.

A Capitol Master Plan sub-committee made up of; Associate Superintendent Tom Savage, Capitol Master Plan Director Kizito Wijenje, Planner/Demographer Betty King, Transportation Director Patrick Garcia, Four Hills Neighborhood Association John Butcher Parent Representatives Howdard Kimberly, Laurie Hassler and Jane Sneddon made a recommend proposal to redistrict the Four Hills Neighborhood into the Manzano area. Administrators admitted that there was no representation from Highland on the sub-committee.

Newly elected Republican District 20 State Representative Richard J. Berry, right, City Councillor Don Harris spoke all favoring the proposal, and City Council Policy Analyst Javier Benavidez read a message from Council President Martin Heinrich against the proposal.

State Senator Shannon Robinson, below, whose district 17 includes Manzano High School boundary and eastern parts of Highland High School’s area asked for an additional minute but was initially refused by Board President Paula Maes. Robinson stated that he put a lot of financing into the system, having sponsored legislation that brought more than $275,000 directly to APS and that they would face legal action if they did not pay attention to the needs and wishes of the affected citizens, Maes relented and after Robinson’s two-minute expired he was not challenged. He pointed out that the unfunded federally mandated, No Child Left Behind program. made provisions for allowing parents to send their children to schools beyond the normal boundaries.

Board Member Leonard J. DeLayo Jr., right, a proponent of open enrollment, asked Superintendent M. Elizabeth Everitt, what effect would changing the boundaries have, if so few students attended their assigned schools.

DeLayo moved a delay that was supported by Acosta but lost on a 2-5 vote. The boundary change was then approved on a 5-2 vote, with Board Members Maes, Gordon Rowe, Berna V. Facio, Lucero and Mary Lee Martin supporting.

After the vote, Highland Principal Nicki Dennis, and supporters of Highland, had a discussion with City Councillor Don Harris, left, whose District 9 represents the Four Hills neighborhoods and much of the area of Manzano.

Dennis, right, complained that Highland was not at the table when the discussions took place and felt her school was being unfairly attacked and ignored.

A provision of the no child left behind program allows students to attend any school they wish. “The ramifications can be huge but are still unknown,” said Sander Rue who spoke about a second boundary issue involving a less controversial question on the westside. “What happens in athletics?" As schools may recruit student athletes who are now required to attend their assigned schools, Rue said afterwards.

So what's wrong with the picture?

Clearly the APS Board of Education is set up to allow the minimum amount of public participation as they possibly can by the use of an undersized room, the quashing of free speech, the limits on the right to associate and to petition for redress of grievances. When political representative who manage state purse-strings have to threaten to withhold funding and take legal action in order to get an extra minute to explain the complexities that surrounds the no child left behind program, what chance do citizens have in the face of political correct thought police enforced by board members who have no idea if what they perceive as personal attacks are not absolutely appropriate.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Arnie Sachs

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Nothing, but I had the chance and I failed to photograph prominent Washington photographer Arnie Sachs who died of bone cancer on Friday, Nov. 3. He was 78.

Sachs was not a household name, yet you may know his work. He took the photo of then 16-year-old Bill Clinton shaking President John F. Kennedy’s hand on July 26, 1963, during the American Legion Boys Nation’s visit to the White House.

In professional circles he is known for introducing the use of 35mm cameras to the White House press conference during the Eisenhower administration and pioneered satellite photo transmissions in the early 60s and the White House News Photographers Association honored Sachs with the lifetime achievement award for still photography in 2001.

As this election entered its last throws in the past weeks, Sachs came back into my mind.

In 1973, he gave me work with his Consolidated News Pictures Inc. It was co-located with the Congressional Photo Shoppe at 308 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C., just a few blocks east of Capitol Hill. It was a second-story business above a barbershop and deli, directly across the street from the John Adams Building of the Library of Congress.

He started by having me shoot new apartment complex interiors and exteriors. I shot using his Hasselblad. I used a very wide-angle lens for the interiors. He was leery of it, being very worried of distortion that could be introduced into the pictures.

Soon after he called me to shoot for him again. I knew that he liked my work because on the wall of the stairwell leading up to the store, he displayed about 10 large prints representing the work of the agency. The first two prints were from my first assignment and a third was farther up the staircase.

I nearly blew an assignment, however, when he sent me to the Israeli Embassy to photograph the ambassador. I didn’t have a flash, and the desk in the ambassador’s office was in front of a large set of windows causing a severe backlight situation. Sachs groused about the problem of an apparent near silhouette. But instead of firing me or refusing to use me again, he challenged my talent by sending me to the darkroom with my roll of negatives and instructions to make best of them. I worked for quite awhile before I got an acceptable print, then with a few more sheets of paper I produced a good image.

At the same time, but on my own, I covered the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 57th International 500-Mile Sweepstakes, on May 28, 1973, representing the Albuquerque News. My focus was on the hometown boys involved in the race: The Unser brothers, Bobby -- in the middle of row one -- and Al -- in the middle of row three, and Johnny Caples, chief mechanic for Joe Leonard’s car was also part of the coverage.

That was the year of the terrible first-lap fiery accident that so badly injured rookie David "Salt" Walther. The event was delayed by rain the next day, and Gordon Johncock eventually won on the third day in a rain-shortened race. Two other drivers were killed that year at the speedway: Art Pollard in practice and Swede Savage during the race.

I had concentrated on the Unser brothers at the front of the pack as the accident unfolded back in the sixth row. I could not see the front stretch and only could see the tops of the low-slung cars that slid into the infield below the pavement after the accident. I was presented with little to photograph, and I hadn’t caught the high drama.

I had fired off three shots at the end of the accident. they showed, what I have come to believe was the bravest act I have captured on film: race driver Wally Dalenbach in car 62 sliding into the infield of turn one, just past the overturned drivers section of Walthers 77 car.

Dalenbach had been in the middle of row seven, directly behind Walther. At the start of the race, A.J. Foyt Jr. jumped the start by pulling up from row nine, prior to arriving at the start/finish line’s yard of bricks, from directly behind Dalenbach and to pass the seventh row into the row six. There were then four cars wide in row six. The three cars assigned to the row were: Billy Vukovich, car 2, Salt Walther’s 77 and Jerry Grant, car 48. As the row squeezed right, Walther’s right front tire contacted Grant’s left rear tire. Walther’s car went airborne, flipping into the high catch-fence. A fuel tank ruptured, spraying almost 35 gallons of fuel into the crowd injuring, about a dozen spectators when it ignited.

When Walther’s car came back down to the track, the front end was gone and his feet were exposed. The car was inverted and was then struck by another car, which spun him around several times, shearing off the right rear tire; more fuel spilled and ignited, engulfing the width of the racetrack.

According to an unofficial Indy Motor Speedway web site, Walther came to rest right in front of Dalenbach. "I had the gloves on, so I grabbed the hottest thing, the turbocharger, which was one of the corners that was grabable," Dallenbach said. "We flipped it over and I didn't want to see him because I knew I had to race. So I just walked away."

My photographs show a slightly different account, however. Dallenbach slid past Walther, he ran back to the overturned car that was still on fire and into the invisible methanol flames. He grabbed what was left of the right rear axle. The turbocharger was mounted on the left side of the McLaren-Offy engine that was now upside down. Dallenbach lifted the car to almost 90 degrees before the half shaft appeared to break. Walther's car fell back on its top. Moments later several safety personnel, fire fighters and rescue workers arrived, extinguished the fire, turned over the car and extricated a badly burned Walther.

Walther spent several months in the hospital, slowly rehabilitated and returned to race the next year.

A couple days later, I had my negatives processed at the Congressional Photo Shoppe. Upon reviewing my negatives, Sachs had expected to see shots of the accident and said I had an obligation to picture the carnage as news. I had gotten what I could of the incident. These photographs have never been published, mainly because I had not stayed for the third day of the race and cover the entire event.

However, I did fulfill my assignment for the Albuquerque News which published a picture page of the Unsers and Caples, but not the accident, on June 14, 1973 with the headline, “Frustration Mars 'Indy' for Bob, Al.”

In spite of what Sachs saw in my lack of sports timing, he hired me full time as a darkroom technician at his shop in early July 1973.

With only a couple of weeks on the job for him, I chose to leave photography. I had previously applied for work at several law enforcement agencies and I was offered a deputy sheriff’s commission in Prince Georges’ County, Maryland. Sachs was a Democratic Party volunteer in Prince George's County and knew Sheriff Don Edward Ansell. Sachs suggested that I pursue my law enforcement interests.

I last saw Sachs in 1990. We talked about my decisions and how in spite of being a police officer, I was still involved in photography and videography. He supported both my decisions to go into law enforcement and to continue photography.

It occurred to me recently to contact Sachs. I wanted to see whether he had certain negatives in his archives that he might scan for my own files. I had photographed the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. in the spring of 1973. At the time, it might have been Yitzhak Rabin. My research shows that Rabin was Ambassador until Simcha Dinitz replaced him. I wasn’t sure which one I photographed. I didn’t contact Sachs; I wish I had.

Sachs passed his talents on to his son, Ronald, who is photographing for the Consolidated News Pictures Inc.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

2006 Election Returns

What's wrong with this picture?

...And sometimes the Road Runner just hunkers down and sits. He realizes that he’s not the one who's so cuckoo!

There comes a time when ones conscience has to take precedence over the social expectation of voting for one of two candidates in a race. I have been very close to this campaign, maybe too close. I have seen things I cannot stomach from representatives governing in my name. I left blank the decision in several races. I leave it to my fellow citizens to choose who will represent me; I choose not. A pox on both houses!

I went to get coffee at Starbucks this morning and they had Christmas decorations up. I said how could they have Christmas decorations up before the election is even over? The woman next to me said it might be Christmas before this election is over!

We still don't know who the Congresswoman from New Mexico District 1 will be.

Through about 98% of the vote count, Democrat Patricia Madrid was ahead. Then Torrance County came in and incumbent Republican Heather Wilson went ahead by 310 votes. Since then, her count has gone up by about 1,400.

Bernalillo County Clerk and victorious Secretary of State candidate Mary Hererra’s election officials are still hand counting messed up ballots that voters spoiled, or the optical readers couldn't read, or were outstanding "in lieu of," and provisional ballots. A red-eyed Hererra is shown here at the county warehouse 25 hours after the polls closed, still without a resolution. If it weren't so close it wouldn't matter, but it's down to every last vote.

I'm sure we're in for a recount and possibly court action. At least one heavy Republican precinct got 150 paper ballots delivered for 2,200 registered voters and they ran out within the opening hour. Voters left. Big problem in a race this close; otherwise it wouldn't be such a concern.

In other races, Republicans imploded. Nastiness abounded. There was more money spent on negative ads in this TV market than anywhere in the country.

Unofficial returns:

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman got 70.4%.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson got 68.7%.

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. N.M. District 3 (Northern N.M.) Tom Udall got 74.5%.

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. N.M. District 2 (Southern N.M.) Steve Pierce got 59.8%.

Incumbent Republican Commissioner of State Lands Pat Lyons got 52.0%. Except for Wilson/Madrid, that is going out at close to 50-50, it was the closest down-ballot race and only Republican win. Lyons, who had tons of oil and gas money, went negative on former two separate term land commissioner Jim Baca. Baca would not go negative and went from three points up to seven points down in a ten-day spread, eventually losing by eight. Negative campaigning worked in this race.

It should be interesting to see what happens to the current Republican Party leadership. Unfortunately, I think that the far right wing, which is now in control, is going to be replaced by a group, which is even further to the right. A leadership fight is already brewing among many party faithful. According to sources who are not willing to go public yet, there may be an attempt at removing the current leadership under State Republican Party Chairman Allen Whe, left, seen here on election night, and his paid staff headed by Executive Director Marta Kramer.

My current line as a Republican is that I went to a Republican Party one night and woke up the next morning in church.

From insiders I am learning there is a feeling that the party needs to recognize that they are outstripping their own true base, which is not the extreme right.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Road Runner’s Confusion

What's wrong with this picture?

It’s a Road Runner.

According to Desert USA the Road Runner’s scientific name is Geococcyx californianus and is a ground cuckoo. The Road Runner is New Mexico’s state bird.

I came upon this one at the intersection of Montano and Interstate Highway 25 West Frontage Road yesterday. It seemed poised to try to cross the road from west to east, but traffic was particularly heavy. He showed respect for the traffic but apparently no fear.

This is my neighborhood Road Runner. He comes by every once in a while to visit. He sits and watches, then moves on. Yet, he will start one way, stop, look, then go the other way. He may dart back and forth several times.

I have not blogged lately and thought I’d touch base. I’ve been very busy covering the campaign for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan at

I have lots of stories from the campaign trail that I want to share, but I am trying to maintain that journalistic detachment; to be neutral, responsible, maintain fairness and a balanced aspect to my reporting. I have decided not to endorse anyone. Mostly, because I haven’t made up my own mind yet. I usually am still scratching my head when I enter the polling booth.

I may over analyze each candidate in every race. I listen to and read everything I can about each candidate, though I mute the repetitive negative ads on television.

I was thinking the other day about the wisdom of running a negative advertising campaign. I’ve been on both sides and my tentative conclusion is that the one time I participated in a negative ad, I don’t think it did anything positive for the candidate.

The piece of work I contributed was honest and the wording around it was factual. The tone was slanted, but if it weren’t where would the politics be? I can’t promise that I won’t participate in another negative ad campaign; I just don’t think, at this point, that I will.

Just looking at the number of negative ads that filled my mailbox in the past month or so, I thought maybe if the candidate showed me their opponent’s picture so much, the actual way to decide which person to vote for was the one that got their picture published the most. Then it occurred to me that because I am so well known for simply photographing candidates as they appear, not always in the best light, that might not be fair. My portraits are brutally honest, often times worse than what gets published in the attack ads. So, maybe that’s not the best measure either.

I have come to know many of the political players running this time.I also know many players on the political scene who are not running. I even talk with candidates who greet me, otherwise I usually stand silent and photograph.

So, what's wrong with this picture?

The state bird represents our political culture well; a little cuckoo, unsure of crossing the road with all the traffic, he'll go back and forth, yet unafraid of standing by until the right moment. The right moment will come for all of us, by Tuesday, when we have the ballot in hand. We will have successfully crossed the road when the electronic scanner indicates that it has read our ballot.

After the dust settles, I’ll be back with my analysis of the campaigns. I won’t promise a pretty picture.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Governor’s Ethics Reform Task Force J-school Piece

The recommendations of the Governor’s Ethics Reform Task Force were delivered to Gov. Bill Richardson behind closed doors by co-chairs former Gov. Garrey Carruthers and Dean Suellyn Scarnecchia and other members of the task force, Oct.4.

“I think we were bold, which the governor asked us to be, and I think we were constructive,” Carruthers said, who is dean of New Mexico State University College of Business. “Many of these recommendations, obviously need his support and the legislature’s support, but they’re the right kind of recommendations for the situation that New Mexico is in today.” He served as the state’s chief executive from 1987-91 and was appointed to co-chair the task force with Scarnecchia, who is dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law.

The 19-member task force, appointed by Richardson in the wake of a corruption scandal in the state treasurer’s office spanning, at least two elected treasurers presented a 23-page report addresses six particular issues: Establishing a state ethics commission, Imposing limits on gifts to elected officials and state employees, Imposing limits on campaign contributions to state elected officials and strengthening campaign reporting requirements, Providing expense reimbursement accounts for legislators, Changing the selection of the State Treasurer and State Auditor from elected to appointed, and Creating a system of public campaign financing for statewide-elected officials and judges.

Former New Mexico State Treasurers Robert Vigil and his predecessor Michael Montoya faced federal indictments for conspiracy, racketeering and interference with commerce by threats or violence, commonly known as the Hobbs Act. Montoya plead guilty to one count of the indictment and agreed to testify against Vigil. Vigil faced two month-long trials in federal court. The first trail ended in a hung jury when one, former state employee held out for acquittal. In a retrial Vigil was acquitted of 23 of the 24 count indictment and was convicted of a lesser count of attempted extortion and faces up to 20 years in prison, or as little as 12 months.

When he came into office after Vigil resigned, current State Treasurer Doug Brown, said during the task force meeting that he found some employees were spending more than half of their tax paid time soliciting contractors to contribute to charities favored by the former treasurer Vigil.
“The task force is hopeful that the legislature will look at the complete reform package,” said Albuquerque City Councillor Brad Winter.” “I believe the public will have a lot of say on how far this reform measure goes.” Winter, who took over a year to push a city charter amendment through city council, said of the state’s task force, “The public wants ethic reform and I believe they want to feel good about government.”

Questions of the openness of the process lingered even though the task force dispensed with any thought of holding sessions in private. ”The committee did make a motion to have the meetings open to the public, Winter said. “We felt it was very important that the meetings be open so we could listen to their input.”

“There are several different recommendations, so I think that each, each one will be taken on its own merit and it will be a mixed bag,” said New Mexico Senator Dede Feldman, who represents the North Valley of Bernalillo County when asked during an interview, how she thought her fellow lawmakers would react to the recommendations. “I don’t expect overwhelming acclimation from the legislature when we, walk in with the proposal; nor do I expect complete rejection, I think it will depend upon which one of the issues you’re talking about.”

Asked whether the public discussion was a worthwhile process, “It really gave us the chance to air some of the problems and some of the solutions to unethical conduct by a few bad apples,” Feldman said. “And how to prevent that from happening in the future, while not penalizing the vast majority of public officials who are serving in the legislature anyway without any salary, without any staff and trying to do a good job.”

Richardson has not announced what recommendations, if any, he will support through suggested legislation in the upcoming 60-day session, if he is reelected.

“I think limiting gifts, campaign contributions, having an ethics commission just make good sense, for example,” Carruthers said.