Friday, June 30, 2006

Ugliest Thing I Ever Saw!

What's wrong with this picture?

Sheriff Darren White ordered a new paint scheme for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department’s marked units.

He said he wanted feedback on what the deputies thought. Here are two of the current Sheriff’s Traffic units. No, I’m not a deputy, only a resident. I am not an art critic, having dropped out of an art history class when I had a personal crisis.

But I’m going to borrow a quote from President Lyndon B. Johnson who said of his official portrait, painted by famous New Mexico artist Peter Hurd; “That’s the ugliest thing I ever saw!"

As police cars go, in my opinion, Johnson got it right.

White thinks that the California Zebra car is the epitome of police car styling.

It’s time for the Sheriff to head west.

Now it’s true that every Sheriff wants to leave his mark on the public. This one is best demonstrated by the yellow streak down the car. The public may view this as the big dog hiking his leg or misperceive it as a sign of cowardice.

For what its worth, I’m voting for keeping the classy blue and white over the butt ugly…

Sunday, June 25, 2006

STOP This Nonsense

What's wrong with this picture?

This is a photo red light camera at Montgomery and San Mateo Boulevards.

It was the first of five intersections where red light cameras have been installed. The other locations are Montgomery and Eubank Boulevards, Eubank and Lomas Boulevards, Paseo Del Norte and Coors Boulevards, and at Montgomery and Wyoming Boulevards.

A single van with a photo radar camera recorded more than 2,000 speeding violations in school zones in a four-month period prior to school recessing for the summer. The city is now obtaining two more and expanded their use from just school zones to anywhere in the city.

Mayor Martin Chávez claims in a Journal article that the use of red light cameras is all about public safety.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Big Sister, Big Brother. This bejeweled woman on a billboard for a local jewelry manufacturer appears apprehensive as she looks over the city’s pole-mounted photo red light camera array at the intersection of Montgomery and Wyoming.

“We the People” is the basis of our form of government. It is not just the rules that we follow but a philosophy we maintain.

Where are the people; the people of the government?

The United States Constitution divides our form of government into three branches: legislative, executive and judicial. The State of New Mexico has its own Constitution that mirrors the federal Constitution. The state also has provided for municipal home rule. It allows Albuquerque to form a government, within certain limitations, by adopting a charter. The charter and city ordinances may not exceed either the federal or state constitutional limits.

One of the limitations on the city is that they may not have their own judiciary. Up until 1979, the city of Albuquerque had a municipal court system, but the state abolished it.

Courts generate revenue from fines and fees for convictions of violations of statutory law, ordinances and traffic offenses.

When Albuquerque had its own courts, it was able to control the revenues generated for violations of their ordinances and traffic offenses. New legislation took effect July 1, 1980 with the opening of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. The City of Albuquerque’s Municipal Court, Bernalillo County Magistrates’ Court and Bernalillo County Small Claims Court were consolidated. Under the state judiciary, all fines, fees and other revenues went to the state treasury before a portion was returned to the city. This system represented a major loss of revenue to the city.

In part, in an effort to regain control over the loss of revenues to the state, Mayor Martin Chávez and his legal department convinced the city council to expand their notion of using criminal nuisance abatement laws as a way to circumvent the state’s courts and make money.

The Safe Traffic Operations Program or STOP ordinance established the use of unmanned electro-mechanical photo red light and photo radar camera devices as the evidentiary gathering and charging instruments.

STOP declares that a vehicle is a criminal public nuisance for which the registered owner is responsible.

The city went on to create an administrative hearing officer process to adjudicate challenges to the notices sent to the registered owners of vehicles based on the license plate depicted in a digital image photographed by the cameras.

The photo red light and photo radar units are owned and maintained by a private vendor. A police officer reviews the video and photographic images to assure there is an apparent violation of state statute or city traffic code. However, it is the vendor who handles the notification and collection of all fines and fees.

Several issues instantly arise.

Though the state permits the city to establish what a public nuisance is and may set a penalty as a petty misdemeanor punishment – a maximum $500 fine or 90-days in jail – the city may not establish its own adjudication process.

The city exceeds the maximum penalty when it allows for the seizure and forfeiture of the vehicle if the registered owner fails to respond to the city’s notice.

The Constitution of the State of New Mexico in Article X, County and Municipal corporations, Section 6 on Municipal home rule, Subsection D, states, “A municipality which adopts a charter may exercise all legislative powers and perform all functions not expressly denied by general law or charter. This grant of powers shall not include the power to enact private or civil laws governing civil relationships except as incident to the exercise of an independent municipal power, nor shall it include the power to provide for a penalty greater than the penalty provided for a petty misdemeanor….”

Several sections of the state statutes make it absolutely clear that in Bernalillo County, the adjudication of all criminal, civil and traffic offenses under state statute and municipal codes are handled by Metropolitan court which shall have jurisdiction within the county boundaries over all: offenses, complaints and violations of city ordinances. Further, state statutes establish original exclusive jurisdiction over all Motor Vehicle Code or municipal traffic code violations.

There are two exceptions: the Metropolitan court shall not have jurisdiction over uncontested municipal parking violations, meaning, the city may keep all those fines, and “A civil action to abate a public nuisance may be brought, …in the district court of the county …where the public nuisance exists.”

The STOP ordinance, in theory, most closely parallels the city’s parking violations code. The state legislature granted a specific exception for gathering of uncontested municipal parking violation fines. Parking tickets are issued by agents of the parking enforcement division or by police officers upon their observations of offenses; yet, the jurisdiction for contested violations is still Metropolitan court.

The STOP ordinance was not the first or only law the city established for criminal nuisance abatement. It started with attempting to control deteriorating motels and has expanded to the seizing and forfeiture of vehicles operated by people arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs if they have a prior DWI conviction.

Nor will the STOP ordinance be the last. There is currently a proposed ordinance that will decriminalize some 72-city ordinances, making them subject to the city’s theory that they can adjudicate criminal nuisance abatement.

The ordinance is being carried by request of the administration through City Councillor Sally Mayer. Mayer, in an e-mail to her political supporters, countering the recall petition, writes about the penalties of her animal control “HEART” ordinance, “…In fact all violations of city ordinances are petty misdemeanors except for our red light camera violations which are civil.” Her statement belies her lack of understanding of her legislative authority and the criminal justice system’s procedural requirements.

This lack of understanding is not all her fault. Her fellow Councillors, Michael Cadigan and Don Harris are attorneys and former Albuquerque Police Captain Craig Loy fail to understand their basic civics lessons. They, if anyone, should know better.

Councillors Mayer, Harris, Cadigan and Loy

At a recent council meeting, I challenged an amendment of increasing fines they were deliberating, to the existing STOP ordinance’s “civil” designation and its lack of jurisdiction. Harris, who was an assistant city attorney, said he too was concerned about the city’s jurisdiction. Assistant City Attorney Greg Wheeler assuaged council’s concerns by misstating the fundamental concepts of our democratic form of representative government.

The executive, here in the form of the mayor, appoints all the actors. The enforcement personnel, the administrative hearing officer, the assistant city attorney, the city clerk and the contracted vendor all now work within the executive branch.

This effectively eviscerates the judiciary. The separation of powers is obliterated by the theory.

The Constitutions, federal and state and the city’s own charter, recognize an independent judiciary. An accused is guaranteed a; presumption of innocence, right to reasonably obtain evidence, right to a fair trial, right to confront an accuser, to cross examine, and to bring in witnesses on their behalf, the right to have a minimum burden of proof, that each and every element of a statutory violation is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” and the right to appeal to a higher court.

The city’s nuisance abatement ordinances eliminate several of those rights by convoluting their ordinances to allow for what they call a civil process. They do not have the authority to create a civil process. Even if they did, the adjudication of the issues still belongs exclusively to the judiciary.

The city argues that they can have administrative hearing officers. I agree. Except the hearing officer is limited to determine facts related only to the administration of city issued permits, like public health standards for restaurants, issuing of building permits, enforcement of building codes, zoning and licensing businesses as required under their various ordinances. Even then, the hearing officer’s ruling may be appealed, ultimately to District court.

The hearing officer does not represent an independent jurist, but the executive. Hearings take place in the executive’s building, again not the neutral setting of an independent judiciary.

“We the People” also means that enforcement of our social requirements that we call laws, statutes, ordinances and codes are a human interaction, not just a technological exercise. Though there are and always have been some inherent problems associated with people administering justice, it is a civil human process that assures that justice is served.

Is the goal for the city to eliminate any and all procedural, legal or budgetary impediments between alleged offenses and the inside of their citizens’ wallets?

It is the people, in “We the People,” who will make the process work, not some machine that treats a person simply as computer data and minutiae without the human qualities of heart or head, experience, wisdom or understanding. Guilt is reduced to just yes or no, a mechanical lightning-strike determination, made at a diminished level of proof, with none of the legal protections guaranteed by our great documents.

It has always been my understanding that the purpose of law was to hold individuals responsible for their specific acts of a criminal nature. So, how does a vehicle that is totally legal one second, become a criminal public nuisance in another and then is totally legal again?

Someone is going to have to explain to me very convincingly, how the progression and adoption of the Anglo-Saxon common law to the American justice system over the past 900 years is all of a sudden changed to a game of “Gotchya!”

Both the state’s motor vehicle statutes and city’s traffic codes require all traffic offenses be made by arrest by an officer, upon personal observation, in a marked police unit, while in uniform displaying the badge of office. The exception is, when there is an accident, the officer need not witness the event. The state legislature, in its wisdom, decided that officers should stop motorists as soon as they observe a traffic violation. There are excellent reasons for doing this including; when it comes to court, the identity of the driver is already established.

The arrest is terminated when the driver signs the citation promising to answer the charge. It begins the process of separation of powers, because the next step for the citizen is with the courts.

The use of radar by officers was not meant to be used as a fish net, but more like a fly cast, directed at a specific target. Court cases ruled that officers needed to visually identify a vehicle as speeding before using radar to confirm how fast it was going.

Government is to leave its people alone. It’s called freedom; you know, like in, “…the land of the free and the home of the brave,” and “…Liberty and Justice for all!”

It’s encapsulated in that pesky fourth amendment. An officer must be able to articulate facts in developing probable cause, or the lesser test of reasonable suspicion, before government is allowed to look closer at its citizens’ behaviors and to conduct a reasonable, yet warrant less search or seizure, a stop. Using the always-on passive radar or the unblinking eye of cameras constitutes a governmental intrusion of the populace. It is guilt until proven innocent, not the required presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

This is technology for technology's sake.

There is this one other little problem before the mayor and his henchmen and minions can try to exercise their grand scheme. We must start at the beginning. The notices of violations are predicated on violations of traffic control devices: red lights and speed zone signs. They are legal instruments allowed only through a legal process. The process is the state motor vehicle code. The mayor may, after conducting a traffic safety study, authorize the placement of traffic control devices. The only allowable way to enforce those legal instruments is through the same motor vehicle code that allowed for their placement. To do anything else brings into question the initial reasoning for their existence.

What is this noise, Mayor?

“…He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people...

...He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

…For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

… For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

…In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people…”

Where have we heard this before? In a couple of weeks we will celebrate these words. It is hoped that Mayor Chávez, Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman, City Attorney Bob White, Assistant City Attorneys Wheeler, Pete Dinelli and Dennica Padilla, Chief Public Safety Officer Nick Bakas, Chief of Police Ray Schultz, Lt. Robert Haarhues, APD’s STOP coordinator and City Administrative Hearing Officer Albert Chavez consider the similarities of the offenses they engage in today in light of Thomas Jefferson’s words of the Declaration of Independence some 230 years ago.

Chávez, Perlman, White, Wheeler and Dinelli
Bakas, Schultz, Haarhues and Chavez

Before you listen to the beautiful sounds of Linda Ronstadt at the city’s Fourth of July concert, go back and read the beautiful words of revolution!

Here, have a firecracker, puff on it, while I light it for you.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Republican Bullies

What's wrong with this picture?

I don’t usually talk about how I voted, but what the heck, with so few contested positions how could you not figure out what was going on?

There was only one contested race on the republican primary ballot, United States Senator.

I went and did my civic duty. It wasn’t a problem. There were a lot of people at the election site. Unfortunately, most of them were poll workers. Like usual, it was a no-waiting affair and I read every name and considered what to do about people who were on the ballot, but not on my mind. I had read each name before, but I didn’t know them. Candidates hadn’t even bothered to get any name recognition in the weeks before Election Day.

It was an anemic affair and though I had dutifully read and watched the news about the Republican Party’s nomination process, I felt no better informed. No matter. No choice. So I held my nose and voted for the local guy, Joe Carraro. Though I’m not enamored with his stance in representing his constituency on what I see as unrestrained and unplanned growth in his district, I poked his name. He lost.

So now the Republican Party’s state central committee replaces their gubernatorial nominee. Dr. J.R. Damron is out; former flame-thrower party boss John Dendhal is in.

I had lunch the other day with an old acquaintance, with whom I worked in journalism almost 40 years ago. He had relocated me through this blog and it was the second time since that we had lunch. We share a few common interests, including journalism and politics. He has been active in the Republican Party and even ran unsuccessfully for office.

So, when we met at lunch, my first serious question was, how did the party’s central committee, which has 350 members, manage to make this mid-stream switch with only 100 members present? I thought that, like most organizations, a quorum consisted of 50 percent plus one, in order to conduct business?

His answer, “they probably broke party rules.” He went on to say that the issue of replacing the gubernatorial nominee wasn’t even on the agenda. He said he had been a member of the central committee, the last time they met, but he didn’t get a call this time. He wasn’t sure if he’d been “kicked off,” but thought he was still a member.

He lives in my neighborhood. I called the Republican Party office and confirmed he is my ward representative on the state central committee.

He was not notified and I was not represented….

So what’s wrong this picture?

Pundits have bemoaned the lack of interest in the primary election and its low turn out. The Democratic choices at the top of the form weren’t much better, though they did have some races “down ballot.”

Considering all the chatter about the Damron-Dendhal switch, in the news and blogs, I have decided to throw in my two-cents worth.

It’s about process. I voted for Damron, didn’t have a choice. Had Dendhal been on the ballot against him, I would have voted for Damron. More precisely, I would have voted against Dendhal. I don’t like his uncivilized style.

But I voted and now a faction of my party met in a backroom and took my vote away. The only one I had.

Now, I’m not saying that the party can’t replace a man who is unwilling to run or that Dendhal was not the person who would have ultimately been chosen to pick up the mantle. However, when only 100 of the 350-member central committee meet, that is not my party. My party normally advocates strict compliance with rules and laws. Those who were called to the meeting were the bullies in my party.

No wonder my fellow citizens don’t vote. They are disillusioned with politics. They have every right to be.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Anyone Want to Play a Little Hardball?

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This is Governor Bill Richardson after throwing out the first pitch several years ago at the Mountain West Conference college baseball tournament.

He was a right-handed pitcher at Tufts University. Last year, his status as a drafted player with the Kansas City Athletics’ in 1966 came into question. He later admitted he had not been drafted.

However, unlike many politicians who are asked to throw out the first pitch, Richardson got the ball over the plate.

As an aside, he’s not the only politician in the state who can throw; U.S. Senator Pete Domenici was a pitcher for the University of New Mexico.

Richardson, a Democrat is running for reelection and seems to be eyeing a run for the White House two years from now.

So what's wrong with this picture?

It seems the Republican party threw a curve Richardson’s way this weekend when they accepted the resignation of their gubernatorial candidate, Dr. J.R. Darmron, who excused himself because he could not fulfill his medical and political commitments at the same time. Darmron’s campaign was having serious problems raising money against Richardson’s $7 million war chest.

The New Mexico Republican Party’s State Central Committee replaced Darmron with former State Republican Chairman John Dendhal.

Dendhal received a “unanimous” vote supporting him as the new gubernatorial candidate from the 100-committee members present at their emergency meeting Saturday in Albuquerque. The Central Committee is made up of 350 delegates.

This is Dendhal, seated next to Stephen Calvin-Miller, a sophomore in Latin-American Studies at UNM, who holds up a card with his question for New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson at the Continuing Education building on September 10, 2001. Johnson and Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration Asa Hutchinson debated national drug policy.

Johnson had proposed that drug treatment programs be part of any drug offense sentencing to attempt to treat the public health issue rather than solely rely on criminal punishment. He proposed decriminalizing, as opposed to legalizing certain drugs.

The debate was taped for the National Public Radio program "Justice Talking." Calvin-Miller’s question asked whether Johnson had been able to bridge the parties with his drug reform initiatives. Johnson responded that as many Republicans disagreed with him as Democrats.

Dendhal supported Johnson’s decriminalization plans. Democrats are quick to attack him for that stance. He is not a soft and cuddly campaigner, but a harsh spoken attacker who gives no quarter to opponents.

Dendhal fought his way into the leadership position and fought to keep it. He was ousted by the party in 2003 when he lost the chairmanship to former state Senator Ramsey Gorham.

There is a saying that fits here, “If you want to play hardball, then ‘Batter Up!’”

Now the gubernatorial election is a whole new ball game.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father’s Day!

What’s wrong with this picture?

This is my father, Walter S. Bralley. The picture was taken while we celebrated his 82nd birthday in August of 2001.

So, what’s wrong with this picture?

Nothing, except he passed away about 17 months ago and I haven’t written about him.

He was my best friend. I didn’t always realize that, but he was.

He was my greatest supporter and harshest critic.

He could lecture, but seldom did.

When he did, you knew exactly what he thought.

I think he knew all the swear words, but didn’t use any of them… he didn’t have to.

He had a command of the English language, but didn’t abuse it.

He could hold an opinion strongly, but didn’t try to force you from holding yours just as strongly.

When I started a professional life, his firm guidance of my youth changed to a coaching style.

When I got my master’s degree, his coaching seemed to come less frequently. He listened a lot more in the last years and I missed his input. He thought that his pre-World War II college education was overtaken by the modern world. It wasn’t and he functioned just fine in it.

He didn’t use a computer, but he wore out more than one typewriter. He had numerous friends around the world with whom he would regularly correspond.

He could hardly say the word love, but there was never any doubt that he loved each and every member of our family.

His greatest gifts were his time, wisdom, and example. He shared them freely.

I pay tribute to him, this father’s day, as I’m sure the rest of my family does. I speak for all of them when I say we miss him.

If your father is still with you, tell him how you feel about him, thank him for raising you, guiding you, being there and for throwing the ball back and forth, even if he’s 80.

If you are a father, hug your kids, even if they are 50.

If your father is gone, remember him and speak well of him.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Can We See George?

What’s Wrong With this Picture?

President George W. Bush came to town yesterday to campaign for Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM). However, this is about all you could see of him, as he sped by in his motorcade.

Let me back up and tell you of my day.

My friend Ken Coolidge flew in from California Thursday, in his private plane. He was with a fellow retired US Air Force pilot, Lt. Col. John Sullivan to peruse the real estate situation here in Albuquerque.

After their Air Force flying days, they both became chiefs of police on separate bases. Both were assigned to Kirtland Air Force base in the early 1980’s. After retiring, they worked in corporate security in Southern California and both have retired a second time.

They both own rental homes in town and were just checking on them. OK, they really just needed an excuse to make a long cross-country flight.

Coolidge made arrangements to get a tour of the Eclipse Aviation facility and invited me to join them. We were to meet at Eclipse, on the south side of the Sunport at four pm.

Traffic was extremely heavy on southbound I-25. There was no traffic northbound because state, local and county law enforcement units were closing down the highway for the presidential motorcade.

Coolidge called to say he was hung up in traffic and would be delayed a few minutes. I was exiting I-25 at Sunport Boulevard, but there were officers at the top of the ramp holding traffic. I pulled off the pavement, got my cameras and photographed the “stack” of tandem police motorcycles preceding the presidential limousine for traffic control.
The limousine was followed by a long motorcade of secret service, White House staff, national press corps, White House communications, rescue/ambulance and additional law enforcement vehicles.
I arrived at Eclipse Aviation, met Coolidge and Sullivan and had a wonderful tour of the sales showrooms.The Eclipse jet is built here in Albuquerque.

It is amazing and will be in production as soon as the Federal Aviation Administration approves the certification process. It is going to be a hot-rod executive plane. Eclipse has taken over 2,000 orders, at about $1.3 million each.

This is John Sullivan, left, with Ken Coolidge looking over the E500.

After the tour, we decided to go see the president depart on Air Force One.

Coolidge drove onto Kirtland and passed the gate by showing his military ID card. We drove towards the base operations building where Air Force One was parked. As we neared, two female military police stood in the roadway and stopped us. One air police approached and said, “We’re under lockdown, you have to turn around.”

We did, “mutter mutter, spit spit.” Sullivan stated that there was something fundamentally wrong when American citizens can’t go to the airport to see their president board their tax-paid $325 million airplane and watch it take-off.

Air Force One was already taxiing to the east end of the Sunport to take off to the west.

It was then that I learned that Sullivan had been the pilot of Air Force Two for Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter’s vice president, in the late 1970s.

He spoke of the no-expense-too-great attitude for transporting the president. There were also two C-17 Globemaster III transporters supporting the trip parked on the ramp.

The total time between the motorcade entering I-25 and Air Force One, wheels up, was about an hour and a half.

No… you can’t see George! Unless you contribute $1,000 to Wilson's campaign. To get a picture with the president, cost another $5,000. Bush's visit swelled Wilson's campaign war chest by about $375,000. It probably cost nearly that much to transport the president and all his support in three Air Force planes including all the local costs associated with his protection.

The operating cost of the Eclipse is a dollar per seat, per mile; hardly what it cost for a presidential visit.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Blue Flyer Is Up and Running at

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Blue Flyer .com is up and running at

This is my website that has been three years in the making and was the final project in my last university class.

What's wrong is that it took three years.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Luis Jimenez Jr.

What’s wrong with this picture?

This is a 1996 sculpture “Fiesa Jarabe” by Luis Jimenez Jr., on the University of New Mexico campus in front of Popejoy Hall.

Jimenez, born 65 years ago in El Paso, Texas, was killed today in his Hondo, N.M. studio in what the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office called an industrial accident.

His work was nationally recognized and culturally significant. His sculptures; can be seen around town at several sites including; two metal sculptures, Howl and Pregnant, currently on display, and a large fiberglass sculpture; "Progress II,” several prints and drawing that are in storage at the Albuquerque Museum. The National Hispanic Cultural Center has two paintings; “El Buen Pasteur” and “Southwest Pieta.” The City of Albuquerque displays his 1983, fiberglass sculpture, “Southwest Pieta” which is located in Martineztown Park at Edith and Roma Avenues, south of Lomas Blvd.

Jimenez and his work will be missed.

We Don’t Need No Stinking Ethics Reform!

What’s wrong with this picture?

This is Andres Valdez of New Mexico Vecinos Unidos at last week’s city council meeting. He is an outspoken critic of the board of ethics and campaign practices. He is speaking in favor of stricter ethics reform legislation.

New Mexico Vecinos Unidos was one of three groups that brought forward complaints of violations of the city charter’s ethics sections against Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez for his accepting money from ABQPAC. Former City Councillor Hess Yntema originated the complaint and the other group participating was Common Cause.

The ethics board found Chávez in violation of the ethics sections of improperly taking money from people doing business with the city and from city employees. The board took the minimum allowable punitive action; a public reprimand.

Chávez returned some $60,000 to the ABQPAC.

Valdez appealed to District Court insisting that the ethics board failed to render its decision properly. The court agreed and sent the decision back to the board to make proper findings of fact and law in public. The board simply reiterated its original decision without a statement of its findings. Valdez again appealed to District Court. The judge again remanded that decision telling the board to again make findings in public. The board ignored the judge’s requirement to make the findings in public and instead went into closed session and finally rendered its findings. There were no changes from their original conclusions.

In November, 2002, Valdez filed an ethics complaint against Councillor Brad Winter for accepting $600 for a plane ticket from the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau to visit Japan in 2001. The complaint was dismissed. Winter said he had done nothing wrong. Then Director of Council Services Mark Sanchez said that the convention and visitors bureau paid for the ticket because Winter’s trip was, in part, to promote Albuquerque.

Valdez was particularly specific in pointing out that now Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman, seen on the left, had been Chávez’ campaign treasurer in 2001. Perlman devised the ABQPAC after the election to pay the personal expenses for Chávez’ wife's travel and cell phone. It also paid Chávez’ past campaign debts.

Perlman was completely oblivious to Valdez’ attack as he sat at the administration’s table a couple of feet from him.

The other person Valdez pointed out for criticism was Chairman of the Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices Robert Tinnin. Tinnin, seen on the right in this 2005 photo, now in his third term, has served as the “neutral” head of the ethics board.

Tinnin has had a number of contracts with the city attorney’s office doing legal work during his terms. He has repeatedly been challenged for being in a conflict of interest. He insists that because he is not a regular employee of the city and only a “contract worker,” that the prohibition against city employees sitting on boards or commissions does not apply to him. He refuses to recognize that while being paid by the city to render legal opinions as the mayor’s agent, there is not only the appearance of impropriety, but also an actual financial conflict.

Councillors Ken Sanchez, left, and Don Harris both defended the ethics board. Sanchez lashed out at Valdez’ statement saying that there is definitely a need for ethics reform at the state level, based on recent events, but it isn't as necessary at the local level.

According to the Tribune, Sanchez was quoted as saying, "I feel we've done a great job," he said. "We live up to the highest standards of ethics."

In 2002, Sanchez, a former Bernalillo County Commissioner, was a Democratic primary candidate for state treasurer. He took a $750 contribution from ABQPAC. It was alleged that it started as a $1,000 anonymous contribution that the donator wanted to go to Sanchez, but did not want to reveal. Two hundred-fifty dollars was siphoned off for Chávez.

Harris wanted to echo Sanchez, saying that he had found the ethics board had handled a complaint against him in a fair and even handed manner.

These are the three City Councillors; Craig Loy, Sally Mayer and Ken Sanchez, who voted against Winter’s ethics reform bill.

Winter’s legislation was attempting to tighten sections of the city charter’s code of ethics articles and to make the process transparent.

There is an impression that people seeking to do business with the city have to pay to play.

One long time, well established city supplier told me that he was not so subtly told that if he wanted continued contracts he had to make political contributions.

To change the city’s charter, Winter needed the support of seven council votes; a super majority to pass his legislation.

The bill would have redefined and expanded the definitions of gifts that elected city officials could accept. It prevents city employees from being used in political campaigns. It also defines what business interests with the city are and requires disclosure of contributions. It further establishes a process to follow for those who have made such contributions and sought to do business with the city.

Mayer said she wanted someone else to keep track of her contributors and wanted them to warn her when one of them had an issue before the council.

Loy said that he did not want elected officials’ hands tied by not being able to vote on issues involving their campaign contributors.

It seems that at least these three councillors don’t want to expose their dealings to be under public scrutiny. Apparently they don’t like the definition of ethics that have been hammered out by Winter over the past eight months.

Winter has promised to put the question directly to the voters during the next city election scheduled for November, 2007. Loy will be up for reelection.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Tribune Again?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Why am I picking on the Tribune again?

Tribune City Hall Reporter Erik Siemers wrote in his blog “Loose Pages” today about Geraldine Amato’s unsuccessful primary run for sheriff as a Democrat. She lost to a virtual unknown; Security Guard Jose E. Chavez.

Siemers wrote of Amato, “She rails against our ‘absentee overlords,’ drives a station wagon with anti-government slogans and seeks the return of ‘lawful government.’”

Here I am nitpicking the Tribune again for getting the simplest of facts wrong.

Geraldine Amato is oft times misunderstood, misquoted and despised.

Siemers proves the point. Amato does not drive a station wagon, but an old four-door Chevrolet with a luggage rack and “AMATO” displayed on the front doors. True it is covered with hand-painted sayings but they are not anti-government. One says, “Revolution for a LAWFUL Republic.” On the trunk she quotes the Declaration of Independence, “Our repeated petitions answered only with repeated injury! July 4, 1776!”

On the luggage rack she has, “Let’s put our hearts & hands together… Lets turn to each other not on each other.” She has her name and telephone number posted. Among other things, she has multiple American flag decals and has written, “Unmarked Police Car.”

Hardly anti-government.

Siemers clearly has never tried to comprehend what Amato has to say. Through her obstinate rhetoric there are kernels of truth.

I’m not advocating Amato’s cause beyond her right to speak loud and long at public meetings. If for no other reason than it irritates so many and causes them to lash out at her. Their reactions to her prove that many in local government are intolerant of those who exercise the First Amendment.

No wonder the Tribune’s circulation continues to decline... I'm still reading.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mayer’s History

What’s wrong with this picture?

Nothing. I chose to photograph City Councillor Sally Mayer at a slow shutter speed to demonstrate her arm waving when she becomes passionate about almost any issue.

Mayer is under attack! Attorney Dawn Penni Adrian is leading a petition effort to recall the councillor.

Mayer is a second-term councillor re-elected by defeating three opponents, Marianne Dickinson, Wayne A. Johnson and Edward Douglas Glenn, last November.

She is a realtor and staunch supporter of what is seen by some as unrestrained growth.

Here she is with Public Works Department Director Charles "Ted" Asbury looking at a West Side map talking about the unauthorized paving of Universe Blvd. N.W. during public comments.
It is my opinion that in the 32-year history of the Albuquerque city council she is the second worst councillor to serve.

She only exceeds Tina Cummins, seen here on the right, who is also a realtor. Cummins was elected when long-sitting incumbent Councillor Michael Brasher failed to file his candidacy paperwork on time and was defeated as a write-in. Brasher bounced back and was elected to the county commission.

Cummins still out did Mayer. Not only did Cummins never seem to have an idea, she was the quietest councillor. The only topics that you could count on to get her to speak were on real estate development, the anti-smoking ban and adjournment of meetings. She and Mayer pushed to impose a 10:30 pm cut-off time for council meetings regardless of how much of the agenda was remaining.

Tina Cummins came closer to accomplishing a goal her brother, former Councillor Tim Cummins had, “to never be quoted in the newspapers.”

Cummins’ family shows their support at her first council meeting in December 2001. Former Councillor and current County Commissioner Tim Cummins, left, takes a snooze as he occasionally did while he sat on the dais.

Tim Cummins ranks third on my list of worst councillors. He introduced only one bill that was truly his own; to authorize golf carts to transport coolers allowing drinking on public golf courses. It took an awful lot of effort to convince him that the state’s Driving While Intoxicated law applied to golf carts just like it did any other vehicle and the law’s application of “anywhere in the state” included golf courses. He abandoned the bill.

The Cummins’ political philosophy seems predicated on not forwarding an agenda for their constituency.

Mayer’s Record

According to city council records, Mayer has her name on 82 pieces of legislation in the four and a half years she has served. She had 30 ordinances, 41 resolutions, eight rules amendments, two executive communications and one memorial.

Of those, 16 were separate issues directly related to animals, which is about 20 percent of all her activity. Twelve items failed, three died on expiration of the council’s term, two are in committee and one is pending final action after being postponed 13 times. That is an additional 22 percent. Add these to the eight rules amendments, two executive communications and one memorial for an additional 13 percent. Which left 45 percent of legislative actions that Mayer has sponsored successfully.

The other thing to put into the mix is pieces of legislation carried for the administration. The mayor’s administration may only submit the budget. A councillor must introduce any other proposed legislation the administration wants passed. All councillors are asked to carry such bureaucratic bills such as property condemnations, road limitations, changes within their districts and to carry requests for grants.

There are good political reasons for this. It allows councillors to build a record of anti-crime initiatives, housing support or care for the elderly through requests for state and federal grants. Mayer has carried her share; 11 state and federal grants, 10 “by request” of the administration, two road limitations and two condemnations.

In the same period of time, fellow Councillor Michael Cadigan has 154 pieces of legislation. Even Tina Cummins, who left the council six-months ago, had 106 pieces of legislation with her name on them.

Councillor Martin Heinrich out does his colleagues. According to Albuquerque Journal’s Dan McKay’s February 14, 2005 article, “Councilor Defies Labels While Pushing Agenda,” “…Heinrich introduced the most bills last year - 39." The city councils’ online records show that he has more than 200 pieces of legislation with his name on them in only two and a half years.

In Mayer’s first campaign, “A Brighter Tomorrow” she promised; safer neighborhoods, more police officers, improving city streets, providing more after school programs and ending the political bickering.

No piece of legislation of hers addresses safer neighborhoods, increasing the number of police officers or anything about after school programs.

Her one campaign success was posting several signs on one street. The legislation imposed a restrictive weight limit on San Pedro where it runs through a residential area. It was passed in March of her fourth year of her first term.

As for ending the political bickering, if anything, she poured fuel on the fire.

She openly maligns fellow councillors who take a differing position than she holds, sometimes into an open microphone. She attacks the person rather than the issue.

She was characterized as “Albuquerque City Council's notoriously giggly sorority-girl, Sally Mayer…” by

She resembles a cheerleader who remains not only hopeful but also overly enthusiastic in the face of a crushing defeat. When a male councilor was sandwiched between herself and Tina Cummins on the council dais, the women were referred to by fellow Republican operatives as the “blond bookends” in a disparaging stereotypical remark on the intelligence of light haired women.
Mayer comes off as smug, snide, spiteful and often displays an air of self-satisfaction when she thinks she has scored, against another councillor, or citizen, with a differing view-point in what appears to be a game of verbal tag.This series of pictures demonstrate the faces she makes to other councillors or public commentators.

During her closing summation on the rewrite of the animal control ordinance, she talked about how the bill not only served animals, but humans also. She then said, when speaking of humans, she wanted to talk about her grandchild. She admonished her fellow councillors that she had plans to visit the child and did not want any emergency meeting to come up during the regularly dormant month of July. Last year, an issue related to fire danger prompted an emergency meeting that threatened her schedule.

On occasion Mayer leaves the dais, during on-going council discussions, to meet at the rear of the chambers and talk with people, on what is clearly a personal level. She is seen here, left, receiving a personal card.

In her second year, she caused a political storm when she requested from then Director of Council Services Mark Sanchez the legislative history of fellow Councillor Brad Winter. She then gave the material to Winter’s opponent, whom she was supporting. There was a great deal of debate over the propriety of having council staffers retrieve material that were then used politically. The papers and other media blasted her. None seemed to recognize that what she did was make an informal “Inspection of Public Records Request.”

Mayer used her status as a councillor to go directly to the head bureaucrat, bypassing the formal process the public might be required to take. The fact that she used the material in a partisan way may be a demonstration of poor form by bringing the political fight into the office. It otherwise is no body’s business how the public record is used. There was an attempt to write a council rule prohibiting the use of council staff for political purposes. It is unenforceable in light of the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.

Mayer holds what appears to be an anti-constitutional mindset ignoring the limitations and prohibitions on government.

In her first year as a councillor, she floated the idea of requiring citizens to use sunscreen after she discovered her own skin cancer. The idea never matured into a legislative proposal. On September 13, 2002, Tribune Reporter Kate Nash described, “Mayer, known as a low-key lawmaker who is consistently quiet at the council podium…” She has since become anything but low-key. She has now found her sea legs and is openly the roughest kid on the playground.

She proposed a rules amendment regarding public comments, moving them from the beginning of the meeting to the last agenda item. Her efforts to limit the length of council meetings had two potentially deleterious effects. It kept the public through the entire meeting. Opponents contended this was to discourage public participation. It would drive off all but the die-hards. There was a very good chance that the meeting could end at 10:30 without reaching the public comment portion of the agenda. The proposal failed.

Mayer successfully amended the Labor-Management Relation Ordinance by requiring future increased financial commitments to employees be supported in the budget. What this means is that if the city administration enters into a multi-year contract with an employees’ union, any subsequent pay raises could be voided by a new budget that is under-funded.

Mayer’s action is philosophically sound if not shortsighted. Legally, governmental budgeting requires available funding for ongoing expenses such as increased employee wages. Where she failed was in not requiring the administration to impose limitations on only entering into one-year contracts, thus prohibiting the possibility of the city defaulting on a valid contract.

Mayer successfully attacked the procedure used to select public art by the Arts Board. Her action reversed a valid decision because she disliked the piece of art by sculptor Tom Waldron. Her change in the procedure was the equivalent of an ex-post facto law.

Councillor Miguel Gómez’ attempted to abolish standing council committee meetings. Gómez had been a council staffer before being elected and thought that committees did not serve a worthwhile purpose and wasted time. The city charter requires the use of such committees.

Gómez, seen here on the left, with Councillors Vince Griego and Mayer.

Mayer supported Gómez’ efforts, in part, because the first action she had brought failed in committee and she could not get it revived in the full council. Her number one agenda item died an ugly death. She complained that because she was inexperienced, she was unable to traverse the procedural landscape of the legislative process.

Mayer successfully had a ballot initiative placed before voters requiring photo voter identification cards in all future city elections. This was based on a single complaint of voter fraud, of which she became aware. However, testimony revealed that most voter fraud happens with absentee ballots rather than at the polls.

In her reelection campaign she put out a flyer, “The right to vote,” with the slogan, “Your vote is your voice.” She hoped her constituents would vote yes for the photo voter ID. On the reverse side she wrote, “Thank you! …for requesting an absentee ballot or deciding to vote ‘Early,’” which bypassed the use of photo IDs.

The action is consistent with attempts to move towards a national identification card and an attack on civil liberties. Voters passed the measure.

Mayer has embraced the criminal nuisance abatement theories that abound at the moment. She has carried legislation, in the parlance of council bureaucracy, “providing an appropriation to the legal department to support the D.W.I. vehicle seizure program,” and “amending the motor vehicle seizure and forfeiture ordinance, to provide for recovery costs upon the forfeiture of motor vehicles operated by persons convicted of driving under the influence.”

In sponsoring a dangerous dog ordinance she created an administrative hearing officer and required a $50 fee to appeal. The same $50 fee was challenged in the photo red light and speed photo radar ordinance by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The city agreed with the ACLU that the fee was unconstitutional and the council rescinded it in the photo equipment ordinance. Neither the administration nor council has addressed removing the $50 appeal fee from any other ordinance with similar or exact language.

Mayer is currently carrying a piece of legislation for the administration to decriminalize 72 sections of the city code, removing them from the jurisdiction of the metropolitan court, making them a criminal nuisance or “civil matter” and creating an administrative hearing officer to adjudicate the issues.

The problem is that under the state constitution’s section on municipal home rule, the city is prohibited from creating its own judicial system. The state courts are the exclusive jurisdiction in the state for resolving issues with the citizenry over violations of city ordinances.

All traffic, criminal and civil violations of city ordinances are required to start in metropolitan court. Nuisance abatement is the exception. Instead of being heard in metropolitan court, the district court has exclusive jurisdiction.

Mayer attempted to amend the merit system ordinance by carrying legislation for the administration. When she was convinced it was unworkable, she then made “a do not pass” recommendation, which carried and killed the bill.

A group of citizens acquired the necessary signatures to place a minimum wage initiative on the ballot. It was discovered that a person paid to gather signatures had apparently used the phone book to pad her petition list.

One of the names used was former councillor, now County Commissioner Tim Cummins. He demanded Sheriff Darren White conduct a criminal investigation. The suspect was identified, indicted by the grand jury and fled to Michigan. An arrest warrant is still outstanding. The law against voter petition fraud worked.

Based on this one petition incident, Mayer has authored a bill. It prohibits payment to circulators based on a fee for each signature on a petition. It further requires the use of a particular form. She ignores the First Amendment prohibition on governments “…shall make no laws…” in the sections on "...the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition government for a redress of grievances."

Monday night she again postponed her petition bill until the August 7 council meeting. Mayer said she did not think it might look appropriate because she is facing a recall petition herself.

Mayer publicly embarrassed an animal control officer who was presenting one of her “pet project” dogs before the council by saying the dog was adorable and so was the handler. The officer was clearly chagrined and embarrassed. Mayer failed to recognize that she had just sexually harassed the woman on government cable access GOV-TV-16.

Mayer, along with Councillors Craig Loy and Ken Sanchez voted on Monday night against a bill reforming the ethics code.

She argued against prohibiting the mayor or councillors from voting on issues involving people seeking to do business with the city. According to the bill. the mayor or councillors who accepted campaign contributions from donors, within the preceding year, would be limited in voting on those issues.

The ethics bill introduced by Winter needed seven votes as a charter amendment to pass, but it died on a 6-3 vote.

I leave it to the voters of district seven to decide. Is Mayer's record what they voted for or do they wish to sign a petition calling for a special retention election.