Monday, December 31, 2007

2007’s Top Stories

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

As the year ends, it is a tradition for the media to look back at the past year and pick its top news stories.

The Associated Press put out their list choosing:
1. Senator Pete Domenici’s retirement announcement.
2. Gov. Bill Richardson’s presidential run.
3. Federal Indictments handed down alleging former State Senator Manny Aragón in a kickback scheme on Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse construction.
4. U.S. Attorney David Iglesias fights firing.
5. Statewide smoking ban legislation.
6. Statewide Cock fighting ban legislation.
7. Medical Marijuana legislation.
8. Los Alamos and Sandia National laboratories layoffs.
9. Clovis Tornado.
10. Higher minimum wage.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

AP’s choices make a fair amount of sense; they probably reflect the amount of resources devoted to stories, as a measure of importance, as anything else.

However, my take differs in a couple of places. Probably for the amount of resources I devoted on these stories. Though present at the legislature, I didn’t actually cover the smoking ban, medical marijuana or minimum wage legislation. Nor did I cover the laboratories layoffs or the Clovis Tornado.

I published, contributed or worked on the top four and because of my local concentration, have my own top five.
Here’s my take:

1. Sen. Domenici announced his intentions to run for a seventh U.S. Senate term on March 4.
Domenici announced his retirement on Oct. 4, due to the uncertainties of being diagnosed with Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration, an incurable disease that causes dysfunction of the brain.Capitol Report New Mexico will be distributed Jan. 9.

Domenici was under a Senate Ethics Committee investigation for having called then U.S. Attorney David Iglesias about whether pending indictments of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse investigation would be unsealed before the November 2006 election. The progress of the ethics investigation was suspended when he announced his retirement.

Domenici’s retirement at the end of 36 years opens the political floodgates. Three congressional seats were vacated by Representatives: Republicans Heather Wilson, District 1 and Steve Pearce, District 2 and Democrat Tom Udall, District 3 to run for Senate. Like a tsunami, it’s not just one wave but a series and backwash.

Even those who are politically attuned are having trouble keeping up with the names of and the number of people: considering runs for office, selecting races, announcing candidacies, dropping out of races, switching races and even switching districts.

2. On the first day of the year, Gov. Bill Richardson was sworn in, beginning his second four-year term in office. He announced his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination on ABC’s Jan. 21 Sunday morning news program, “This Week” with Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos. Stephanopoulos was a former associate when both were in President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Richardson’s announcement came just a week after he opened the State Legislature’s 60-day session, declaring it the “Year of Water.”

International concerns of genocide prompted Richardson to travel to the civil war-torn Dufar region of Sudan, where he helped obtain a 60-day cease-fire.

He spent more time on the campaign trail than he has in the state tending to his office.

Richardson has lagged in the polls behind Democratic front-running Senators: Hillary Clinton of New York, Barack Obama of Illinois and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards.

The state of Iowa holds its caucus on Jan. 3, followed by the New Hampshire primary, Jan. 8. Richardson feels he must move upwards in those two states’ selection processes in order to remain a viable candidate. Iowa and New Hampshire voters have a history of bucking poll leaders. The Iowa caucuses are not a straight one-man one-vote proposition, but a consensus affair. Sometimes, the second or third ranked candidate may emerge. This was true for Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both governors. Richardson is hoping for similar results.

3. Federal indictments were handed down against former State Senate Pro-Tem Manny Aragón, left, Contractor Raul Parra, center, former Metropolitan Court Administrator Toby Martinez and his wife Sandra Mata Martinez, right, alleging a kickback scheme of $4.2 million in construction of the new Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse.

Former Albuquerque Mayor Ken Schultz, architect Marc Schiff and electronics subcontractor Manuel Guara, agreed to enter guilty pleas to two counts each of conspiracy and mail fraud, and to testify against the other four. In August, a related indictment was filed against Michael Murphy.

4. U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, right, along with seven other U.S. Attorneys were asked to resign on Dec.7, 2006, from their presidential appointed positions. They claim the firings were for illegal political reasons. Iglesias testified before two congressional hearings that Sen. Domenici and Rep. Wilson made improper phone calls during the 2006 election campaign.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who denied to congress that there was any political component to the firings, came under increased pressure and resigned Aug. 27.

Prominent New Mexico Republicans complained about Iglesias to the Justice Department and White Hous , including: Attorney Patrick J. Rogers of the Modrall Sperling law firm; Albuquerque attorney, Mickey Barnett, who at one time was a Washington based Domenici aide, and later sat on the Republican National Committee representing New Mexico, and currently is a presidential appointed Postal Service Governor; and current Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White and Republican candidate for N.M. Congressional District 1, who has been involved the State Republican Party, serving as chairman for President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign in Bernalillo County.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who was also in charge of: the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, was suspected of orchestrating the politics of the firings. He resigned, leaving the White House Aug. 31.

5. Albuquerque’s Mayor Martin Chávez had multiple failures:

In July, Chávez traveled to China and while there, attempted to secure a Panda for the Rio Grande Zoo.

Chávez openly supported political newcomer Kathryn Martinez, left, to run against Council President Debbie O’Malley. Though he denied publicly supporting another candidate, Paulette de Pascal, in the City Council District 4 race held by Brad Winter, several of Chávez’ mayoral staff members were involved in her campaign. A five Councillor majority coalition had formed blocking several of Chávez’ initiatives. Martinez was soundly defeated and de Pascal lost by the largest margin in the city’s current form of elections.

Chávez vetoed a proposed charter amendment that would make recalling elected city officials nearly impossible. The Council overrode the veto and the electorate passed the amendment.

Voters approved an amendment that took away the sole prerogative of the mayor to make all appointments to city boards and commissions. The Council can now make some appointments where authorized by ordinance.

Chávez solicited contributions for “Chávez for New Mexico” without announcing any solid intentions to run for a particular office.

Chávez expressed an interest in the office of governor, especially after Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, above, was reelected and announced that she was putting her residual funds from last year’s election into a run for governor in 2010. Statewide polling numbers showed Denish would soundly defeat Chávez in a primary. So, he quietly went away.

Chávez said that he was also interested in being a Senator, but would not run against Domenici, offering his support for him instead. When Domenici retired, Chávez announced for the office. Then, when Rep. Udall, above, entered the race, statewide polling numbers showed Udall would soundly defeat Chávez in a primary, especially in Hispanic areas that Chávez thought would support him. He again withdrew quietly.

Chávez threatened the University of New Mexico at a protest rally before a public meeting over a proposed development on the North Campus Golf Course by suggesting he would not approve required construction permits.

Chávez added to the list of offenders who he feels compelled to publicly vilify. His weapon of choice after conviction and sentence is to use a high tech form of the scarlet letter, newspaper advertising, showing the jailhouse mugshots of selected offenders. He has previously gone after sex offenders, drunk drivers and this year, street gangsters.

Chávez’ penchant for the Red Light/Speed cameras caused him no end of political problems. Legislators made moves on forcing the abandonment of the program or having fines go through the state that would take a portion of the proceeds. Eventually, legislation required the city to provide a method of warning for drivers approaching camera-monitored intersections, including the use of flashing lights or rumble strips. After publicly complaining about the state imposed action, the city cut rumble strips into the roadways, rather than installing more expensive flashing warning lights.

The Governor vetoed another bill that had passed by huge margins in both houses of the state legislature. It would have required that fines collected by the city’s “civil” process and administrative hearing officer’s procedures, go through the courts fee system to help pay down the bonds for the Metropolitan Court building. Sen. Timothy Z. Jennings, D - Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln and Otero counties, complained that by allowing Albuquerque to retain the proceeds of the Safe Traffic Operations Program, also known as the STOP ordinance, the rest of the state was having to unfairly fund a greater portion of the Metropolitan Court.

Chávez defended the extra millions of dollars the program generated, but refused to call them profits.

The City Council had been assured each time the City’s STOP ordinance, was reviewed, that it was self funded and any excess would be used to maintain and expand the program and to fund support of prosecutors in the District Attorneys office, especially for methamphetamine enforcement. A one-time contribution was made and now the “excess funds” were used to balance the budget rather than for the maintenance of the ordinance.

Chávez, feeling political pressure, appointed a task force, including members of the federal government to review the issue of automated enforcement. Observers doubt that there will be any serious look at the underlying issues and believe the task force will rubber stamp the mayor’s support.

The City Council voted to suspend the STOP ordinance until the task force renders its report due Jan. 15. Chávez vetoed the suspension and the council overrode the veto.

Just a couple of thoughts on the other stories on AP’s list.

State Senator James Taylor, above, District 14, D, Bernalillo and Valencia Counties, grabbed a smoke after the opening session. The Capitol building was previously designated as a no smoking facility in a bill named after it’s strong supporter, former First Lady Dee Johnson. The legislature outlawed smoking in all public buildings.

During the same session, Medical Marijuana legislation was passed. There seems to be a disconnect; smoking one kind of plant is deemed hazardous to someone else’s health while the smoking of another kind of plant is deemed to be of medicinal value. I know all the arguments; it just doesn’t make sense when the two issues appear in the same paragraph.

As for the Statewide Cockfighting ban; most New Mexico counties and cities and many towns had already outlawed the blood sport.

The strongest argument for not banning the grisly venture was a reliance on provisions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo having to do with respect for religion and culture.

At a North Valley City Council candidate forum, sponsored by New Mexico Vecinos Unidos, Carlos Cansino, wearing his cockfighting cap, called for the City Council to reinstate cockfighting in Albuquerque using the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

The Mexicans who, in the territories aforesaid, shall not preserve the character of citizens of the Mexican Republic, conformably with what is stipulated in the preceding article, shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States. and be admitted at the proper time (to be judged of by the Congress of the United States) to the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution; and in the mean time, shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without; restriction.

The 1848 treaty applied to all the land that changed hands after the Mexican-American war. The area became U.S. territories that are now the states of California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. All of them have successfully banned cockfighting. The State’s ban has withstood its first challenge when a state District Court refused to issue an injunction to ban enforcement of the law earlier this month.

It further would seem that only those parts of New Mexico, west of the Rio Grande, were covered by the treaty, because when Texas gained its independence from Mexico in 1836, the western border was the river.

It seems to me that in 1848, people had the right to smoke in public buildings; they even had the right to smoke marijuana in public buildings. However, as a society we have seen fit to curtail those rights and what was “maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property,” is no longer. Killing chickens with razorblades attached to their legs, as sport, just isn’t acceptable social behavior anymore.

So, the year 2007 is in the bag.

2008 looks promising, Happy New Year!

Knight’s 'Horrendous Call' Gets Flagged

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

From 47 feet out, University of New Mexico’s six foot - one inch freshman guard Dairese Gary dropped in a one-handed three-point shot at the half-time buzzer during the Dec. 15 UNM Lobos – Texas Tech Red Raiders men’s basketball game in the Pit. Or was it a buzzer beater? Lobos would win, 80-63.

"I thought it was a horrendous call," Tech’s Coach Bob Knight told the Associated Press after the game, claiming the buzzer had sounded prior to Gray’s release. Knight was angry about the officiating and said so. The Big 12 reprimanded him for his comments.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

There is nothing new about Knight being upset with referees. He has a long history of outbursts. He also is the winningest Division I college basketball coach.

The fact that Knight coached UNM’s coach, Steve Alford, at Indiana and the student has now beaten his old mentor a couple of times, might not have set well either.

However, Knight probably didn’t mind being beaten outright as much as he minded a missed call.

I don’t usually make comments about the state of sports officiating, but this story seemed like the perfect cover to test out the video feature of the blog.

A couple of years ago, I was shooting video for a documentary on UNM women’s basketball program for Dan Vukelich's Golf TV. The documentary, tentatively entitled, "Lady Lobo Love Affair 2006," never materialized, when financial backing fell through.

This is a short piece from a UNM - North Dakota State women’s basketball game where a similar incident occurred.

As seconds clicked down towards the half, Katie Montgomery got a shot off from half court that bounced off the backboard, then the inside of the front of the rim, then the back of the rim and rattled on the front and back rim again before settling through the hoop. Referees indicated three points. However, stop action analysis of the tape shows that the clock had expired 10 frames before the ball left Montgomery’s hand. There are 30 video frames per second, so those 10 frames equals a third of a second. UNM won 75-59.

Time has expired and the lights, indicating the end of the half are illuminating,

The ball has clearly left Montgomery's hand.

The point is that college basketball does not use instant replay, referees get it wrong once in awhile and Knight will get in trouble with the league officials for his “Free Speech” in a system that won’t allow it. I have no idea if Gray’s shot beat the buzzer or not, I wasn’t there. The reason I don’t care is because I view team sports, at best, as nothing more than a game. I can’t muster the fanaticism that many do. That’s another story, for another day.

But more importantly, my video test worked.

Look for more video in the future, especially because I will be taking a broadcast class this coming semester.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Josie Centeno

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is Josie S. Centeno. She died Dec. 27 from complications during surgery on her hip, which she broke in a fall on Christmas Eve. She was 81.

She was the mother of my sister-in-law, Barbara. I knew her as a loving matriarch, a gracious hostess and one who considered me part of her extended family.

Centeno, the former Josie Saiz, of San Acacia, N.M., is survived by her children: Carmen Bennett and husband, Jim; Rita Campbell and companion, Jose Gallegos; Barbara Bralley and husband, Guy; Carolyn Aranda and husband, Arthur; Steve Centeno and wife, Juliet; her sister, Adela Armijo; her brother, Jim Saiz and wife, Lucy; her sister in law, Lorraine Saiz; ten grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; many other sisters in law, brothers in law, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Mrs. Centeno was preceded in death by her husband, Nick Centeno; her brother, Sam Saiz and her parents, Damacio and Cipriana Saiz.

I was honored, as a part of the extended family to be requested to photograph Mrs. Centeno’s immediate family for an 80th birthday gift. Each branch of the family wore different colored shirts to signify what she had called “all my flowers in my garden.” There are three missing grandchildren, and one of their wives.

The children are in the top row from the youngest on the left: Steven wearing yellow, Fran wearing turquoise, Barbara wearing red, Rita wearing black, and Carmen wearing blue.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ben Altamirano

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

State Senate President Pro Tempore Ben Altamirano, a Democrat, whose Senate District 28, encompasses Catron, Grant and part of Socorro Counties, died at home in Silver City, Dec 27. The former insurance businessman served in the Senate since 1971, longer than any current legislator. He was 77.

Altamirano is seen here, March 24, 2007, after the Senate voted to adjourn from a special session. Gov. Bill Richardson called the legislature back to work after the regular 60-day meetings, on what he called unfinished business. Altamirano presided because Lt. Gov. Diane Denish was acting governor due to Richardson being out of state pursuing the national Democratic Party's nomination for President.

Richardson will name Altamirano’s replacement to the Senate. The Senate will elect a member of its body to be Senate President Pro Tempore, on Jan. 15, when they convene for their regular 30-day session.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

2,000 Years Plus

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity in the City of Bethlehem, Palestine.

It is one of the holiest sites in the Christian world as the reported birthplace of Jesus is in this grotto.

The church also holds significance to the Muslim world, as Jesus is considered one of Islam’s prophets.

So what’s wrong with these pictures?

They were taken ten years ago. Much has happened since then; for the past five years, Christmas in Bethlehem has been a fairly subdued event. This year the faithful returned.

In April and May of 2002, Israeli troops took over the town while some 200 Palestinians initially occupied the church. Israeli Defense Forces crossed the green line into the West Bank to root out “terrorists” after a series of suicide bomb attacks. After a 39-day standoff, 13 Palestinians were escorted out of the church with their weapons and transported to Cyprus. They were later dispersed to seven countries.

This region of the world has a tortured history, as long before the birth of Jesus, as since his promise of peace. About a third of the world’s population consider themselves Christians.

This is looking northeast from the Church of the Nativity, across the shepherds’ fields towards Jerusalem. The Israelis have now built a barrier that Palestinians call the apartheid wall, separating the West Bank.

As a result of the recent Annapolis meeting to restart the peace process, Bethlehem was opened to thousands last night.

A mere step in the contentious effort to find world peace; may many more steps follow….

Sunday, December 23, 2007

And Happy Holidays to you too Mario

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Sometimes, I live in a cold world. It isn’t true, but I have never used a hot link to another site. Some of my younger blogging associates shrug and say, “Hey, it’s your site, do what you want.”

So, maybe it’s time for this old dog to learn a new trick. I am going to use a link.

It seems that the spirit of the Holidays has overcome some whom, at first thought, you might not expect. Mario Burgos, my favorite “wingnut” is just such a person. You’ve met him here before. He writes a blog under his name using the phrase, “Clear thinking and straight talk from the top of a mountain.” He’s not quite the person that he seems to be from his blog. I met him awhile back when he spoke on a panel about public relations. He comes off more relaxed and personable.

He is a buddy of Dennis Domrzalski who every once in a while has him on as a guest of the Sunday morning KOB TV talk show “Eye on New Mexico.”

He’s a partner in a company, Mudhouse advertising. Mudhouse has put out a holiday video project that will donate $1, up to $10,000 to Art Street and Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, for each unique hit.

His history, according to him, includes being an actor and an educator. He has unsuccessfully run for political office as a state representative and for the seat as chairman of the Bernalillo County Republican Party.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Not a thing!

I got an e-mail from another blogger who directly passed on a request from Burgos to link to his project.

Mario, you didn’t have to ask, I was already going to do it. I applaud your philanthropic efforts; I’ll try to help spend your full budget.

To my readers, I don’t try to tell you what to do; I try to inform. On this one, go view the video produced by Rebecca Elise Productions, Luis Molina and Half-Life Digital.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Shades of ‘My Weekly Reader’

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I remember as a child in grade school waiting for the day that ‘My Weekly Reader’ would be distributed in class. It was a students’ first brush with newspapers.

With all the political activity of the last month or so and what turned out to be a demanding class at the University, I have the odd feeling that my blogging resembles more ‘My Weekly Reader’ than an up to the moment, or at least up to the past couple of days old reporting and analysis, that I would like to strive for.

So here’s the news.

This is State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones (R) Bernalillo County District 24 at a “community discussion on ethics,” held Dec. 6, listening to one of the 35 constituents in attendance.

Arnold-Jones was also considering a run for the Republican nomination for the Congressional District 1 seat being vacated by Rep. Heather Wilson who is running against Rep. Steve Pierce for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Pete Domenici. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White and State Senator Joe Carraro (R) Bernalillo County District 23 are seeking the Republican nomination. Former City Councillor Martin Heinrich, Highland High School Math teacher John Call and former Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham are running for the Democratic nomination.

“I have concluded that this is not the time for me to seek election to New Mexico's 1st Congressional District,” Arnold-Jones wrote in an e-mail press release Dec. 16. “I will seek re-election to the New Mexico Legislature, House District 24.”

As a matter of disclosure, I will again be providing her campaign with photographic services.

Dec. 13
A Short Road Trip

Trying to take a quick break, I headed off towards San Antonio, Texas, but even then I can’t seem to escape the reminders of the political blogging demands.

This is Monahans, Texas exit along Interstate Highway 10. Joe Monahan hails from Pennsylvania; maybe these are some relatives who also abandoned the east.

This is Adrian Robert Nogales, graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is the second son of my buddy and proofreader Francisco Roque and his wife Eileen Nogales.

He is given a hug and kiss from his grandmother, Carmen and congratulated by his uncle, John Muirhead, left, while his older brother, Damacio, right, looks on. Adrian Nogales majored in geography with a minor in international studies.

I had heard that southeastern New Mexico was prospering due to the high cost of a barrel of oil. It’s true. There are two ways of telling: every few miles along U.S. Highway 285 from Malaga to Carlsbad, in Eddy County, you see these lit up oil drilling derricks; and you can smell the oil!

UPDATE: Monahan reports…

John Call, left, has withdrawn from the Democratic nomination race for New Mexico’s Congressional District 1 seat. He has thrown his support behind Martin Heinrich. Earlier, Democrat John Adams, right, withdrew from the central district race and moved north, entering the race for the Congressional District 2 seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Udall, who is running against Leland Lehrman for the Senate nomination.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Another Week in the Political Tumbler

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Thursday Nov. 29
Udall is Officially In the Senate Race

Rep. Tom Udall, seen here with his father, Stuart, left, his daughter Amanda and his wife Jill, announced his run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Pete Domenici, who announced his retirement Oct. 4. The five-term congressman for the northern district of New Mexico, initially declared he would not run, but at the beginning of the month he said he was reconsidering.

At the State Democratic Party’s Central Committee’s meeting, Nov. 3, Udall virtually announced, then backed off telling the press in the room that his statements were not an announcement.

Carraro Takes On White for the House

State Senator Joe Carraro, who has represented the West Side of Albuquerque in Bernalillo and parts of Sandoval Counties since 1993, officially announced that he is seeking the Republican primary nomination as a candidate for N.M. House District 1. Rep. Heather Wilson, who is now running for the Senate seat vacated by Domenici, abandoned the House. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White is already in the race.

Carraro is a former Pizza parlor owner who sold out 12 years ago and is now a business consultant. The current owner of Carraro’s Pizza donated 10 pies to his announcement; there were about 40 people in the room.

Carraro compared his legislative history against White’s administrative abilities as a law enforcement appointed bureaucrat. White had been Director of the Department of Public Safety and now is a County Sheriff.

Friday Nov. 30
Red light and Speed Cameras Are Headed Back to Court
It's All Out of Focus

Attorney Paul Livingston filed a class action suit in State District Court, against the City’s Safe Traffic Operations Program, also known as the STOP ordinance. The named defendants were the City of Albuquerque, Martin Chávez, Mayor and Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., the private contractor who operates the stationary cameras at 20 intersections and provides three mobile speed camera vans.

Chávez, a then candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat, announced the formation of an ad-hoc committee to review STOP and appointed nine members:
State House staff worker Regis Pecos,
State Senate staff worker Ron Forte,
A City Council member named by then Council President Debbie O'Malley,
Metropolitan Court Judge Judy Nakamura or a designee,
Jim Brogan of the University of New Mexico Alliance for Transportation Research Institute,
Patricia Tucker of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
Wei Zhang of the Federal Highway Administration, and
Michelle Fields of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

There is a serious question of whether a federal government employee may sit on a non-federal governmental committee. The posse comitatus law prohibits using the Army or federal employees in local law enforcement. Such activity may also violate specific federal ethics rules.

The suit named eight individuals, including last minute added plaintiffs, Arthur "Sonny" Leeper and Kevin Smith, as representatives of the class of citizens who had been impacted by the STOP procedures.

Leeper had a STOP violation case heard before the City’s Chief Administrative Hearing Officer Roberto Albertorio. He dismissed Leeper’s violation. There was a fair amount of media coverage of the hearing. I was not present because I was preparing to leave town.

As a matter of disclosure, I assisted Livingston, at his request, in drafting this suit.

California Trip

This is a Frontier Airliner, named “Jack” because the tail has a picture of a white rabbit. I flew on this plane to Denver on a trip to Sacramento for a family gathering.

Mayor Chávez announced on Aug. 4, that Frontier would start international flights to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The City of Albuquerque promised $200,000 to help make up losses of Frontier for several months until the flights become profitable.

I made an, “Inspection of Public Records request to view information held by the Mayor/CAO office, the airport, legal department or any other department, on the negotiations between City of Albuquerque and Frontier Airlines,” on Aug. 5.

At the Aug. 6 City Council meeting, City Attorney Bob White approached me saying he had received my request and that I would be getting a reply from the Mayor’s office and one from him. I told White that all I wanted to see was the section of the agreement with Frontier pertaining to the City’s $200,000 promise.

I spoke with the Aviation Director Nick Bakas who said he had not yet seen the request and once he did, he would contact me and I could see whatever they had.

Marc Chavez of the Mayor’s office responded invoking the 15-day provision of the Inspection of Public Records Act, rather than the three-day requirement, “to research and locate files should they exist,” on Aug. 7.

I also sent White copies of the request and added, “The second attachment is the one that is still outstanding from March 3 of this year. I have talked directly to Planning Director Richard Dineen, Left, who said he would look into it but has not gotten back to me. I still wish the information.” I was seeking the names of members of a different ad-hoc committee on commercial signs.

I wrote Bakas on Aug, 10, “I hadn't heard from your department about my inspection of public records request that I filed with the City Clerk's office, so I am sending you a copy directly.”

Marc Chavez wrote, on Aug. 20, “…White, will be contacting you with questions pertaining to this request.”

There has been no contact since. So what’s the big deal? What questions? I specifically asked for the negotiated section to the City giving Frontier $200,000!

“Neither the state, nor any county, school district, or municipality, except as otherwise provided in this constitution, shall directly or indirectly lend or pledge its credit, or make any donation to or in aid of any person, association or public or private Corporation...,” Anti-donation clause of Article IX, Section 14 of the State Constitution.

The deal takes two forms: did the city violate the anti-donation clause and did the city violate the inspection of public records act in my efforts to determine the first question?

The City seems to have little or no intention in providing the requested information to the public through me in my efforts to fulfill the journalistic role as a watchdog.

Saturday Dec. 1
The Eagle’s Nest Makes Room for Another Bird

A couple weeks ago, while at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, I observed this solitary Bald Eagle amongst the ducks.

These are my nephews, my sister Alison’s boys; Timothy, left, Gregory, right and Steven center. Steven, you’ve met before; on my road trip this summer, he raised and sold a pig. Now he was awarded his Eagle, the highest Boy Scout rank. His brothers place the Eagle neckerchief around his neck.

Within the Bralley family, this is a big deal. Steven represents the seventh Eagle of nine boys in two generations; the other two obtained the rank of Star and Life, the next two highest awards.

Monday Dec. 3
City Council Weirdness

I missed the first session of the new Council. It seems I wasn’t alone, as four Councillors: Sally Mayer, Ken Sanchez, Don Harris and newly elected Trudy Jones, boycotted because it seems that Mayer and Sanchez were upset with Councillor Brad Winter. Mayer and Sanchez, both wanted to be President and thought Winter had not honor his commitment. They said that Winter had told each of them he was backing them for Council President. In the end, Winter was elected, joined by the other four: Isaac Benton, Michael Cadigan, Rey Garduño, and Debbie O’Malley.

Winter also introduced and successfully passed a moratorium until the ad-hoc committee recommendations were released on the STOP ordinance by 3-2, with Cadigan, Garduño joining Winter, while O’Malley and Benton voted against.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

This is Chávez on Nov. 3, at the State Democratic Party’s Central Committee’s meeting when he blasted New York U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, who is also the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee after Schumer had backed Udall. Chávez said that New Mexicans will select the next Senator from New Mexico. It was the best quote of his campaign. Chávez later met with Schumer and asked him if he was officially backing Udall. Schumer backed away from outright support of Udall.

Friday Dec. 7
Chávez Is Out

Chávez withdrew from the Senate race, throwing his support behind Udall.

The campaign was fraught with problems. Early on, Chávez said he wanted to be Governor or Senator, but would not run against Domenici, whom he would support. He responded to Lt. Gov. Diane Denish’s statement, that she was going to make a run for Governor in 2010, with his own intention to run. He was soliciting funds under the banner of “Chávez for New Mexico” without ever indicating further what office he sought.

When Domenici dropped out, Chávez announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. He was prepared with banners, campaign stickers and a website when he announced at Eclipse Aviation. The down side was that Eclipse announced it was experiencing business problems that included reducing its workforce. He announced his fundraising staff and some of them apparently were unaware of their roles. Chávez attacked Udall as a do nothing Congressman, signaling his intention to wage a negative campaign.

Despite rumors of further arm twisting from Washington Democratic leaders and a lack of fund raising, Chávez’ campaign cited an internal poll showing Udall favored in critical areas of the state as the reason to abandon the bid.

The campaign season does not even officially begin until the deadline for candidates to file for office in early February.

There is still plenty of room for movement for players, known and unknown, to join the party.