Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It Wasn’t Just a Non-event—It Was a Tragedy!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

The president came and went.

There was virtually nothing to see. President George W. Bush's limousine is behind the white pipe fencing.

I’ve been covering presidents for 42 years –- that’s Lyndon Johnson, if you’re trying to figure it out -- and yet there is more parade and less show with this administration.

This is not a political piece. This is a law enforcement posting about what is now done to protect the man. Not George W. Bush, but the President of the United States. The United States Secret Service uses the acronym POTUS.

Over the years, the protection has gotten tighter and tighter. This is not a condemnation of how they do their work, for they have an incredibly difficult task.

There is plenty to say about the political side of the Bush administration. The lack of public appearances and using security as a screen for staying out of touch with the majority of Americans diminishes confidence with these leaders. Bush seldom stands before thousands of ordinary citizens. When he does, they more often than not are in very select groups: conventions, armed forces bases and hand picked political situations.

I can rattle off the excuses: we’re at war; it’s a different world since Sept. 11…. However, with his poll ratings at an all time low, he can ill afford to stand in the midst of his fellow countrymen and take the heat of his leadership. I’m not talking about the anti-war protestors, I’m talking about the majority of citizens who voted and who accept the outcome of the elections, whether their candidate won or not, who accept Bush as president. In the six years he has been our leader, I have yet to see the man and I have made a fair effort to do so.

Monday was no different. The local press sought shade during the waiting. They are: Journal's photographer Dean Hanson, foreground, KOAT's Matt Grubbs on his cellular phone, KRQE’s photojournalist Dominic Crespin, in the blue shirt, freelance photographer and KUNM radio reporter, Nick Layman, left, in the purple shirt and KOB’s News Chief Photographer Bazz McClain, partially hidden, with a lone protester, in the white shirt. Other members of the media included: the Journal’s Jeff Jones, Associated Press’ Melanie Dabovich and KOAT’s photojournalist Paul Hyso.

There were at least six visible layers of protection for the motorcade as it left the home of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque’s Mayor Larry Abraham on Rio Grande Boulevard, where a private political fundraiser for incumbent Senator Pete Domenici, who is seeking a seventh term, took place.

First layer, Bernalillo County Sheriff's Traffic Sgt. J.P. Lazo, who with another officer, turned traffic around about a half mile south of the event on Rio Grande Boulevard.

Second, members of the Albuquerque Police Department's horse mounted unit and emergency response team limit the northern most access for the public.

The third and fourth levels are provided by members of the USSS uniform division in a grey sport utility vehicle, that ran a parallel path with the limousine, backed up by an APD special weapons and tactics unit in the white SUV, seen in the background of the first picture at the top of the post.

The fifth level is the motorcade, and within it is the sixth level, a small number of vehicles including the limousine and backup USSS vehicles, but excluding non-essential follow-up cars.

Protesters were allowed closer, about 200 yards, than I have previously noticed. They were still out of shouting range, though the presidential limousine is little more than a bank safe on wheels and from within the hermetically sealed Cadillac, nothing probably can be heard.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Only moments before the limousine appeared on the driveway of Abraham’s estate, two American flags were hoisted across the road. What does that mean? Supporters were granted access while the news media, regular citizens, and sign carrying protesters were kept away. Is the president only allowed to see signs of support? Does that constitute an abridgment of the first amendment right to petition government for a redress of grievances?

Returning the president to Air Force One, at Kirtland Air Force Base, the motorcade drove east in the closed off westbound lanes in front of the Sunport. Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety Officer Germaine Casey, 40, was killed when his motorcycle left the roadway on a curve and struck a tree. He was immediately treated by fellow officers and transported to University of New Mexico Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Casey had served two years with Rio Rancho DPS. Previously, he was an UNM police officer. He is survived by his wife, Lisa and two daughters.

Casey is the second motorcycle officer killed within a year while escorting a presidential motorcade. Honolulu Police Department motorcycle Officer Steve Favela, died Nov. 26, 2006, from injuries suffered five days earlier, while escorting Bush on a rain-slicked roadway on Hickham Air Force Base, Hawaii. Favela also struck a tree.

After completing the motorcade escort, APD Traffic Section Lt. Todd Parkins, right, and another officer wend their way towards the scene of the crash as vehicles at the Sunport are ensnarled.

Though presidential motorcade escorts are extremely dangerous for motorcycle officers, now is not the time to analyze the events that lead to Officer Casey’s death.

The Domenici fundraiser raised about $434,000. The event cost the attendees $1,000 per plate or $5,000 for a picture with Bush, according to campaign officials.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Under the Bus

What's wrong with this picture?

This is Benson Hendrix. He is a friend that I met a few years ago when we took a media management class together. We would also take two other classes, electronic publishing, and copy-editing and makeup.

He was a sports writer for the Journal for 10 years and did an internship as a public relations specialist at the State Engineer’s office. When he graduated, with a bachelor of university studies degree, majoring in public relations and advertising, he went to work for a local public relations firm, D.W. Turner, about a year ago. He recently moved to a new job with the University of New Mexico’s communications and marketing department.

He has been keeping me and the rest of the local media apprised of up-coming events on campus. I was not particularly interested in the new lighting system for Johnson Field. It just didn’t spark my imagination and I knew it would be a long skinny vertical picture, at best. However, last week he told me of a pending press release to announce the cooperation of the university and the city in a project, “Lobo Ride Pass,” where the ABQ Ride busses would provide free transportation for UNM students. State Representative Gail Chasey, a law student, whose district includes the main campus, sponsored the funding of $35,000 through the New Mexico state legislature.

The press conference was his first solo event and he was poring over the details late last week. He was stressed about getting a bus as a prop and making arrangements to have Mayor Martin Chávez, University President David Schmidly, and ABQ Ride Director Greg Payne attend at the same time. After rearranging some schedules, the event was announced for 9:30 a.m. Tues.

I arrived about 9 a.m. and Hendrix was fairly well prepared, but he hadn’t quite figured out where he wanted the dignitaries to stand relative to the bus, so he could provide good visuals for the TV and still cameras.

His first thought was to have the dignitaries stand next to the parked bus with their backs to the sun. Here he is posing in a “test shot’ to show him why that wasn’t such a good idea. The solution came from his assistant and a fellow current classmate of mine, Katrina Sanchez, who picked a very good spot with the sun coming from a right angle.

There are always things that are considered and sometimes rejected, that as an after thought seem to make so much more sense. The mayor holds one or two press conferences or photo opportunities a day and often provides his own podium. Hendrix had considered supplying a podium, but decided not to because it was going to be such a short event. Then reality hit him. A podium has a secondary, yet important purpose as it holds the microphones for radio and TV stations. It didn’t deter him; he was willing to throw himself in front of the bus and become an impromptu mike stand. Chávez and Schmidly agreed to hold the microphones, encouraging Hendrix not to lie at their feet.

The other thing he learned was to suggest to his boss, Schmidly, right, not to wear sunglasses during televised statements, because the visual audience wants to see a person’s eyes. It doesn’t matter that they squint; viewers accept it, over not seeing the whites of their eyes.

The highlight of the event was to be a ride on the bus around campus with Schmidly pointing out to Chávez various landmarks. Chávez was going to point out where the busses would stop.

So what's wrong with this picture?

I can’t show you what happened, because after answering questions from a KUNM FM reporter, Chávez passed close by me speaking softly to his police bodyguard, Officer Louie Sanchez. “This guy’s problems…,” Chávez said. He then continued whispering to Sanchez, telling him to keep me from boarding the bus.

“The mayor says you took a swing at him at an earlier event,” Sanchez, below right, said. “He is afraid of you.” Sanchez asked me, as a personal favor to him, that I not get on the bus. My response to Sanchez was that I was being a journalist and following the story.

Efforts by Hendrix and the Mayor’s Public Information Officer Deborah James to convince Chávez that I should be allowed on the bus were fruitless. James came back repeating what Sanchez had said. “The mayor is afraid of you.”

I have never taken a swing at Chávez. The only thing I’ve taken was his picture.

At times, they haven’t been the most flattering. However, that’s my job. I’m not his, or anyone else’s PR Flack. I show him as he is. I have a number of clients and there have been a number of straightforward pictures I have taken of him published.

Chávez’ image is in constant demand. I don’t play paparazzi with him. I had a hand placed on my lens when photographing him at the 2004 Democratic Presidential Candidates’ debate by an unidentified man who was accompanying him. It was quickly removed when I sternly told the person not to touch the camera.

Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz did not return a call seeking comment on why one of his officers barred a recognized member of the press from covering a city event and whether a criminal investigation for assault had been initiated against me.

I have repeatedly asked both James, left, and Schultz to be added to their lists of media contacts to be notified of city and police press conferences or photo opportunities with no results. Both blame underlings for not following their instructions. James, left, blames her assistant Felicia Giron, while Schultz says Public Information Officer John Walsh is not doing what he’s told.

What does this all mean? This is a case of prior restraint by an elected official trying to punish a person who does not give him the coverage he wishes.

The mayor is manipulating coverage of his administration. Though some people at the city are free to talk, if the topic gets too close to any sensitive area, workers have been told to refer interviewers to department heads or the PIO, who either don't respond or don't answer the questions. It makes getting information difficult and I have had to revert to seeking details through the state’s inspection of public records requests. Three of the last four requests were not answered in a prompt manner. One was handled routinely and in a timely manner. Another request was delayed, but upon prompting from City Attorney Bob White, I was able to inspect some of the documents held by a department. That request also involved information held by the mayor’s office and there was no response from them. Two other requests are past due the statutory time frames, the first by months, the other by about a week.

White has been trying to coax responses with little success.

Friday, August 24, 2007

No, I Don’t Have Anything Better To Do

What's wrong with this picture?

A couple of days ago, Michelle Meaders posted a comment responding to Entitlement? Privileged? Scofflaw! She wrote “So a legislator who is also a law student's parking meter had expired and she hadn't gotten a ticket yet? And this is proof of corruption? Don't you have better things to do?”

Meaders got me thinking.

As I was walking back from class and lunch this afternoon, I again chanced upon the car belonging to Senator Linda M. Lopez D- Bernalillo County District 11 of the South Valley, parked in the lot on the east side of the School of Law, where she is a student. I became curious about whether she had an “L” student parking pass.

So what's wrong with this picture Ms. Meaders?

No, the only visible sticker is one issued by the state that probably gets her parking privileges at the state capitol.

I’m not trying to pick on the senator, I’m just observing and taking note of the fact that she’s not playing by the same rules as everyone else and she should. I’m also not picking on her because of her political affiliation. I would take the same stance for anyone in a similar position.

I know from your comment history to this site that you are overly sensitive and extremely defensive of your beloved Democrats. Sensitive to the point of now being considered a left spinning wing-nut, joining the couple of right spinning wing-nuts previously identified on this site.

You however, missed the point of why this behavior is to be watched carefully. Though this is not overwhelming corruptive activity, remember that the great flood started with a single drop.

Such an attitude can condone and support the heavy corruption in this state. If you stop it at the small things, you won’t have big things to worry about.

You don’t have to break out your umbrella, right now, but you might try to locate it. There are other issues you might need it for and it’s not always sunny in New Mexico.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nogales' Say

This is my friend Francisco Roque “Rocky” Nogales. He helps me by proofreading this blogspot. He wanted to post a comment about a recent article. There is no way that I will allow him to be relegated to or be buried on the comment section. He is entitled to a blank page on my site to write whatever he wishes. So there is nothing wrong with this picture.

Your piece entitled “Immigrant Sanctuary’ is an excellent read, MGB. Thanks for your thoughts and observations.

I believe you have actually captured what most law enforcement officers feel about this issue. For the 23 years I spent in the business, there were many instances that I met individuals from that group who feared our presence and did not want to speak with us. Many of them, I learned, could not make the distinction that our badge of office had the word “Police” on it rather than “Patrol Agent,” and had never been exposed to the true meaning of the foundational principles of U.S policing that you’ve so aptly and succinctly touched upon in your article.

A few extreme examples I would like to mention out of the many (too numerous to count) that I remember or personally experienced:

I recall the cold blooded murder of Officer Kenneth Sean McWethy, on February 1, 1986, at the mouth of an alley just west of Pacific & Broadway. A critical witness, looking out a window, saw the offender hiding in bushes, and then sneaking up to Sean’s blindside and shooting him multiple times. The witness, an undocumented worker, did not come forward for three days. But the image of the violent act haunted him, and he apparently could not sleep or rest. He finally came forward with the critical information, and apologized for waiting out of fear of deportation.

Fast forward to 1996, when a street drug dealer was killed with a single shotgun blast to his back as he attempted to flee a rival dealer. An undocumented worker, who also did not come forward for three days, likewise witnessed this cold-blooded murder through a window. But the violent image also haunted him, and he could not sleep or rest. His wife finally convinced him that he should call the police. He came forward with the critical information, and positively identified the offender. He also apologized for waiting to report out of fear of deportation.

The year before, in 1995, an undocumented worker, was raped by an Albuquerque Police officer, one of the worst type of predators our profession has to deal with. The victim obviously had reasons to distrust any law enforcement official from that point forward, and had to be convinced that her assistance in the prosecution would not result in her deportation. She retained an attorney to represent her concerns about her immigration status. She even became angry with another attorney who filed a civil complaint for monetary damages on her behalf, and the complaint language spoke of mistreatment she had been exposed to by police officials during the investigation, which she denounced. Her intent never was to gain anything from this experience other than preventing the offender from hurting anyone else.

The cases above, as aforementioned, are the extreme. But as I read your “Immigrant Sanctuary”, they, for obvious reasons, came to mind. These people and others, like them, must be educated by our society that they should not fear the local government for doing the right thing. This is not only an immigration status issue. Every person, within our borders, should feel free and obligated to come forward and report crimes as witnesses or victims.

Whether police talk to citizens of this country or just someone from another country, they should constantly consider that the person may have a legitimate reason to distrust government. In many countries, police do not assist citizens as we do in this country. Consequently, there may be skepticism about their trustworthiness or professionalism.

I personally would consider, when I had contact with anyone who spoke very little or no English, how I would feel if I was touring Russia, Germany or Nigeria. What if I was approached by an armed official in a uniform who began speaking to me in a language I didn’t understand? This simple thought process allowed me to empathize with the person and consider my tone and actions with them, of course without compromise to my or the safety of others.

Yes, there have been a few cases where I contacted immigration authorities to report a particular person’s illegal status. It was always after the person was in handcuffs for a crime and displayed a particular disdain for the law. This was dependant upon the type of crime committed and whether the community might benefit from the persons deportation rather than any potential for success at prosecution. Officers should have the discretion, perhaps in concert with state prosecutors, and approval of their supervisors, as to whether a person is to be turned over to immigration authorities.

When I read the position that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona had taken when he initiated a policy that his deputies should charge smuggled immigrants with felony conspiracy charges, I cringed. What possible interpretations of that policy are his deputies and other law enforcement officials perceiving? Crossing the line from policing to immigration control activities results only in a deeper wedge between police and the citizenry they are sworn to serve and protect.

I certainly hope that the Albuquerque city council and APD’s administration maintain a strong policy on keeping immigration control matters out of the normal duties of law enforcement officers. But, they must not tie their hands with a policy that does not allow for some discretion by those officers to use common sense in a case-by-case basis, and allow them to be able to seek assistance when necessary, from federal law enforcement agencies.

Nogales retired from the Albuquerque Police Department with the rank of lieutenant. He had a distinguished 23-year career, serving in a variety of assignments, including being: a patrol officer, a field investigator, a civil litigation investigator, a sex crimes detective, and he served a one-year term as president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association before being promoted to sergeant. He supervised a patrol squad and a field investigations squad before he moved to investigations, where he supervised sex crimes and homicide units. He was promoted to Lieutenant and was a shift supervisor in field services division before becoming the district attorney liaison and finished his service commanding the traffic division.

Upon retiring, he assisted as a special investigator for Governor Bill Richardson’s former crime counsel, Bob Schwartz, on a major case involving efforts at locating previous residents of a state hospital and training school. He now works in the private sector as an investigator for GEICO.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Thank You! Thank You Very Much!

What's wrong with this picture?

I missed Elvis’ 30th anniversary of his death, August 16, 1977, last week. He would have been 72.

I was never a big fan. I was at best ambivalent towards his music. It was never bad enough to change stations. However, after fulfilling an assignment that appeared in the Albuquerque News called “Elvis--Albuquerque--April 19, 1972,” I was no longer ambivalent; I wasn’t a wild screaming fan, I just appreciated him more. He was a hell of performer; his energy did not come across the radio, or even the television airwaves.

So what's wrong with this picture?

I just wanted to borrow Elvis’ line and say thank you to Hayley Shoemaker over at the Weekly Alibi for including this spot in his article, “50 Ways to Blog New Mexico.”

“What’s Wrong with This Picture?,” Shoemaker wrote, “focuses mainly on local politics, keeping a lookout for any unfair treatment of New Mexicans and local business.”

Close enough, with the hundreds of thousands of websites on the internet, every little bit helps in getting readers to view one’s site.

So thank you Alibi; "Thank you very muuuch!"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Entitlement? Privileged? Scofflaw!

What's wrong with this picture?

Courses have started and the path of my walk to class, in the hot sun, crosses the parking lot of the University of New Mexico School of Law. You can tell a lot about what’s happening on campus by the bumper stickers you encounter. I was reading mostly “John Edwards for President” stickers. I didn’t see a single Richardson for President or Obama, or even a Hillary Clinton sticker. Of course, I was only looking to my right, but didn’t see a single Republican candidate’s sticker. There is nothing scientific about bumper sticker polling.

However, it lead me to stop upon seeing two red State legislators plates on vehicles parked at meters in front of the law school.

The car on the right belongs to Senator Linda M. Lopez D- Bernalillo County District 11 of the South Valley, while the one on the left is registered to House of Representatives member Gail Chasey D- Bernalillo County District 18 of the lower-Heights, including the University.

So what's wrong with this picture?

The expired time/violation was blinking in the parking meter for Lopez’ vehicle.

Lopez, seen above working at the last legislative session, as she grabbed lunch, is a law student.

Lopez serves on several committees. She is chair of rules and a member of the judiciary committees. She is a designee to the interim legislative finance committee.

She also serves as a member on several interim committees, including: co-chairing the interim legislative ethics and is a member of the information technology and telecommunications oversight committees.

She sits in an advisory capacity on several interim committees, including: courts, corrections and justice; legislative health and human services; tobacco settlement revenue oversight committees and the funding formula study task force.

Both cars were parked in the paid spaces normally reserved for or made available for the public or irregular visitors who don’t obtain parking stickers.

Chasey, right, also is a law student. She chairs the consumer and public affairs committee and serves on the judiciary and the rules and order of business committees. She is a retired educator according to her legislative web page. She is married to long time Democratic Party member and former Attorney General David Norvell, who served from 1971-75 and is currently serving a six-year term on the state’s racing commission.
The parking meter in front of Chasey’s car had one-hour-15 minutes registered. I have no problem with her parking at a metered parking space and I suggest nothing untoward about her. On campus, parking is at a premium, yet at times the extra price is worth it as parking fees continue to go up at rates faster than tuition. Even with appropriate stickers, there is no guarantee of finding an empty space in a student lot.

Now you might think I’m nitpicking; you’d be right. Last year, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish attended a meeting with Martineztown victims of flash flood damage; her state plated vehicle was parked in front of a fire hydrant. I notice the vehicle, but did not see the hydrant. As she walked the neighborhood with residents, the TV guys at KRQE got the story.

Denish, center, with Martineztown Neighborhood Association President Christina Chavez Apodaca, left, and State Rep. Rick Miera, right, and City Councillor Isaac Benton, in the rear wearing a pink shirt, walk the area with residents and members of the news media while on a tour inspecting the damage.

Denish’s Chief of Staff Judith Espinosa, seen here on the right with her boss, took the blame for parking the car improperly.

I decided that should I see such a violation by a public figure in the future, I would report on it.

This is not the first time I’ve recorded this kind of behavior. In the April 24, 1969 issue of the Albuquerque News, there was a picture page about a Senate sub-committee hearing chaired by then junior Senator Joseph M. Montoya D- N.M., that was sparsely attended.

This is Montoya’s automobile parked against a “No Parking Any Time” curb in front of Albuquerque’s old Civic Auditorium, where the Heart Hospital of New Mexico is now located.

The only difference here, is Lopez’ violation is one of time, not safety.

There is a slippery slope that, for public officials and especially police officers, can lead to ethical problems and beyond to corruption.

Several ethicists suggest that the first step on the slippery slope is a sense of entitlement. The entitlement sometimes comes from statutory exception. An example; police officers are permitted to disregard some traffic laws during emergencies. The one that seems simplest to disregard is parking, without regard to other restrictions like yellow and red zones. Officers begin to believe, since they may disregard parking restrictions during emergencies, the marked police unit alone is sufficient for them to feel they are entitled to park wherever they wish.

After entitlement, a sense of privilege sets in. Having a marked police car or official plates is perceived as a privilege for the driver, who then ignores the laws, usually the small ones at first and sees the benefit as just a perk of the office.

It doesn’t help when coffee shops give police officers a cup, but they usually do so because they want the security that the uniform brings.

Though one can understand how a location would want to encourage having an officer in their establishment, this sign, above, at a local fast food franchise is flaunting a low level bribe and any officer who doesn’t pay full fare is making more than a mere scratch into the ethical shield. The question, in an officer’s mind should be, am I doing business here, rather than the other neighborhood business, because of the offered break?

If the answer is yes, then there is bribery afoot, both offered and accepted. Most officers, legislators and elected officials don’t abuse their privilege.

One might think that those who write, impose and enforce law on the rest of society, might be careful enough, especially while displaying their official plates, not to flaunt their office, while the rest obey the laws, pay our way or pay the fines. Just an integrity issue to place in the back of one’s mind next time a name appears on the ballot.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Immigrant Sanctuary

What's wrong with this picture?

This is the Arthur Library at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. It’s named after an 1848 graduate, Chester A. Arthur.

He’s probably the most famous graduate, but by no means the only famous graduate. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s father and Winston Churchill’s grandfather, 15 U.S. Senators, 91 members of the House of Representatives, seven cabinet secretaries, 13 Governors and numerous high ranking government officials, judges, missionaries, generals and 90 college presidents, also lay claim the Union as their alma mater, according to the college’s web page.

They forgot one; my friend Paul Livingston is also a graduate.

My father grew up in Schenectady. While in the Air Force, he was offered his choice of assignments; he chose his hometown, where he taught in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps from 1956-59 at Union.

Arthur, a lawyer, was appointed by President U.S. Grant to be the Collector of the Port of New York in 1871. The customhouse was traditionally a corrupt enterprise. Though Arthur kept more employees than necessary, he managed to clean up the corruption.

Arthur was President James A. Garfield’s vice president. Both were reformers.

Charles Guiteau, a lawyer and disgruntled office-seeker, shot Garfield at a railway station in Washington on July 2, 1881. Garfield was incapacitated and though doctors attempted to locate the bullet, they did so with unwashed hands causing a massive infection. Garfield died of internal hemorrhaging on September 19, 1881.

During the time of Garfield’s convalescence, Arthur secluded himself and the presidency was adrift.

Arthur signed a piece of legislation that excluded paupers, criminals, and lunatics from the country in 1882. Shortly after, he was presented with the first immigration law called the Chinese Exclusion Act; Arthur signed it May 6, 1882. At least they were honest about their bigotry; it was the only race based immigration law. It was the first of a series of federal immigration laws, followed by the 1921 Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924.

This is Jupiter, a replica of the Central Pacific Railroad's engine at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, at Promontory Point, Utah. This is where the east and west coasts were linked by rail on May 10, 1869. Chinese immigrant labor was used extensively on this branch of the railroad because white Californians were trying to hit Eureka in the gold fields.

The original Jupiter was manufactured at the Schenectady Works, which would later become the American Locomotive Company. Jupiter was placed on a ship, sailed through the straight of Magellan, at the southern end of South America to San Francisco and was the engine that delivered Central Pacific Railroad's President Leland Stanford, also then Governor of California, to the spike driving ceremony. Stanford was a native of Albany, N.Y., the next city southeast of Schenectady.

The American Locomotive Company is where my father worked, as a tank inspector, between the time he graduated college and joined the service at the beginning of World War II.

As a result of Garfield’s assassination, congress passed the Pendleton Act in 1883. It established a civil service process to replace the spoils system that had allowed for political supporters to be appointed to all jobs in the federal government. The Pendleton Act allowed for a very limited number of political appointees at the highest levels of the president's administration. The rest of the federal employees are retained based solely on professional performance and they may not engage in or be removed for political activity.

So what's wrong with this picture?

There is a screeching and howling going on over Mayor Martin Chávez and Police Chief Ray Schultz’ press conference this past week. They reaffirmed that the City of Albuquerque will not target people who might be in this country without proper documents.

It seems the reason for the press conference was that some officers were not following department policy that reflected the position of the city council. Keeping politics and personal beliefs out of officers’ decision making is one of the hardest things for police administrators to accomplish. On occasion, some officers reject the Standard Operating Procedures and substitute personal biases and political beliefs into their actions instead. When the clarification was announced, some officer(s) who disagreed with the city’s position, contacted the media and brought their disagreement onto the public stage. The news media, sensing a controversy, dutifully reported it. Therefore, a cat fight!

Several years ago, the city council passed a resolution unanimously establishing that any person seeking city services would not be denied based on their immigration status alone.

There is a great deal of confusion in this debate over the roles, duties and responsibilities of various law enforcement agencies. Misunderstanding, misinformation, wishful thinking, bias, prejudice, bigotry, racism and hatred all are in play in driving this debate.

Under the concept of federalism, the duties of the individual states and their political subdivisions to protect all persons within their boundaries are separate and distinct from the federal government.

The federal government, through congress, writes laws that apply to everyone in the country. The president, through the executive branch, has the duty to enforce those laws.

Under our federalist form of government, states through their legislatures, also may write laws. They are enforced by the various governors executive branch’s enforcement agencies, including: state police, county sheriffs and municipal police departments.

So what’s different about state and local officers, as opposed to federal officers?

What is a cop? A cop is the conservator of peace and good order. Their job is to protect life and property. It’s an ancient calling. Over the years, a philosophy has developed, which is that all people are protected, treated the same and not subject to being bothered, questioned or harassed, unless there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and the offender is known.

Immigration has again become a hot button political issue. The events of 9-11 are used as a smokescreen to reinforce efforts at protecting our borders.

That duty is relegated to federal officers and is properly performed by border patrol, customs and immigration officials.

The City passed a resolution: “Opposing the Enactment of Federal Legislation Calling for State and Local Police to Enforce Federal Civil Immigration Laws,” on June 7, 2004, sponsored by then Councillor Eric Griego, left.

“Section 1. The City opposes the enactment of the CLEAR Act and HSEA and any other legislation encouraging or compelling local law enforcement to enforce federal civil immigration laws.

Section 2. The City reaffirms its commitment to civil rights and equal access to all city services including police protection regardless of immigration status.

Section 3. The City reaffirms that no municipal resources will be used to identify and apprehend persons solely based on their immigration status.”

The measure, which reaffirmed a 2001 position, passed 7-0-2, with council members: Griego, Michael Cadigan, Miguel Gómez, Debbie O'Malley, Martin Heinrich, Sally Mayer and Tina Cummins voting for, while Brad Winter and Craig Loy were excused.

Winter, right, is currently proposing having a task-force look into the 2001 policy.

“We need to immediately clarify what city law requires of its local law enforcement, and then we need to take a look at the bigger picture,” Winter said in his press release. “We live in a border state in a post 9-11 world. The people of Albuquerque deserve input on how we deal with these issues.”

However, he disregards that the 2001 policy was reviewed in 2004 when he was excused. It raises the old quote, “The absent are always wrong.”

The Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act of 2003 (CLEAR Act) was introduced on July 9, 2003. It had over 100 co-sponsors but was soundly defeated as it was considered by opponents, “the wolf in sheep's clothing that this bill really was . . .,” according to the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild’s website. “The bill’s authors aggressively promoted it as an anti-crime measure, and exploited fears of terrorism to demand its enactment. House offices were blanketed almost daily with “Dear Colleague” letters from Representative Charlie Norwood R-Ga., and others, citing horrific crimes and prescribing the CLEAR Act as panacea.”

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., introduced a similar measure entitled the Homeland Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (HSEA) on November 20, 2003. It never gained any traction in the senate.

“The United States Conference of Mayors hereby urges Congress to amend the proposed Clear Act and Homeland Security Enhancement Act of 2003 to reflect our opposition to additional un-funded federal mandates, our opposition to distracting local and state law enforcement from their primary mission, and our concerns about potential undermining of previous federal legislation that protects immigrant victims,” was adopted as a resolution at the mayors’ annual meeting in Boston in 2004.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the passage of the legislation for a variety of reasons. They particularly pointed out that local law enforcement is not required to enforce the federal immigration laws; those duties properly reside with federal immigration officers, according to an IACP policy publication, “Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State, Tribal and Local Law Enforcement.”

When I joined the Albuquerque Police Department in 1976, there were officers accepting under the table bounties of $25 for each “illegal alien” they turned over to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. This violated a couple sections of the standard operating procedures, specifically accepting rewards for doing your duty. However, it also violated a policy against rounding up people in the street who were not being charged with a criminal act. As far as I could tell, the practice subsided, or it might have just gone underground.

The EYE on Albuquerque and local talk radio’s Jim Villanucci of 770 – KKOB News Radio, have generated a fair amount of noise.

The EYE posted a purported excerpt of an INS and Federal Bureau of Investigation 2006 (First Quarter) Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants.

James Madison’s admonition, about what to do when confronted with offensive speech, echoes in my ears, “more speech, not less speech,” or censorship. I don’t buy the numbers for several reasons: the document does not read like a federal bureaucratic report normally reads, the numbers are so high that they defy logic and common reasoning, I could not locate the document or reference to it on the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, FBI or the Department of Homeland Security websites. INS no longer exists and hasn’t for more than four years. INS is now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.
The EYE has been bamboozled and apparently unknowingly is attempting to hoodwink their readers by posting unverifiable information. I remind the EYE and others of the old phrase, used by the now defunct City News Bureau of Chicago, on fact checking; “If your mother tells you that she loves you, check it out!”

Let’s look at a few of the statements and see if we can debunk them.

The EYE posted the “Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants,” to complain about the APDs failure to ask for information on a person’s legal immigration status. No state or city police report has a check or explanation box documenting residency status. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports is the way that crime information is captured. Each state and every police department are required to send certain data to the FBI on a monthly basis for statistical analysis.

The claims of the “Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants,” can not be correct because there is no way to capture the raw data purportedly used.

The following, in particular, need thoughtful consideration:

Crime -- 86% of warrants for murder in Albuquerque are for illegal aliens.

Albuquerque’s murder clearance rate is very high. There are very few warrants issued for murder because arrests are made for suspects who are in custody for interrogation. The mainstream media extensively covers murders in town and there is no obvious trend in the immigration status of suspects and warrants issued; if there were, it probably would have been seized upon.

Traffic Violations -- 66% of cited/stopped drivers in New Mexico have no license, no insurance and no registration for the vehicle. Of that 66%, 98% are illegal aliens.

This is a State of New Mexico Uniform Traffic Citation. It’s the charging document used by all police officers when issuing traffic tickets.

The personal information obtained for a citation is: last name, first name, middle initial, address, city, state, zip code, license issuing state, license number, date of birth, social security number, sex, height, weight and eye color.

Nowhere on this document will you find race, ethnicity or nationality listed. The reason you don’t find it is because asking those questions are a violation of the person’s civil rights. Without that information, there is no way to generate the claim that illegal aliens were cited or especially stopped.

There is no reason to believe any of the numbers in this so-called “Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants.”

Villanucci claims that when he went on the air Aug. 14, he exposed a flaw in APD’s SOP section on Undocumented Foreign Nationals (Undocumented Immigrants) and that during his show received a new fax of the SOP with a change.

Villanucci called Schultz, left, and APD Public Information Officer John Walsh, right, liars.

It is unfortunate that Chávez, Schultz and Walsh engaged in “hot footing,” reacting wildly and thoughtlessly to volume rather than reason. The second fax, sent to Villanucci does not clarify, but undermines the role of local law enforcement, defies the council’s directive and makes matters worse. Police deal with state crimes, not federal immigration laws.

The clarification is actually meaningless because it is in direct conflict with the rest of the standard and the SOP shall not conflict with the council’s resolution.

One of the reasons that police officers do not try to ascertain nationality is, beyond the civil rights question, because everyone who is not obviously disobeying the law is presumed innocent and officers may not bother people based on their race, culture or even nationality.

It is a fundamental philosophy of policing that all people are protected equally, regardless of race, creed or color, as found in the fourteenth amendment.

If officers made presumptions about the legal status of individuals who sought their assistance, several things could and in some places have happened. People in need will not seek assistance. A criminal class will grow that preys upon those who fear the police. When crime occurs and they either happen within the fearful community or someone who fears the police is a witness or victim, they will not come forward and crime will run rampant.

There is an argument that when certain people are arrested, that based on how they look, dress, speak, act or by the nature of the work they do, that an officer may presume that the person might be, either undocumented or otherwise violating conditions of immigration laws. A group of immigration law proponents argue that anyone who is arrested and appears to be undocumented, should be deported.

In the criminal justice system, this is not such a good idea, for at least a couple of reasons. Justice is not served by simply deporting an offender. What the system is saying is, “go away, you bother us.” Next stop, the big green bus for a ride south. The proper answer is to: prosecute, convict, sentence, serve, and then deport on the big green bus for a ride south.

There is a fair amount of evidence that people who are deported will make the effort to return to this country and many seem to succeed. The result is a de facto release from charges. If the person returns after being deported, little, if anything, will have changed; especially their criminal ways. They may also not be subjected to being charged again. It’s that nasty double jeopardy or statue of limitations thing.

For those who argue that undocumented people take all the benefits of this country, but don’t pay any taxes, it simply isn’t true. They pay taxes though their rent and in all commercial transactions where tax is an automatic add-on. Organizations that assist foreigners, like Catholic social services, recommend that undocumented workers get a social security number and pay both federal and state income taxes. The reasoning is multi-fold: it is the law, having a social security card allows one to get a job and paying taxes establishes a history of being in the country and acting as a responsible and serious person.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Millie U. Santillanes

Emelia “Millie” U. Santillanes, a long time community and political activist serving currently as the city clerk for Albuquerque died Saturday of a heart attack. She was 74.

Called the unofficial mayordomo of Old Town, Spanish for steward or butler, in a 2005 Journal article, Santillanes was a descendent of the Duran y Chávez family that founded Villa de Alburquerque, what is now Old Town in 1706. She was the daughter of Francisco and Rosalia Duran Urrea, according to her sister, Maria Theresa Urrea Chamberlin’s March 2005 obituary. She and her sister were some of the original founders of today’s commercialized Old Town, where Santillanes ran several retail shops.

She was a graduate of St. Mary High School in downtown Albuquerque.

Santillanes rose to local prominence as a leader of the Old Town merchants. She was the first president of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce and served on the board of the Hispanic Women's Council.

She ran for mayor as one of nine candidates in 1985. A race won by, then single-term, Councillor Ken Schultz. Schultz hired six of his opponents, including Santillanes, as he formed his administration. She coordinated the appointments of citizens to city boards and commissions before becoming Schultz’ city clerk.

Santillanes was appointed city clerk for Mayor Martin Chávez’ first term in 1993.

She served as Director of Cultural Services in Chávez’ second administration. She was instrumental in trying to get a monument to Don Juan de Oñate, the first colonial governor of New Spain’s northern province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, in 1598, placed in Old Town’s Tiquex Park. She had previously worked to have the park constructed.

Members of the Acoma Pueblo objected to honoring Oñate and specifically to the placement of the statue in Tiquex Park, which was named for a pueblo that disappeared during Oñate’s 12-year reign. Oñate was summoned to Mexico City to answer charges, including atrocities towards the Acomas.

Santillanes, seen here with her husband Vidal, booed protestors during one of three city council debates, on March 6, 2000, over the placement of the artwork.

The statutes were erected across the street on the grounds of the Albuquerque museum. Santillanes served as a model for one of the female members of the depicted troop of conquistadors, in artist Betty Sabo's rendition. Chávez and his then wife Margaret Arágon de Chávez also are depicted.

Santillanes was appointed city clerk for Mayor Martin Chávez’ third term in 2005.

She was married to Vidal Santillanes and had eight children and numerous grandchildren. She was proud of her grandchildren, at least once including them in some of her official duties. Some years ago, during the drawing for city council candidates ballot positions, she had three of her young grandchildren grab the names from a box.

Services will be held at Old Town’s San Felipe de Neri Catholic Church on the plaza.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

It’s Hard Being Green

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Journal Staff Writer Dan McKay wrote in a copyrighted article, “Council, Official Feel the Tension,” on Aug. 6, that Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman and councillors were not getting along.

Evidence of the rift surfaced as Councillors Michael Cadigan, Isaac Benton, above right, Martin Heinrich and Brad Winter, above left, sparred with Perlman during a debate over requirements for an energy efficient building code. The administration apparently has proposed a counter bill that they wish to replace the legislation co-sponsored by Benton, Cadigan and Heinrich called the International Energy Conservation Code: The Albuquerque High Performance Building Ordinance.

Benton accused Perlman of having an ad-hoc committee meet to draft the bill and that most of the members had been homebuilders. He had been invited to be a member of the Green Ribbon Task Force and attended several meetings, yet no councillors or their staff were invited or involved for the past four months.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the changes,” Perlman, left. said about the most recent council draft. “Even with my noted powers, I have not been able to see the floor substitute.”

“OK Spidey,” Council President Debbie O’Malley said.

“Councillor Benton wasn’t invited to your party and you say he wasn’t invited to his,” Councillor Craig Loy said to Perlman, while asking for a deferral, “and I know you’re Superman.”

“This has been deferred for six months,” Heinrich, right, said in opposing another deferral of the matter again. “We’re fiddling as Rome burns,” he said.

“I brought this bill to the Green Ribbon Task Force,” Benton said. He gave copies to David Burcholtz, the city’s contract bond attorney who was drafting the administration’s bill, and also to Planning Director Richard Dineen, who then asked for a deferral.

Dineen spoke and waved two administration-generated reports at the council. He said they were the product of the Green Ribbon Task Force and were consensus legislative drafts that were ready to be submitted at the next introduction. He said he wanted to make peace, but went on to say that Councillor Benton says he wasn’t invited to our task force, while we weren’t invited to your process.

“Obviously, there was a decision not to invite me,” Benton said.

“You gave us time over the summer break,” Dineen said of the administration’s efforts during the council’s July recess to finalize their drafts. He said if given one more deferral; that they could integrate both of them.

“I’m not convinced this has been a good-faith initiative,” Heinrich said.

“Process, process, process and not one word that there is anything wrong,” Cadigan said about the language of the bill. Consensus among homebuilders is not the same thing, “We represent regular people,” he said.

The deferral vote failed on a 4-4-1 vote, with Councillors: O'Malley, Mayer, Loy and Winter voting for, while Benton, Heinrich, Cadigan and Harris voted against. Ken Sanchez was excused for a family emergency.

“I find this disingenuous,” Perlman said as he wagged his finger at the council accusing them of not working with him. Homebuilders who sat as members of the ad-hoc committee are also citizens, he said.

“We would be happy to read off the names and where they came from,” Perlman said of the members of the Green Ribbon panel.

We have been, “whittling, not adding, for the last two months,” Benton said of the bill, based on hearings and concerns of the homebuilders who pointed out that some the requirements for some energy efficient appliances were not commercially available.

Harris, above right, with Loy, wanted to reconsider the deferral, but only a councillor who voted in the affirmative may make such a motion. Winter made the motion to reconsider, which passed. Winter went on to move for a two-week deferral.

“I could support a two-week deferral,” Benton said, “but no longer.”

“This is now a tactic,” Cadigan said, as he accused the administration of saying that they had not had time to see the floor substitute, though it was included in the bill book delivered to the administration late last week and was also available on-line.

“Our job is to make public policy,” Cadigan said and he was loath to grant a deferral because, “the mayor will hold a press conference, announcing a consensus bill, in a grab to claim credit.”

The deferral passed, 7-1-1 with Councillors: Mayer, Benton, Winter, Cadigan, Heinrich, Loy and Harris voting for, while O'Malley voted against. Sanchez was excused.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

“It’s Green!” to quote the inimitable Mr. Scott, the chief of the fictional Federation Starship USS Enterprise, NCC 1701, engineer played by actor James Doohan. It’s also the new logo used by the City of Albuquerque to denote compliance with the mayor’s energy plans. Here it’s seen on a new flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe being issued to field sergeants at the police department.

On the “Mayor's Open Line - Viewer Call-In Program,” aired live on Wednesday evening, Mayor Martin J. Chávez ran excerpts of earlier press conferences. He described having a “Green Ribbon Committee” put together a proposal that he wants to supplant the council’s bill.

The councillors have been working on the proposal since August 2006. It was first discussed and then introduced February 21, 2007, and is in its third revision.

Chávez has been touting his efforts to make the city green. Some of his claims are dubious, at best. Last week; a national Mayor's Climate Protection Award went to Albuquerque. Sounds great -- our fair city protecting the climate better than 90 other cities that were entered in this contest. Standby -- it’s not for the city, only our government. However, it’s a start. http://www.albuquerquegreen.com

The city is now replacing its fleet with alternative energy vehicles.

The Chávez administration appointed the Green Ribbon Task Force as an ad-hoc committee. There is a problem; the work of the committee has now been reduced to a legislative proposal, thereby making their efforts subject to the state’s open meetings act requirements. The task force failed to comply with any of those requirements. The members were not approved by the council as other committee appointments are. They were purely political.

As Perlman said, “We would be happy to read off the names and where they came from,” in telling the council of the makeup of the Green Ribbon panel; it’s time to do so. It’s also time to make the task force’s work public, not waiting to put it on the agenda just days before the next meeting.

This is the beginning of the landscaping project at the Big-I, July 31, which was delayed from the 2002 reconstruction. The $10 million is being equally divided between the city and state.

The project is needed and overdue. Without the landscaping, erosion is constantly eating away at the dirt around bridge foundations.

Maybe trying to turn more of the city green will also help stem the erosion of Chávez’ credibility.