Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Busy Busy Busy…

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I’ve been busy. So busy, that I’ve seemed to have neglected my blogging. Instead of making individual entries, here’s what happened last week.

Public Relations for PR folks
Friday, Sept. 28

I helped out my buddy Benson Hendrix with the New Mexico Public Relations Society of America’s fall conference by photographing some key events. He co-coordinated the event. You should remember Hendrix as the man under the bus, about a month ago.

Members of the “PR and Social Responsibility” panel discussion are: bloggers Sophie Martin of National Dance Institute, New Mexico Advertising Federation, and she is a cofounder of Duke City Fix .com, and Mario Burgos of Mudhouse Creative advertising agency and marioburgos.com. They are with Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland Advertising.

These are the people whose jobs are to influence you. Their clients often entertain you and you may enjoy their work, but at other times you may loathe them. I find it amazing at how often they are able to succeed at both.

There were a number of people whose titles are associated with governments. Public information officers or communications and marketers, advertisers and pollsters populate their ranks. Their efforts are to inform: sometimes just the facts, sometimes the spin and sometimes you’d think they’d say anything for money. The entire range was present. These were folks that I had worked with and a few with whom I’d crossed swords. For the most part, away from the particular issue upon which we had disputes, they are decent and pleasant people worth sitting down at a meal.

This is Tom Carroll, left, president of D.W. Turner, a large PR firm in Albuquerque. He spoke about “Winning Political Campaigns.” He has five rules. I heard his first two, before going on to cover another speaker. “Winning is better than losing” and hit them early, hit them hard and hit them often.

I have to agree with Carroll, winning is better than losing. He is one of those with whom I’ve crossed swords.

In 1995, Mayor Martin Chávez and then City Councillor Steve Gallegos sent a quarter cent public safety tax initiative to city voters. Carroll and Rick Homans ran the public relations campaign to gain support for the tax. Carroll and Homans attempted to strong arm the leadership of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association when they opposed the tax. I wrote an Op-Ed piece for the September 27, 1995, Albuquerque Journal headlined "Public Safety Tax Proposal is Seriously Flawed." Along with other efforts by the union, the measure was defeated.

The Big-Hat Lady
Sunday, Sept. 30,

This is Mary Ann Fiske. She was a life-long social activist who died Sept. 19 after a long battle with cancer. She was 60.

Fiske was unique. She was a Quaker, but brought together diverse groups through interfaith efforts. I met her while raising ethical questions before the City Council. She was organizing a group called the Ethics Brigade to monitor governments’ behaviors, corruption and standards. Fiske had her work cut out for her.

It wasn’t the only work Fiske did. She had been involved in a wide range of social causes, from feeding people for as little as 17 cents a meal, to going to Africa on teaching missions. Fiske successfully organized efforts to convince airlines to stop returning Central Americans seeking political asylum in the U.S. during the Reagan administration years. A large percentage of refugees, prior to her involvement, were returned to their countries and killed before they could even clear the airport.

In the last few months of her life we walked; mostly for the exercise, but always for the conversation. We sometimes were joined in our strolls, by her husband, Chuck Hosking, or by someone from her wide circle of friends. Fiske hosted potluck suppers and the conversation was wide ranging. Politically, I was an outsider. I didn’t argue my positions, and found that there were a number of common points that we simply approached from different angles.

These are some of the more than one hundred people who gathered at the César Chávez City Park, near where Fiske lived, in the South Broadway community to celebrate her life and memory.

I called her the Big-Hat Lady for a couple of reasons. Fiske wore big hats to protect herself from the sun in her fight against cancer. I have a theory that all social change in this country since, at least abolition, has been caused by women who wore big hats. Think of the images over the past hundred and fifty years or so that photography has been around and look at the depiction of social movement parades, protests and gatherings; notice the number of big hats.

Fiske might not have been well known beyond her groups, but her influence will be missed in this community.

Pre-game Election Show
Monday, Oct. 1

I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time with my blog associate Joe Monahan, working with and for Joe Monahan.com. It started when he invited me to join him at the KANW 89.1 FM radio station for his one-hour pre-election show.

His guests, seen here continuing the conversation outside the studio, were: Terry Brunner, left, office manager for U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D) N.M., Albuquerque Tribune’s City Hall Reporter Erik Siemers, State Rep. Larry Larrañaga (R) Bernalillo County Dist. 27, State Rep. Al Park (D) Bernalillo County Dist. 26, and Monahan. It was a great discussion. The off air comments were, of course, better than what hit the airwaves.

The main point of contention was the question of whether District 9 City Councillor Don Harris could successfully withstand a recall effort.

Municipal Elections
Tuesday, Oct. 2

Voting turnout was low. When I went to the polls, there were the six or seven poll workers and one couple voting. There had only been 60 voters by 3:15 pm at my two-precinct polling place that has 1,700 registered voters. I was not asked for anything more than my name, no photo ID was requested and I did not get my paper receipt.

It was a simple enough process. The keeper of the scanner said he had experienced no problems when I asked if “the shredder” was working properly. As I left, there was a mad rush with five people backed up at the door waiting to sign in. Only about 10 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Election Day Coverage

That evening, it was back to KANW with Monahan, left, and his returning guests Reps Park and Larrañaga, joined by State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, right, (D) Bernalillo County Dist. 12, former State Rep. Lenton Malry (D) Bernalillo County and Steve Cabiedes. Monahan also had Vic Segura downtown at Civic Plaza watching the vote count and producer Kevin Otero was on staff. I ended up manning a computer, pulling up official results and answering the phone. It takes a lot of people to put on a simple little show.

Malry, left below, arrived with early polling results from District 6 and was able to predict the strong showing and eventual victory of Rey Garduño with nearly 49 percent of the votes and avoiding a special election if he had not gotten 40 percent.

Monahan, above right, working two cell phones with candidates, runs a tight ship. He comes ready for bear. He has numbers, statistics and dates that will stop anyone who “kind of remembers that race or issue,” dead in their tracks.

This is Rear Admiral B. James Lowe, U.S. Navy (ret.), left, of New Mexicans for Democracy that mounted the recall of Harris, right, seen during cross-examination during an Ethics board hearing Sept. 24.

The surprise of the night was the unsuccessful recall of City Councillor Harris. The only prediction I had made about the recall was that I thought the turnout in District 9 would not be greater than any of the other odd-numbered districts that were not electing councilors. As far as I could tell from the limited information posted on the County Clerks website, those numbers held up. What I found remarkable is that Harris got virtually the same percentage as he did to get elected.

During the regular municipal election, October 4, 2005, Harris was in a four-way race for the District 9 seat that went to a special run-off election when none of the candidates received 40 percent of the vote. Incumbent Councillor Tina Cummins got 2,251 votes for 26.73 percent, Vivian Cordova got 1,115 votes for 13.24 percent, Chris Catechis got 2,111 votes for 25.07 percent, and Harris received 2,943 votes for 34.95 percent.

In the run-off election on November 15, 2005, 3,686 voters went to the polls. Cummins got 1,236 votes for 33.53 percent while Harris received 2,450 votes for 66.47 percent.

In the recall there were 4,466 votes cast; 1,519 supported the recall for 34.01 percent while 2,947 opposed the recall for 65.99 percent. The media played the story as Harris having survived the recall. The numbers should have made it clear that survival was not the correct phrase to describe it. More district voters went to the polls by about 500 votes and he lost less than a half percentage point. It would seem that Harris’ popularity is fairly consistent.

At the same time, voters amended the Charter to do away with recall. The change now requires that a person be accused of a crime: malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance, before a recall can be instituted. Councillor Craig Loy was the author of the amendment. As a retired police captain, one has to wonder if he doesn’t realize that a public official convicted of malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance is automatically stripped of their office before any other punishment is doled out. Albuquerque has never recalled a public official and only twice has the question even reached the ballot.

The head-scratcher around the table was why District 4 Incumbent Councillor Brad Winter engaged in responding to negative attacks from newcomer Paulette de Pascal. She was a non-starter, unqualified and incapable of mounting a serious campaign. So why did Winter’s camp react while his opponent was in a self-destructive free fall? Answer: he had slash and burn advisors who are too close, have a history of reactive negative responses and were unable to recognize with any accuracy that going negative, in this case, was unnecessary. In spite of it, Winter won by the largest margin in memory of city elections with more than 80 percent.

Wednesday, Oct. 3
Word came that New Mexico’s senior Senator Pete Domenici was announcing that he would not seek a seventh term.

Domenici Announces his Retirement from the U.S. Senate.
Thursday, Oct. 4

After 35 years in the senate, Pete Domenici announced that he would not seek a seventh term. He had announced his run Feb. 20, but said things have changed. He has been diagnosed with Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration or FTLD, an incurable disease that causes dysfunction of the brain. Though he doesn’t expect the disease to affect his last 15 months of this term, he could not assure New Mexicans that he could serve seven more years.

With his wife Nancy at his side and before about 50 family members and staffers, Domenici made the announcement in the gym at Saint Mary High School in downtown Albuquerque, where he attended class as a boy. About 200 people were present, mostly supporters, some from as far back as his school days; all seemed to have a story about him.

The media was out in force; most local television stations had two cameras and some had three.

Print journalists also were out, including Barry Massey of the Associated Press and Mike Gallagher of the Albuquerque Journal.

Monahan was in great demand by local TV stations for his historic take.

KOAT TV Action 7 News co-anchor Doug Fernandez, left with Saint Mary School's Security Art Limon to his right, photographers, Albuquerque Journal’s Roberto Rosales and The New Mexican’s Luis Sánchez Saturno await Domenici’s arrival.

There was a law enforcement and school security presence; firm direction, but not overbearing. Top law enforcers, U.S. Marshal Gordon Eden Jr., along with Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, left, and Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz, right, both uniformed and with their public information officers in tow, were conspicuous.

White is heading to Washington this week to consult with national Republican Party officials about entering the congressional race.

Wilson’s Announcement, she’s out of the House and into the Senate race
Friday, Oct. 5

Less than 24-hours after Domenici withdrew, New Mexico District 1 Congresswoman Heather Wilson held a hastily arranged press conference, where she announced her candidacy for senate. Standing at a podium with a two-year old congressional yard sign posted on the front, she was the first candidate to seek the soon to be vacated senate seat. Wilson portrayed the announcement as subdued in light of Domenici’s sudden retirement; alluding to his health and she said that now was not the time for formal announcements or celebrations.

Since the 1998 special election to replace Congressman Steve Schiff, who died in office of cancer, Domenici has championed Wilson.

Domenici held Wilson’s arm high in a victory celebration on June 26, 1998. From the left are her son Josh and her husband, Jay Hone, Wilson, Domenici, then to the right are the late Dee Johnson and her husband, then Gov. Gary Johnson. Wilson had been Johnson’s cabinet secretary of New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department before running. She defeated Phil Maloof.

There was no doubt, even that evening; Domenici was grooming her to replace him.

As the presumptive Republican candidate for years, it was clear that Wilson was trying to get her name in the public’s mind first. She is probably trying to ward off others who currently are considering entering the race, specifically New Mexico District 2 Congressman Steve Pierce of the southern part of the state.

Though she narrowly won her last election over Democrat Attorney General Patricia Madrid by less than 900 votes, local Republicans seem solidly behind her. She has broken with the White House position on a few issues and is seen as less conservative than Pierce.

Everybody Loves Puppies
Saturday, Oct. 6

This is Stubby, a two-year old pit bull mix, who was one of 11 recipients presented with Animal Protection of New Mexico’s 2007 Milagro Award.

Stubby was honored for saving the life of an Embudo man who nearly froze to death in subfreezing weather in Feb. 2006. The dog woke her “human” at 3 a.m. with wild barking and would not stop, even when put out. In what Steve Harris called a “Lassie moment, ” She kept running back and forth,” Harris said, until he followed her into the pasture. She led Harris to the body of a local man who suffers from mental issues. The man had wandered from his home and slipped into the Rio Grande when he attempted to get a drink. He had lain down in the field while his clothing began to freeze to his body in the 15-degree temperature.

Founder of Save the Chimps.org, Dr. Carol Noon, seen below right, was the special guest speaker. She spoke of her organization’s efforts to rescue 266 chimps that originally were used by the U.S. Air Force in aerospace research, then for biomedical research, before being warehoused by the Coulston Foundation in Alamogordo, N.M. Coulston had, “the worst record of any lab in the history of the Animal Welfare Act,” Noon said. She acquired the primates, formed Save the Chimps, bought 200 acres of land in Florida and built a permanent sanctuary called, Islands in the Sun, for the animals.

State Senator Mary Jane García, seen above left, (D) Dona Aña County, was given a special Champion for Animals Milagro Award for sponsoring a bill outlawing cockfighting.

The biannual recognitions were made at a Santa Fe banquet and other awards were presented to:
Advocacy Award: Deborah James, Rio Rancho
Animal Award: Stubby Harris, Embudo
Board of Directors’ Award: Tamsin Faith Bemis, Albuquerque, Awarded posthumously
Executive Director’s Award: Governor Bill Richardson, Santa Fe
Direct Animal Services Award: Jemez Valley Animal Amigos, Jemez Springs
Humane Education Award: Lannie Alexander, Albuquerque
Lawmaking Advocacy Award: Rep. Justine Fox-Young, Albuquerque
Lawmaking Advocacy Award: Rep. Thomas Swisstack, Rio Rancho
Mary Jane García Champion for Animals Award: Sally Mayer, Albuquerque
Media Award: Sunny Aris, Ruidoso MTD Radio

Animal Protection of New Mexico approached me through Capitol Report New Mexico seeking to use pictures of Gov. Bill Richardson, State Reps. Swisstack (D) Sandoval County District 60, and Fox-Young (R) Bernalillo County District 30. Part of my deal with them was credit for the magazine, dinner, the opportunity to photograph the recipients and write about the event. Richardson was already going to be a no-show, as he is on the Democratic presidential candidate campaign trail. Fox-Young and Mayer were also no-shows.

1 comment:

Michelle Meaders said...

Thanks for covering these events and players that get overlooked.

"no photo ID was requested and I did not get my paper receipt." Remember that the City's Voter ID law was defeated in court because it didn't address absentee ballots, which probably have a much greater potential for abuse than in-person ones. And New Mexico should get credit for using the same kind of paper ballots in every county and for every part of an election (early, absentee, and day-of). No more voting machines that swallow votes and can't verify or reconstruct them. I think we are still the only state to do that. You only get a paper receipt if you vote absentee, so you can check later to see if it was counted.