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.

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