Thursday, February 28, 2008

They’re Back!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is Albuquerque Police Traffic Section Officer Floyd Comos completing a traffic stop in the Montezuma Elementary School zone at Indian School Road and Richmond Drive, N.E., on Tuesday morning Feb, 19. He wrote 10 citations in about 30 minutes while the safety zone was in effect.

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez announced, Thursday, Feb. 21, that the automated enforcement program is back citing a spike in violations of red light runners.

Chávez suspended the use of cameras at 20 intersections that record vehicles that enter the intersection after the signal turns red and captures speeding, and the three “speed vans” used to monitor school zones and roadways throughout the city Thursday Feb. 14.

The City’s Safe Traffic Operations Program, also known as the STOP ordinance, has always been controversial since its inception several years back.

The City formed the authorizing legislation to find a way around fundamental legal problems posed by the use of automated enforcement.

Those problems have been explained at length on this site in the past, in the following postings, even those that were just touched upon are listed here:

Kangaroo Court,” posted May 21, 2006.

Camel In The Tent,” posted May 22, 2006.

Stop This Nonsense,” posted June 25, 2006.

Traffic Cops Versus Technologies,” posted Aug. 03, 2006.

Lee Logan,” posted Aug. 13, 2006.

Photo Red Light and Photo Radar Violation Hearings,” posted Oct. 10, 2006.

Obscured Transparency,” posted Oct. 12, 2006.

Got a Couple of Seconds?” posted Dec. 20, 2006.

You Talking To Me? ...Can You Hear Me Now?” posted Dec. 22, 2006.

Red Light Cameras Want to Make You Blush,” posted Jan. 27, 2007.

"Hello – Hello, I’ve Got To Say Goodbye!" posted Feb. 13, 2007.

Loyalty Above All Else; Except Honor,” posted March 9, 2007.

So Right, Yet So Wrong!” posted March 22, 2007.

100th Blog,” posted March 28, 2007.

Cleaning Up Little Nit-noyeds!” posted April 21, 2007.

Blowing in the Wind!” posted April 30, 2007.

Bamboozled?” posted May 27, 2007.

A Little Buzz and Instant Gratification,” posted July 1, 2007.

Whose Who?” posted July 24, 2007.

It’s Constitution Day!” posted Sept. 18, 2007.

Another Week in the Political Tumbler,” posted Dec. 10, 2007.

2007’s Top Stories,” posted Dec. 31, 2007.

The State Legislature passed a provision, as Senate Bill 442, sponsored by Sen. Michael S. Sanchez, above, D- Valencia County, that would require fines generated through the STOP ordinance, will be processed through the state’s collection process. The money would go to offsetting the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse operating through a newly established bond guarantee fund.

Mayor Chávez announced Thursday that he was suspending the use of the red light and speed van citation program because the State Legislature had passed a provision that would require fines generated through the City’s Safe Traffic Operations Program, also known as the STOP ordinance, will be processed through the state’s collection process. The money would go to offsetting the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse operating fund.

Gov. Bill Richardson is leaning towards signing the legislation. There is a fair amount of politics and editorial pontificating about the merits or lack of merits surrounding this bill.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.," according to Thomas Jefferson.

The existence of automated enforcement has been around for more than a decade. I recall at least four efforts to get the City Council to support what is now STOP. I spoke against this theory and prevailed until the make up of the council changed and the group, about four years ago led by form Police Captain Craig Loy succumbed to the incessant pressure of Chávez and Police Chief Ray Schultz, who had led the decade long effort to use technology instead of human police officers.

During one such effort, while I boarded a plane I picked up an Albuquerque Journal that reported a bill would be presented at the council meeting while I would still be out of town. I wrote the following letter to the editor and used the name of this site as its title.

Mark G. Bralley February 17,1997
Albuquerque, N. M.

Bill Hume
Albuquerque Journal
Editorial Page Editor

Dear Bill,

I will be out of town for a few days, but could not let the issue of photo radar pass without comment. It seems strange that nobody struck on the basic, "How Government Works" question. Photo radar may work well in Europe, but we revolted against their forms of criminal justice. Our procedures require that minor crimes and traffic offenses occur in the presence of a police officer, not a mechanical box. So, I offer you this letter to the editor with the hopes it might be run this Wednesday prior to the City Council meeting to approve the expenditure of some $50, 000 for two units. I, of course, trust you to edit or use this as it best suits your editorial needs.

What's wrong with this picture?

Mayor Chávez and Chief of Police Polisar have excited our City Council with an impressive display and grandiose promises of capturing speeders without human intervention. This wonderful photo radar is supposed to capture, on one piece of film, the heinous speed, positively identifying the vehicle, and it's driver beyond a reasonable doubt. There is one major problem, because New Mexico does not issue a front license plate, a photo radar picture does not allow for identification of the vehicle's owner (and presumed driver) who can not be sent a ticket. The speeding case can not even make it into court.

Any middle school graduate who stayed awake during civics class will remember the 6th Amendment to the Constitution requires, among other things, that an accused must "be confronted with the witnesses against him." Photo radar is a direct contradiction to community based policing which calls for cooperation of the police through personal public contact. This Robo-Cop simply says, "your guilty, here's the proof, pay a $100 fine, have a nice day, next case!" Photo radar should be called a "Chávez Cop." A mechanical "Chávez Cop" will not listen or discuss an infraction. A "Chavez Cop" can not be cross examined. It won't take more than a couple of trials in Metropolitan Court before photo radar in Albuquerque will be seen as nothing more than another example of fraud, waste and abuse for which this administration has become infamous.
M.G. Bralley
Albuquerque

“There was no significant change in the red light running… something like five percent,” Albuquerque Police Department’s Public Information Officer John Walsh said in an interview about the shut down period. However, the spike, in the first 24-hours, was in speeders at the intersections where there was a recorded 127 percent increase.

Walsh explained that when the mayor ordered the cameras turned off, the triggering devices remained active. Information on the number of vehicles that entered the intersections after the signal had turned red and the number of vehicles speeding continued to be recorded.

Walsh was hesitant to use the initial 24-hour spike, because he said it occurred between a Thursday and a Friday and thought there may have been a natural increase in traffic flow between those days that might account for the five percent increase in those numbers.

Walsh said that, we made a comparison of the 14th at 5 p.m. through the 19th at 5 p.m. and compared it with the previous week; the 7th at 5 p.m. through the 12th at 5 p.m. and noticed an overall 20 percent increase.

Chief Schultz ordered traffic units and field officers not on calls for service, to step up enforcement in active school zones while the vans were grounded.

“I get paid to write tickets,” Comos, above, said. So there was little difference for him to go to a school zone while the three speed vans were not working.

Analysis

Senate Bill 442 is simply confusing further an already confused situation.


The additional defining language in Senate Bill 442 reads after the existing public nuisances phraseology,
"…provided that penalties or fines and costs or fees imposed by an ordinance for failure to obey a traffic sign or signal, including a red light violation, or for a speeding offense or violation, shall be subject to the following criteria.”

Nowhere in the Senate Bill 442 is there recognition of how the STOP ordinance is being administered. STOP requires, that in order for there to be a finding, the registered owner of a vehicle videotaped and or photographed running a red light or speeding, must have violated either the State’s traffic statute or the City’s traffic code.

Here is where one of the fundamental legal problems comes to bear. The elements defined in the State’s traffic statute and the City’s traffic code, are very specific, they apply only to the driver, not the registered owner. The STOP ordinance cannot presume guilt without a conviction in Metropolitan Court.
New Mexico State Statutes 34-8A-3. Metropolitan court; jurisdiction.
A. In addition to the jurisdiction provided by law for magistrate courts, a metropolitan court shall have jurisdiction within the county boundaries over all:
(1) offenses and complaints pursuant to ordinances of the county and of a municipality located within the county in which the court is located except municipalities with a population of more than two thousand five hundred but less than five thousand persons in the 1980 federal decennial census; provided that the metropolitan court shall not have jurisdiction over uncontested municipal parking violations;
(2) civil actions in which the debt or sum claimed does not exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000), exclusive of interest and costs; and
Instead of using the Metropolitan Court for the adjudication of all city ordinances, including traffic offenses as required by State Statute, the City of Albuquerque created its own judicial process, the Administrative Hearing Office.
New Mexico State Statutes 32A-2-29. Motor Vehicle Code violations
A. The municipal, magistrate or metropolitan court shall have original exclusive jurisdiction over all Motor Vehicle Code or municipal traffic code violations when the person alleged to have committed the violation is a child,
There are two legal points in the State Statute that seem to conflict with the fact that the State runs all hearings regarding the adjudication of City Ordinances:
Metropolitan Court adjudicates all city ordinances, including traffic offenses.
District Court adjudicates all public nuisances cases.
New Mexico State Statutes 30-8-8 Abatement of a Public Nuisance
B. A civil action to abate a public nuisance may be brought, by verified complaint in the name of the state without cost, by any public officer or private citizen, in the district court of the county where the public nuisance exists, against any person, corporation or association of persons who shall create, perform or maintain a public nuisance.
The adjudication of public nuisances cases in District Court seems to be the only exception to the statute requiring all city ordinances to be handled in Metropolitan Court. The reason may partly be that private citizens may bring public nuisances complaints to court even if a county, city or town does not act.

The City Attorneys have argued before the City Council and in District Court, that the language in the home rule section, stating a municipality which has adopted a charter pursuant to Article 10, Section 6 of the constitution of New Mexico, may by ordinance, define a nuisance, abate a nuisance and impose penalties upon a person who creates or allows a nuisance to exist, allows them to create their own adjudication process, separate from the state, using the words, “abate a nuisance and impose penalties. “

However, all city ordinances provide for a penalty. There is a provision entitled the General Penalty section, which states that where a city ordinance does not specifically provide for a penalty, the penalty is a petty misdemeanor. In the case of traffic offenses the code is specific:
City of Albuquerque’s Code of Ordinances § 8-1-1-1 OBEDIENCE TO CODE REQUIRED.
It is a petty misdemeanor for any person to do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required in this Traffic Code.
Because the City uses its own Administrative Hearing Officer, instead of Metropolitan Court, how can the State mandate that all penalties or fines and costs or fees imposed by an ordinance be funneled through the Metropolitan Court funding system?

The second part of Senate Bill 442 mandates and limits “the total amount of assessed fines, fees and costs shall not exceed seventy-five dollars,” for a STOP ordinance violation.

The bill’s provision then goes on, “the total amount assessed in fines, fees and costs by the municipality shall be distributed to the administrative office of the courts, of which ten percent of the total amount assessed shall be credited to DWI drug court programs and ninety percent of the total amount assessed shall be transferred to the New Mexico finance authority for deposit into the metropolitan court bond guarantee fund.”

This is the section that Chávez found intolerable because he asserts that after paying the contractor, RedFlex, there would not be enough money left to fund the Administrative Hearing Office.

If the City were using the Metropolitan Court as the adjudication method, the costs associated with the Administrative Hearing Office, would instead be borne by the State.

The bill also establishes an annual audit to review the City’s program creates a metropolitan court bond guarantee fund to pay the operating cost of the court.

The Statute does not mandate that public nuisances should be heard in Metropolitan Court or in District Court as current law dictates. The absence of specifics in the bill does not help clarify the problem.

Today, Mayor Chávez is scheduled to meet Gov. Richardson to talk about the legislation. Chávez will attempt to convince Richardson to veto the bill.

My Take

Whether Gov. Richardson signs or vetoes Senate Bill 442 is irrelevant. If challenged, the courts are going to run into a number of issues that a very few critics have been trying to hone in on. While most opposed to STOP have capitalized on the general due process issues of having a City Administrative Hearing Officer who is defined in the ordinance as,
”An administrative hearing officer with authority from the Mayor to enforce and adjudicate matters under this article,”
the hearing officer’s roles conflict with the general legal concept, that judges are impartial. The mere idea that the hearing officer is “enforcing” an ordinance, the role belonging not to the judicial branch, but to law enforcement, is an anathema.

Most critics also complain about the true purpose of the automated enforcement program. The mayor and chief of police argue that it is a matter of public safety. While the critics point out that it is a multi million dollar cash cow.

If the legislators had written a bill requiring the STOP ordinance to be adjudicated in Metropolitan Court, so the assessed fines, fees and costs could go through the state revenue system, another ugly reality would have surfaced. The Stop ordinance is unenforceable in traffic court using the criminal burden of proof.

The original proponents of STOP had attempted to use technology in automated enforcement for more than a decade before the City Council was sold the current bill of goods.

The authors of STOP have tried to wiggle their way through the legal limitations avoiding the existing legal process, in which they would likely not prevail, by creating an entirely new hybrid form of legal review that eviscerates the rule of law under the guise and call for “public safety.” In the findings and intent there is scatological hyperbole.

Instead of STOP being a regular traffic offense, the Council has approved the unique concept that the registered owner is the violator and a public nuisance.

City of Albuquerque’s Code of Ordinances § 7-11-1 FINDINGS AND INTENT.
(B) City Council finds that many states and municipalities across the country have experienced substantial decreases in red light violations by using red light cameras. City Council finds that red light cameras produce scientifically reliable evidence of red light violations. City Council finds that it is reasonable for any police officer to rely on red light camera evidence even if the officer did not personally observe the violation. City Council finds that red light cameras save lives.

(C) Red light violations are a nuisance that must be abated by assessment of fines to compensate the city and taxpayers who do not commit these violations. Drivers who fail or refuse to pay the fines and repeatedly run red lights create a severe nuisance that will not be abated unless the city temporarily seizes the cars of these drivers and thus removes the instrumentality used to create this nuisance. City Council finds that the current penalty under state law for running a red light is inadequate to meaningfully address the nuisance and that the City of Albuquerque must implement meaningful civil remedial measures that will stop red light violations and save lives. Red light violations are causally connected to death and serious injury to a degree not evident with regard to other traffic infractions.

(F) The City Council declares that this article is a nuisance abatement article enacted pursuant to the city's inherent authority under state law and that the remedies are purely civil and not criminal in nature.
Why should that be? Why should offenses that the council finds so serious that the remedies of existing law are insufficient, make those offenses civil and not criminal? Could it be that the City has no authority to change the degree of a crime? They may not make a traffic offense, which is classified a misdemeanor, into a felony. Only the State’s Legislature may determine what offenses are felonies. Legislators seem to believe that the traffic code, as written, is just fine. The use of civil action is always available to victims of negligent or reckless driver who may have also run a red light or sped before causing an accident. It seems that the State, through its legislature, has decided not to agree with the City of Albuquerque’s mayor and council on the approach to dealing with the perceived problems of minor traffic offenses, that on occasion cause major accidents.

Stop is written to avoid traffic offenses being handled as traffic offenses, by declaring them to be “civil” public nuisance to bypass the requirement that an officer witness and immediately arrest a driver observed to have violated the traffic code.
City of Albuquerque’s Code of Ordinances § 8-1-3-7 CITATIONS ISSUED BY UNIFORMED, ON-DUTY OFFICERS.
All citations issued under this Traffic Code shall be issued by a uniformed, on-duty police officer. No form of complaint other than a citation shall be issued.

State Statute also has controlling language:
66-8-124. Arresting officer to be in uniform.
A. No person shall be arrested for violating the Motor Vehicle Code [66-1-1 NMSA 1978] or other law relating to motor vehicles punishable as a misdemeanor except by a commissioned, salaried peace officer who, at the time of arrest, is wearing a uniform clearly indicating his official status.
The City seems to believe that it is above the State laws that would restrain them from enforcing STOP as they see fit.
66-7-8. Provisions uniform throughout state.
The provisions of Article 7 of Chapter 66 NMSA 1978 shall be applicable and uniform throughout this state and in all political subdivisions and municipalities therein and no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance, rule or regulation in conflict with such provisions unless expressly authorized herein. Local authorities may, however, adopt additional traffic regulations which are not in conflict with such provisions.
Using cameras violates the State Constitution:
Sec. 18. [Due process; equal protection; sex discrimination.]
No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall any person be denied equal protection of the laws. Equality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person.
I don’t believe that this matter will resolve itself any time soon. The legislature missed the mark. The District Courts are more than reluctant to address the issue of proper jurisdiction and have sidestepped the question of what would happen to their case volume should hundreds of public nuisance abatement cases be filed in their system.

The childish behavior displayed by the leaders of the state’s largest governments is deplorable. It is only superceded by their refusal to comport with the fundamentals of law making.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tribune -30-

What’s wrong with this picture?

This is the front page of the final edition of the Albuquerque Tribune.

Forty years ago, yesterday, Feb. 22, 1968, this picture of mine was published on the front page of the Albuquerque Tribune; the caption read:
TOLD TO WAIT: Highland High School Principal Allen Krumm tells students to wait in the gym a few minutes before he dismissed them. Only 19 of the 109-member professional staff at Highland, including teachers and administrators were accounted for today. Students were dismissed shortly before 8:30 a.m.

It was my first published front page, above the fold, paid daily newspaper picture. I was a junior at the high school and upon being dismissed, I processed the picture and within about an hour, I was throwing a print on Tribune Sports Editor Carlos Salazar’s desk. “You guys want to run this,” I asked? I knew Salazar. He knew my style of dropping sports photos on his desk because he had run several over the preceding year. He got up and went to the city desk with me in tow. The Editor of the day told Salazar yes and waved us away. That was it. Salazar filled out the payment form and about an hour or so later my picture hit doorsteps all over the city.

The wildcat teachers strike didn’t last very long and when classes resumed, I was “the news guy” on campus.

I never worked for the Tribune full time, but members of their staff have been colleagues and friends.

I’ve introduced you to several current and former Tribune employees in an earlier post.

There were others worth mentioning, including: Tribune photographer Al Cabral, who was one of the friendliest and easiest going guys I have ever met on a photo-line. Norm Bergsma, was also a photographer, who was one of, if not the toughest guys I have ever met on a photo-line. Bergsma could be mean; he once put tape over one of my extra camera lenses. I told him in no uncertain terms that I was capable of violence. Later, after leaving the Tribune, he ran the Sheriff’s photo lab and we got on quite well.

In 1972, I won two of the three photography categories in the Albuquerque Press Club APE Award contest, for sports and feature. As I recall, Bergsma won the news category for a series of pictures of a circus high wire act that fell.

Tribune’s Police Beat Reporter Timothy Gallagher in 1978 worked in a storage closet, with sewer pipes, in the basement of the police department. He would go on to other jobs with the Scripps newspaper system, then return to Albuquerque to become the Tribune’s editor. At the time, Gallagher was one of the youngest editors of a daily newspaper.

One of the best journalistic quips came from the Tribune’s City Hall Reporter Ed Asher, center, with Journal Police Reporter Steve Shoup, left, and the Tribune’s Police Beat Reporter Macario "Mac" Juarez Jr., right.

“What’s happening,” I asked the reporters?

“For 50 cents you can read all about it in tomorrow’s paper,” Asher shot back.

There was an irony there; as a public servant, I had to answer Asher when he asked, “What’s happening,” yet I had to shell out 50 cents to find out what he had learned from me and others.

Tribune Reporter Juarez, in the foreground center, interviews APD Officer Donald McGrath, left, at an impromptu press conference in support of a 1995, quarter percent Public Safety Tax, on the front steps of the Law Enforcement Center. KOB Cameraman Carey Moots interviews Officer Lance Fleming, in the black t-shirt, while Rick Homans, partially hidden behind the camera, and Tom Carroll, right, who arranged the press event, for their pro-tax Safer Albuquerque committee, observe.

Carroll, along with his advertising agency partner Doug Turner, recently withdrew a bid to purchase the Tribune from Scripps Newspapers. Carroll has since left the D.W. Turner Advertising Agency.

The most disquieting media encounter I experienced was in April 1996, when Juarez was waiting for me as I came to work one morning. He had a copy of a missing person’s report in his hand that I had written just weeks earlier.

I had taken a call from a woman reporting that her daughter, Cassandra Sedillo, 23, and her two grandchildren, Johnny Ray Garcia, 4, and Matthew Gene Garcia, 3, had gone missing. The woman had not seen them since around Thanksgiving. I had passed on the report to APD’s Missing Persons Unit. She had named a teenager, as I recall, “Popeye,” as having been with Sedillo and that they were going to the town of Torreon.

The decomposed bodies of the woman, her sons and her boyfriend, Ben Anaya Jr., 17, were found in the summer cabin of Anaya’s father, when he went to check on it after receiving a gas bill. Anaya Sr. knew he had shut down the cabin and had minimal bills through the fall. Sedillo and Anaya Jr. had been shot to death, while the children had not been harmed, but died of starvation. They had all been dead for months before I received the report. However, the thought of it all was very grim.

Four teenagers with affiliations to the 18th Street gang in Albuquerque’s South Valley were arrested, including Shawn "Popcorn" Popeleski, 18, as reported by the Tribune.

Popeleski and another suspect were convicted in the killings, while the other two went to trials that ended in hung juries. They were not retried and eventually released.

Veteran Managing Editor Kate Nelson, above, resigned from the Tribune after 18 years. She joined Lt. Gov. Diane Denish’s staff, as Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director, June 26, 2007. Her departure was just two months before the announced sale offer. With declining circulation, did she have an inkling or premonition of what was to come?

Albuquerque Tribune’s Political Reporter Erik Siemers, above, files a story after the recent visit of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D- N.Y., at Highland High School.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

This is the empty sales box for final edition of the Tribune after I spent my 50 cents. I had to look several places before locating the last paper.

Six months ago, E.W. Scripps, the parent company of the Tribune, announced that the paper was for sale, without benefit of the joint operating agreement. If there weren’t a qualified buyer, the Tribune would close.

There is a fair amount of speculation about the continuation of the joint operating agreement. The JOA, as it is called in the newspaper trade, was formed during the depression to allow the Journal and Tribune to combine certain parts of the business, particularly: advertising, circulation, and the printing plant, while maintaining separate editorial and news gathering functions. In theory, a JOA would seem to violate anti trust and monopoly laws. However, in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, it ruled that the JOA was legal.

Scripps will continue to collect 40 percent residual interest in the Albuquerque Publishing Company, until 2022, when the JOA expires.

Some media observers in town consider the arrangement as appearing strange; collect profits for not putting out a product. However, it possibly is because Scripps made a sizable investment in the new publishing facility that is now more than 20 years old.

The Journal and Tribune moved from this downtown facility that they had shared since 1954. These photographs were from a 1978 photo essay on police press relations.

Technology has changed. Forty years ago, headlines at the Albuquerque Publishing Company were still handset, though body type was produced using linotype composing machines.

The way printing plates were produced changed with the technology.

For all the technology, there still is a human aspect to gathering the news, monitoring the print quality, and to distributing the papers.



This picture of the City of Albuquerque’s Chief Financial Officer Gail Reese was used to illustrate a story about her adopting a pseudonym, “Linda,” to call her boss Mayor Martin Chávez’ Saturday radio talk show, to blast City Councillors. It was my most recent published front page, above the fold, paid daily newspaper picture.

Hopefully it’s not the last, but without the Tribune, the competition amongst journalists and photographers in town will increase. Amongst news outlets, the competition is weakened. I believe that no newspaper becomes better after their competitor goes away.

“Give light and the people will find their own way,” was the motto of the Tribune, written by its original Editor Carl Magee. The light has now gone out.

The -30- in the title of this posting is newspaper shorthand placed at the end of a story so that proofreaders, editors and linotype operators, knew they were at the end of a story.

Today, after 86 years of publication, the Albuquerque Tribune is...

-30-

Friday, February 15, 2008

New Mexico Goes to Clinton

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D- N.Y., was declared the winner of the New Mexico Democratic Presidential caucus nine days after the polls closed.

Clinton received 73,105 to the 71,396 votes that Sen. Barack Obama, D- Ill., garnered; a difference of 1,709, according to a Party press release.

Over 17,000 provisional ballots were examined and 8,200 were found to be registered voters and counted.

Of the 26 national convention delegates up for grabs, Clinton secured 14 while Obama received 12. An additional 12 super delegates are relegated to party leaders and elected public officials.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez announced Thursday that he was suspending the use of the red light and speed van citation program because the State Legislature had passed a provision that would require fines generated through the City’s Safe Traffic Operations Program, also known as the STOP ordinance, will be processed through the state’s collection process. The money would go to offsetting the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse operating fund.

My Take

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I am as adamantly opposed to the automated enforcement program as anyone. One might think I would be delighted with the action of the mayor. Not so. I think that the program should die. However, I believe the program must die a legal death, not one of Chávez simply deciding because his program will no longer generate the revenues it has in the past, that he may unilaterally suspend it.

Chávez is sworn to uphold and enforce the ordinances of the City of Albuquerque. If he wants to end the program, he must approach City Council and repeal the ordinance. To do otherwise is to violate his oath and is an act of malfeasance.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Talk about Pork UPDATE:

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

There is a squabble brewing between Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish and Governor Bill Richardson over State Police Security being provided for the Lt. Gov.

It was first reported by Associated Press Reporter Deborah Baker and published in the Albuquerque Journal.

This issue arises as Denish stepped on Richardson’s toes by forcing the governor to deal with what is referred to as the “Pork Bill” and taking away his political timetable. Pork is the term used for governmental projects that each district gets funded, such as highway improvements. school construction and all the things that state taxes get used for. Pork is often made to sound like a bad thing, because occasionally, weird projects that some people don’t think deserve prioritization get funded.

Richardson’s office closed Saturday and no one would accept the piece of legislation. Near the end of the 30-day session, bills forwarded to the governor with more than three days remaining must be dealt with. It appears that Richardson wanted to hold the “Pork Bill” hostage to leverage some of his initiatives that were languishing in the legislature.

Sometimes there are topics I am comfortable with and others that really are my thing. This is one of my things! I understand providing personal security, though I did it at a different level than governor protection. The security I provided was for judges, who heard felony cases, however, the basics and the philosophy don’t change.

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the ancient saying goes.

Here is Lt. Gov. Denish meeting with New Mexico State Police Sergeant Alfred Lovato of the governor’s security detail. She was on her way to the House Chambers last month to chair the joint session of the State Legislature to hear Gov. Richardson’s State of the State Address.

The picture would seem to indicate that Denish has State Police Security protection. Nothing could be further from the truth. Denish was walking from the Senate chambers by herself and stopped to chat with Lovato. He was just one of more than a half dozen other State Police officers from the governor’s security detail assigned to cover Richardson and his wife, Barbara. Denish continued to the rostrum unprotected.

This squabble is based on the governor not providing the lieutenant governor with any security all the time.

Richardson meanwhile, has security 24-hours/seven-days a week, in state, out of state or out of country, provided at taxpayer expense.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

A couple of weeks ago, when former President Bill Clinton came to UNM’s Johnson Gym to campaign for his wife Hillary’s presidential run, Denish, the state’s “Hillary Clinton Campaign” chairperson stood on the stage with other Democratic leaders. The stage was surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents, but not our New Mexico State Police. President Clinton told the crowd that Gov. Richardson was out of state, in Washington, D.C. Even Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez had at least two of his Albuquerque Police Department protective detail visible.

I’ve covered a fair number of political events that Denish attended over the past year or so because of the state races in 2006 and now the presidential and federal races.

I have seen her with a State Police security detail, left background, exactly once. It was in Roswell at the Air Park, Sept. 5, 2007, where she welcomed passengers on the inaugural flight of jet service to and from Dallas. Richardson was out of state that day, on the presidential campaign trail. She was the acting governor and had two security detail officers accompanying her. The officers, below had lunch with State Sen. Timothy Jennings, D- Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln and Otero counties who has since been elevated to Senate President Pro Tempore. Jennings is critical of Richardson’s attitude by saying he thought it was wrong.


At the State Democratic Party’s Central Committee’s meeting in Albuquerque, Nov. 3, 2007, she arrived by herself.

According to the Albuquerque Journal’s Richardson Watch, he was in Iowa.

The lapel pin badge worn by State Police security detail as identification says “Executive Protection.” Executive, according to the state’s constitution, includes the Lt. Gov.

State of New Mexico Constitution Article V Executive Department.
Section 1. Composition of department;
The executive department shall consist of a governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer, attorney general and commissioner of public lands, who shall, unless otherwise provided in the constitution of New Mexico, be elected for terms of four years beginning on the first day of January next after their election. The governor and lieutenant governor shall be elected jointly by the casting by each voter of a single vote applicable to both offices.

During the 2006 political season, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, while campaigning for the U.S. House of Representative, members of the Attorney General investigative staff provided her security.

It raises the question of whether, as Attorney General and a constitutionally identified member of the Executive Department, the AG is entitled to the protection of the State Police’s Executive Protection detail?

My Take

I’m not wild about the way security is used for political purposes. I will concede that security is necessary. However, as my Prince Georges’ County Maryland, Courtroom Security Sergeant Bob McCarthy, a former U.S. Secret Service Agent, once told me, when I asked him which role was more important for the service, protecting the money system against counterfeiters or protecting the president?

“Protecting the money, without a stable economy the country is doomed,” he said. “We can get a president anywhere; have you ever noticed how many people line up to be president?”

He had a point.

Bill Richardson, during his federal service, worked in jobs that continually provided him with security. When he moved from Congress to be Ambassador to the United Nations, he had a security detail. When he became the Secretary of Energy, he was given an even more impressive security detail.

Richardson’s penchant for security was obvious, when on election night, November 2002. he was under the protection of State Police. I don’t know the details, but there may have been a reason for such immediate protection.

Governor Gary Johnson, above, didn’t avail himself of protection as he regularly rode on his bicycle as part of his Iron Man tri-athlete training

On Election night 2002, at his acceptance speech, Richardson had State Police Protection, upper right and lower right corners.

Now, as governor, he has a large contingent. His office won’t confirm the actual size, though Senate sources say the number is 16.

Effective security can be provided Richardson with about three officers at any one time, but he seems to like the raw power that having a half dozen or more provides.

For a man who set a Guinness World Record for shaking the most hands in an eight-hour period, he should know that the most common physical threat to a politician is the person who establishes a “death grip” handshake.

The second most common threat comes from the obsessed person, who wants to tell their story, make their case or demand attention, of the politician.

Security may be needed to break the grip or separate the person from the political leader.

This drunken man, at an Old Town political rally, got a hold of Sen. George McGovern, foreground right, D- S.D., the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee. The man would not break his grip. Instead of a Secret Service Agent interceding, it was Stuart Udall, center, father of Rep. Tom Udall, who physically released McGovern.

I have nothing but good things to say about how the New Mexico State Police Officers assigned to the detail handle themselves for the most part; they have been known to get a little skittish about letting other photographers get too close behind him. Then of course, there is their total disregard for the general publics' safety when they drive the governor well over the speed limit. For some reason, they feel that they are exempted from traffic laws. They are not.

The governor is just another citizen who is paid to spend his full time and attention to running the state. He is not a king or emperor.

So taken as fact the necessity for his security, the lieutenant governor is a mere heartbeat away from being governor. Her role is also vital to the smooth running of the state. Any reason that Richardson can justify for his needing security can also fit Denish.

Last year, the legislature funded state police protection for the lieutenant governor, but Richardson took the money for himself. The AP report indicated that Denish had to hire private security to protect her. There is nothing that could be more wrong. Government agents, whose duty it already is, should protect executives.

The governor, "tries to accommodate her as much as possible when she requests security," Governors Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told AP. Denish should not have to request security, it should be present at all times.

Before First Lady Barbara Richardson gets protection, the lieutenant governor must be protected.

In this squabble, Richardson comes off as a bloated ego driven imperialist with his own pork at stake.

Richardson may call Denish a liar, as he did in this KOB TV Reporter Stuart Dyson’s report, but the governor may not dispute my factual record.

The problems I have experienced are systematic of a wider overbearing political philosophy. Here Gallegos oversee a radio interview on the 2006 election night while under the close protection of two officers. Richardson’s political staff uses the numbers of officers to shield access. They also do not inform me of when and where events are located. I have never been notified of a press conference and his office refuses to acknowledge the internet electronic media.



Executive Protection News Editor Bruce Alexander wishes to add a comment.

Because I value his professionally informed point of view, I am moving his comment from the hidden section and bringing it to the forefront so that we may have an intellectual discussion.

Alexander wrote:

Unfortunately you have your facts wrong in most of your article, otherwise your article would be an interesting read. When Governor Richardson left the U.N. and went to the Energy Department, he was not, as you wrongly claim, given an even more "impressive" detail. In fact, the size of his detail at the Department of Energy was significantly smaller than than at the U.N. How do I know? Because I was assigned to his detail while at the Department of Energy for several years. I worked closely with the Diplomatic Security Service who protected Richardson at the U.N. Additionally,Richardson's detail was significantly smaller than his predecessor at the Department of Energy. In comparison to several other cabinet departments, the Executive Protection detail at the Energy Department was smaller than most other cabinet officers and smaller still than some protective details for the heads of independent agencies who were not even in the line of presidential succession.

Your article also fails to note that Governor Richardson, as a direct result of his service as U.N. Ambassador has been under direct threat from foreign terrorist organizations who threatened to kill him because of his efforts to rescue various U.S. hostages.

In regards to your former supervisor at P.G.County and his comments, I believe he was with the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service, which is not the same as you state, a "Secret Service agent." Secondly, there is absolutely no comparison between protecting the "money" and protecting a head of state. It's a very poor analogy. The U.S. does not have a single monetary system. Our monetary system is based on a multitude of factors, not just "money." If you mean currency, the Secret Service does not protect currency, the U.S. Mint Police protects currency, so I'm not sure how your former supervisor is qualified to comment on matters related to protecting currency. In fact, in the U.S., there is more wealth in non currency assets than in currency in circulation, so there's no relationship between currency, or lack thereof, and the economic stability of the U.S. If what you suggest were true, whenever there was inflation we would burn money, not adjust the interest rate. Again, using your flawed logic or that of your former supervisor, we would replace the gold in Ft. Knox with cash, since currency should be protected. It doesn't make sense.

Whether the Lt. Governor should receive Executive Protection or not is one issue but attempting to relate that to the protection of Governor Richardson is not a valid comparison. One basic premise of executive protection which you don't seem to understand is the notion of risk. You protect executives based on a risk analysis (among other things) which is conducted after you assess the threat. Your question should be whether anyone has conducted a threat assessment on the Lt. Governor and do the results merit the degree of protection currently provided? That is the real issue, not what the Governor is getting. You are accusing the Richardson administration of playing politics with the Lt.Governor's protection yet you are guilty of the same thing when it comes to criticizing the protection afforded the Governor.

Bruce Alexander
Editor
Executive Protection News
">www.executive-protection-news.com
(Bruce Alexander) 10:43 AM

In response to your comment, I thank you for taking the time to correct my facts.

You suggest that my use of “impressive” means anything more than how the detail looked.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson made several visits to New Mexico and in particular the Los Alamos and Sandia National labs. Through personal observation, I saw Richardson’s entourage’s movements; they were more impressive than what I observed of the United Nations detail. I don’t mistake size with impressiveness.

To use an analogy that I’m sure you won’t like, it would be similar to a little league baseball team taking the field and in a circle, tossing a baseball amongst them. Consider a single clown who juggles nine baseballs at one time. He might be considered impressive by comparison.

You guys at Energy looked and seemed impressive.

As for my supervisor, Bob McCarthy at the Prince Georges’ County Sheriff’s Office, my recollection from those squad room conversations during down moments were that McCarthy had been a Secret Service agent. If memory serves me correct, and it has been almost 35 years now, he had been in the Army and was the Sergeant of the Guard during the Nuremburg War Crimes trials. After the Army, he was a Secret Service Agent in a field office before going to the White House. He may well have been part of the then White House Police during Harry Truman's administration.

He told another story related to a suspicious package that was possibly a bomb caught up in the fluoroscope of the day. He went racing to the area from the command post and while running around a corner, bumped into and knocked over a man walking in the hallway. McCarthy said he had not recognized the man he bumped into, but did recognize the Secret Service Agent assigned to President Truman. McCarthy said, that without losing a step, he had just lowered his head, waved his arm and yelled, “Excuse me Mr. President.” The package was not a bomb. The agent assigned to Truman later told McCarthy that everything was all right, and that he had explained what had happened. Truman was uninjured and thankful of the protective action being carried out.

I have one other reason to believe that McCarthy was a Secret Service Agent. There was a sitting Circuit Court Judge, named Parker, who had worked with McCarthy at the White House at the same time. Parker was an uniformed officer of the White House Police Force. As the story goes, he was one of the first, not directly involved, to respond from the White House to a shooting scene of several security personnel. Puerto Rican Nationalists shot three White House Police officers, killing one, at the Blair House, during an assignation attempt of Truman in 1950. Parker’s telling of the story seemed to make a distinction of his and McCarthy’s type of service.

You are the first to raise the possibility that McCarthy was not a Secret Service Agent and I can neither confirm nor deny it. If you can locate and provide McCarthy’s information, I would greatly appreciate your efforts and would willingly stand corrected.

The question I posed about which role was more important; the protection of money (our economic system based on paper that is within the purview of the Secret Service) or the physical protection of the President of the United States, was not asked as a precursor to an economics lesson. It certainly did not get that kind of harsh response; McCarthy’s answer was just as valid.

It would not matter who the president was if the underlying economic structure could be compromised.

I, on more than one occasion, during my career, came upon counterfeit U.S. currency. It was always a U.S. Secret Service Agent, assigned to a field office, who took over those investigations.

I knew police officers who joined the Secret Service and chased counterfeiters and did investigations and who also worked on the presidential protection detail.

It seems that it’s you who wishes to miss the point that the protection of the president may not be more important than maintaining the country’s economic structure.

McCarthy’s answer was direct, yet delivered with a sense of humor appropriate to my asking. As an executive protector, humor may not be something you have the luxury of.

I recognize the threat and risk analysis process as grounds for making decisions. Maybe you missed the part of the story, if you had followed the link to the Associated Press piece, where the legislature had mandated that security be provided to the Lt. Gov.

Not withstanding the threat and risk analysis, there is now a law, which Bill Richardson wishes to ignore; hence my aggravation.

Nowhere in my posting do I suggest that Richardson is not entitled to protection. I just allude to Richardson’s staff playing political games with the Lt. Gov’s. protection.

In this process, Richardson said Denish always got protection when she was acting governor because he was out of state while running for president.

It simply was not true and my photographs that I published, along with many other events I did not publish, would prove it.

If Richardson is still under a credible threat for what he did as a federal actor, as U.N. Ambassador, then it is totally allowable by federal law for the president to assign Secret Service protection to him. Maybe federal agents should be providing that service and picking up the tab.

I’m not questioning that there are terrorists in the world with their sights on Richardson. Just yesterday, we had proof that the back and forth of enemies of terror, as well as terrorists, are always targets. The example was in the car bombing death of long sought Middle East terrorist Imad Mughniyah in Damascus, Lebanon.

Mughniyah was sought from 1980. Richardson may still be on someone’s hit list today.

Richardson is immensely popular within the state, having won reelection by a record percentage of the vote.

I have not criticized the protection afforded to Richardson except as it is compared to the lack of any given to Denish and the belief that Richardson’s staff should make the determination without consideration of the new legal mandate.

The greatest in-state threat to Richardson comes in the form of an Albuquerque Police Officer with a radar gun, as he still is shuttled around the state at speed.

MGB

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

…and the Winner is…

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Oops! We don’t have a winner, yet.

The New Mexico Democratic Party is still hard at work with its volunteers poring over the more than 17,000 provisional ballots cast in last week’s Super Tuesday caucus.

The candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton, left and Sen. Barak Obama, right, are not standing around waiting for the results.

In politics, a week is an eternity. Four states: Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, and Maine, have since held their selection process along with the Virgin Islands. All have given Obama victories.

According to CNN Politics Clinton’s delegate lead is currently 27; Clinton 1,148 to Obama’s 1,121, with 2,025 delegate votes needed to win at the National Convention, August 25-28, in Denver, Colo.

Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia hold their primaries today and Obama is favored in all three.

Clinton visits El Paso tonight in anticipation of the Texas primary held March 4 along with Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

This is Chelsea Clinton at the February 2 campaign event for her mother at Highland High school.

MSNBC’s David Schuster said something, now deemed impolite, about Chelsea joining her mother’s campaign. Schuster apologized and has been suspended for his remarks.

Chelsea Clinton is 28 years old and has a mind of her own. If she didn’t want to help her mom, she wouldn’t. She has learned the political theater and especially the Clinton’s, “I’ve just seen my long lost childhood friend for the first time in forever,” greeting to perfection. It seems that the Clintons do it better than anyone else, and no one seems to mind.

My recollection of adult children helping their father’s presidential election campaigns harkens back to Sept. 3, 1972, after the running of the third annual California 500 at Ontario, Calif. Roger McCluskey won the race and President Richard Nixon’s daughter, Tricia Nixon Cox, presented the trophy. That’s husband Edward Cox, left of Tricia. She was not the normal enthusiastic trophy girl, so McCluskey stole a kiss.

Nixon won his second presidential term two months later.

Tricia Nixon Cox was 26 at the time. She was the quiet daughter, over shadowed by her younger and more politically and public sister, Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Julie was two years younger and married Dwight Eisenhower’s grandson, David, in 1968, before her father took office.

Tricia’s one great media splash was being married on the White house lawn in 1971.

There have been other political children out on the campaign trail. Schuster deserves his suspension. He took a cheap shot.

And so did I. I just wanted an excuse to use these shots of Chelsea and Tricia.