Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Matthew Astorga

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

There is no picture. However, picture this; Matthew Astorga of rural Lansing, Kan., was arrested in Leavenworth, Kan., charged with first-degree murder, felon in possession of a firearm and fleeing or eluding police.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

It has a familiar ring to it....

Leavenworth Times Reporter John Richmeier wrote of a Matthew Astorga being arrested.

Is this the same Matthew Astorga, brother of Michael Paul Astorga, who is accused of, and is awaiting trial in the death of Bernalillo County Deputy Sheriff James McGrane Jr.? McGrane was shot to death during a traffic stop on March 22, 2006,

Google search is a wonderful resource. Type in a name and voila, up pops a list of links to information on that request.

I got an e-mail from a man who had gone looking for additional information on Astorga.

My May 2006 posting was number one on the Google list. I posted the man's name, but he's requested anonymity. I'm breaking my rule on using an anonymous source; though he is actually an unnamed source. He was none-to-happy about the reported crime.

I read you article on title "Whats wrong with this picture" and the Astorgas. Last Friday, Matthew Astorga murdered a man in Leavenworth, Ks. He's chargd with 1st degree murder and has a 1 million dollar bond. I'm not sure the judge reaizes when this gets bail, he's gone! I was amazed that he is a former murderer with such an obtainable bond.

How our local law enforcement did not know this guy was living and no doubt "dealing" in our community and is a convicted felon amazes me!

The City of Leavenworth Police are of the belief that the man they have is the Astorga of Albuquerque.

Kansas City's KHSB NBC Action News reports Astorga was from New Mexico. Other Local television, KCTV 5 news reports give more details

Astorga was living in Lansing, a neighboring town of Leavenworth; just northwest of Kansas City.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Train, the Train… From the Outside

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

All the media, bloggers included, seem to have jumped on the RailRunner express show, including:

Journal North, Thursday, December 18, 2008, by Journal Staff Writers Kiera Hay and Phil Parker, "All Aboard the ABQ-SF Rail Runner."

Journal, Thursday, December 18, 2008, by Journal Staff Writer Leslie Linthicum, "One Joyful Ride Changed My Mind ."

Journal, Monday, December 22, 2008, by Journal Staff Writer Sean Olson, "Delays force agency to add train for Sunday service to Santa Fe."

Only in New Mexico, Monday, December 15, 2008, by Jim Baca, "Rail Runner."

Only in New Mexico, Friday, December 19, 2008, by Jim Baca, "Rail Runner and Road Tax."

New Mexico Independent, Tuesday, December 16, 2008, by Trip Jennings, "Guv takes valedictory lap on Rail Runner."

New Mexico Independent, Wednesday, December 17, 2008, by Trip Jennings, "Rail Runner Express kicks off its public schedule today," "Rail Runner sidetracked a bit with day one glitches."

New Mexico Independent, Wednesday, December 17, 2008, by Matthew Reichbach, "Rail Runner snags another high profile rider."

Weekly Alibi, December 18 - 24, 2008, This Week's News/Opinion, by Marisa Demarco, "The Northbound Train."

KRQE TV, Monday, December 15, 2008, "Rail Runner trains beat
 snowy I-25 Santa Fe service starts Wednesday."

KOB TV, Eyewitness News 4, Wednesday, December 17, 2008, "Rail Runner makes inaugural trip to Santa Fe."

KOB TV, Eyewitness News 4, Saturday, December 20, 2008, "Ridership overwhelms Rail Runner to Santa Fe."

Now I have an affinity for the rail; I like trains. It might be that when I was born, my parents lived in Alexandria, Va. next to the train yard. The constant sounds of trains being moved about a switchyard must have been my primary auditory sensation. We were also under the flight path for National Airport. Hence, the reason I also like aircraft.

I like trains even when I can't see them. When I hear a train whistle, I'll say, "There's a Train!"

I'm fascinated by all aspects of the rail industry.

In the summer of 2006, the Mid-Region Council of Governments’ RailRunner began the 18-mile run from Albuquerque to the north side of Bernalillo.

Later, the service was extended south to Belen.

When the original railroad came to New Mexico at the end of the 1870s, Bernalillo was the first choice for a rail yard. However, the cost of land became prohibitive, so the rail company moved 17 miles south.

The tale is told in an Aug. 1976, New Mexico Magazine article by John Sinclair, “The Place Where De Vargas Died,” that I helped illustrate. Sinclair called the demand by the then patron José Leandro Perea, the act, “…distinctive of as one of America’s first environmentalists, a man who didn’t like clatter and smoke, or gringos interfering in the affairs of a happy little Spanish village.”
An aside:
Our Lady of Sorrows church in Bernalillo was slated for demolition after the 1972 Fiesta because a new church was opened. As a result of my picture, taken from across the Rio Grande, a group, including architects, who told me they were inspired to try to save and rehabilitate the old church. For more than 30 years, work has slowly progressed on the old building.
The planned railroad yard's move from Bernalillo was the impetus for the growth of the little town of Albuquerque. On April 6, 1880, the first train came through town. Later that month, on the 22nd, passenger service began. Carrying mail by stagecoaches was rendered obsolete.

AMTRAK took over passenger service through New Mexico from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe in May, 1971.

Things didn’t appear to change right away; the Santa Fe’s equipment and personnel were used, as seen here, below, on the first day of official AMTRAK service. It didn’t look any different than the day before.

Mail was moved in the same way, on and off the first westbound AMTRAK through Albuquerque.

AMTRAK has run two scheduled passenger trains each day from Chicago to Los Angeles and back.

The idea of commuter train service in the Rio Grande valley has been kicked around for more than 35 years.

Over the past year, I have been to Santa Fe several times and watched the progress of the construction in putting down new track along Interstate Highway 25.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

I went to Santa Fe with my publisher/friend Harold Morgan Thursday for the “2009 pre-session Legislative Seminars and new members orientation.” We had considered riding the RailRunner. However, our timetable went into free floating, in part due to the weather. We decided to drive.

Along the way, we came upon a northbound train stopped on a siding.

The southbound train was coming out of the City Different.

A couple of weeks ago, on the way to Santa Fe, to cover the Governor - Lt. Governor’s “press availability,” construction workers were making last-minute adjustments to the track and testing the signals.

All the effort apparently didn’t work out all the kinks.

The inaugural run went off without a hitch, but put more than one train on the track and the system seemed to have generated its own problems. Trains were late by more than an hour and a half from the scheduled arrival times.

The fault was blamed on signals between San Felipe and Santo Domingo Pueblos on the main line part of the route. A southbound train hit a cow on the San Felipe Pueblo, stopping the train for some time and delaying its arrival by more than an hour.

On the way back from the Legislature’s meetings, a mid-afternoon northbound train was on a different siding. The conductor was standing in the remnants of an earlier snowstorm. It is the sign of an anticipated extended delay.

Crews are known to get off of their trains when placed on a siding and having any kind of wait. Click to enlarge; note crewman in white shirt to right of freight train.

This eastbound Burlington Northern - Santa Fe freight crew dismounted while it waited for the westbound AMTRAK to pass, at Dalies junction, west of Belen on the main line. In excess of one hundred freight, and two passenger trains pass this point every day on one of the busiest train routes in the country.

Many are upset at the cost; $400 million, for the 100-mile RailRunner project.

Such transportation projects are not self-sufficient. However, this project has been supported by tax initiatives, although the bond questions were put to voters only after the project was started.

Some argue that the money is poorly spent, pointing to the relatively low numbers of persons carried on the train versus the numbers who use cars.

There are flaws in the argument:
The number of individual cars with single passengers on the road, while convenient, is extremely inefficient. In our car driven culture, the efficiency is seldom addressed.

Effective mass transit concepts are based on wide ranging networks that meet the needs of the public. Those needs must include timely, convenient, accessible and affordable service.

Former Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca pointed out in his blog that there was not enough parking at the stations. Such a problem for the park and ride set defeats the purpose of getting people to use the train in the first place.

Road projects are not self-sustaining either. Gas taxes added at the pump don’t completely pay for road and bridge infrastructure.

Baca pointed out that Albuquerque’s ten-year transportation tax is due to expire shortly and questioned, “I can't understand why this deadline has crept up on the administration like this.” The administration of current Mayor Martin Chávez didn’t miss this deadline. To the contrary, his attempt to fund his modern trolley has been predicated on the continuation of the transportation tax.

Baca writes about the transportation tax having passed by 700 votes. He doesn’t speak about the effort he made to woo the Albuquerque Police Officers Association to not oppose this tax, as they had the public safety tax that they worked to defeat a couple years earlier. Baca did not understand why the APOA had opposed the first tax.

Albuquerque Police Officers Association negotiators met about the quarter percent Transportation Tax, on February 17, 1999, with Baca, center left, and his Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael, right, who is now the Executive Director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments which runs the RailRunner. The cops, through the APOA, could have cared less about the transportation tax. The police had felt that Chávez was trying to manipulate them and the public by calling for the tax’s use to be for public safety.

Chávez continues to push for his trolley system, in part by claiming that all great cities have a trolley, light rail or subway system.

Looking at the capital of the poorest European Union country, Lisbon, Portugal, with a population density of 2.5 million in its metropolitan region; they have an intricate mass transit system.

A fundamental part of Lisbon's transportation system includes rails with: electrified trolleys, trams, a subway, and several commuter light rail operations, in addition to a bus system.

Chávez claims, in a current report published by the US Conference of Mayors, “Ready to Go,” jobs and infrastructure projects report, that he needs $90 million for Phase I of the Central Street car. It will create 500 jobs.

According to an article in the Albuquerque Journal, "City's Wish List Is Fifth-Biggest," Chávez asked for $2.3 billion from President-elect Barak Obama’s newly proposed stimulus package.

A Forbes magazine article, “The Obama Boomtowns." Ranks Albuquerque’s request was the fifth highest.

The other cities ahead of the Duke City asking for more money are: Miami, Sacramento, Calif., Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.

Miami has a Metrorail with 27 stations on a single line and a free Metromover on a downtown loop with 20 stations. It also has almost 900 buses on 91 routes; some that operate 24-hours a day.

Sacramento's population is smaller than Albuquerque's, but is situated in a broader metropolitan community of over two million people.

The Sacramento Regional Transit District has a light rail system, above, with two branches and a downtown trackless trolley replica, below.

Sacramento 's RT has 32 million boarding passengers a year on 76 light rail cars; 277 buses, vans and trolleys.

Philadelphia's Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority serves a population of 3.9 million, with ridership of 325 million. SEPT uses 2,664 vehicles, of which half are buses; the rest are, light rail, subway-elevated, regional rail, and paratransit vehicles.

Los Angeles has a large system with 380,073,888 bus boardings. LA has five Metro rail lines

Chávez claims the amount is for $1,635,606,800 for 96 infrastructure projects that can be started right away creating almost 5,000 jobs.

Though Albuquerque is ranked 34, by city size, based on 2007 data, with population of 518,271, it can be easily argued to be a good city; but great is questionable. It certainly doesn't serve the population sizes of their economic rivals.

My Take
One might argue that starting projects without full public support by the legislature or local governmental bodies is the sign of leadership; while others might argue it's a sign of power politics, as usual. Both might be right.

There is a reality; the cost of driving to Santa Fe was substantially less than taking the train. The Rail Runner would have cost $8 per person for a day pass. The half tank of gas needed for the trip was four dollars less and we didn’t have to pay the downtown - parking garage at the main station, which is closest to us.

Cost alone is not the only factor. Once the RailRunner provides internet connection, there maybe an added benefit of being able to work while traveling.

Start up glitches have a way of working themselves out. Other problems, like a RailRunner Police Force with multiple jurisdictional authority, are only now being addressed. Such a force, represents a substantial cost. Security is a foreseeable issue. Political considerations of trying to expose all the costs, up front, might have dictated not addressing on-board security and to rely upon local law enforcement for protecting station parking lots and platforms. The decision is unconscionable for administrators and managers to wait more than two years to even come to a realization that policing is necessary.

I'm left with nagging questions:
Phase I of the Central Avenue Street Car is proposed to go from Nob Hill to the Biological Park, a distance of 4.59 miles. The construction cost is $28 million per mile or $128,520,000.

A couple of years ago, City Council shot down the trolley proposal. Now Chávez is asking Obama for $90 million for the same project. Was the original price grossly over calculated then, or is it radically under valued now?

The RailRunner Project cost $400 million dollars. It included buying about 280 miles of existing BNSF mainline track from Belen to Trinidad, Colo. About 15 miles of new track was constructed from Waldo canyon to the Santa Fe spur. Existing Santa Fe Southern track will complete the trip to downtown Santa Fe.

The total RailRunner line is a hundred miles. So why does less than five miles of lighter rail capacity of the Central Avenue Street Car cost almost a quarter of what the RailRunner did?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Welcome Winter With a Light Show

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Winter 2008 arrived at 4 :04 AM local time. About 13 hours later the Sandia Mountains were lit up at sunset.

Today is the shortest day of the year.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

The sky was very colorful after sunset as the altocumulus cloud bottoms were illuminated.

It looked more like the Fourth of July than only days away from Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Multiple Obituaries

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I have gotten behind and several deaths have gone unreported. I was able to illustrate these three deaths from the same project; the Albuquerque Police Department's 1978 Annual Report.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Retired Albuquerque Police Sergeant Bryce Martin died in an apparent suicide Friday October 17, 2008, after suffering from some major health issues over the past several months, according to what his wife, Maria Del Carmen Lopez Martin told police. Martin was 69.

Martin, seen here supervising the radio room in 1978, retired from APD December 31, 1985.

I first met him while I worked at the Albuquerque News. He was the graveyard shift radio supervisor. The story on him was that he had trouble working as a newly promoted graveyard shift patrol sergeant. It seems he had several wrecks. He was reassigned to radio after officers responded to an crash on Second Street, just south of Interstate Highway 40 where a police car was on the median. Sgt, Martin told the officer he had to swerve to avoid an on coming train; the stationary steam engine that was on display in Coronado Park.

Martin had a love for classical music. I was downtown on a day off when Martin drove by in his police unit. I could hear him coming; not because of his siren, but by the loud sounds of some opera, to which he was singing along.

Martin was, what I call a transition police officer. Only a few years before his coming on the Department, the belief of what made a good officer included being big. Martin was at 6 foot 4 inches and probably 250 pounds. He was smart, level-headed, well-read, a great leader and the kind of back up that any officer would want; he filled a doorway exit as well as anyone.

New Mexico author Tony Hillerman died Sunday October 26, 2008, of pulmonary failure. He was best known for his series of novels of Navajo Tribal Police Officers, Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee. He was 83.

I met Hillerman during the summer of 1967, at weeklong seminar of the New Mexico Interscholastic Press Association's workshop held at the University of New Mexico. Professor Hillerman was UNM Journalism Department Chairman, the liaison and a news-writing instructor.

Hillerman was still a working journalist while he was at UNM. Here, right, he interviewed then Violent Crimes Lt. Elton L. "Whitey" Hansen, left, about a recent 1978 homicide, while Public Information Officer Robert Fenton listened. Hansen was promoted Chief in April 1980.

Retired Albuquerque Police Officer Darrell Lewis died after an extended illness on Monday Dec. 8, 2008, in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 62.

I met Lewis in 1972, while working on a photo essay series on APD police officers for the Albuquerque News. He accompanied me in covering a United States Auto Club’s Indy type cars race at the Phoenix International Raceway, for the Best Western Motels Bobby Ball 150, Saturday November 4, 1972, which Bobby Unser won.

Lewis, right, was a firearms examiner in the Criminalistics Section in 1978; he is seen here with Lt. Tom Hubeny.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Additional Bloggers

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Kate Nash, now of the Santa Fe New Mexican, formerly of the Albuquerque Tribune, where she worked two different times for a total of seven years with a two-year stint at the Journal and was the news and photo editors at the University of New Mexico’s Daily Lobo, has a simple yet dynamic photograph of the memorial service for former New Mexico First Lady Alice King on her blog, "Green Chili Chatter."

Nash, right, with KKOB AM 770 News Radio Political Reporter and blogger of "What's the Word?" Peter St. Cyr are waiting to enter the Albuquerque Public Library for an event with Democratic Presidential Primary Candidate U.S. Sen. Barak Obama. Contrary to the sign, they are not satellite trucks, they are, what is now called, “backpack journalists.” It means they are capable of all the news gathering disciplines. They report for: print, internet, audio, video and they shoot still photographs.

Backpack journalist are the new model for corporate media. Many, accomplish several of the techniques, but Nash is one of the few who succeeds completely.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Here, Nash is covering the last Obama event with her: video camera, digital audio recorder, notebook, and though you can't see her still camera, it was there.

I gave Nash a hard time, in a May 23, 2006, posting, about her seeming lack of geographic bearings in locating Albuquerque federal courthouses. However, upon rereading what she wrote; she was correct, I was the one who was incorrect. I misread her. She wrote, "Outside the sixth-floor courtroom at the Pete V. Domenici U.S. Courthouse in Downtown..." I read it as the the six-story courthouse. Sorry about that Kate.

I did post a May 31, 2006, fact check on her missing that former Mayor Jim Baca was Land Commissioner twice, not just once.

Over the years, Nash has appeared on this site several times; either featured in a posting, or my quoting her work, or just having mentioned her in passing.
Here is a list of my other postings that have included her:
June 6, 2006, Mayer’s History,
Sep. 14, 2006, Matt Farrauto,
March 18, 2007, It Ain’t Over Til the Fat Man Signs, Oops! The Fat Lady Sings,
Feb. 13, 2007, Yeah, Sour Grapes,
Jan. 2, 2008, Tribune’s Days Numbered?
Sep. 17, 2008, Politics: from Weirdsville,
Nov. 7, 2008, Why John McCain lost New Mexico.

Nash is usually “there,” though she sometimes has to share the Capitol beat with fellow New Mexican Political Reporter Steve Terrell. From the left, at a State Capitol press conference,last week, are: Associated Press' Barry Masey, Terrell, KOAT TV's A.J. Smith, St. Cyr, and the Santa Fe Sun News' Stephen Fox.

She has covered many local events, including:

Covering Mayor Martin Chávez' ethics hearing for the Tribune, with Journal City Hall Reporter Jim Ludwick who broke the ABQPAC story.

Nash, left, with the Journal's Political Reporter Trip Jennings, KRQE TV Reporter Annie McCormick, and KUNM FM Reporter Jim Williams, during Attorney General and 2006 Democratic Congressional Candidate Patrica Madrid at her concession to Republican incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson. Nash has a relaxed interviewing style; her smile helps.

Nash interviewing House Minority Leader Rep. Tom Taylor, R-San Juan during the 2007 special legislative session.

Nash stands on the photo line with local and national press at the Obama Flying Star women event.

Here Nash is staked out at a closed door, big bucks, campaign fund-raising event with the four living Democratic Governors. New Mexico Democratic Party Press Secretary Conchita Cruz acted as gatekeeper.

I have been reading Nash all along.

However, I realized I had not included her on my blogroll, encouraging my readers to read what I do.

I recently found another blog spot I recommend, “La Politica: New Mexico!” by Dr. Jose Z. Garcia, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Department of Government at New Mexico State University.

I took this photograph of Garcia for Capitol Report New Mexico where he wrote a political column.

In scheduling a meeting to take this picture he asked if I was the same person who had testified at the bond revocation hearing of Reies López Tijerina, here being escorted by U.S. Marshal Bobby Baca, in the summer of 1969?

I told him that I was and he said he was in the courtroom that day. He recollected, in precise detail, my testimony. No one has been that correct about those events.

He impressed me, like few do.

He was Chairman of the Dona Ana County Democratic Party in the early 1980s.

He is writing from the Democratic side, but as a Professor, he gives a very open assessment.

The Political Ladies of New Mexico

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

New Mexico ladies are in the news.

Albuquerquean and Sandia High School graduate, now Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano has been nominated by President-elect Barak Obama to be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

This picture of her was taken at the "Here's to Pete: A Celebration of Senator Domenici's Service to New Mexico and the Nation," event sponsored by New Mexico First on June 28, 2008.

Napolitano’s first job out of University of Virginia School of Law, in 1979, was as a staffer for Senator Pete Domenici's Senate Budget Committee.

New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish sat down at a Capitol press conference with Governor Bill Richardson on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008, to discuss the transition as Richardson prepares to go to Washington where Obama has nominated him to become Secretary of the Department of Commerce. Richardson said he would stay in new Mexico through the confirmation process, which he said might be until March.

The next day I was at the University of New Mexico bookstore to buy a textbook for next semester, when I ran into Herb Denish, the Lt. Gov.’s husband. The Lt. Gov. was visiting the bookstore to support one of her friends, Jan Haley, a photographer who was signing her newly released book, “Free Flow: The Gila River in New Mexico.”

UNM President David Schmidly presented Denish with UNM’s first official ornament.

I spoke with the Lt. Gov. telling her I had this picture of her biting her lip.

She asked me what I thought it meant? I told her I thought she was not happy with what Richardson was saying about his staying through opening of the Legislative session, Jan. 20, the same day of Obama’s inauguration. I went on to say that her repeated comment, “there is only one Governor at a time,” was accurate.

However, she is in an awful spot, having to take over the reigns of power after Richardson set his agenda. Changing direction and implementing her priorities was going to be difficult.

She shrugged and shook her head in agreement.

No quote, but just as good.

Here Richardson is indicating to his Press Secretary Gilbert Gallegos, to shut down the press conference.

Former New Mexico First Lady Alice King passed away Sunday, Dec. 7 from a stroke she suffered Friday Dec. 5. She was 78.

I photographed her at her husband's, Bruce King’s, Jan. 1, 1971, inauguration in the Roundhouse – State Capitol. It was the first of three separate inaugurations, making her the longest serving First Lady.