Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oink Oink

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

There is one thing that is more important than taking a cheap shot at the Mayor; that is not getting facts wrong through the over-zealous pursuit of a political hit.

Former Mayor Jim Baca attacked his favorite whipping boy, the cops. He wrote in his blog “Only in New Mexico”:
I noticed that Mayor Marty is hiding from voters. Last night he flipped off the people who showed up at the North Valley candidate forum by saying he had an endorsement interview with the Fraternal Order of Police. As a former candidate and Mayor I can tell you that those interviews can be done just about anytime. But stop and think about this, Marty opted for a special interest group over voters.
The FOP represents a couple of thousand active members around the state, half of whom live or work in the City.

Yes they are a special interest group, with emphasis on “special,” and with emphasis on “interest,” and with emphasis on “group.” Police are a special interest group, but no more a special interest group than is the North Valley Neighborhood Associations are. They are also voters.

Former State Senator and Mayoral Candidates Richard Romero, left, and State Rep. R.J. Berry attended the North Valley forum.

If Martin Chávez is, as he claims, the “Public Safety” mayoral candidate, then attending the FOP might have been vital to him.

Maybe a hundred or so voters of the North Valley neighborhood associations were disappointed by not seeing the Mayor the other night, but Chávez may have been right politically.

It is my humble opinion, based on years of coming to understand cops, that they control about 30 votes each. It is a mixture of family, friends and others who rely on officers to “know and understand” the city’s government, its needs and how officers are treated or who will best treat them. Chávez, through huge pay packages near the end of his first four-year term (14 percent) just before running for governor and then last year (up to 41 percent), has ingratiated himself with officer-voters. He already pulled down the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association endorsement without having the other candidates even interviewed; he would like the local parent police organization’s nod as well. As a former union leader, how the APOA went about endorsing Chávez is not how we conducted business in the day, but it’s not my organization anymore.

“The Mayor was here maybe 15 to 20 minutes,” Albuquerque Fraternal Order of Police Lodge One President Robert Martinez, left, said about Chávez’ visit to the group's monthly meeting. “He expressed an interest in speaking and we extended an invitation,” Martinez said. “Chávez spoke then took a few questions.”

Romero “…told me there was a chance he would wouldn’t make it because of a scheduling conflict,” Martinez said. The same invitation was extended to Romero after asking if he could address the group.

The FOP will hold its own Mayoral forum, Thursday Sept. 3 at 6:00 PM, at the Moose Lodge #1517, 2121 Edith N.E. All three publicly financed candidates have been invited Martinez said.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Jim Baca was in the 1984 mayoral run off election with Councillor Ken Schultz and came to an APOA meeting. Schultz openly sought the endorsement and Baca, who said he was not seeking the endorsement, went out of his way to threaten cops for being political. Baca received a negative endorsement and Schultz won. Twelve years later, when Baca came into office, he had a stormy relationship with the officers. Schultz is the same person who was recently plead guilty in federal court of being the bagman in the Metropolitan Courthouse construction scandal.

Baca’s predecessor, Chávez, left the City in miserable financial shape through creative budgeting, similar to what he has done now. It took Baca three years to dig his way out of the mess. Baca felt he could not entertain employee raises for those three years. However, Baca went out of his way to antagonize the cops. He still holds them in contempt.

“Special interest groups” is a euphemism of political rhetoric covering a wide span of organizations. The phrase is generically used to demonize those with differing or opposing views. In Baca’s world, the evil, “special interest groups,” include oil and gas associations and cops. He blames both for political defeats. Baca is so angry at oil and gas groups supporting his last opponent, incumbent Republican Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons, left, that he can’t even see straight.

Baca repeatedly attacks the State Republican Party Chairman Harvey Yates Jr. as being the head of his families Yates Petroleum. Just one problem, though Yates Jr., is part of the family, he is not head of Yates Petroleum. He has his own independent oil and gas exploration company. He is President of Albuquerque based Jalapeno Corporation.

Baca is on the board of several “special interest groups” himself. To him, they are of great value and stand in the way of unnecessary progress.

Of course “special interest groups” are bane or blessing, depending on where one stands.

Chávez, is the front runner. I don’t think anyone politically knowledgeable disputes that.

With the monetary constraints of public financing there are benefits and problems to this campaign season. Candidates are being limited in spending for name recognition and in how they get their message out.

Chávez, right, holds the strongest hand; the election is his to lose. He has: name recognition, incumbency, experience, and a built in campaign staff of hundreds of appointed city workers whose job are dependent upon his winning the election. The best way for him to win is to not expose his weaknesses to attacks .

Not appearing in public to face the best questioners – the citizens – is one of the ways Chávez can avoid such a risk. Running like hell from public forums also solves that problem. Going to events by himself reduces the risk of having his answers compared to Chávez' opponents.

Another way for Chávez is to never address a question that he can’t answer.

Berry, left, pointed out in an article by Majorie Childress for the New Mexico Independent that Chávez is running a deficit budget.
"In 2004, the Chavez administration began the fiscally unsound practice of transferring property tax revenues from General Obligation Bonds into the city's Operating Expenses. In 2006, city expenses exceeded revenues and those deficits have been growing ever since. This started while Marty Chavez grew city government by almost 50 percent from 2003 through
August 13, 2009 Berry Press Release

“We’re not going to respond to desperate measures by a desperate candidate with no factual basis for what he’s saying,” Chávez’ campaign Communications Director Joan Griffin told New Mexico Independent’s Marjorie Childress.

At the first mayoral forum before the Economic Forum a couple of weeks ago, Chávez touted that he had balanced the City budget every year as if it were some great accomplishment; it’s not, it’s the law.

The forum was moderated by former City Attorney David Campbell, the candidates are: Chávez, Berry, and Romero.

You may listen to the complete forum, I recorded it and Peter St. Cyr posted it on his, “What’s the Word” site.

Berry’s assertion may need closer inspection. His numbers may not be penny accurate, but he has to be drifting in the right direction. In this recession gross receipts are down and they are the number one source of city government revenue. With those numbers down and the growth of government rising there are few places to make up the offset.

The North Valley forum is the second time Chávez has missed such an event. Both times his excuse was based on a lie. He skipped the Heart of the Heights Neighborhood Associations regular meeting hosted by Councillor Sally Mayer. Griffin, left, speaking for Chávez said, he would not attend because an ethics complaint had been filed against Mayer; it wasn’t true, no complaint was filed. Chávez was not being interviewed by the FOP; he’s the one who requested the opportunity to speak. By the time he spoke he knew of their scheduled forum.

Romero called Chávez’ assertion, at the Economic Forum, that by acquiring diverted San Juan-Chama water Albuquerque’s water future is secured, questionable.

Chávez said he loved planting trees. Sounds a lot like the former City Commissioner President (de facto mayor) Clyde Tingley who brought the invasive Chinese elm and Russian olive trees to town.

Between the allegations of a lack of water and an audit report about rampant City government landscaping cost overruns in the millions of dollars to political cronies, might there be the whiff of impropriety?

On a completely different note, I was in Santa Fe the other day and stopped by the offices of the Santa Fe Reporter to say Hi, to David Maass. He was out of town reporting on an upcoming story about the dust bowl. I was greeted by the new office mascot, a potbellied pig named Truffles. I guess it fits, a pig that roots around like an investigative journalistic outlet.

I’ll leave it to my readers to figure out where this post’s headline came from.

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