Friday, October 23, 2009

We Need Transparency, You Have To Leave

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

“We need to listen to those with whom we don’t always agree,” keynote speaker New Mexico Lt. Gov. 
Diane Denish said at the seventh annual
 Arthur A. Blumenfeld lecture and dinner last night. The event, attended by about 400 people was at the University of New Mexico
's Student Union Building.

Blumenfeld was a budget specialist with the City of Albuquerque and appointed Chief Administrative Officer by Mayor Louis Saavadra, 1989 – 1993. Blumenfeld had always been a much better budgeter than CAO. He dealt well with numbers, not so well with people, especially union types. He went on to teach at the School of Public Administration where he apparently was adored. It was after my time at the school.

Denish, who is also a declared candidate for the Democrat Party's governor's nomination, was not presiding over the on-going legislative special session, said there would not even be a discussion at all about transparency if it truly existed. There would be no need.

She called for the assembled public administrators to be mentors and to lead.

She started talking about open and accessible government in ways she had not previously done.

It would have been a speech worth reporting, if it were not for one ugly fact.

“You weren’t invited,” UNM Police Officer Timothy King told me after being escorted from the hall.

I had my invitation in hand.

Well, your uninvited then, he said.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Yes, it’s a flag picture. It will fit into my personal project as just another violation of the flag code. No, the American flag does not go on the right. The woman responsible for placing the flags has no grasp of some other equally simple American principles.

It was an evening filled with City of Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officers. Blumenfeld’s memory shadowed other who followed in his shoes. David Campbell, who has been appointed CAO by mayor-elect Richard Berry, was scheduled to make opening remarks, but was not present because of the passing of his mother Wednesday. Campbell had served as assistants to former CAO Frank Klienhenz and Blumenfeld.

Denish spoke with, former CAO, former and current State Treasurer James Lewis, left, who has announced his candidacy for reelection, and former State Representative and County Commissioner Lenton Malry before dinner.

As a graduate of the School of Public Administration, I was an invited guest. Denish’s topic was: “Creating a Culture of Responsibility.” Sounded like a good story to me.

I strolled and mingled and took pictures of current students, here Tom Grover, left, fellow graduates, retired APD Commander Marie "SiSi" Saenz-Miranda, former professors, even my high school communications teacher, and a number of government elected and appointed officials, and handful of declared political candidates before dinner.

Above former assistant CAO for public safety and current Aviation Director Nick Bakas, center and former chief of staff for Denish and former director of Expo, Judy Espinosa, right socialized.

Herb Denish chats with Elsie Davis who was Blumenfeld’s administrative assistant at the city and Fred Aguirre, an engineer formerly of the city planning department.

As the Director of the School of Public Administration Dr. Uday Desai started to introduce Denish, a woman told me I could not take pictures.

I told her that I was an invited guest, the event was taking place in a public building and was open to the public and that I was media. She went on that I was not hired to photograph the event and therefore could not take photographs.

I shrugged and she told me to leave. I told her do what you have to do and continued to photograph. I don’t ask permission to exercise the Constitution.

“If you take one more photograph, I’m throwing you out,” she said.

As Denish began to speak I took a photograph. The woman swiped my back, ordered me not to take pictures. She grabbed my arm several times. I didn’t move or pull away from her grasp, but I did take her picture.
She said she was calling security.

I returned to my seat and made a few more photographs.

As Denish wrapped up her speech I was approached by a number of people with UNM SUB nametags and a uniformed UNM police officer.

I had no conversation with Officer King other than to tell him I had been invited and to give him my identification. Four additional UNMPD officers arrived.

King spoke with the woman, and ordered me to leave. I had a recording device on the podium and one of the additional officers retrieved it.

When I asked King, who the woman he spoke with was. He told me she was Aline Gonzales.

I asked whom she was with and King said, the Lieutenant Governor.

According to the UNM on-line directory Gonzales is coordinator of special events for Anderson School of Management Administration. UNM Marketing and Communications Department confirmed she is an “on-call employee” who was hired by the School of Public Administration to arrange the event.

My Take

Though Denish called for responsibility in her speech, she didn’t say anything responsible as she watched me escorted out of the room by a uniformed officer and several UNM employees who descended upon me.

Executive Director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments Lawrence Rael, right, an announced candidate for the Democrat Party’s Lt. Gov. nomination and a former CAO, sitting with another former CAO and now the head of the State’s Mortgage Finance Authority, Executive Director Jay Czar. Rael had earlier toyed with me when I raised my camera covering his face with a napkin, neither said anything.

The only person who stepped up was my former Public Administration’s Professor and Advisor T. Zane Reeves, who came out into the hallway and asked openly, “did the former police union president get…?” After a pregnant pause, I said, “arrested?” “No charge but yes arrested.” He looked at King, who refused to acknowledge Reeves.

Reeves, was the director of the school and is now a professor emeritus. He served on the City’s Personnel Board then became a hearing officer. We have had extensive conversations about public administrators failing to grasp the legal concepts involved in their service.

For my loyal readers, you know I’ve been thrown out of better places than this. Wait a minute; I’ve been thrown out of this same place before.

I’m pretty hard pressed to write my alma mater a check, for more than the value of the meal, in support of their clear lack of understanding the basics of the First Amendment.

It’s time for a constitutional law component to be added to the program. I always knew it was lacking from all the employee representations I was involved with. Reeves knew it also, but never could convince the powers that be of its necessity.

1 comment:

Terry said...

Well, I don't know Albq politics, but your incident sure seems odd to me. I mean, in the political hierarchy in the nation, surely these are small fry, so what's their anal obsession that they so freak out about a few pictures? And democrats too, right? Tch, tch, just goes to show I guess that democrats have become as authoritarian as republicans.... well, I have to take that back, no one could go that far. Like Bill Maher said, democrats have moved to the right and republicans have moved to the insane asylum. But still, say as authoritarian as republicans were back around the time of Reagan's first election, that beacon of freedom he.

I dunno. America's become a strange place today. And I'm being as gentle and tame as I can be, seeing as how you know my sister.

If you had the same degree of aplomb and equanimity on the day as your writing suggests, I salute you. My blood pressure would have been through the roof and I probably would have ended up arrested for dirty language or some such - but then, I never did get past butting my head against brick walls. You'd think that one would eventually get used to some things in life.

Interesting story, thank you.