Saturday, October 24, 2009

Anonymous, Come On, Join the Party. And Happy Birthday UN.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I’ve required commentators on this site to use some kind, any kind, of identifier to distinguish themselves from the ubiquitous “Anonymous.”

However, there are some good comments that don’t get posted because “anonymous” is even more stubborn than I am.

Here are a few recent musings:

Thank you Mark ... always insightful ... or inciteful ...

Boy, ya know, I've been away from NM for a long time, and you know how it is, you miss the good stuff and forget the bad. The behavior of councilors throwing out that woman, the giant smile on the cop's face, I had forgotten that side of NM. Crude, repulsive, incredibly disrespectful.

It reminds me of a conversation I had a with a New Hampshire political activist just back from a US tour. I excitedly asked how she liked New Mexicans and New Mexico.

"Animals" was all she said.

Please, clean up your act. Don't act like you were raised in a barn.

What happened to the rest of your post? Don't leave us with just this short teaser -- I know there's a lot more you could tell us.

This comment was about the post of mayor-elect Richard R.J. Berry’s first two political appointments, David Campbell as Chief Administrative Officer and Sheriff Darren White and Assistant Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety.

I don't get it. What is wrong with these pictures?

Well Anonymous, if you follow this post long enough you will come to the conclusion that not every post is about something being wrong, sometimes there is nothing wrong with any of the posted pictures and there might even be something right.

Sometimes a picture can be right and yet appear wrong.

I was called out recently for a picture of Governor Bill Richardson that appeared to be out of focus, There was plenty of movement in the picture, above left, however the eye closest to the lens was tack sharp, as was his cheek and eyebrow. The problem was exacerbated by the low quality of the resolution of computer monitors.

I blew up the section of Richardson’s face to prove the point. It’s not the first time I have presented, above right, the governor as a man on the move where only his eye is in focus and free of blur.

Speaking of eyes, I challenged my readers to identify nine politicians based only on their eyes. I offered lunch to the first person to identify all nine. Either no one wants to have lunch with me, or I made the contest too difficult. No one even tried.

So, I’ll reveal the subjects. From the top left: New Mexico’s Third Congressional District Representative Ben Ray Lujan Jr., D, former U.S. Sen. Teddy Kennedy, D, Massachusetts, and former first Congressional District primary candidate and former New Mexico Health and Human Services Cabinet Secretary Michelle Lujan-Grisham, D.

Center row: former New Mexico State Representative and House Minority Whip Daniel Foley, R, Chaves, Lincoln, Otero Counties, former New Mexico’s first Congressional District Representative Heather Wilson, R, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, D.

Bottom row: New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, D, New Mexico State Representative and House Minority Leader Tom Taylor, R, San Juan County, and former New Mexico Senate President Pro Tempore Manny Aragón, D, Bernalillo County.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

As part of my 40 years series, this model was shot at the New York Institute of Photography as an assignment.

The picture was presented with a third place award in the in-house contest. I was told that the contest was based on more than just the best photograph; it was also used to help students with their portfolios. I was told by my advisor, who was also one of the judges, that my photograph was determined to be the best submitted, but because I already had a strong portfolio, they had another student in mind for the top award.

Now this story could be about sour grapes, except for one fact; the top photograph was also my work. I had teamed up with a fellow student on an advertising still life assignment. She designed and arranged the product while I set the lighting and camera. We each shot a piece of film using the exact same set-up and exposure. We both also submitted our prints. I give full credit to the young lady for her art decoration; I have no aptitude for such delicate handling. Even then, I was a camera in your face kind of photographer.

This is a 4” x 5” shot of a field assignment. Students were permitted four sheets of film to photograph a single event. We were not allowed to carry another camera or more film. It was a strict discipline of camera control exercise.

October 24, 1969, was the 25th anniversary of the October 24, 1945, ratification of the United Nations Charter.

It was also the day that the World Series Champion New York Mets rolled up Broadway in a celebratory parade. I chose to avoid that crowd and attend the UN ceremony at the ice rink of Rockefeller Center.

New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller hosted the event. He was a moderate Republican who ran for the Party's presidential nomination in 1968, losing to Richard Nixon. Rockefeller became President Gerald Ford's vice-president in 1974, upon Nixon's forced resignation after the Watergate scandal.

So Happy 65th Birthday United Nations!

The UN’s existence has not ended war, but it has provided a space where differing national interests may be discussed. For all the diplomatic facades and political gamesmanship that are part of the process, the mere fact that the UN is available is reason enough compared to the alternative. It represents an opportunity for nations to air their differences and the possibility to work them out.

If all the nations of the world can sit behind their name plates and talk openly, why can't you Anonymous? Let us see your eyes.

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.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Money, Money, Money…

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Just days after the mayoral election, Scott Forrester who works in the mayor’s office got a handsome raise; 67 percent according to Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer Dan McKay.

Forrester is officially listed as Executive Assistant to the Mayor, but has been acting chief of staff for Martin Chávez replacing Bianca Ortiz-Wertheim who left to be State Director of Sen. Tom Udall’s local office. Forrester’s salary jumped from around $48,000 to just under $80,000.

Chávez’ administrative staff also served as his “volunteer” political staff and only a few people were paid by the campaign. Unclassified city employees, who serve at the pleasure of the mayor could have been assured they would have received normal pay raises had Chávez been reelected to an unprecedented third consecutive term.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

It’s easy to speculate that the huge raise for Forrester may well be a method of rewarding him with taxpayer money for what couldn’t be accomplished during the election because of the limits imposed by the new public financed campaign limits.

Four years ago, Chávez raised more than a million dollars to run his campaign. He had so much money that he paid his chief fundraiser, his former City Mayor’s Office Chief of Staff Terrie Baird, left, $100,000 for her efforts; 10 percent.

Chávez’ campaign is already unable and unwilling to pay its outstanding debts. It is highly probable that the campaign has incurred debt in excess of the public financed campaign limits.

So why should anyone be surprised that Chávez wouldn’t reward loyal service during the campaign with a monetary raise using city funds? Even if Forrester only served out Chávez’ term, the end of November, the pay raise might amount to as much as $8,000. Not bad reward for working hard on the campaign or at city hall.

My blogging buddy, over at the Eye on Albuquerque; I’ve never called him that before, but he has taken on Chávez for moving around some of his most loyal staff.
Frankly, no matter what excuse is given these raises are appalling. Our Eyes tell us that since the Once Almighty Alcalde lost the election earlier in the month, Hizz Honor has been busy squirreling away his minions and busily trying to reclassify his unclassified friends. One such reclassification was Director of Parks and Recreation, Jay Evans who was recently moved from his unclassified directors position in Parks and Rec to an over $80,000 a year classified position running Open Space.

The intent of the Chavez administration is to protect their minions while leaving them behind as land mines ready to explode on an unsuspecting Berry administration.
The Eye may not recall that Evans, seen below, sketching at the KOB Mayoral Forum, was in the Open Space job before becoming a member of the inner circle and taking on the unclassified job.
I represented an Open Space Ranger once in front of Evans and he handled it appropriately. He also yelled at me during a break in a Labor Board meeting for my having challenged the mayor’s claimed authority to disregard a union contract. Not to overly confuse things, it is my understanding that Evans was once Chávez’ landlord.

The old Jeffersonian, “to the victors go the spoils,” has been altered by the merit system concept.

Current Chief of Public Safety Pete Dinelli had something to do with this back when he was a one term City Councillor, 1985-89. Dinelli proposed a bill that would allow long-term city workers who had been classified, then promoted to unclassified positions, serving at the pleasure of the mayor, to retain the employment if they had served for more than four years in the unclassified position. Dinelli’s stated thinking, at the time was, if a second mayor retained the individual, then some of the merit system would apply.

The reasoning was actually to allow city employees to continue to work toward retirement benefits and not be thrown out of their careers simply because they had closely worked with the preceding mayor.
§ 3-1-1 The Merit System.

§ 3-1-7 Employment by the City.

(C) Employees who have held a classified position with the city for more than ten years prior to serving in an unclassified position shall be allowed to return to a classified position.
It was a two-sided coin. If I recall correctly, it wouldn’t apply to people who were hired directly into unclassified positions, even if they did serve more than a mayor’s single term. So it wouldn’t apply to Dinelli.

Yet there is no reason to believe that once a sycophant, always a sycophant and the leader and their politics are secondary. Evans loyalty to Chávez aside, there is no evidence that he is unqualified to return to Open Space, or that he wouldn’t perform the job.

Mayor-elect Richard R.J. Berry promised to run the city like a business. If he thinks removing formally loyal Chávez aides who are now protected by the merit system is the way business is run, he’s about to learn why government is not the same as business.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Signal Problems

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Saturday morning my blogging buddy, video assistant, “BOB” beast of burden, Ched MacQuigg and I set off for Santa Fe on the RailRunner, lugging our equipment to cover the legislature.

Upon arriving at the Los Ranchos/Journal Center station, we observed rail workers at four different crossings. They were working on the signals, which delayed the train about 20 minutes.

As the train slowly approached, having had to stop at every signal before proceeding, the workers used the red flag law the oldest motor vehicle statute, to stop auto traffic.

The delay didn’t cause any real problems for us because Governor Bill Richardson had postponed his announced call of the Legislature time from noon until 2 P.M.

Yet the train’s signal problems accurately presaged what would transpire at the Capitol.

As the appointed start time came and went, Senate Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, announced the governor’s proclamation, calling for a special session, was going to be delayed by at least another hour. The whispered start time was, more likely 3:30.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D - Hidalgo, Luna and Sierra Counties, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, right, checks his watch. Sen. George Munoz D - Cibola and McKinley Counties stands behind Sanchez.

As the Senate came to order, Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D- Dona Ana County, the Majority Whip displayed her unofficial symbol of office, stated as being a “bullwhip”.

President Pro Tempore Sen. Timothy Jennings, D- Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln and Otero Counties took exception. The Roswell rancher gave a descriptive lesson of the differences between a bullwhip and the carriage whip Garcia displayed.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Richardson’s proclamation quotes the authority in the State Constitution for the governor to call a special session under Article four, Legislative Department.

Sec. 6. [Special session; extraordinary session.]

Special sessions of the legislature may be called by the governor, but no business shall be transacted except such as relates to the objects specified in this proclamation.

In his final paragraph the governor wrote:
Legislation concerning the objects in this proclamation shall not include measures reducing salaries or raising tax rates, reducing or eliminating tax credits, rebates, exceptions, or deductions, or imposing new taxes.
Instantly, there is a Constitutional crisis.

The governor is permitted to identify and narrow the scope of “object,” but then he tried to tie the hands of a co-equal branch of government, the legislature, from going about its business with the tools they have at hand.

Governments are populated by huge numbers of people who manage all sorts of projects representing large sums of money.

If the costs of projects are eliminated, then it stands to reason that the people needed to administer those projects can also be eliminated. It’s a function of efficiency. But, not by the governor’s reckoning.

Since the November 2008 State Employee hiring freeze, state government has 1,300 fewer workers, but Richardson has increased the size of the Executive Department to over 800 exempt political appointments.

The House recessed and met in the Legislative Finance Committee room to be briefed on the latest numbers by the Legislative Council Service Director Paula Tackett, left, and Department of Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Katherine Miller, right.

A clear difference of opinion emerged listening to the take from the two branches of government.

Speaker of the House Rep. Ben Lujan, D- Santa Fe County unabashedly supports the wishes of Richardson. He sat in front of the chamber facing his fellow members watching them intently.

The topic was made so dense that it could put some of them to sleep. Representatives Roberto "Bobby" Gonzales, D- Taos County, Henry Kiki Saavedra, D- Bernalillo and Valencia Counties and Representative Larry Larrañaga, R- Bernalillo County listen to a lecture on state financial accounting practices in the procurement process, sidestepping the issue.

When asked to give examples of how long it takes to close the books on a particular year, Miller said that FY-2007 still had municipal capital improvement projects being submitted for payment.

The legislators were curious about the depth of the budget problem. The answers given did not help their understanding.

“I hope we didn’t pay this guy to tell us we’re broke,” Rep. Al Park, D- Bernalillo County said of one of the speakers.

Is the legislature bound by the governor’s interpretation of how to address the ”objects,” or may legislators use their Constitutional powers to write bills to solve the problem as they see the “object,” asked Republican House member, Janice Arnold-Jones. Bernalillo County

“This isn’t the first governor,” LCS head Tackett said, to try to limit the legislature's authority under the constitution. Tackett recommended legislators use their Constitutional powers as they see them, not as Richardson sees them.

Arnold-Jones said in an interview, some of the information was just wrong. She pointed out that representatives, specifically Rep, Rhonda King, D- Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Torrance Counties, above, did not need a class in the procurement process and that the briefing confused other legislators from both patties.

Arnold-Jones spoke with Rep. Gloria Vaughn, R- Otero County while Rep. Edward Sandoval, D- Bernalillo County speaks with Rep. Jim Trujillo, D- Santa Fe County.

Rep. James White, R- Bernalillo County who replaced City of Albuquerque mayor- elect and former Rep. Richard “R.J.” Berry, had only three days to prepare for the special session; little wonder the information left him scratching his head.


Part of the problem arose because when Richardson came into office, seven years ago, he changed accounting practices and mixed the way revenue and expenditures were dealt with. It has to do with accounting for cash on hand, versus what will be accrued over the fiscal year based on normal tax and fee revenue projections. The problem of a recession throws all that in the hole. Richardson’s budgets, approved by the legislature, are spending more money than the tax system is bringing in.

Another factor in getting into the crisis and a possible solution as explained to the House members was the concept of sponge bonds. My blogging buddy Joe Monahan points out New Mexico’s syndicated columnist Jay Miller’s take on this revenue scheme.

My Take

Richardson’s response in calling a special session is to deflect “political” blame for how up to a billion dollars of a six billion dollar budget has been overspent, without taking any responsibility.

To Richardson it is the equivalent of the old joke, “I can’t be out of money in my bank account; I still have checks left in my book.”

It’s not like this recession snuck up on anybody. The slowed economy is directly responsible for reduced revenues. The average citizen tightened their belt long ago, delaying purchases, reassessing investments, scaling back on luxury items and recreational activities.

Not State government, they have spent and continue to spend as if the economy never hit a bump, let alone fell into a sinkhole.

I didn’t pick on the Elephant Butte boat incident at the time, because of all the legal nuances, it didn’t quite add up.

However, metaphorically now it does.

The Labor Day weekend boat ride was for the entertainment of Governor Bill Richardson.

Richardson’s Chief of Staff Brian Condidt, right, was at the helm. He shipwrecked, doing great financial damage to citizens' property. The governor was asleep while Department of Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Miller was also aboard.

The governmental crew abandoned ship, was whisked away by at least two New Mexico State Police Dignitary Protection Detail officers, leaving the owner, “taxpayer” holding the bag.

The top aid is taking the blame for the most minor charge that can be proven, even though he won’t even show his face in court, hidden by his lawyers.

Richardson’s arrogance and lack of actual leadership harken memories of the Exxon Valdez’ Captain Joseph Hazelwood, drunk below deck, while the ship’s first mate navigated treacherous waters of the Prince William Sound, hitting a reef and doing damage that, 20 years later, still lingers. The punishment restricted by the supreme court to a mere fraction of the value of the environmental damage left behind.

Our ship of state is now on the rocks, and Richardson won’t take responsibility.

The Aside

The New Mexico Independent on line news group has thrown all its eggs in one basket and is providing wall-to-wall coverage with its full staff covering the legislature.

The group was headed by Editor Gwyneth Doland. She was accompanied by Senior Writer Trip Jennings, Reporter/bloggers Marjorie Childress and Matthew Reichbach in covering the special session. Las Cruces based Senior Writer Heath Haussamen was missing.

There were a number of associates of NMI also present. In addition to the traditional media, the bloggers seemed to have the run of the press galleries. The diversity of bloggers was readily apparent. Though the political spectrum is widespread, this group has intertwining connections.

The picture left in the Senate print media gallery, shows: Doland, bottom, Reichbach, who also wrties the NMFBIHO blog, freelance NMI columnist, New Media Director for Center for Civic Policy and Communication Director for Center for Civic Action, Tracy Dingmann, who also writes for CCA’s Clearly New Mexico blog and ABQ Journal Watch. Next to her, is NMI’s Childress, who also writes for M-Pyre, then KKOB AM Radio’s Political Reporter Peter St. Cyr who blogs under What’s the Word?, freelances for Haussamen’s, and at the top is MacQuigg, who writes Diogenes' Six.

MacQuigg and I had agreed to provide a video feed of the Senate through NMI, but discovered a signal problem of our own. A damaged connector in the camera has sidelined us from providing the link. We are working on correcting the problem as quickly as possible and hope to be back in service soon.