Monday, November 30, 2009

Manny Moves In: Dems Tap Gonzales For Sheriff's Post; Can He Keep It? Plus: How Marty Mattered, Heinrich Plants Valley Flag And Weh's Burning Bus

Sheriff Gonzales and wife Elaine
Republicans took the ABQ mayor's office in '09, but Democrats are hoping they will get a consolation prize in 2010--the Bernalillo County sheriff's office. They think they took a nice step in that direction Monday when the five member Bernalillo County Commission named veteran Sheriff's Captain Manuel "Manny" Gonzales to fill out the remainder of the term of Republican Darren White. White is now the city's public safety director under new GOP Mayor Richard "RJ" Berry.

Gonzales, who has a bachelors degree in management, will not be a placeholder. He is off and running for the '10 Dem nomination and a four year term of his own. The appointment will give him a head start, but there's no guarantee. Some of the 20 other applicants for the sheriff's job are now expected to get in the Dem nomination race, including ABQ police commander Conrad Candelaria who appeared to be knocked out of the running for the appointment because of controversy over his military record. Gonzales
served in the US Marine Corps and received an honorable discharge. Also preparing a run is retired APD officer Marie Miranda. We could get a half dozen or more before its over.

And Republicans are not going to throw in the towel on the office they've controlled since White took it in 2002. Retired APD officer William Kurth, who was supported for the appointment last night by the commission's two Republicans, is saying he will run for the GOP nomination. He could be joined by others.

It's not the $68,000 annual pay that attracts the bodies for this job. But you instantly become one of the best known law enforcement officials in the state and have under your command a department of 300 deputies.

Republicans have done a good job owning the law and order issue. The sheriff's office is the only elected county wide post they control. There has been no Hispanic--Democrat or Republican--elected sheriff in recent memory.

By avoiding appointing a placeholder, the commission gives Gonzales, a father of three, a chance to establish himself as the incumbent. He might even appeal to a few Republicans. GOP Commissioner Michael Wiener described Gonzales as "very well-liked and well-respected." Wiener and fellow R Commissioner Michael Brasher voted to make Manny's appointment unanimous after they cast their initial votes for Kurth.

CITY HALL SALARIES


Darren White is not going to lose any money in his new gig. In fact, his starting salary of $125,000 will be nearly double his sheriff's salary and be
one of the highest at City Hall. His predecessor in the public safety post, Pete Dinelli, pulled down $122,000 a year, but that was after years on the job. And remember, Darren also gets his own public information officer--former ABQ Journal cop reporter T.J. Wilham--at a cost of $75,000 a year.

Mayor Berry is not going to fill the chief operating officer position--at least not for now. We await word on whether he will keep the chief of staff position in the mayor's office, a post that was added by Chavez and criticized as unnecessary as was the COO post. Then there's the deputy CAO for finance (I know, the list seems endless). It's another one that is seen as redundant as you already have a Dept. of Finance director. Berry could make it go away and no one would notice. Why doesn't he?

New chief administrative officer David Campbell will start at $159,000 a year. That won't raise as many eyebrows as White's starting salary because the city charter acknowledges the CAO as the most important position in city government. (We notice Campbell is now making more than the Bernalillo County manager who recently crossed the $150,000 mark with a lot fewer employees under him than Campbell).

White's salary is a special plum in another way. He is eligible for government retirement at about 80 percent of the average of his final three years of service. If he can last those three years at $125K, he would be eligible for a retirement check of $100,000 a year.

Berry has taken a gamble on White who insiders think is either going to deliver big or crash and burn. For sure, it won't be boring.

DARREN AND MARTIN
Rep. Heinrich
There's one other angle on the White departure and the Manny Gonzales appointment we need to cover. In 2008, White lost the ABQ congressional race to Dem Martin Heinrich, but now in an indirect way White could be helping Heinrich. Here's how.

If Gonzales proves popular and takes the Democratic nomination, he should help attract Hispanic Dem voters to the polls, many of whom might stay away in an off-year election. That would help Heinrich in the Valley areas where he needs help. Republican Jon Barela is already targeting Hispanics. However, we don't think Martin will be sending any thank you notes to Darren. If his old rival is resurrected in his new job, he could someday again train his sights on Martin.

And more now on the Valley angle and Heinrich. We mentioned a few weeks ago that he planned a major initiative there. That initiative he is announcing today is a new South Valley office located near Coors and Rio Bravo SW. Heinrich will hire a new staffer for the office and send two of his downtown staffers to the new locale which will be open full-time beginning Wednesday. His office says all three of the South Valley office staff are fluent in both English and Spanish. A grand opening is planned for Dec. 12.

Heinrich says he wants to beef up his constituent service, traditionally a strong suit for the ABQ congressional representative. The Valley is a natural place to do it where many low-income residents reside and who need help navigating the federal bureaucracy. And it doesn't hurt politically, does it?

HE'S NOW THE MAN (AND MAYOR)

You can drop the "mayor-elect" after today. Richard "RJ" Berry will take the oath of office today at 6 p.m. at the ABQ Convention Center Ballroom downtown and become the city's first Republican mayor since Harry Kinney finished his last term in 1985. There will be a reception following the ceremony. The events are open to the public. Berry officially became mayor midnight Tuesday when Chavez's term expired.

MAYOR MARTY
We doubt if you will ever see Marty Chavez's name again on a New Mexico ballot. As they say, Marty gave it "the college try"
when it came to seeking higher office. His attempts at becoming Governor and US Senator were both turned back.

But his legacy in public service is secure. Like most chief executives, his last term was his weakest. But, in 1993, when he was elected to his first term at age 41, he came on strong, giving the city a new energy and vitality. In 2001, he took a second term and in 2005 he made history by scoring a third with the largest percentage of votes in history--47.28 percent in a four man field.

Much ado was made about Marty signing a last minute agreement with labor unions that gives them binding arbitration on matters other than pay, for modifying the DWI policy for the ABQ fire department, and for giving pay raises to favorite employees.

They would have you think these are mortal sins, but if you've been around any length of time you know they aren't. While unpleasant to behold, such actions are typical for most politicians headed for the exits for the final time.

It's hard to believe that any ABQ mayor would ever care about the city as much as Harry Kinney, but Chavez did. As you know, his mistakes were numerous and his hubris at times was insufferable, but history will be kind to Chavez because while he cared, he was never a caretaker.

Years from now Chavez may spend hours in his rocking chair wondering what might have been if he had been able to go beyond the mayor's office. But he won't have to wonder about his years as mayor. They mattered and so did he.

WEH CAMPAIGN ON FIRE

The GOP Guv campaign of Allen Weh is really catching fire--or at least the bus he was leasing has. His campaign reports the bus, nicknamed "Freedom1" by the retired Marine colonel, was engulfed in flames while parked at its Belen storage facility late Friday night. No one was hurt in the blaze that also destroyed several other vehicles. The bus, owned by Tom Greer, who works for the Weh campaign, was insured. But Weh was using the bus, decked out in a red, white and blue patriotic motif, as a mobile campaign headquarters and will miss "his home away from home."

Arson investigators are on the case. Be assured that the rumor that GOP Guv candidate Susana Martinez was seen in the vicinity of the bus just before it burst into flames has no foundation in reality. Maybe Janice Arnold-Jones, but definitely not Susana.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Topics Du Jour: Santa Fe Pork, Tax Hikes & Lost Jobs. Plus: Even More Economy Blogging, And: Picking A Sheriff; The Way It Was

Voices are starting to be heard against any tax increases unless the Legislature cancels a huge pot of unspent pork money--or capital outlay--and uses it to reduce the immense state deficit. There's some $1.4 billion of unused pork money in Santa Fe. It's been set aside since 2003 for construction projects that were either never started or started and stalled. How much of this unused cash will legislators use to solve the budget shortfall?

Many of them don't want to give up the money because the projects help them get elected and re-elected. All 70 House members are on the ballot next year. But talk about resinstating the gross receipts tax on food and medicine to raise the hundreds of millions needed to plug the state deficit is going to look hypocritical if that pot of pork is left largely untouched.

The argument will be made that the pork represents one-time money and won't give us the recurring revenue we will need to solve our long-term revenue problems. But if the pork money was transferred to the general fund--say $600 million--major tax increases could be delayed for a year or two (The Legislature has been using some of the capital outlay to cover the deficit).

It will be of interest to hear where Senate Dem leaders John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith and Tim Jennings stand on this. Are these self-described fiscal conservatives willing to dig deeper into the pork barrel before they weigh tax hikes?

Santa Fe wants to have its pork and eat it to, but voters may be of a mind to end this giant chicharrones party. Stay tuned.

MESSAGE SENT

Along those lines, how about voters up in Raton turning down a school bond that, if passed, would have raised property taxes there? And there was also a recent no vote on a tax increase for the Santa Fe county fire department. Sounds to us like a couple of warning shots across the bow to those who think raising taxes in times like these is going to be a snap.

WHERE IT'S HITTING

Many New Mexicans--and we mean many--are somewhat, but not totally isolated from this raging recession by comfortable government jobs they have held for years. The national labs, the military bases and all the federal agencies continue to chug along. There have been some Sandia Labs layoffs and it appears employment growth is over there and at Los Alamos Labs, but not the military bases. There are hiring freezes at many local levels of government and most state workers will be furloughed for five days in the current budget year. However, the bulk of the pain remains in the private sector.

The state's jobless rate continues to soar and is now approaching 8 percent statewide (it's at 7.9). That level has been breached in the ABQ metro and now stands at a multi-decade high of 8.2 percent. (We give our customary caution that the actual rate is much higher when people who have given up looking for work are included as well as those who have settled for part-time jobs.)

Construction workers and retail employees have been especially hammered. Other jobs that also don't require a college education are also disappearing at a faster pace.

The state's lower middle class has been roiled by this deep downturn. You can see that in the long lines that form for any job fair and when TV news shows the increasing popularity of food banks.

The pain is now spreading more into the middle class, with the furloughs of state government workers. The chopping in half of the work force at Rio Rancho's Intel, the demise of Eclipse Aviation, and the closure next year of the ABQ GE plant are also direct hits on the state's private sector middle classes.

The relatively small strata of upper class professionals here have had their stock portfolios and real estate values take a major hit. The ongoing financial troubles at the New Mexico Symphony are one tell-tale symptom. Retirees are feeling the pain because many of them rely on stock dividends that have been reduced or suspended and there are steadily rising health care costs not covered by Medicare.

BOXED IN?

We seem boxed in. If housing is going to be more or less flat for the next decade and retail is going to be at best on a subdued growth curve, the jobs lost in those sectors won't be coming back. If more hi-tech is moving overseas, those jobs are also gone.

One should hesitate before throwing in the towel on the private sector's ability to generate another go-go era, or for a new bull market in oil and natural gas prices or for small businesses to eventually pick up the slack, but the challenges are steep.

The modern New Mexican economy--the one that gave us the decent paying jobs-- was built by the federal government--Sandia, Los Alamos, Kirtland and White Sands--and it remains the main driver here.

The boom in Clovis because of the renewed military presence at Cannon AFB and the small but steady growth at ABQ's Kirtand AFB as well as White Sands are bright spots on an otherwise dark landscape. Critics may call it a war economy, but someone's got to do it and New Mexico has excelled.

Would it be surprising to see policy makers start to look to that old model for the future? In other words, position the state more aggressively to win a larger share of the federal jobs pie? Given the current outlook, New Mexico as a natural home for more of the same will look increasingly attractive to the economic development crowd here.

THE NEXT SHERIFF

Who will be the next sheriff of Bernalillo County and fill out the remainder of Darren White's term? That question will be answered later today as the five member county commission meets at 5 p.m. to make a pick from a list of over 20 applicants, most of them with law enforcement experience.

White, who is becoming the city's public safety director, officially resigns today and starts work with the city tomorrow. His second, four year term runs until the end of 2010. Whoever gets the job today is eligible to run for election next year, but there's been talk of the commission looking for a "placeholder," someone who pledges to just fill out the term and not seek election.

That's the last thing the Democratic Party wants to see. With Republican White leaving, they see a realistic chance of taking back the high-profile office. Some of the Dem commissioners have been antsy about making enemies, thus the talk of a placeholder. We'll keep you posted on the action.

THE WAY IT WAS

Some memories are rekindled in thinking about today's decision from the Bernalillo County Commission to name a replacement for Sheriff White.

It's been a long time since a sheriff's term was interrupted. In fact, it was around 1975-76. Then-Sheriff Joe Wilson, a Democrat, was the subject of an extensive investigation by KKOB-AM radio news. That reporting and a grand jury probe led to a most rare event--a civil removal trial of a sitting sheriff on charges of misfeasance in office.

The trial was a sensational event of its time. We recall that the presiding judge was Rosier Sanchez, the brother of then Catholic Archbishop Robert Sanchez. We don't recall there ever being another such trial of a Bernalillo County official.

In those days we filed our reports for KZIA-AM radio from a telephone booth in the old Bernalillo County Courthouse. To send interview sound back to the station, we had to unscrew the mouthpiece of the phone and hook up what were known as "alligator clips." That's not where we got the term "Alligators" from, but in retrospect it is a bit ironic.

In any event, Wilson was found guilty at that trial, removed from office and the county commission named Tommy Richardson, then the county fire chief, to replace Wilson. Tommy had a heart condition and did not seek the office when it came up for election. Sheriff Wilson died not long after being removed from office.

KKOB--then known as just KOB--received national recognition for its investigation. And one of the radio reporters from that era--Diane Dimond--went on to bigger things as a well-known national TV reporter. Today she writes a syndicated column on crime that is carried by the ABQ Journal.

I was there and that's the way I remember it.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turner's Turkey Day TV; Can It Shake GOP Guv Race?, Plus: New ABQ Mayor: "We're Regular Folks." It's All Next On Your Black Friday Blog

GOP governor candidate Doug Turner will know soon enough whether his decision to unveil TV spots on Thanksgiving Day was a turkey. He says he will do follow-up polling to measure the impact of the commercials unveiled on Thursday on statewide cable and which he says will be on at least until the end of the year. (Video here.)

The TV--coming nearly a full year before the 2010 election--is the earliest veteran observers can recall for a governor’s race. Presumed Dem nominee Diane Denish is appearing more frequently in public service TV ads, but has not yet aired any campaign spots.

Turner, 40, is making his first bid for elective office. His 60 second spot centers on his biography as a business and family man. He owns an ABQ public relations firm. He also makes use of his previous foray into politics, noting that he served as a key aide to the election bids of GOP Guv Gary Johnson in 1994 and ‘98. Turner does not identify himself as a Republican in his TV, even though he is seeking the GOP nomination.

"We are going on the air to build name ID and let people know who I am," Turner said.

Turner believes the audience can tell from the ads that he is a Republican, especially since he references Johnson's Guv wins.

He will also air 30 second and 15 second versions of the bio spot. The buy will be about $10,000 a week or about $40,000 to $50,000. He says the ads will also air on broadcast TV, but the main buy is on cable. Turner recently loaned his campaign over $200,000.

Whether Turner will stay up on the air after this initial run is undecided. The GOP pre-primary convention is expected to be held in mid-March. That's where it will take 20 percent of the delegates to win a spot on the June primary ballot.

THE RACE TO DATE


The field so far also includes former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh, Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez and ABQ State Rep. Janice-Arnold-Jones. 2002 GOP Guv candidate John Sanchez told me recently he was weighing a run. Other names are also being mentioned as possible candidates before the final GOP field is set.

The GOP race rapidly deflated when former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson decided not to make the run. She was seen as the party's best bet to take on Lt. Governor Denish, the only announced Dem Guv contender. Sanchez floated his name after Heather demurred.

Turner's main challenge is getting the 20 percent at the pre-primary. He is not as well-known or as connected with party insiders as his foes. No candidate who has failed to get on the ballot at the pre-primary has gone on to win the nomination.

Insiders, wall-leaners, Alligators and analysts see Weh as the early front-runner because his demographic profile--an Anglo male with heavy military and business experience--best matches the make up of the small GOP. He also has no financial worries. He is using his personal wealth to finance his campaign. Martinez, with backing from national Republican types in D.C., is seen as Weh's main rival. Fund-raising is one of her main challenges.

Turner wants to upset this early conventional wisdom and begin to break the race open. He is gambling that the Turkey Day TV will help him do the trick.

THE NEW MAYOR
Berry with son (Journal)
He likes to hunt and fish, do some woodworking, plays the guitar but not very well, has a Jack Russell terrier named Skip and is a season ticket-holder to University of New Mexico football and basketball games. During a recent interview Mayor-elect Richard "RJ" Berry said of his family: "We're very much regular folks. Berry married Maria Medina in 1990. They have a 13 year old son, Jacob.

Berry, 47, will take the oath of office at the ABQ convention center ballroom downtown at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Also being sworn into office for four year terms will be City Councilors Ken Sanchez, Ike Benton, Dan Lewis, Michael Cook and Don Harris. They were all elected or re-elected along with Berry in the October city election.

The inauguration is open to the public and a reception will immediately follow. Maybe if they need music at the reception Berry can whip out the Fender Stratocaster he keeps hidden away in his spare bedroom.

The Berry transition team has announced no other inaugural events.

NO COO FOR NOW


A suggestion made here by the Alligators--that Berry not hire a chief operating officer to save money--will be taken up by the new administration--at least for now. New city hall spokesman Chris Ramirez says the COO position will not be immediately filled. It will be determined next year if it is needed. The position is one of those paying well over $100,000 a year.

Current chief administrative officer Ed Adams was being mentioned for the post. It will be interesting to see where he ends up. My City Hall insiders said City Councilor Debbie O'Malley went ballistic when she heard that Berry was considering naming Adams COO. Not only did she publicly complain, but our sources report she took her concerns directly to Berry and told him that if Adams was shifted to the COO post, the mayor-elect's nomination of David Campbell as the city's chief administrative officer would be put in danger when it comes up for a council vote.

THE OLD MAYOR

It is indeed out with the old and in with the new as 12 year ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez--the man Berry upset---prepares for private life. KOB-TV did an interesting exit interview with the 57 year old Chavez who seems undecided about what his future may hold.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We gave a wrong number Wednesday in blogging on the median sale price of an ABQ home. It recently fell below $180,000 to $170,000.

US Senator Tom Udall is touting his new Web site, and it does look pretty spiffy, incorporating all the new bells and whistles of the Internet circa 2009. The Democratic lawmaker says: "I'll even give you a tour of the Web site."

The first year lawmaker is the envy of the three freshman congressmen. They all have to stand for re-election in what may be a very hostile environment next year. Udall doesn't face voters again until 2014. Now that's something to give thanks for.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009: Roast Turkey With A Side of Anxiety; Plus: Some Holiday Appetizers From The Blog Newsroom

Not that there isn't plenty to be thankful for. New Mexico's eternal gifts--its beauty, culture and climate--continue to delight year after year and generation after generation. But this is a year when more corporeal concerns dominate the thoughts of New Mexicans. Like jobs--and whether theirs will be at risk. Like taxes--and whether they'll have to pay more to shore up huge government deficits. Like the financial markets--and their impact on their retirement plans. And just below their radar lurks the disturbing pay-to-pay culture that has poisoned state politics. It's enough to give a turkey a headache.

We'd like to sugarcoat it, but the truth is this has been a lousy year for the Land of Enchantment. Our economy was ravaged by the recession which then blew a gargantuan hole in the state budget. Policy makers are scrambling to find short-term solutions, but there is a sense of unease over the future and whether the state's usual pattern of slow, but steady growth has been more than temporarily interrupted. And if it has, what's on the other side?

But for now a holiday beckons and with it a respite--however brief--from the powerful winds of change buffeting our beloved La Politica. Read on for our pre-holiday appetizers.

THE HOME FRONT

We noted this week that the median price of an ABQ home has plummeted below $180,000. More precisely:

The Albuquerque area median sale price in October was the lowest it's been all year--$170,000. January recorded the second lowest median of $175,500. The median is the price at which half the homes sell for more and half for less.

The median price for home sales peaked in 2008 at $198,477. That means we are down nearly 15 percent from that level. We don't recall any bigger slide, but then the jobless rate in ABQ--8 percent--is also at a new high for this era, with the real jobless rate--counting the underemployed and those who have stopped looking for work--being much higher.

The housing market here was in a bit of a frenzy for a while, but our bubble was much smaller than neighboring states. Still, the net worth of ABQ homeowners--and others around the state--is taking a hit. That means fewer home equity loans and less spending--and that means less in tax collections for depleted state coffers.

Jobs equal housing. Until you see the needle move on that front, the month to month gyrations in housing will mean little. The bear market in prices may be near an end, but a new bull market in which those prices start to gallop ahead in the ABQ metro is nowhere in sight.

FIRE CHIEF
Breen
There's going to be a new voice in charge of making sure your house is protected from fire. From City Hall:

Mayor-elect Berry named veteran firefighter and rescue worker James Breen as Fire Chief. Breen has been an Albuquerque firefighter since 1990 and most recently was responsible for the Albuquerque Fire Department’s second battalion, the city’s busiest. Before becoming a battalion commander, Breen was in charge of AFD’s heavy rescue program and commanded Fire Station No. 3 located on Girard SE. He was also an instructor at the city’s Fire Academy.

MORE CITY STUFF

A reader writes:

Reading your column today reminded me that (ABQ Chief Administrative Officer-designate) Dave Campbell and (soon to be city Director of Family services) Robin Dozier Otten were in a law firm together called Otten, Vogel and Campbell in the early 1990s.

Another reader writes:

Robin Dozier Otten was Superintendent at state Regulation & Licensing (under Gov. Johnson in the 90's) but was never confirmed as Secretary of Human Services, only Acting Secretary due to activities at Regulation & Licensing. The Legislative Finance Committee audit is here.

THE STATE DINNER

Big Bill told the press before he attended Tuesday night's White House state dinner for the prime minister of India that he has no plans to join the Obama administration.

This is not about a job. It's about having dinner. I'm going to finish my term as governor.

But that's not going to quiet speculation that has been ongoing since Richardson had to withdraw his name from consideration as Obama's commerce secretary because of New Mexico political scandals. Some of those scandals are still brewing, but on the back burner, not the front burner.

Also attending the dinner was US Attorney General Eric Holder. It was his Public Integrity Division that decided not to bring indictments against Big Bill or his top aides in the CDR bond scandal.

Here is brief video from C-SPAN of Bill and wife Barbara making their entrance into the dinner. They are at 39:20 on the tape.

SEVEN IS NOT LUCKY

Not in the case of being the public info officer for Light Guv Diane Denish. She just lost her seventh spokesman in seven years. Sam Thompson (who is a she) is leaving the $70,000 a year post because of the "stress," among other reasons.

Maybe there's an idea here. We put Di in charge of all the high-paid political appointees that have bloated the state payroll and they start bailing out like the PIO's.

RICHARDSONIUS

Frustration often turns to satire and so it is with University of New Mexico Greek mythology Professor Monica Cyrino. She penned this scathing missive to describe how she sees the state of the state's largest university, using the language of her field of study. We take you to the Kingdom of Richardsonius....

Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Monday, November 23, 2009

GOP Consultant Turns Candidate; Takes On Berry's Roundhouse Replacement, Plus: Councilor Ken: Is This His Time? And: Campbell Answers Council Critics

Antoon & White
Here's an interesting twist. The campaign consultant who helped elect new ABQ GOP city Councilors Dan Lewis and Michael Cook and who now are opposing GOP Mayor-elect RJ Berry on a key appointment to his administration, wants to join the ranks of elected officials. And that's not all. Republican consultant and attorney Doug Antoon says he wants the ABQ legislative seat that RJ gave up when he became mayor. He will run against recently appointed Rep. Jim White who Berry favored as his replacement.

It's another sign that despite having the first Republican-majority council since 1985, many of RJ's headaches are going to come from his fellow R's, not just the Dems. And why is that?

Berry's initial instincts have been to try to govern somewhat from the center. His pick of Democratic attorney David Campbell as chief administrative officer--expected to be approved next month with three Republicans dissenting--was the first indication that the hard right of the NM GOP--still the wing with the most stroke--was not going to take it lying down.

But Berry's instincts match up with history. Coming at this game from center court in the state's largest city is the proven way to score.

As for Antoon, 53, he is a relative newcomer to the scene, having arrived from Massachusetts n 2004. He received his law degree from Suffolk University in Boston and says he served as a city councilor in the Bay State.

He has shown he has the skills to rock the political boat. Whether he can apply them to himself is an open question. He'll get the chance. White, 67, is retired military and a former NM GOP treasurer, is expected to seek election to the seat next year. A White-Antoon GOP primary may be framed as an early test of Berry's political strength. But first things first. Berry won't even be sworn in until Dec. 1 and we're already off to the races.

IS HIS TIME NOW?
Sanchez
One year ago ABQ West Side City Councilor Ken Sanchez was so confident that he would become city council president that he brought his family to the meeting to sit in the audience and enjoy the moment. But the meeting erupted in chaos, Sanchez was denied and his family walked away disappointed. Is this finally the year for the Dem councilor who is beginning his second four year term this month and previously served eight years on the Bernalillo commission?

City Hall watchers remain cautious, but the consensus is that Sanchez's time has indeed come and he will, for the first time, wear the title of council president. City Councilor Debbie O'Malley told us recently she will support Sanchez. He will need five votes to take the prize which he keeps for one year. He appears poised to get more than that.

We've blogged that the time seems right for a fiscally conservative Dem like Sanchez to head the council, given the severe economic challenges facing the city. He will also be able to work well with mayor-to-be Berry. Sanchez has struck a tone of cooperation and conciliation in the early going.

Sanchez, 53, is a VP for a tax and accounting service and who also dabbles in real estate. The president gets to name committee members, and has sway over the council agenda. The council is expected to vote on its officers at its Dec. 7 meeting. The Sanchez family is invited to attend.

NO STIFFING
Campbell
As you may know, the three Republican city councilors--Winter, Lewis and Cook--have been livid that CAO-designate David Campbell, a longtime land use lawyer, has not submitted answers to their questions about what they see as potential conflicts of interest. Well, Campbell has now done that and then some.

The Alligators sent us this memo from Campbell that is now in the hands of the dissident trio. It runs nine pages. Campbell says he was not intentionally ignoring his foes, but that his mother recently passed away and that has consumed much of his time

On one hot button issue--a proposed downtown sports arena--Campbell responded to the councilors this way:

I have not personally represented any developer or person with a financial interest concerning the placement of an arena in downtown Albuquerque...

Campbell is still on track to win council confirmation by a 6 to 3 vote. Insiders think some of this tempest over Campbell may have been caused by Mayor-elect Berry not consulting with the disgruntled councilors before he made his pick. The rest of the bickering is seen as partisan politics.

Campbell has been around city government since 1981. We'll be charitable and say that perhaps the three councilors have done a public service by putting the administration on notice that they are on guard for any hanky-panky. Now that they have their answers, perhaps they will see the sense of approving the mayor-elect's choice of Campbell (as well as Sheriff White as public safety director).

Berry and his team are going to be traveling a bumpy road and all of us are ready to tell him and them how they are messing up (they're already getting grief). Unless there are some smoking guns, Messrs. Winter, Lewis and Cook may want to help start this four year run on a note of unity and give Berry (and Campbell) the benefit of their doubt. The voters of Albuquerque already have.

MONEY MAN

Speaking of the hard-right getting upset with Berry over picking Dave Campbell, you wonder how they will react when they learn that Lou Hoffman, an old City Hall hand and key advisor to Democratic mayoral candidate Richard Romero, has landed a plum job with Berry. Hoffman, who was city Treasurer from 1987-2006, comes aboard as head of the Department of Finance.

Hoffman is going to be on the front lines now in the battle against the raging recession, and conservatives may actually like much of what they hear, if Lou says the same things he was saying as Romero's man.

During the campaign Romero and Hoffman chastised the Chavez administration for shifting property tax revenue to the general fund. And he has been a critic of having deputy chief administrative officers as well as hiring too many political appointees. On that score, will he advise Berry to eliminate the ambiguous position of chief operating officer?

Here's a campaign quote from Hoffman:

“During the last 15 years the combined budget for the mayor and CAO has increased 282 percent from $742,000 to $2,838,000...The City Council budget, $845,000 in 1994 and now $3,805,000, grew by 350 percent.”

Well, Lou, here's your chance to recommend those budgets be trimmed.
Keep us posted.

Berry also named Deborah Stover as head of the planning department:

Stover has worked in the Planning Department as Manager of the Advance Planning and Urban Design Division. As a manager with the Office of the State Engineer, Stover developed and managed the drought planning and mitigation activities...Stover earned her Master of Architecture from the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning....

Her dad, Bob Stover, is a former ABQ police chief and Bernalillo County sheriff.

THE NEW REALISM

A new realism is emerging in the coverage of the Great Recession in New Mexico. The newspaper front-paged a no-spin assessment of how conditions have eroded here even more in the past few months. It may have taken out-of-towner and economist Mark Snead from the Federal Reserve bank in Kansas City to do it and a year or more of deep contraction, but the in-your-face analysis is just what state and ABQ economic policy makers need to hear. Some money lines:

"Conditions turned quickly and hard," Snead said. "What caused it? The energy cycle."

Federal unemployment numbers "tend to be very wrong in energy states," he said, adding that New Mexico was probably never growing as fast as the data showed it was.


Chunks of our economy are melting away, meaning your kids and grand kids are outta here for good unless we deal with reality as it is--not how we might like it.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments.


(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Barack's Bone To Bill: State Dinner Invite; Let Speculation Begin, Plus: New Mayor Berry Challenged On Multiple Fronts, And: More Sheriff Race News

Barack & Bill
President Barack has thrown a big bone to Big Bill. The Guv and Barbara will be guests at the Prez's first White House state dinner this week, and that's going to set off a new round of speculation on whether Bill can somehow snag a gig and hightail it out of here before his Guv term ends.

The dinner for the prime minister of India had turned into the hottest ticket in DC town, with 400 invites being sent and a mad scramble to get one.

Some of the wall-leaners and Alligators (prematurely) had Bill packing his bags and heading to Cuba as a special envoy back in August when he visited the island nation, but then there was the shadow of yet another pay to play probe. Those betting against a Bill bon voyage were looking like the smart money players. Maybe they still have the edge, but if Richardson is as buried in mud as they would have you believe, it's not convincing the President of the USA to scrub him from his dinner and dance list.

Hey, maybe Bill can pull Barack aside and get him out on the White House portico where they can share an after-dinner Cuban cigar. (Hint, hint.)

All of this is more than a parlor game to the political classes here. Republicans have every reason to be anxious about Bill getting lucky. That would give Light Guv Di the Guv's chair and a head start on re-election. Of course, the gift would be best received after the legislative session in January where Di will be more than pleased to have Bill preside over the budget bloodletting.

The current propensity of the electorate sees to be to throw any bum out who is in so the incumbency may not be what it used to be, but neither is it a plate of stale bizcochitos. Which means don't be surprised if you see Di at Dillard's buying a new tie for Bill to wear on his dinner date with the Prez.

BY THE WAY...

Our Bill was shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with that other Big Bill--Bill Clinton--over the weekend. Both men attended the funeral of former Governor Bruce King in Moriarty. The cameras showed Clinton warmly greeting Richardson and Bill Chief of Staff Brian Condit who were seated in one of the front rows while Clinton sat with the King family.

It was Richardson and Condit who took in the Super Bowl in 2008 in Red River with none other than Bill Clinton who came with hat in hand expecting Big Bill to endorse Hillary for the presidency. Richardson went with Obama instead and the feud was on--at least for Bill Clinton whose former campaign manager dubbed Bill a "Judas" for dissing the man who made him a national figure.

Is there a Clinton hurdle for Bill to jump to get back into national politics? If there is, maybe one of Bruce King's final acts was to help him jump it by giving the two politicos a chance to look one another in the eye again.

Bruce King always was the go-to guy to make the peace. Now, may he rest in peace.

IF WE HAVE TO GO THERE
Berry
ABQ Mayor-elect Berry has it right that the city--already facing record unemployment--needs to avoid layoffs. But what if the deficit for the rest of this budget year which goes until June 30 is beyond $20-$25 million? Councilor Ken Sanchez says if that's the case layoffs may be hard to avoid.

We are hearing more rumbling about the millions of dollars the city gives to the ABQ Public Schools for various programs as a pot of money that might be tapped before we have to let the ax fall on the heads of workers. It deserves a look.

Also, remember during the campaign when the mayor-elect argued--to the sharp disagreement of Mayor Chavez--that there was $100 million in unspent funds in various city funds, including unspent bond money, state grants, basic services and tax and impact fees? If that money is really available, as Berry argued, can it be tapped for the general fund? First, can the new administration, now looking at the books, tell us whether that money is indeed there?

For those of you who think we are bleeding hearts and cringe at the sight of seeing heads roll down the steps of downtown government center, bear in mind that there is a hiring freeze in effect and that many vacant positions are not going filled. The new mayor can make sure we have the long-term restructuring we need in a leaner economic time by deciding not to fill those positions and/or reducing the salaries for jobs that are refilled when tax collections start looking up.

SHARPEN THAT AX, RJ

Some of our insiders think the position of Chief Operating Officer is a prime one for Berry to eliminate and thereby reinforce his conservative credentials. He's run into a buzz saw by talking about having current Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams move over to the COO slot. Berry could take care of that headache and save the city $150,000 or so in salary and benefits by nixing the position.

With all due respect to current COO Irene Garcia, what exactly does the COO do that can't be done by the department heads she oversees? Well, as one of the Gators opined: "Give me a month and I'll think of something."

THE CHIEF'S POSITION
Schultz
The ABQ Journal editorial pages have come down on the side of keeping ABQ police chief Ray Schultz, as Mayor-elect Berry announced he would. It has been a spirited debate since that decision because Berry made the city's skyrocketing property crime rate and a claim that ABQ is a so-called "Sanctuary City" for illegal immigrants key planks of his platform. Yet, the man in charge of those policies--the police chief--is retained.

The Journal cites a litany of failures in Schultz's four and a half year tenure--including the outrageous thefts from the police evidence room. No one was ever prosecuted for stealing cash and other booty from right under the police department's own roof. But in the end the paper and others backing Schultz argue he is "responsive and responsible" and can still be an agent of change.

The whole episode reminds us again that what is said in political campaigns--no matter how often or the depth of conviction--is often given short shrift when the politician finally gets power. If you watched RJ's TV spot on crime, you would have put the odds at him keeping Schultz at 20 to 1---unless you were an Alligator.

DAYS OF DARREN


Really, the elephant in the room when it comes to the administration of APD is the relationship it will have with the soon-to-be former Bernalillo County sheriff and new public safety director Darren White. How much will White be involved with managing the department? If a lot, how will that go down with the rank and file?

Chief Schultz could look marginalized if White becomes the de facto policy maker and public face of the department. They may have their own personal relationship worked out, but the public awaits how that impacts policy and the cops on the street.

There are no guidelines for the public safety position. Some city councilors contend it isn't even necessary--that we hire well-paid honchos to run police, fire and other public safety agencies and we should let them do it. That's the way it was back in the day, before Ken Schultz became mayor in the mid-80's and added a new layer of bureaucracy on the 11th floor.

Whether the public safety position is needed or not can be debated; what can't be is that getting rid of a government position is as difficult as kicking a lifelong green chile habit.

THE SHERIFF CHASE
Candelaria
While the debate sizzles over the retention of Chief Schultz, the one over who will be the new Bernalillo County sheriff to replace the resigning Darren, is going full throttle. One of the favorites for the post, APD Commander Conrad Candelaria, has been taking some buckshot over a "general discharge" he received from the NM Army National Guard as opposed to an "honorable discharge." Info on this has been circulating in our e-mail box and TV news has now surfaced the matter.

A top candidate to become Bernalillo County Sheriff is speaking out, after accusations from a retired National Guard colonel, who says Conrad Candelaria is spreading "falsehoods" about his time in the Guard.
Albuquerque police Commander Conrad Candelaria is upset about a letter written by the retired colonel, calling the whole letter dirty politics.

The five member commission has dozens of applicants to choose from when it meets Nov. 30 to name a replacement to fill out the rest of White's term which runs until the end of 2010. From the start Candelaria's name has been high on the list, so it's no surprise he is taking fire as decision day nears.

He says he will release his records to the Dem-controlled county commission if they feel it necessary to clear the air. He may want to do that on his own. If he gets the gig, Candelaria, 43, has said he will seek a full, four year term. If the air is not cleared now and Candelaria gets the nod, the guns will be simply reloaded with fresh buckshot for what we expect to be a crowded June primary.

MAGGIE CHALLENGE?

Hart Stebbins
Talk is starting over whether Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins will draw a challenger in the June 2010 primary. She was appointed to the commission in May by Big Bill when Commissioner Deanna Archuleta left town to take a DC job with the Obama administration.

No names have yet emerged as challengers to the political newcomer who represents the ABQ SE Heights, but the talk comes as Maggie, who has an eclectic consulting background in government, talks of beefing up the county's ethics ordinance. Could the two events be related? You mean some folks would want Hart Stebbins off the commission because she is not a "team player" and wants to talk transparency and more accountability?

Forget it. That could never happen around here.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Friday Clippings From My Newsroom Floor: GOP MIA On Lower Ballot Races, Plus: The Readers Debate The Blogger

  • Former President Bill Clinton delivers eulogy at funeral of former Governor King Saturday morning. Video here. About 2,000 mourners attended services at the Moriarty High School Gym. Four of the five living former Governors were there as well as ex-Sen. Domenici

  • The AP wrap on the funeral is here.

An old worry is back for NM Republicans. They are top heavy. While there is no shortage of 2010 GOP candidates for Governor or lieutenant governor--four Guv contenders are on the field--there is nary a Republican yet seeking to become State Auditor, State Treasurer, or Attorney General.

The R's do have a spirited three way race for Land Commissioner, a position they currently hold and have had some luck with in the past, but efforts to recruit candidates for the other statewide offices seem to have hit the wall.

Not that even a solid R candidate has much of a chance in Dem dominated NM to take a statewide office. The last GOP Auditor and Treasurer was in the 60's and the last GOP attorney general was elected in 1986. But with no names on the ballot, there is zero chance of pulling an upset.

R's expect to eventually have candidates for the offices, but with no early entrants raising money, they are signaling they are not prepared to seriously contest the re-election bids of of Attorney General Gary King, Auditor Hector Balderas or Treasurer James B. Lewis.

THE MAILBAG

Let's catch up on the mail. Reader Jane Babcock has a bone to pick when it comes to coverage of the candidates for Bernalillo County Sheriff. The county commission Nov. 30 will name a replacement for Darren White who is going to work for the city. Here's Jane:

Why are you ignoring the most qualified candidate for the Sheriff's position, Marie Miranda? Is it because she is not part of the old boys network? She recently retired as a Deputy Chief II, has a masters, cleaned up the (ABQ police department) evidence room mess, was a Deputy Secretary of the NM Department of Public Safety and started up the ABQ Homeland Security Department...

...Her integrity is unquestioned, her management ability is first rate, her resume doesn't have to be padded...and unlike your buddy, she is devoid of questionable activities and background. Perhaps, your prejudices are showing.

Give me a break, Jane. We don't have a dog--or a "buddy" in the sheriff's fight. We blogged what the insiders and Alligators told us--that Cris Sanchez and Conrad Candelaria were leading prospects to get the appointment. Sanchez has since dropped out. We're not slighting Marie. We're handicapping the game.

But you did get your plaudits in for your choice. Just don't confuse the message coming from downtown with this messenger.

OUR CONTRARY MARY

Let's do some more back and forth. First, reader Mary Vermillion weighs in and then we respond:

I've been surprised twice this week by comments on your blog. The first was when you referred to what you called "do nothing as policy" in the (Governor) Johnson years. As I recall, the policy of those years was fiscal restraint, and as a result, New Mexico was in good shape when the dot com bubble burst and things went south after 9/11. In contrast to the spend as if there's no tomorrow of Bill Richardson, that "do nothing" looks pretty sane.

The second was your description of the AP as a pure news gathering organization without an agenda. I seem to remember reading this year about AP's having adopted a policy of "accountability journalism"--a euphemism for the inclusion of substantial bits of opinion in "news" stories. And AP's having assigned eleven (!) reporters to fact-check Palin's book doesn't look much like pure news gathering.

Thanks, Mary. Well, the Johnson years were indeed ones of fiscal restraint, but we made little, if any progress, in moving the needle on NM social ills and continued to rank near the bottom in key measurements throughout his term.

Also, the major economic development program under Gary was pueblo-run Indian gambling, not known for high-paying salaries. The hi-tech boom--whose ill effects Mary contends we were spared--passed us by. Johnson was unable to deliver on his campaign pledge to bring more private business and high paying jobs to the state (Not that the current administration has had much success, either).

History will give high marks to Johnson for being a responsible manager and for running a government free of major corruption. He served honorably. However, his inability to work with the Legislature resulted in a "do nothing" administration when it came to attacking the myriad social ills that plagued the state then and now.

As for the AP, we don't see "accountability journalism" that reveals bias in their New Mexico coverage, which is our primary concern. And what's wrong with fact-checking the book of a major national political figure like Sarah Palin? Isn't that what we do when people talk about becoming President of the United States?

FROM THE FRONT LINES

We're also fielding mail from state employees about the five day furlough ordered by Governor Richardson to deal with the huge budget shortfall. This writer vented anonymously:

I am a state employee who is faced with trying to determine where to cut groceries, utilities, Christmas spending...I can accept the furlough...However, I looked at the salaries at executive agencies and must ask how did the agency on aging become a full Department? Military affairs? Where did some of these commissions come from? Do we need them or should we place higher expectations on persons employed in these areas? For example, why isn't the Department of Homeland Security part of the Department of Public Safety?

Why not consolidate programs and eliminate some high salaried executives? Why are we paying outlandish rents for private buildings when there are vacant government buildings? I am not placing the blame on any branch of government, just venting.

And a good vent it was. And it's also a reminder to the public and policy makers that most state workers are pulling down decidedly middle-class salaries. It is the excessive bloating at the top of the pyramid that is the big problem.

Could we make a suggestion to the Guv and Legislature?

If we have to have more furlough days can't those making salaries of over $80,000 be required to take more days off than the secretaries, custodians and other working stiffs who are the backbone of the government? It may sound equitable that all state employees have to be furloughed for the same amount of time, but in reality it is not.

A SWITCH?

We omitted the name of GOP activist Bea Sheridan as an R candidate for lieutenant governor when we blogged recently about the entry of ABQ state Senator Kent Cravens into the race. That's probably because insiders expect her to switch gears and seek the Secretary of State slot under the R banner...

We had a typo in our blog on the latest city appointments by Mayor-elect Berry. Robin Dozier Otten, the incoming Family Services Department director, served as Human Services Secretary in the Johnson administration, not Human Resources.

By the way, KOB-TV reports that while most of the department heads Mayor-elect Berry announced this week have been given starting salaries of $97,000, Dozier Otten is starting at $107,000 a year. Valerie Vigil, who has served in the post for eight years, currently makes $97,000.

Thanks for tuning in this week. Send along your news and comments via email.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NM Media Beat: Thinning Reporter Ranks In Santa Fe; On-Line Watchdog Barks; Will There Be More? Plus: Berry Juggles Fire; That & More On Transition

News coverage of the state capitol took a major hit this week as industry insiders passed word that longtime Associated Press reporter Deborah Baker was included in the national layoffs the AP announced. Baker had been on the Santa Fe scene some 20 years. Her departure means bureau chief Barry Massey is the lone Santa Fe staffer for the storied AP which started distributing news over 160 years ago (An editorial assistant in the ABQ bureau also was also laid off).

We were struck by Baker's sudden departure because we had only recently mentioned to friends the obit she had written of former Governor Bruce King. It hit all the high points, had just the right pitch--and important to the AP--was on the wires within a couple of hours after the announcement of King's death.

And there was an AP piece she penned on complicated capital outlay issues. We leaned on that for our own analysis.

The AP is the main link for government news for many New Mexicans outside the ABQ/Santa Fe media market, and Baker's departure will have particular impact there.

But it's not just the AP hurting. The ABQ Journal now has only one full-time capitol staffer. They do send up troops for the legislative session and at other times when needed, but they used to have several full-timers up there. The Journal has protected its franchise by not dismantling its investigative reporting division which often finds itself uncovering government shenanigans. But if the shoe drops there, the politicians will have even more free rein.

The AP has proven irreplaceable, even as new sources of "journalism" appear. The wire service is the one source that you know is not agenda driven. There seems to be a school of thought these days that it's how you write a news story that matters, but we all know the decision of what to write is a key editorial decision.

What we are now getting as a replacement for traditional newspapers is "agenda driven" journalism financed by philanthropy from individuals and institutions on the left and right (More on that below). Which is fine. But it's not always objective news gathering. No way. No how. On the other hand, the AP is financed by fees from subscribing newspapers and other media outlets. It is not out to save the world, but just report about it.

The AP covers the news without ideological concerns. It does not advocate. And going into this new information paradigm, we are going to need that more than ever. That's why these layoffs here and elsewhere are unsettling.

WATCHDOG GROWLS AT DI
Scarantino
New Mexico's first on-line investigative news site comes not from a traditional journalist, but from a lawyer. ABQ Republican Jim Scarantino, who has been an on and off commentator for a number of media outfits--including the ABQ Journal--shook things up recently with a report on the spending of some 2003 federal stimulus money by Lt.Governor Diane Denish. It was another sign of the slow, but certain migration of all aspects of journalism--even complicated ones like investigations--to the Internet. The on-line report from the New Mexico Watchdog made its way into the dead-tree editions of the newspapers who are suffering from so many cutbacks that they may welcome another voice doing some digging--even if it is not their own.

Denish and company called Scarantino a right-wing nut job, but that did not stop the story from making real news or from her having to respond to what she said were the report's inaccuracies. Also, one of Di's GOP rivals scored statewide TV coverage by citing the report.

Scarantino, an unabashed conservative, is supported by the like-minded Rio Grande Foundation (RGF), which under the stewardship of Paul Gessing has made significant strides in influencing the conservative agenda here.

Scarantino takes no advertising, only funds from the non-profit, a new media model. A similiar nonprofit model is the NM Independent. However, the Independent, backed mainly by foundations of a liberal or "progressive" bent, has positioned itself as a daily news source, not an investigative operation. But the competing conservative RGF may have an edge, if the goal of both outfits is to help shape the public affairs agenda.

Scarantino is a one-man band who is not reporting every day, but like ABQ Journal investigative reporters is given time to develop his stories. He then hits with a splash. The Independent, staffed with several full-time and part-time reporters, is not affording itself that luxury. Instead, it is covering many of the same breaking news stories as the Journal and AP. Would foregoing some of that replication and incorporating the Watchdog model give it further reach?

If the conservative Watchdog scores more coups, will the Independent's sponsors bark back with their own investigative themes aimed at their progressive audience? The answer will be on-line.

TV NEWS

No, we haven't seen the ratings for the 10 p.m. KOB-TV news since Jay Leno became host of the lead in show. Leno's poor ratings performance is drawing boos from a number of NBC affiliates who are seeing their ratings drop because Leno does not draw audiences similar in size to the dramas that formerly populated the prime time spot. KOB has been running a close second to #1 KRQE for several years. We will see where things stand at the end of the current November ratings. If Jay craters here, it may give KOAT, #3 at 10, a shot at the runner-up spot. But industry experts say the audience is so fractured nowadays it is uncertain what stations those drama fans would drift toward.

BREAKING CITY NEWS


First, this clean-up from Wednesday:

City Councilor Debbie O'Malley says she supports the reappointment of ABQ Police Chief Ray Schultz. She says a TV news report that stated she did not support Schultz was inaccurate. We keyed off that report and blogged that O'Malley was opposed to Schultz. However, the Democratic councilor does say --as we blogged---that she is firmly against the appointment of current city chief administrative officer Ed Adams as the city's chief operating officer. Mayor-elect Berry is reported to be considering such a move.

Let's get into the Adams play. Insiders are wondering if Berry pushes Adams down O'Malley's throat whether she will bolt and oppose his nomination of David Campbell as chief administrative officer. Right now, Campbell is poised to win council confirmation on a 5 to 4 vote when the new council meets Dec. 7. But the Republican mayor needs Democrats, including O'Malley. Three GOP councilors are opposing Campbell. If Berry keeps Adams on the 11th floor, O'Malley could join with the three R's, persuade one of her fellow Dems to also oppose Campbell and that would be that.

Adams is a Republican, but he is so close to Mayor Chavez they can smell each others mouthwash. That is rankling those like O'Malley who want a clean break from the past. They are not buying the argument that Ed can change his stripes now that Berry is the new zoo keeper.

Berry is now juggling fire. A rejection of Campbell would be a near-crippling blow. If Adams has a deal where he has to have a city gig, we notice that there is still no permanent airport director. Maybe that's the way to put out those flames that are starting to singe Berry's brow. We'll see.

BERRY PICKING
Barbara Bruin
The mayor-elect continues to unveil his key appointments. Here's the latest round: Robin Dozier Otten as director of Family Services, Barbara Bruin as director of Animal Welfare, Jorja Armijo-Brasher as director of Senior Affairs, Barbara Baca as director of Parks and Recreation and Eugene Moser as director of Human Resources.

Barbara Bruin, a native of Roswell, is a University of New Mexico School of Law grad who has recently headed up the NM Alliance for Legal Reform, a nonprofit with a conservative bent that aims to be a thorn in the side of the trial lawyers. Sheriff White sits on its board of directors. She's also worked on Capitol Hill and with the US Department of Justice. Her father, Jim Bruin, is a well-known Roswell attorney who served a term in the state Senate in the 60's. The new director of Animal Welfare has been long involved in animal protection causes. She is a member of the board of Animal Humane NM and has two cats--Frank and Tony.

Robin Dozier Otten, also a UNM law school grad, is a public affairs consultant. She served with incoming public safety director Darren White in the Guv administration of Republican Gary Johnson. She was Secretary of Human Services when White was head of the Department of Public Safety. She ran for the GOP nomination for US Senate in 1994.

Jorja Armijo-Brasher is a city government veteran who replaces Blanca Hise who managed Mayor Chavez's 2001 campaign and shortly after took the senior affairs position. Armijo-Brasher has been manager of the city's Child and Family Services Development Division. She is the wife of GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner and KANW-FM radio general manager Michael Brasher.

We told you Monday about Gene Moser, an analyst with the Legislative Finance Committee, who was named Human Resources director. Check that blog for details.

Barbara Baca, the new head of parks and rec, is a Recreation Division Manager with the department
.

MORE ON DOUBLE DIPPING

Schultz
We told you this week that the new mayor will not ban double-dipping. We cited the employment of retired state worker Tito Madrid as head of constituent services who will receive both city and retirement checks. But some double dipping is apparently not kosher with the mayor-to-be.

Police Chief Ray Schultz, paid $145,000 a year, will no longer draw the police pension he has been getting along with that handsome salary. Berry has yet to say what the chief will make. Also, there have been no reports yet on what chief administrative officer designate David Campbell will take home or the salary of public safety director Darren White. The mayor makes about $110,000 a year.

Should anyone other than the police chief and chief administrative officer make more than the mayor?

For fiscal conservatives one of the first tests of Republican Berry will be whether he comes with a smaller mayor's office budget than Mayor Chavez. He should be able to do that while applying realistic salaries to White, Campbell as well as Schulz.

CYA

We want to do some CYA (cover your ass for the uninitiated) on the city budget outlook. We recently linked to a newspaper story quoting finance officials from the Chavez administration as predicting no layoffs or furloughs of city employees will be needed to reduce the deficit. They are putting the shortfall for the budget year that ends June 30 at about $10 to $12 million. But not everyone agrees. Some city councilors believe the deficit could hit $30 million. That's a huge sum considering that cuts of that amount would have to be done over a six month period. If we go north of $20 million, look out below, city workers.

And one other note. The psychological taboo surrounding furloughs of New Mexican government workers has now been broken by Big Bill. That may make it easier for Berry to go that route if he chooses. As for layoffs, expect Berry to go there last, but don't rule them out until we get concrete numbers on just what kind of deficit we're facing.

GOODBYE, BRUCE

TV news is reporting that former President Clinton plans to attend the funeral of former Governor Bruce King Saturday at Moriarty.

New Mexico senior US Senator Jeff Bingaman took to the Senate floor Wednesday to mourn the passing of King who died last week. Here's an excerpt and here's a link to the video:

He was gregarious and kind. He never knew a stranger. He shook every hand in our state, whether there was a voter attached to it or not. People were delighted to see Bruce coming and to hear his famous reply when asked “How are you doing, governor?” He would reply, “Mighty fine” regardless of the circumstances that the state and he were facing. Our friendship extended for 40-plus years. And along with my fellow New Mexicans, I will miss him greatly...

Senator Tom Udall also honored the former Governor in a Senate floor speech.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Since we've been talking about media today, how about some self-criticism? Well, the best part about this blog is the unique information you get on state politics. It's stuff you won't get anywhere else and certainly not with the context and analysis you get here from the state's best political minds. The worst part is our weakness as a grammarian and speller. With no editor looking over our shoulder, we let some big ones slip by. For example, yesterday we posted "your" instead of "you're." And someone really needs to invent a souped up spell checker for us.

In that regard, we appreciate your indulgence (and emailed edits), if not your pity.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Email your news and comments. Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author