Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Other Things

Golf, trips to the shooting range, and many errands this week.  Yes, I actually went to the shooting range today with my old friend Lee Otteni and had a good time.  No, we don't have assault rifles.  Just old fashioned bolt action hunting rifles with scopes.  I have had a .270 caliber scoped JC Higgins rifle with a Mauser action since I was in high school.  After some fiddling with a scope I was hitting 3 foot square sized targets at 300 yards.  I didn't think I could do that anymore.

I have no desire to hunt anymore, but the marksmanship is still fun.  Kind of like hitting the perfect golf shot.  Just something to keep one sharp.

On the way back to Albuquerque we were talking about APD's latest shooting.  Without judging the latest incident, death by bullets of a teenage girl by APD, we decided we just couldn't really understand the fact that someone who is 18 and a young woman could get herself into such a position.  She had minor run ins with the law and maybe she did steal a car.  But did she deserve to be chased down on city streets and killed up against a cinder block wall?

This continued hail of bullets is killing more than people.  It is killing our city.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bobbi's Tulip Patch on Easter Morning

We had a nice brunch over here for Easter Sunday.  The hardest part was smelling the Carne Adovada cooking in the crockpot all night.  It was good.

My niece Stephanie and her two daughters Maya and Emma were in town from L.A.  They are growing up fast.

And my brother's niece Anya was here.  A natural for the camera ever since she was a child.  I told her to become a model, but it was only important because she could make money.  All the rest  is of no consequence.

Her sister Amanda and boyfriend Mike will graduate high school in a few weeks from Bosque School.  She just turned 18 and her next stop is higher education.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Bad Idea

Now Albuquerque City Council members are considering a hike in the gross receipts tax of 1/8% to fund mental healthcare in Albuquerque.  This is bad on a lot of levels.  Mainly it taxes the poor to help the poor.  Also, this is really a state responsibility that Governor Martinez has ignored.  Finally, the gross receipts tax has risen to 7% already from the 5.7% rate 15 years ago.  That climb in a regressive tax must end or we will make the poor even poorer.  (At least Governor Richardson took this tax off food.) Couldn't these needs be taken care of by either raising the income tax, a non regressive tax, or tapping into the 17 billion dollars in state permanent funds?  Of course one of these would be a good solution.  So lets see if any courageous leader suggests it.  I know many will say raising the income tax is bad when efforts are underway to attract business.  It probably is.  So, maybe going to the deep well of the permanent funds will work until new leadership comes into the Mayor's and Governor's offices.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Plan of Action

One senses that the word 'urgency' can not be defined by the Governor's Office, Mayor's Office, or the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.  Do you sense any urgency out of these groups when it comes to the meltdown of the economy in the Land of Enchantment?  I sure don't.  I don't see it because all of the people who are supposed to be working on growing our economy are still in their jobs after four years of worse and worse news.  Of course the latest job loss figures are disastrous as our unemployment rates continue to climb while the states that surround us are all gaining jobs.

We urgently need a plan of action.  But who will come up with it in the leaderless and laid back administrations of Governor Martinez, Mayor Berry, and Chamber honcho Teri Cole.   Have they all even been in the same room together to discuss such a plan?  My bet is that they haven't actually done a planning session together.  And I am quite sure the state legislature and city council of Albuquerque just sit on the sidelines chuckling about the incompetence, not realizing they are also a major component of failure.

This economic situation truly is frightening to me as a life long resident of New Mexico.  I have been involved in Journalism and Politics for 35 years and have never seen things this bad.  I get the sense that no one is really in charge of fixing things.  The current political structure and business community seem stuck in some sort of mind fog where they don't know which direction they are to go.  And now all energies on the state level will go into the elections.  The city will be mired in APD lawsuits and repercussions.  

And we will just have to wait in disbelief as things fall apart around us!

Berry Proposed Tax Hike

Mayor Berry is now being stealthy on something other than APD.  He is proposing a tax hike by disguising it as a hike in the cost of collecting refuse in the city.  The city's excellent trash collection system has functioned well over the years because it has paid for itself by running as an enterprise fund.  A business if you will.  Fees for hauling away your refuse paid for the cost of doing so without any siphoning of that money to other non related projects.

Now the city is going to start charging more for collections in order to stay even with expenses and go to a system where the less trash  you have the less  you pay.  That is fine and should be done.  But tucked away in that proposal is siphoning away money to pay for street median maintenance. That is a show stopper because it is nothing more than hiding an expense that the general fund would normally take care of.  What is next?  Using Solid Waste Department revenues to pay off all of the APD lawsuits?

Actually, if one follows some logic that is what exactly is happening here as the lawsuits on APD for all the killings bit into the general funds of the city.  You can be assured that the city, which funds its own insurance pool and risk fund, is sucking more and more dollars away from other city departments.  And this hidden tax the Mayor wants to charge is the first indication that financial shell games are in play.  We have passed special taxes already to fund street maintenance in Albuquerque.  My administration first did that in 1999 by going to the voters for a quarter percent gross receipts tax increase.  The public approved.  If Berry needs more tax income he should be upfront about it.

And, is it true all median maintenance was outsourced to a private firm and what was their relationship to Berry?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Journal

The Albuquerque Journal was reluctant to do much about the Mother Jones expose on Governor Susan.  They put the story at the bottom of the front page despite its noteworthiness.  But at least they did the story grudgingly.  They seemed to have to identify Mother Jones magazine as a 'politically liberal' publication.  They have never seemed to use the words 'right leaning foundation' when they open their oped pages on a daily basis to the Rio Grande Foundation whose main job it is to promote climate denial and right wing agendas for the oil and gas boys.

But there is something the Journal should follow up on, and that is the fact that Martinez was using the DA's office in Las Cruces to run the license plates of people they suspected of attending campaign events with cameras and sound recorders to document foot in mouth moments from the candidate.  As Lawrence Rael's campaign has pointed out, this may be illegal.  Will the Journal ask the question?

Quick, Don't Fire Anyone

The latest Mother Jones article on Governor Susana (aka Susan) Martinez and the debacle at the Albuquerque Police Department  under Mayor Richard Berry points out one more thing about their tenure.  They are unable to fire incompetents from their staffs and cadre of department heads.  Probably, the reason for this is that those minions just know too much of the background of how they came to power and what  happened since then.

Of course, it is nearly impossible to fire other public employees even if they deserve it.  But now that seems to have drifted over into the exempt positions as well.  Many of those exempt job holders now also sue the government if they lose their jobs.  They will claim to be whistle blowers as an entrance to the courts and the taxpayer billfold.  Some times it is true.  Many times it is not.

But, if anyone ever needed to be fired it was the APD Police Chief under Berry and more than a few of the young, and now apparently racist, minions of the Governor.  The fact that one of her people thought it important to restate that former Speaker of the House Ben Lujan was a 'retard' for his spanish accent would have caused any competent leader to fire that person on the spot.

The Governor and Mayor of Albuquerque need to clean up their houses.  They appear at this point to be hoarders who just can't get rid of the rubbish.

And finally, a comment about the news coverage of the Mother Jones article.  Everyone did a great job of it, but not KRQE TV.  After the great work they have done on the APD story they completely ignored the Martinez expose.  I was flabbergasted when I turned on their 4:30PM news to see the lead story.  A dozen dead bees were found on a sidewalk in the northeast heights.  Film, interviews, real video not shot from an iPhone.  Some one at the station is protecting the Governor and it is time for them to fire a few producers who call the shots. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mother

That long awaited Mother Jones article hit the streets today.  It is a pretty revealing and accurate rap sheet on the real Governor Susana Martinez and her frat boys advisors.  Will it make any difference in the run up to the election?  Don't hold  your breath because all of the money she has will paint over it.

Early Golf

Off to play early golf today.  I will ponder the letters of resignation from the Police Oversight Committee who stated they have no power and are not independent.  This latest pummeling of Mayor Berry and his minions is astonishing since the last straw for the Commission occurred just last week when they were told they should butt out by the City Attorney's Office.

More later.  But in the meantime it would be interesting for you to read up on our private prisons in this country.  Something that has always bothered me greatly.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Misc.

The fundraising reports for statewide offices came in yesterday.  The democratic primary for Governor is showing that all the candidates together can't match Governor Susana Martinez's fossil fuel funded campaign.  My take on the Dems is that Gary King has no money left, (what has he spent it on?), Alan Webber of Santa Fe is using his wealth to get a leg up on the other candidates.  And that Lawrence Rael  had a respectable showing.  The guy who won the State Democratic Primary Nominating convention has raised peanuts.  Howie Morales proves that the Convention is no indicator of an ability to run a well funded campaign.  The Governor's $5 million fund will only grow out of sight as the Koch brothers and their ilk start funding independent advertising to make all the Dems look like left wing commies.

The right wing crazy rancher in Nevada, Clive Bundy,  and his terrorist and assault rifle armed militia friends have once agains said 'screw you' to the American middle class taxpayer.  He refuses to pay for grazing his desert killing cows on BLM lands.  This guy has been a dangerous presence in that state and seems to want his standoff to end up in violence.  The BLM backed down from collecting his million dollar debt to American citizens once again.  It was wise for the feds to back off a little, but that money needs to be collected and he needs to be thrown off the land, which isn't his.  It is public land.






Monday, April 14, 2014

Brainstorming

We had a boisterous dinner at Ned's last night.  All of us old guys know how to solve all of the world's problems, naturally.

One idea that dribbled out was the fact that prisons for profit have to be retooled.  We have more prisoners than ever even as crime continues to fall, despite what the police blotter regurgitating local TV news stations think.

But, if the private prison corporations are good at handling inmates, why don't we enact some sensible legislation that would allow them to convert some facilities into centers for care of mentally incompetent homeless people like the ones APD has been gunning down.  I know there would be hurdles to jump legally, but this is something one of these corporations should think about.  Better caring for the sick rather than keeping non violent inmates in jail.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Road Ahead

While playing golf the other day a lot of the guys in our two foursomes were lamenting that Mayor Berry looks weak for not attending the APD gripe session at the City Council last week.  Most of these guys voted for him.  He does look like a man who wants to avoid stress for sure.  He can always fall back on the good ink he gets from the editorial board at the Albuquerque Journal.  He is after all, a republican.

One of my golf buddies asked what I think Mayor Berry should be doing at this point.  Now that the DOJ has stated what is obvious, Berry then immediately left the city council and public on the sidelines in hiring a couple of guys to help straighten things out.  They were contracted at an amount just under the requirement that would have triggered letting the City Council have a say in the selection.  And of course they said little because now they don't have to take the heat.

So, what Berry needs to do now is invest about a quarter of his time in actually involving himself in seeing that things get fixed.  He should demand a daily briefing about what tasks and mileposts have been achieved in fixing the police department.  Of course, that assumes someone will set out tasks and milestones and let the public be informed of them.  Will we see such a list?

Berry needs to reach out by having some town halls of his own where he can just listen to folks give suggestions.  Sometimes some great ideas can be had by doing that.  Also, it might be good for Berry to stop listening to the folks who got us into this predicament.  And his political advisers have to realize that he is no longer just the nice guy they like to portray him as.  He is now seen by many as not being up to the job.  His actions in the past couple of years of saying he was remaking APD seem like fluff.  Things got worse because he just didn't pay enough attention.  I can't imagine he ran his business like that.  Honestly, I want him to succeed in fixing this mess.  Our economy is in bad enough shape that the continued national press coverage of our problem police department is hurting us even more.

On another APD issue, how is it that former Chief Shultz  was able to sign a multi million dollar contract with the people who manufacture Tazers to supply APD, and then sign on to working for them a short time later?  I don't think this passes the smell test, and it might even be illegal.  I have heard media people say they are just to busy with other APD stuff to handle this one.

And, once again, where is the Office of Medical Investigator report on how the suspect who shot a police dog was killed?  This is definitely one I want to hear about. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Generational

One of the hired guns that Mayor Berry wants to fix APD said that problems in that troubled force are not generational.  I know a lot of folks that would disagree with him.  One of them is one of my favorite commenters and writers, Bubba Munster.  I wanted to put this comment of his on the main page because it is though provoking.


At the APD hiring web site, on the benefits and salary page:

http://www.apdonline.com/benefits.html

it lists as a benefit "Tuition Assistance and Educational Leave". It also lays out how having a degree significantly increases your salary.

Such benefits are typical of government workers who collectively bargain, and for union police departments, as APD is.

An assistant chief at the Texarkana, TX, police department told me he had a degree. I asked what in. He said, "General Studies."

So he might have taken classes that interested him, or were easy, only to increase his salary. Who knows? Like at APD, his classes were paid for.

Any education is apt to favorably affect human development. Knowledge will likely lessen small minded thinking, prejudice, and increase self esteem.

But as far as cops not being thugs, things like education, who the leaders are, what the training is, who the mayor is, while they all may play a role in determining whether a cop is going to be a thug or not, the overriding factor is society.

When a cop walks down the street, what does he or she think his or her role is? What is expected of them?

Look at it this way. You may have an education, and not be a thug, but it's not the education that makes you use manners and be genteel so much as it is the kind of people you associate with - the norms of your society, its shared beliefs about what appropriate behavior is.

On the street, everyone's a punk and a thug. That's your peer group. That's who you play to. You can be educated and be a thug. You can be trained in something, come from a respectable family, and be a thug. George Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London" is the classic demonstration of how a personal devolution takes place when someone finds themselves in a meaner and more desperate set of conditions.

Society is very fractionalized, in that when you walk down any street, or into any office building, you very rarely speak to strangers or engage them in any way. Most people don't even make eye contact in public. In that context, in that kind of overall society, police play a psychological role. Furthermore, society holds the cop up as some kind of heroic archetype. Every criticism of police comes with the qualifier that there are lots of "good cops" - despite the fact that these good cops are who make up the society of police.

When society decides it wants to be kinder and gentler, it will be. When society decides US wars of aggression must cease, they will. When society decides to live under a different system, where cooperation is better than competition, aggression and violence will diminish at all levels of society, and when society decides it doesn't want thugs for cops, it won't tolerate them, or reward thuggish behavior.