Changing Election Date With No Public Finance Reform

Since the enactment of the City Charter creating Albuquerque’s Mayor/City Council form of government, municipal elections have been held every two years of odd-number years in October on the first Tuesday of October, with run offs held six weeks later and the winner sworn in on December 1 after the runoff.

The New Mexico legislature during the 2018 legislative session enacted the Local Election Act which went into effect July 1, 2018.

The Local Election Act requires municipalities like Albuquerque to either move their municipal elections to a consolidated local election in November of odd-numbered years or hold non-consolidated elections in March of even-numbered years.

On November 19, 2018, the Albuquerque City Council unanimously approved a measure moving Albuquerque’s municipal elections from October to November of an election year to comply with the Local Election Act.

The November election date also moves municipal runoff elections to December and term starting dates to January.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1248537/abq-councilors-approve-moving-city-elections-from-october-to-november.html

PUBLIC FINANCING CHARTER AMENDMENT ENACTED

The City Council also approved a charter amendment that will require voter approval making changes in the city public financing of candidates.

The proposed changes in the charter amendment include:

1. Increasing city public financing distribution for mayoral and council races from $1 per voter to $1.75 cents per voter for regular elections and from 33 cents to 60 cents for runoff elections.
2. Increasing “seed money” from $100 per person to $250 per person.
3. The aggregate amount of seed money will be increased from 10% to 20% of distribution, but the distribution would be reduced by the amount of seed money collected.
4. The length of the qualifying period to collect will be increased and match dates to the petition signature period for mayoral and council races.
5. Another proposal increases the length of qualifying period and match dates to the petition signature period for mayoral and council races.

The charter amendment will require voter approval with a special election, but the city council voted to defer for 60 days scheduling a mail-in special election on the proposed city charter amendment.

The City Council approved an election code ordinance bill designed to “encourage compliance with election laws and discourage frivolous complaints.”

The new election code ordinance will clarify and add definitions to establish expectations for candidates, close campaign finance loopholes and make the campaign finance reporting schedule match the state’s schedule.

The approved ordinance changes the definition of a candidate to include people who raise or spend more than $1,000.

The new election code ordinance also creates an administrative process for the city to respond to potential election code issues.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1248537/abq-councilors-approve-moving-city-elections-from-october-to-november.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The Albuquerque City Council has once again ignored making any real attempt at campaign finance reform.

The proposed charter amendment only addresses changes in the election date and the time frame for collecting qualifying signatures to get on the ballot.

Candidates for Mayor and City Council are given three months to collect nominating petition signatures from registered voters.

However, under the city’s public financing laws, candidates are only given six weeks to collect $5 qualifying donations which is a very difficult and daunting task unless you’re an incumbent and have done it before.

It makes no sense giving more than double to time to collect qualifying signatures and just six weeks to collect $5 qualifying donations to secure public financing.

If a candidate seeking public financing donations does not secure the qualifying $5 donations, all the money reverts to the city and not kept by the candidate that collected the donations.

Further, no effort was made to address the disparity between public financed candidates, privately financed candidates and measured finance committees.

Candidates that decide to go with private financing as well as measured finance committees for candidates can solicit unlimited cash donations from any source including out of city and state contributions.

Public finance laws should not be set up to make it too difficult to qualify for public financing.

Every effort should be made to make Albuquerque’s public financing laws for municipal elections to legally provide for a “dollar for dollar” match to privately raised funds by candidates, thereby providing a real level playing field.

The influence of big money in elections allowed by the US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is destroying our democracy.

Many highly qualified candidates for office all too often do not bother to run because of the inability or difficulty raising the necessary money to run.

Political campaign fundraising and big money influence are warping our election process.

Money spent becomes equated with the final vote.

Money drives the message, affects voter turnout and ultimately the outcome of an election.

Albuquerque municipal elections need campaign finance reform and enforcement.

POSTSCRIPT

Following are recommendations for changes to the City’s public finance laws outlined in a January 2, 2018 blog article on the city’s public finance ordinance:

1. Allow four (4) months and two (2) weeks, from January 1 to May 15, to collected both the qualifying donations and petition signatures, and private campaign donation collection.

2. Allow the collection of the qualifying donations from anyone who wants, and not just residents or registered voters of Albuquerque. Privately finance candidates now can collect donations from anyone they want and anywhere in the State and Country.

3. Once the allowed number of qualifying donations is collected, the public financing would be made immediately available, but not allowed to be spent until starting May 15.

4. Permit campaign spending for both publicly financed and privately financed candidates only from May 15 to the October election day.

5. Return to candidates for their use in their campaign any qualifying donations the candidate has collected when the candidate fails to secure the required number of qualifying donations to get the public financing.

6. Mandate the City Clerk to issue debit card or credit card collection devices to collect the qualifying donations and to issue receipts and eliminate the mandatory use of “paper receipts”.

7. Increase from $1.00 to $2.50 per registered voter the amount of public financing, which will be approximately $900,000, and allow for incremental increases of 10% every election cycle keeping up with inflation.

8. Allow for additional matching public financing available for run offs at the rate of $1.25 per registered voter, or $450,000.

9. Albuquerque should make every effort to make municipal elections partisan elections to be held along with State and Federal elections by seeking a constitutional amendment from the legislature to be voted upon by the public.

10. Any money raised and spent by measured finance committees on behalf a candidate should be required to first be applied to reimburse the City for any taxpayer money advanced to a public finance candidate or deducted from a publicly financed candidates account and returned to the city.

11. City of Albuquerque campaign reporting and finance ordinances and regulations need to define with absolute clarity that strictly prohibit the coordination of expenditures and campaign activities with measured finance committees and individual candidate’s campaigns in municipal elections.

12. A mandatory schedule of fines and penalties for violations of the code of ethics and campaign practices act should be enacted by the City Council.

2018 YEAR TO REFORM CITY PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS

Time For Presidential Turkey Pardons

Two days before Thanksgiving, President Donald Trump issued pardons to two hefty tom turkeys, one named Peas weighing 39 pounds and one named Carrots weighing 41 pounds.

https://www.npr.org/2018/11/20/669362990/president-trump-prepares-to-spare-two-thanksgiving-turkeys

More on this in commentary and analysis below.

Trump during his visit to Northern California to view the damage caused by the wildfires did not blame climate change for the deadliest wildfire the nation has seen in a century.

Trump said that the country of Finland does not have the same problem with wild fires because “they spend a lot of time on raking” leaves.

Trump standing next to California Governor Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom during a press conference had this to say:

“You’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important. You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story. … I was with the president of Finland and he said, ‘We have a much different—we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation, and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things [making a raking motion]. And they don’t have any problem. … And when it is, it’s a very small problem, so I know everybody is looking at it to that end and it’s going to work out, it’s going to work out well.”

Trump brought up the same point about the need to rake leaves in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and said:

“I was watching the firemen the other day and they were raking areas, they were raking areas where the fire was right over there. … And they’re raking trees, little trees like this that are not trees, little bushes that you could see are totally dry. Weeds. And they’re raking them, they’re on fire. That should have been all raked out. You wouldn’t have the fires.”

When asked by Wallace if climate change could have contributed to the wildfires, Trump said:

“Maybe it contributes a little bit. …The big problem we have is management.”

The Camp Fire in Butte County has killed more than 171 people since it started on November 8, becoming the deadliest wildfire in the United States in 100 years.

More than 1,000 people are missing and 148,000 acres have been burned.

Entire small towns have been burnt to the ground with thousands of people evacuated and now homeless having lost virtually everything except for their lives.

Before his visit to California, Trump threatened on Twitter to take federal funds away from California if the state did not change its forestry management practices.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/18/politics/finnish-president-trump-raking-forest-fires/index.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

President Donald Trump is a self-proclaimed “really smart guy” who was called a moron by his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Turkeys have a reputation for being just plain stupid.

There is a very old myth that turkeys are so stupid that during a rainstorm, turkeys will stare up at the clouds with their beaks wide open, transfixed, with water running down their nostrils and throats until they drown themselves.

Last year during the total eclipse of the sun, Trump looked up at the eclipse without eye protection and with his mouth opened, very much like a turkey looking up at the rain.

When you call someone a turkey you are calling them a stupid failure of a person.

After the midterms and declaring victory and not admitting to defeat, Trump is looking more, and more like a stupid failure of a president.

Trump with his remarks about the California wildfires, denying climate change could have contributed to the wildfires and raking leaves establishes that he is a moron.

No doubt Trump already has his own personal presidential turkey pardons for himself and his kids already signed and ready to go, he just has not made them public waiting for the indictments and the the Special Counsel Robert Mueller report on Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.

When You Hire A Lawyer, You Keep Your Mouth Shut!; Depose Berry, Riordan, Rizzieri On ART Bus Project Under Oath

On Tuesday, November 13, 2018, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference to announce the city’s plans to cancel the manufacturing contract with Build Your Dreams (BYD).

The city wants to return all the 60-foot electric buses manufactured and delivered for the disastrous ART Bus Project.

During the November 13, 2018 press conference, Mayor Keller revealed that the city hired the services of a respected private Albuquerque law firm to represent the city in the dispute with the bus manufacturer.

A “registered mail” demand letter dated November 13, 2018, the same day as the press conference, was sent by the private attorneys and not from the City Attorney’s Office.

The letter demanded that BYD take possession of the buses and the chargers by November 30, 2018.

The demand letter also put BYD on notice that the city intends to seek “damages, costs, attorney fees and any relief to which it is legally entitled to” under the giving BYD notice that the city intends to sue.

You can read the demand letter here:

https://www.cabq.gov/mayor/documents/byd-notice-of-rejection-nov-13-2018.pdf

During a November 1, 2018 press conference, Mayor Keller outlined the numerous problems with the buses reported.

The problems include:

1. The center and rear brakes had zero air pressure, yet the 60-foot-long articulated buses were able to move, meaning that the center and rear axle brakes were not working and the buses were relying on their front brakes alone.
2. Rear doors would open during bus operation without any action by the driver.
3. The buses have air conditioning outages.
4. Bolts flying off doors
5. The electric buses do not have the required range on a full battery charge and the bus manufacturer still has not provided the extra charging stations. 6. The lack of undercarriage protection.
7. Buses that wouldn’t stop when emergency doors were utilized.
8. Cracking on bus exteriors.
9. Mirrors not set up correctly.
10. Wiring problems and electrical system problems.
11. The handicap electric chair lock becoming unsecured when the driver turns on the air conditioner.

The deficiencies with the brakes, batteries and doors were reported as “fleet-wide issues” that posed such significant safety concerns that the city could not allow any member of the public to ride on the buses to avoid the risk of injury.

During the November 1, 2018 press conference update, Keller pronounced the new ART Buses as “unsafe at any speed” and said:

“We are not going to let these buses on our streets until we are 100 percent sure they’re safe. … And what the tests found is that, today, several of them are not. We’re testing the buses through an inspection process and we want to make sure nobody gets hurt either riding these buses or driving these buses. … I’m running out of patience with [BYD].”

Keller ordered the grounding all the buses until each one had a full safety inspection.

For further media reports see:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1240432/mayor-puts-art-bus-project-on-hold.html

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/mayor-to-provide-updates-on-art/1566360321

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 KELLER PRESS CONFERENCE

The biggest problems associated with the electric ART buses relate to the bus batteries.

The electric buses delivered are supposed to operate for 275 miles, but city officials found the buses cannot go more than 177 miles before they need recharging.

The batteries are stacked in a metal shelf and when overheated could cause a fire.

Keller during his November 13, 2018 press conference elaborated on the problems with the bus batteries by saying:

“We believe there’s not even close to adequate fire protection [when it comes to the bus batteries]. Right now, it would vent right in the middle of the bus and we would not be able to pull those out. They’re already heating up so they can’t take a charge. They’re not properly [stored] or cooled. … We’re no longer going to be guinea pigs [for BYD] anymore … Obviously, we very concerned about what we’ve been put through as a city by BYD … I think down the road, we’re interested in being fairly compensated for what we have been misled on these buses.”

BYD also has failed to construct additional charging stations on the Central Avenue route promised as part of an agreement with the city some months ago to address the problem with battery life.

Lawrence Rael, the city’s Chief Operating Officer, had this to say about the effort to cancel the bus contract:

“The mechanical pieces and issues we now find with the operation of the equipment are part of a long series of missed deadlines and missed issues with a company that I think have driven us to the point where we are today.”

BYD RESPONDS TO MAYOR TIM KELLER

After Mayor Keller’s November 13, 2018 press conference, BYD President Stella Li issued a statement vehemently denying the accusations made by Mayor Tim Keller.

Any experienced trial attorney would anticipate the response.

BYD announced in a statement the hiring of “independent transportation experts” to evaluate the buses and prove they are safe and ready for use and stated:

“We fully expect that these independent, unbiased inspections will conclusively demonstrate that our buses are built to the highest standards and capable of fulfilling the purpose that they were purchased for, … An independent investigation will prove to the world that we have been misrepresented.”

BYD further accused Keller of slander and bad faith by stating:

“Keller’s media statements slander and maliciously harm the reputation and good name of BYD, … These statements show that the city is not acting in good faith under the contract and further indicate a potential political agenda to discredit and throttle a public works project that the mayor has long criticized as part of his campaign platform. … [Albuquerque] City hall’s actions have not only wrongfully damaged BYD’s reputation, but also have deprived the citizens of Albuquerque of the world’s safest and most advanced pollution- and cost-reducing zero-emission transit bus. BYD will take all appropriate legal actions to protect itself in light of City Hall’s conduct.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1247449/byd-will-hire-independent-experts-to-examine-buses.html

INSPECTOR GENERAL’S REPORT

On June 6, 2018, the city of Albuquerque’s Inspector General (IG) issued a report on the ART Bus Project.

The entire Inspector General report can be read here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fA-D6dk6lp3DZgQzQCWVEVbziQ2vXov/view

According to the Inspector General report, former Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan “was adamant about having a bus transported to the City before the end of the Mayor Berry administration.”

An Albuquerque transit employee told the Inspector General that “core processes on manufacturing buses was altered to ensure delivery of the first bus by the deadline.”

The IG report described two city employees interviewed who recounted a “tense” and “unusual” phone call between then-city Chief Operating Officer Michael Riordan and top executives from the manufacturer.

According to the IG’s report the first bus delivered in August 2017, was assembled by the manufacturer using a “frame intended for buses being built for [another city’s transit authority].”

Frames intended for the Albuquerque’s buses had not yet been shipped nor received by the manufacturer.

The Inspector General found that the bus manufacturer used “parts and pieces” intended for another city’s buses for the first ART bus delivered.

The city employee further reported that the first bus was moved to whatever assembly station was available to ensure it was assembled in time in order to get it shipped to Albuquerque before Mayor Berry left office.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

“Truth” is always an affirmative defense preventing recovery when it comes to any cause of action for libel and slander, but defending against such accusations in contract disputes can be costly.

“Client control” over any elected public official by their attorneys is always very difficult and tenuous at best, just ask Donald Trump’s lawyers.

The City Attorney’s office should have anticipated BYD’s reaction and now the city needs to brace for costly litigation.

BDY’s accusation that the ART Bus project is a public works project that the Mayor Keller has long criticized as part of his campaign platform is downright false and could not be further from the truth.

During his year and a half quest to become Mayor of Albuquerque, Tim Keller never called upon his predecessor to stop the ART Bus project, nor to cancel the bus contract nor did he ever condemn it as destroying historical Route 66.

Tim Keller did not attend a single public hearing or meetings held by the Berry Administration on the project, including the meetings hosted by city councilors.

After becoming Mayor on December 1, 2018, Keller has wasted the first year of his 4-year term trying to save the project by giving BYD the benefit of the doubt in their ability to deliver the buses.

From day one of being Mayor, Keller has said that too much has been spent on the project and it would be too costly to reverse the project.

When 15 new buses were delivered, the Keller administration took possession and did not return them and only now trying to cancel the contract.

Keller’s November 13, 2018 press conference should never had happened, but it did nonetheless, and it aggravated matters for the worse all because of Keller’s penchant for press conferences, social media communications and his efforts to try and salvage a project the taxpayers have never really wanted.

Keller used the demand letter as a “political prop” holding it up during the press conference knowing full well he would be photographed with it with Keller knowing it was mailed the same day.

Sure enough, on November 17, 2018, a color picture of Keller was on the front page of the printed Albuquerque Journal holding up a copy of the letter above the fold with a headline reading “BYD defends buses, rips criticisms; ART bus maker wants independent inspection, threatens legal action”.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1247449/byd-will-hire-independent-experts-to-examine-buses.html

The private attorneys Mayor Keller hired to represent the city in the dispute were not present at the November 13, 2018 press conference.

What is significant to note is that City Attorney Esteban Aguilar and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair, both who have experience as attorneys in private practice, did not participate in the November 13, 2018 Keller press conference.

The City Attorney’s office employees over 30 full time attorneys, it has at least one attorney assigned to Municipal Affairs or the Transit Department that oversaw the ART Bus project, yet Keller felt compelled to hire private attorneys to handle the dispute with no explanation given as to why.

Keller probably felt hiring private attorneys was necessary given the overall reputation of the City Attorney’s Office of settling cases too quickly, not defending cases adequately and the reluctance for the City Attorney’s office to go to trial.

Good examples of the City Attorney’s Office quickly settling cases include the $61 million paid out in settlements in police misconduct and deadly use of force cases over the last 9 years.

Both Aguilar and Nair should have told Mayor Tim Keller not to go forward with his press conference assuming they knew about it, because it is obvious from the content of the demand letter the city intends to initiate litigation.

The absence of the private attorneys hired by Keller, the City Attorney and the CAO makes one wonder if any of the attorneys were even invited to the press conference by Mayor Keller or if he sought their legal advice or counsel on whether the press conference was a good idea in the first place.

Keller violated the cardinal rule with his press conference that should never be broken by anyone who has hired an attorney.

When you hire an attorney, you keep your mouth shut so as not to complicate things, make matters worse with damaging “out of court statements” or admissions against your own interest that can be used against you in a court of law.

Once you hire an attorney, you must let your attorneys do all the talking, both in civil and criminal law matters, and you do not hold a press conference before an opposing party has had the opportunity to respond to demands being made by you in a written demand letter.

The November 13, 2018 Keller press conferences on the ART Bus project was nothing more than grand standing as well as invitation for a counterclaim for damages seeing as the bus manufacture had not even responded to the demand letter.

I suspect the bus manufacturer will now sue first or at the minimum, file a counterclaim against the city.

A silver lining to the likelihood of a lawsuit filed by BDY as a first strike or a counterclaim is that former Mayor Richard Berry, former Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan and former Transit Director Bruce Rizzeri will probably have to be named “necessary and proper partys” in that all 3 were involved with the selection of BDY and there is a need to determine what was represented to them, what they agreed to and what was expected of BYD.

The June 6, 2018, Albuquerque Inspector General (IG) report on the ART Bus Project makes it likely that Berry, Riordan and Rizzieri will be named party defendants.

As party defendants, the depositions of all 3 would be in order to find out what representations were made to them by BYD or what threats may have been made by them as city officials to get the busses up and running before Berry left office.

Just maybe, just maybe, Berry, Reardon and Rizzieri will be held accountable for the $135 million boondoggle and the cramming the Bus Art project down the throats of taxpayers without a public vote.

In the meantime, Mayor Keller needs to stop his periodic press conference status reports on the ART Bus project, stop making public comments on the project as the dispute winds its way through settlement discussions or the courts.

For a related blog article see “Civil Lawsuit On ART No Substitute For Criminal Investigation On Whole Project” at the below link:

Civil Lawsuit On ART No Substitute For Criminal Investigation On Whole Project

Kudos To Governor Elect Michelle Lujan Grisham On Transition Committees

On November 7, 2018, Governor Elect Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the appointment of former longtime United State Senator Jeff Bingaman as chairman of her transition team.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1243556/lujan-grisham-tabs-bingaman-to-head-up-transition-team.html

Bingaman’s appointment is an indication of just how serious Lujan-Grisham is about getting things done and her ability to attract people to move the State finally in the right direction.

I do not recall ever that a former United States Senator has ever come out of retirement to head a governor’s transition team and that position is usually reserved for someone that has worked on a campaign.

Senator Bingaman is known for his low-key approach and more importantly, getting things done that are in the best interest of New Mexico.

TRANSITION TEAMS

On November 15, 2018, Governor elected Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her appointed transition team committees.

Seven different committees were announced.

Each is tasked with reviewing the various state agencies by getting feedback from current state government workers.

The committees will then prepare written reports and provide recommendations to Lujan Grisham and her transition team.

The governor elect has appointed a former governor, a tribal leader, an ex-State Police chief, several city officials to review state agencies over the coming weeks.

Following are the announced transition team committees and the co-chairs:

EDUCATION COMMITTEE: Former Republican Gov. Garrey Carruthers and retired New Mexico State University president; the founder and CEO of Native American Community Academy Kara Bobroff; Councilman and former Santo Domingo Pueblo Gov. Everett Chavez.

PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE: Former State Police chief Robert Shilling and retired New Mexico National Guard Brig. Gen. Judy Griego.

ECONOMIC GROWTH COMMITTEE: Meow Wolf founder and CEO Vince Kadlubek and Red River Mayor Linda Calhoun.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES COMMITTEE: University of New Mexico pediatrics professor Andrew Hsi and New Mexico Appleseed Executive Director Jenny Ramo.

LABOR COMMITTEE: New Mexico Public Education Commission member Trish Ruiz and UNM African American Student Services Director W. Scott Carreathers.

NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE: New Mexico State Parks Deputy Director Toby Velasquez and Interwest Energy Alliance Executive Director Sarah Cottrell Propst.

GENERAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: Roswell city councilor Judy Stubbs and state Department of Transportation Port of Entry staff manager Jennifer Block.

Governor elect Lujan Grisham has also said she plans to move quickly to appoint cabinet secretaries to replace current secretaries and assemble a cabinet.

In announcing the transition committees, Transition Team Director Dominic Gabello had this to say:

“The transition team’s principal focus will be agency and state government review in their subject area, and preparation of a report with recommendations for the governor-elect. … However, the governor-elect will welcome any input from transition team members on possible personnel selection.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1246861/nm-governor-elect-forms-transition-team-panels.html

The Transition Team Committee has already set up a web page for people to apply for jobs and submit applications and resumes and it can be accessed here:

https://www.govelectlujangrisham.com/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Serving on any transition team for a Governor Elect is a big deal and is considered an honor.

Appointed members serve for free and are highly dedicated to making sure that they uncover any and all problems associated with the various agencies they review.

There is no doubt the transition teams have their work cut out for them over the next six weeks before January 1, 2019 when Governor Elect Michelle Lujan Grisham is sworn in.

After years of disastrous government and severe downsizing, there are more than the usual number of vacancies in State Government that need to be filled to get the new administration up and running.

It is likely the transition committees will also assist the Governor Elect in identifying new cabinet secretaries.

It would not be surprising if any one of the transition team committee members become cabinet secretaries.

There is no doubt that the transition committee members appointed are a clear reflection that New Mexico is about to swear in a new Governor who knows what she is doing, knows how to get things done and who knows state Government.

My only recommendation is that the secret office of the outgoing Governor’s top political consultant be swept for any and all surveillance devices before anyone moves into that office.

Best wishes and good luck Governor Elect Michelle Lujan Grisham as you begin your 8-year journey on January 1, 2019!

“New Approach” To Combat Nuisance Properties Nothing New At All

Channel 4 did an “investigative report” that was very weak and disappointing at best.

You can view it here:

https://www.kob.com/investigative-news/4-investigates-albuquerque-hotels-draw-hundreds-of-police-calls/5145408/?cat=500

The report was about the cities’ recent efforts to take civil code enforcement action against motels on central that have hundreds of calls for service for a variety of crimes, including auto thefts, assaults, domestic violence and violent crimes such as rape and murder.

It was reported that motels become “magnets for crime” and nuisance properties under the law and city ordinances.

The report featured Albuquerque City Council Pat Davis who talked about city ordinances and laws he has no real knowledge about.

Pat Davis said that for years, the city lacked a willingness to go after so-called nuisance properties.

Davis should know, he was part of the problem.

Those years the city lacked a willingness was from 2010 to 2017 under the previous Berry Administration, but Davis did not disclose that fact.

Davis went so far as saying there’s a “new approach” which makes hotel owners more accountable for crimes on their property.

No, Councilor Davis, it’s not a “new” approach, it was an approach that was abandoned, you know it and you should have disclosed it to Channel 4.

Davis went so far as to say:

“Neighbors are starting to demand we do more to address these problem properties and quite frankly we should. It’s not just the city fighting back, the court is willing to back us up … If you want a sort of scumbag motel in Albuquerque right now you look at what happened in the Sahara [hotel which is under a court order] and you realize that you could be next.”

Such bravado coming from a City Councilor who did absolutely nothing to help fund the Safe City Strike Force but voted repeatedly to fund the disastrous ART Bus project for millions and refusing to put it on the ballot.

SAFE CITY STRIKE FORCE

In 2002, the Safe City Strike Force was formed to combat blighted commercial and residential properties.

Thirty (30) to forty-five (40) representatives from the Albuquerque Police Department, the Albuquerque Fire Department, the Fire Marshal’s Office, the Planning Department Code residential and commercial code inspectors, Family Community Services and the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office participated comprised the strike force.

Seventy (70) to one hundred fifty (150) properties a week, both residential and commercial properties would be reviewed by the Strike Force.

The Safe City Strike Force would handle referrals from the general public, neighborhood associations, the Mayor and the Albuquerque City Council.

The Albuquerque City Council would be given weekly updates on the progress made in their districts on the nuisance properties found.

The Safe City Strike Force routinely prepared condemnation resolutions for enactment by the Albuquerque City Council to tear down substandard buildings.

Over a period of 8 years, the Safe City Strike Force took civil code enforcement and inspection action against some 6,500 properties, both commercial and residential.

CENTRAL MOTELS

From 2002 to 2009, the Safe City Strike Force took code enforcement action against 48 of the 150 motels along central and forced compliance with building codes and mandated repairs to the properties.

The City Attorney’s Office repeatedly sought assistance from the District Court to secure injunctive relief against nuisance properties.

The Strike Force would even go so far as to evict tenants when conditions existed that endangered their health and wellbeing, such as leaking gas lines and open sewers.

The City would provide vouchers for temporary housing when there was an eviction.

The Central motels that were demolished were not designated historical and were beyond repair as a result of years of neglect and failure to maintain and make improvements.

The Central motels that the Safe City Strike Force took action against include:

The Gaslight Motel (demolished)
The Zia Motel (demolished)
The Royal Inn (demolished)
Route 66 (demolished)
The Aztec Motel (demolished)
The Hacienda
Cibola Court
Super-8 (renovated by owner)
The Travel Inn (renovated by owner),
Nob Hill Motel (renovated by owner)
The Premier Motel (renovated by owner)
The De Anza (purchased by City for historical significance)
The No Name
The Canyon Road (demolished)
The Hilltop Lodge
American Inn (demolished)
The El Vado (purchased by City for historical significance and now renovated and reopened)
The Interstate Inn (demolished).

The Safe City Strike Force was responsible for the demolition of at least seven (7) blighted motels that were beyond repair.

VIOLENT BARS

The Safe City Strike Force took action against violent bars on Central that were magnets for crime.

Many Central bars have hundreds of calls for service a year placing a drain on law enforcement resources.

A few of the bars located on or near Central that were closed or torn down by the Safe City Strike Force include the Blue Spruce Bar, Rusty’s Cork and Bottle, the Last Chance Bar and Grill and Club 7.

The Safe City Strike Force closed Club 7 and the owner was convicted of commercial code violations.

CONVENIENCE STORES

The Safe City Strike Force took enforcement action against a number of convenience stores on Central that had substantial calls for service to APD.

In 2005, The Safe City Strike Force identified convenience stores that had an unacceptable number of “calls for service” which resulted in the convenience stores being considered a public nuisance by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).

Outdoor phones at the convenience stores used for illicit drug transactions were identified.

APD felt the convenience stores were relying upon APD to provide security at taxpayer’s expense rather than hiring their own private security company.

In 2005, as Director of the Safe City Strike Force, I was able to negotiate a stipulated settlement agreement with three major convenience store corporate owners of seventeen (17) convenience stores throughout Albuquerque and they agreed to pay for private security patrols.

FLEA MARKETS

The Safe City Strike Force was responsible for the closure of Louie’s Flea Market and the Star Flea Market, two Westside flea markets both on Old Coors Road South of Central.
Area residents felt the flea markets brought down property values.

Both flea markets had been around for decades and caused extreme traffic congestion on weekends they operated causing problems for the established or developing residential areas.

Both flea markets were found by the Albuquerque Police Department to be locations where stolen property was being sold and both had an excessive number of calls for service.

HOARDERS

Some of the most tragic and heartbreaking cases that the Safe City Strike Force dealt with involved “hoarders”.

Hoarding is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by excessive acquisition and an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects or animals that cover the entire living areas or exterior of a home or property.

The Strike Force dealt with approximately 10 cases of hoarders.

One hoarder involved an elderly woman who was housing over 60 cats in her 1,200 square foot, three bedrooms home.

The home was not fit to be lived in as a result of contamination by the animals and walls had to be removed down to the studs to remediate the contamination.

Dead cats were found in her freezer.

The City removed the cats, cleaned up the property and placed a $40,000 lien on the home for the cleanup of the contamination.

Another hoarder had accumulated an extensive amount of items in his front and backyards to the extent that the area had become rat infested and the City forced a cleanup of the area.

KELLER COMMITMENT TO REINSTATE SAFE CITY STRIKE FORCE

Mayor Tim Keller made a firm commitment to reinstate the Safe City Strike Force when he requested $3.9 million for the city’s Code Enforcement Department and the Safe City Strike Force in the adopted 2018-2019 budget.

$ 1.5 million in additional public safety spending was added by the city council.

The Safe City Strike Force and the Planning Department received a funding bump up to $425,000.

$125,000 has been allocate to hire two additional code enforcement specialists.

$300,000 has been allocated to secure or demolish neglected structures.

The $300,000 for board ups of blighted properties is a good start, but significantly more will be needed to address the approximate 3,500 substandard properties throughout Albuquerque.

In 2009, the Safe City Strike Force had upwards of $1 million dollars consisting of federal grants and city council allocations.

COMMENTARY

Channel 4 needs to be far more diligent when it does investigative reports in getting to the truth of things rather than believing someone like Pat Davis who has been part of the problem and who has little credibility with his own constituents.

It is the Keller Administration that needs to be asked what efforts are being made now to combat blighted, slumlord properties, not a City Counselor who seeks publicity and who has no idea what he is talking about.

An “EPIC” Program To Reduce APD’s Use Of Force, Deadly Force

On Saturday, November 12, 2018, the City of Albuquerque hosted a Town Hall meeting to report on the progress of reforms at the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) under the Court Approved Settlement (CASA) with the U.S. Department of Justice.

A highly diverse audience with about 200 people attended the town hall meeting.

Most if not all the stakeholders in the federal lawsuit were present as well as community police oversight activists and community policing counsels.

Albuquerque City Counselor Cynthia Borrego was the only City Councilor out of 9 who attended the town hall meeting.

What was very disappointing is that Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez was nowhere to be seen, even though his office is working through a significant back log of 30 plus APD police officer involved shootings to determine if police officers will be criminally charged in deadly use of force cases.

Mayor Tim Keller had a few opening remarks but the main speakers were Independent Federal Monitor James Ginger, New Mexico United State Attorney John Anderson, APD Chief Michael Geier, along with 4 others that spoke on specific APD programs.

Albuquerque is one of 18 law enforcement agencies throughout the country operating under a consent decree brought on by a DOJ investigation that found systemic problems.

In APD’s case, the DOJ found a “culture of aggression” within APD after reviewing as many as 18 “deadly use of force cases” and other cases of “excessive use of force” cases.

The City of Albuquerque has paid out $61 million in settlements over the last 9 years involving 41 police officer involved shootings.

The implementation of reforms under the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) began in 2014 after a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found a “pattern and practice of excessive force” and a “culture of aggression” within the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).

FEDERAL COURT MONITOR’S TOWN HALL PRESENTATION

During the townhall meeting Independent Federal Monitor James Ginger took front and center and summarized what is in his 8th report to the federal Court overseeing the reform process.

Since the reform project was launched in 2014, Ginger said APD’s new written policies are 99% compliant with the settlement agreement, and training on those policies is 75% compliant.

Operational Compliance is where sworn officers abide by the terms of the CASA agreement and if they fail to, supervisors note and correct the behavior.

The monitoring team found APD’s operational compliance is at 59%.

Ginger told the town hall audience that since the last report from November, 2017, APD policy compliance rose 5%, training compliance 9% and operational compliance 12%.

Ginger summarized the progress made by APD as follows:

“APD, in the last year, has made substantially more progress than just about any agency I’m familiar with, so my hat goes off to APD. … That is massive in one period. It reflects the work that Chief Geier and his people have done over the past few weeks and over the past few months, … We’re on the cusp … We’re closer almost every day [to achieving the reforms under the CASA].”

You can read the entire 239-page monitor’s report here:

https://www.justice.gov/usao-nm/page/file/1107721/download

During the town hall meeting 4 presentations were made by APD giving a rundown of the changes being made in “four key areas”:

1. Behavioral health
2. Use of force
3. Community engagement
4. The EPIC program aimed at improving police officer conduct to diffuse use of force incidents with police officers intervening on how another police officer is handling an incident.

It was the EPIC program presentation that received immediate attention of the audience.

The EPIC presentation received spontaneous applause on at least 4 occasions from the audience of community activists.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1245266/town-hall-celebrates-apds-implementation-of-reforms.html

APD’S EPIC PROGRAM

The acronym “EPIC” stands for Ethical Policing Is Courageous.

The EPIC program originated in the city of New Orleans’ Police Department, which like APD, is under a federal consent decree for civil rights violations.

EPIC aims to stem police officer misconduct and use of force and deadly force by police officers.

The program uses “hands-on scenarios” and role-playing enactments and demonstrations to teach police officers on how to defuse calls for service that start escalating and that could easily result in the use of excessive force or deadly force.

EPIC focuses on proactively preventing uses of force, rather than just punishing officers when damage is already done, including the killing of a suspect.

The primary purpose of the EPIC program is to provide police officers with effective and proper training to learn just how and when to intervene when they themselves see other police officer misconduct.

The EPIC program is designed to show police officers how to recognize problematic behavior in fellow officers that may trigger a fellow officer to engage in misconduct.

APD Lt. George Vega is in charge APD’s EPIC Program.

APD Lt. Vega is a 20-year veteran of APD and he is a native of Albuquerque.

Lt. Vega has been working on the EPIC program since May, 2018 and has traveled to the City New Orleans spending time to see firsthand how the program works.

Lt. Vegas has selected a well-seasoned and experienced management and training team including police officers dealing with crisis intervention.

APD Lt. George Vega explained that EPIC trains officers on how to intervene when they witness a fellow officer’s misconduct and to recognize problematic behaviors beforehand.

According to Lt. Vega, officers go through 8 hours of “peer intervention” training.

The peer intervention training includes 6 hours in a classroom and 2 hours that is scenario based.

Each officer is given a pin after the training to display on their uniform that they have been through EPIC training.

Lt. Vega told the town hall audience:

“EPIC involves each officer giving permission to their fellow officer to intervene when they are about to do something that could harm themselves, others, tarnish our profession and tarnish our community. …”

APD Chief Michael Geier has ordered the entire APD department to get the EPIC training and it started with all APD supervisors.

In a Channel 4 news report, Chief Geier had this to say about the EPIC program:

“We, all of us, buy into it – from myself down … And we could be ‘EPIC’d’ by an officer if we’re out of line, too. It’s looking out for one another, and again, how we treat the community depends on our own attitudes. … If we can prevent some of our own misconduct periodically and salvage some officers’ careers because just one mistake can [ruin their career]”.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/albuquerque-new-orleans-police-apd-nopd-epic-ethics-training/4923376/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

What was exceptionally noteworthy is that New Mexico United States Attorney John C. Anderson attended the town hall meeting.

US Attorney Anderson brought with him a Deputy Assistant United States Attorney out of the Washington D.C. who works in the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to discuss the history of the case.

With the firing of United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Trump administration previously signaling efforts to scale back consent decrees for police misconduct investigations, it was extremely important for the people of Albuquerque to see New Mexico US Attorney Anderson attend the town hall meeting.

United States Attorney John C. Anderson affirmed his office’s as well as the United States Justice Department’s commitment to the DOJ reforms and implementation of all the mandated reforms under the CASA.

The major goal of the Department of Justice consent decree is to correct a pattern of the use of “deadly force” and “excessive force” and to eliminate the culture of aggression.

The use of deadly force and excessive use of force policies with training is the primary purpose of the CASA settlement and it is where “the rubber hits the road” and the EPIC training program can accomplish that purpose.

The EPIC program is designed to show police officers how to recognize problematic behavior in fellow police officers they work with that may trigger a fellow officer to engage in misconduct and to actually intervene when they themselves see other police officer misconduct.

APD’s EPIC program offers real hope that indicates APD and its command staff have finally accepted the DOJ reforms and that real progress can be made in reducing use of force and deadly force that lead to the “culture of aggression.”

According to New Orleans Police Academy Instructor Roderic Carey:

“[EPIC] training has transformed [ the New Orleans Police Department] in regards to a culture shift … We have less complaints, now about 47% due to the EPIC program. … The subject is being irate with the officer, may also get frustrated and want to go hands-on with that subject. But another officer may intervene and say ‘Hold on. Just take a minute. Step away and I’ll talk to that subject. …”