City Hall “Bean Counter’s” Need To Avoid $24.7 Million Wish Lists

On April 1, 2019, the Keller Administration will be submitting its second city budget for review and approval by the City Council after conducting budget hearings.

The Keller Administration is already working on the proposed budget.

According to one official, the work also includes a “wish list” of appropriations.

The 2019-2020 fiscal year begins on July 1, 2019.

By law, the city council must enact a balance budget each year and deficit spending is illegal.

According to a City Hall economic forecast, Albuquerque City Hall could face a $20 million deficit next year.

A city economist anticipates that the causes of the deficit will be higher spending on employee medical benefits, salaries and Police Department staffing and new costs associated with operating projects like the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1271235/abqs-economic-forecast-projects-20-million-deficit-in-2020.html

The Keller Administration Office of Budget and Management projects $622.7 million in general fund spending for fiscal year 2019 – 2020, up by $31 million from last year, or 5.2% increase in spending.

City hall is claiming there will be at least a $20 million shortfall in 2020 because of the following reasons:

1. $6.3 million is needed in capital implementation projects coming online over the course of the year
2. $1.2 million is needed for streetlight maintenance and signage
3. $1.2 million is needed for the ART bus line, even though the city is waiting for buses
4. $900,000 is needed for new expanded roadways
5. $442,220 is needed for the International District Library
6. $6.9 million is needed for employee medical benefits
7. $4 million is needed to fund a 2% raise for city workers
8. $4.7 million is needed to boost the Albuquerque Police Department’s officer ranks

TOTAL: $24.74 Million

City Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta said in an Albuquerque Journal interview he was not overly concerned about the projected shortfall partly because the spending built into the forecast is more of what he called a “wish list” than reality.

Bhakta when asked if the administration was considering another gross receipt tax increase this year, his response was: “That’s a big no.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

This is the very type of story that weaken Mayor Tim Keller’s and the City Council’s credibility.

This is the very type of story that make voters become hostile towards government officials not making sure government is working within its means.

Budgeting $1.2 million for the ART bus line is laughable at best when by the Administration’s own admission no buses will be delivered for at least over a full 18 months with an empty bus route and unused bus stations.

Saying $4.7 million is needed to boost the Albuquerque Police Department’s officer ranks is just as laughable when the city has funded 1,040 cops but is projected to only employ 980 by July, so where has the unspent money gone for the 60 shortfall of cops not hired?

Asking for $6.3 million in capital implementation projects makes no mention when the projects will actually be completed and online and it is likely most of those projects are at the Rio Grande Zoo where the source of that funding should be the $250 million in revenues generated by the “Bio Park” gross receipts tax enacted by voters in 2015.

Last year at this time, it was reported that the city projected a $40 million shortfall for 2019.

Among the contributing factors last year to the deficit was the Albuquerque Police Department exceeding its overtime budget by $4 million by going from $9 million to $13 million and the excessive judgements paid out in APD deadly use of force cases such as the $5 million settlement paid in the Mary Hawkes case.

The city economist saying that the causes of the $20 million deficit will be higher spending on employee medical benefits, salaries and Police Department staffing and new costs associated with operating projects are the identical causes used last year as the causes of a $40 million deficit to justify raising the gross receipts tax last year.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/02/24/city-halls-golden-oldie-of-raising-taxes-broken-record/

In response to the projected deficit, the City Council approved raising the gross receipts tax by three-eighths of a percentage point.

The gross receipts tax increase bolstered the city’s income by an estimated $50.3 million this year and $57.3 million in 2020.

Keller signed the tax increase going against his 2018 campaign promise he made just months earlier to get elected of putting any tax increase on the ballot for voter approval.

Mayor Keller and the City Council need to articulate in clear and in no uncertain terms that there is no need for any further gross receipts tax increases.

Both Mayor Keller and the City Council need to insure that a balance budget will be adopted even if budget cuts have to be implemented and their “wish lists” are set aside.

City budgets need to based on the hard reality of income, not wishful thinking.

NM & ABQ Murder Rates; Training Key To APD’s Poor Clearance Rate

On January 10, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal reported that “NM Once Again No. 1 In Fatal Police Shootings”.

Following are excerpts from the lengthy article worth noting:

“For the fourth year in a row, New Mexico placed either first or second in the nation for its rate of deadly shootings by law enforcement officers, according to the Fatal Force database created by The Washington Post.

In 2018, New Mexico ranked first in the nation, finishing the year with 20 fatal shootings by police officers around the state, a rate of 9.59 per 1 million people.

Alaska – with 7 total fatal police shootings – was a close second, with a rate of 9.5 fatal police shootings per 1 million people. Connecticut had the smallest number of fatal police shootings – 0.

Over the past four years – dating back to 2015, when the Post began keeping a database of fatal police shootings – New Mexico has either been first or second in the nation, with a rate between nine and 11 people killed per million.

In 2017, the state came in as No. 2, behind Alaska, but it was first in the nation in 2016. In 2015 New Mexico was in second place, behind Wyoming.

A total of 995 fatal police shootings were reported across the country in 2018, according to The Washington Post. The numbers have changed little over the past four years.

Maj. Tim Johnson, head of the New Mexico State Police investigations bureau, said he believes the high rates of crime here have a lot to do with it. For the past several years, New Mexico has experienced increases in violent and property crime, and it was first or second for crime rates in 2016 and 2017.

“The public becomes alarmed, and they have an expectation on their servants – law enforcement – to figure out ways to slow that down,” Johnson said. “As we attempt to slow that down by effecting an arrest or serving a warrant, investigating cases, we are coming into contact with violent people on a more regular basis than we have in the past.”

More than half of the police shootings in the state occurred in larger cities last year.

The Washington Post began tracking police shootings around the country after the high-profile death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. The team gathers data – including details about each killing – from local news reports, law enforcement agency websites, social media and independent databases and then does additional reporting in many cases.”

You can read the lengthy Albuquerque Journal article here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1266910/nm-ranks-no-1-for-fatal-police-shootings.html

STATE AND CITY CRIME STATISTICS

On Monday, September 24, 2018 the FBI released its “Crime in the United States” report providing the statistics on all the crimes reportedly committed in Albuquerque and New Mexico in 2017.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1224917/fbi-abq-crime-rate-up-in-2017.html

Since 2010, violent felony crime rates and property crime rates have steadily increased in Albuquerque and in New Mexico.

According to the FBI report, the increase in crime in both New Mexico and Albuquerque continued in 2017.

CRIME RATE STATISTICS FOR 2016 AND 2017

Statewide New Mexico, violent crime rates rose by 12 percent and property crime rates were up by 0.5 percent in 2017.

The FBI reported that New Mexico had 16,359 violent crimes reported and 82,306 property crimes reported in 2017.

All the statistics for New Mexico and Albuquerque are in sharp contrast with national trends that crime is going down in the United States as a whole.

According to the FBI report summary, in 2015 and 2016, violent crime had been increasing across the United States but in 2017, violent crime decreased 0.2% with the overall rate falling 0.9% percent.

In the United States as a whole, the property crime rates dropped for the 15th straight year, decreasing by 3% across the country.

Nationally, the crime rate is 383 violent offenses per 100,000 residents and 2,362 property crimes per 100,000 residents.

Albuquerque’s violent crime and property crime rates are more than triple the national crime rates.

ABQ’S PROPERTY CRIME DOWN, NON-FATAL SHOOTINGS UP

On December 27, 2018, Albuquerque’s crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 were released.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1261926/apd-release-crime-stats-for-2018.html

Albuquerque had its very first decrease in overall crime in 8 years in 2018.

Review of the city’s crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 show the largest decreases in the property crimes of auto burglary (-29%), auto theft (-31%), commercial burglary (-17 percent) and residential burglary (-18%) and robbery fell by 36%.

Despite the decline in property crime rates, non-fatal shootings increased by 5% as follows:

2017: 470 (First 6 months: 60)
2018: 491 (First 6 months: 63)
Change: +4 (First 6 months: +5.0%)

Aggravated assaults under the law are assaults with deadly weapons.

In 2017, there were 4,213 aggravated assaults reported in the city and in 2018, there were 3,885 aggravated assaults representing an 8% decline.

The number of homicides in the city the last 2 years, although down, were still high as follows:

2017: 75 (First 6 months: 33)
2018: 66 (First 6 months:39)
Change: -10% (First 6 months -18.2%)

In March of 2018, 5 homicides were reported in six days.

Although Albuquerque’s 2018 crime statistics show a decline in property crime rates in Albuquerque, a one-year decline does not make a trend.

Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research and Evaluation Center of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, warns that Albuquerque police and local leaders should be cautious and not take the decreases in crime for granted when he said:

“A one-year trend, it’s not actionable. There’s no policy relevance to that … The numbers, they fluctuate, and the only thing you can do is interpret trends over time. Five years in a row of decreases, or increases, is something to pay attention to [ as evidence crime is going down in a community].”

ABQ’s MURDER RATE

In 2017, the city broke the all-time homicide rate of 70 with 72 murders and this year in 2018 there were 66 murders.

In December, 2018, 2 police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours.

In 2018, nonfatal shootings went up 4% from 470 to 491 shootings.

There were 6 more murders in the first quarter of 2018 compared with 2017 which was a 50% increase.

Non-fatal shootings for the first quarter of 2018 had a 0% change from 2017, but increased by +5% for the first half of 2018.

A total of 66 homicides occurred in Albuquerque in 2018.

In March of 2018, 5 homicides were reported in just six days.

In December, 2018, 2 police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours.

In 2018, 45 of the killings, or 68% of the homicides, were from gun violence.

The 66 homicides in 2018 were a 12% decrease from 2017’s 75 homicides, but that number is still 8% higher than 2016 where 61 homicides were reported.

The 2018 year-end, although down, is still one of the highest in recent history and does not include the seven fatal shootings by police.

The 2018 figure also does it include the nine that were determined to be justifiable homicides, which is nearly doubled from 2017.

Although Albuquerque recorded its first drop in homicides in 2018, it still followed a dramatic spike in homicides over the previous 3 years.

Albuquerque finished 2018 with a homicide rate of 11.82 per 100,000 people.

In comparison, Tucson, Arizona with around 20,000 fewer people, tallied 53 homicides in 2018 for a rate of 8.78 per 100,000.

El Paso, Texas, with around 130,000 more people, had 17 homicides for a rate of 2.46 per 100,000.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1270978/abq-area-homicides-down-slightly-but-concerns-remain.html

CITY BEGINS 2019 EXPERIENCING MAYHEM AND MURDER

The January 17, 2019 front page Albuquerque Journal headline said it all:

“Albuquerque police deal with a day of mayhem”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1269426/albuquerque-police-deal-with-a-day-of-mayhem.html

Since the beginning of the New Year and during the first 16 days of January, 2019 there were 6 persons killed including 3 that involved domestic violence cases.

On January 16, 2019, it was reported that an 11-day old infant was found dead at a detox center, a woman died from domestic violence on the city’s west side and two men were killed, one shot and killed in broad daylight near Old Town.

APD HOMICIDE UNIT HAS HISTORY OF BOTCHED INVESTIGATIONS

According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%, in 2017 the clearance rate was 70% and the clearance rate for 2018 was 56%.

In the past few years, it has been reported that the APD Homicide Unit has botched any number of high-profile murder investigations.

The APD Homicide Unit has compiled a history of not doing complete investigations, misleading the public, feeding confessions to people with low IQs, getting investigations completely wrong and even arresting innocent people.

For more on APD’s high profile murder cases see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/07/02/abq-report-apd-homicide-units-legacy-of-shame/

The most egregious was the murder investigation of 10-year-old Victoria Martens who was murdered, dismembered and whose body was burned in a bathtub.

The initial APD Homicide alleged that it was Jessica Kelley that stabbed 9-year-old Victoria Martens and that Fabian Gonzales strangled her while Michelle Martens, the child’s mother, watched the murder.

It was later revealed that Jessica Kelley did not murder the child.

Michelle Martens falsely admitted to committing the crimes when forensic evidence revealed she and her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales were not even in the apartment at the time of the murder, they did not participate in the murder and that there is an unidentified 4th suspect in the case the committed the murder.

A CAREER PATH TO BECOME HOMICIDE DETECTIVE

During the July 12, 2018 regular meeting of the City’s Police Oversight Board, APD Chief Michael Geier made a presentation regarding the practices and methods used to hire and train APD Homicide Detectives.

Chief Geier made the stunning admission that has been believed to be true for years by outside observers of the Albuquerque Police Department:

“In the past, I regret to say this, but sometimes if you’re friends with someone that’s served in units, you have an inside track.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/police-oversight-board-grills-apds-top-brass/4987335/?cat=500

Outsider observers would call the Chief’s comments the admission of a “good ol’ boy” system for transfers and promotions.

To his credit, APD Chief Geier told the Police Oversight Board that he was establishing a career path of training to become a homicide detective.

According to Geier, the ultimate goal is to implement a process for a more formal and structured, definitive career path for APD Detectives.

A career path approach will require officers to take “prerequisites” and training courses before they can even apply to be a detective.

According to APD Chief Geier:

“The idea is not to just take people out of the blue and place them in these assignments, we want to prepare them so they are well trained and not an expedited process, but one that they’ve earned. … We want to build their skill set from the first time they become a detective to when they leave their career and retire. … So hopefully it’s a lifetime path so that they don’t lose that experience and we have a better chance at serving [the] public. … This is the plan for the future. … The goal is that we build a quality career path.”

After more than six months, APD Chief Geier has yet to announce what progress he has made in establishing a career path to become an APD Homicide Detective.

As a result of the increase in homicides and the number of unsolved murder cases pending, the Homicide Unit has been increased from 5 full time detectives to 10 full time detectives.

Confidential sources report that APD is in the final stages of hiring someone in the private sector with past extensive law enforcement experience on a contract to train the homicide unit in an effort to address APD’s low clearance rate.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Although it is disturbing that New Mexico is ranked number one nationally again in police officer shootings, it should not come as any surprise given the state and city high crime rates.

Murder rates and violent crime rates should never be confused.

Violent crime rates involve any number of types of violent crimes including armed robbery (residential and commercial), aggravated assaults, aggravated batteries, rape and domestic violence with victims surviving.

Homicides involve just one category: a dead victim.

What also should come as no surprise is that of the 20 police officer involved killings in 2018, 9 people were killed in Albuquerque, 3 people in Las Cruces, and the rest in small towns and cities around the state.

There is far more crime in the larger cities of Albuquerque and Las Cruces than “small town” New Mexico.

The reduction in Albuquerque’s crime rates should have a ripple effect on reducing police officer involved shootings, especially with the Department of Justice reforms placing an emphasis in “de-escalation tactics” and crisis intervention methods, but it is still going to take time.

Notwithstanding the reduction in most categories of crime in 2018 for the first time in 9 years, a one-year decline does not make a trend.

Albuquerque is still way too violent for a city the size of Albuquerque.

Given the violent crime statistics for 2018 and with the way the New Year 2019 has started, it is more likely than not that New Mexico will once again wind up being number one again in fatal police shootings and continued high homicide rates and a low APD clearance rate.

APD finally getting around to hiring and outside expert to teach and train homicide investigation techniques cannot come soon enough, not when the unit has a 56% clearance rate.

Vote YES To Insure Safe And Functional APS School Buildings

Sara Attleson has been an educator in for 42 years and with the Albuquerque Public School System (APS) for 35 years.

Below is a guest column from Sarah Attleson solicited by this blog regarding the February 5, 2019 APS mail ballot initiative for funding for the refurbishment, remodeling and replacement of APS schools:

“Voting is currently underway for the Albuquerque Public Schools Special All-Mail Ballot Election for Mill Levies and Bond.

The Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF) has endorsed a YES vote for this election. The union knows that public education is the cornerstone of a democracy and it knows that the working conditions of teachers are their students’ learning conditions.

The Central Labor Council has also passed a motion which supports a YES vote for public education. The Carpenters Union Local 1319 supports the bond election and knows that a YES vote can help turn bonds into buildings, buildings into training, and provide construction careers. Labor strongly supports a Vote YES for public education.

As in any campaign, voters are exposed to real facts as well as manufactured “facts” and it is critical to have informed voters in this election. One fact is that the average age of an APS school is 50 years old and a Vote Yes will mean that necessary repairs and improvements can be made.

Students throughout the district are out in their neighborhoods talking to voters on what a YES vote would mean to them. They are counting on voters to do the right thing and show that they support safe and comfortable learning environments. When voters say they support students and a NO vote, they are really saying that they are voting against resources which students need in order to compete in a global marketplace.

Former governor, Susana Martinez was never a fan of APS. The Board and superintendent pushed back on her punitive policies and her supporters are spreading incorrect information so that she gets a last attack on APS administrators. Part of her supporters’ false message is that the administration of APS is top-heavy.

APS is the 40th largest district in the country and a recent audit shows that actually is not the case. The incorrect information continues by stating that money will go to administrators only and never reach the classroom. This is a blatant myth and a vote NO based on this misinformation is simply an excuse to vote against public education.

A vote YES on all three questions would raise $900 million over six years.

The first question is asking a public-school capital improvements tax of two dollars per thousand dollars of taxable value.

The second question is asking to tax of $4.83 per thousand dollars of taxable value on residential property and $5.34 per thousand dollars on taxable value on non-residential property.

The third question is a $200 million-dollar general obligation bond authorization.

Those who oppose public education are turning the actual figures into false numbers. They are claiming that seniors will lose their homes and others are going to have to take out a loan to pay for the tax increase. This is ridiculously false. The average person will pay $100 a year. That is a small price to pay so that students are safe and are in a comfortable environment with needed resources.

The last time that APS asked the voters to vote on a Bond was in 2006. During this time 152 projects were completed. In most places this is called responsible administration. The repairs, remodeling, and rebuilding are in all areas of the district. It is not true that areas such as the South Valley are ignored. This is just another worn-out myth.

A vote YES will make sure that students have not only safe and functional buildings but also access to musical instruments, library books, technology, science kits, art equipment and classroom furniture. These are not luxuries but are essential to teaching and learning. I know this because I am a teacher-librarian in an APS school.

My colleagues and I are voting YES for our students and our profession.

I have joined my fellow ATF members in a campaign to get out the YES votes.

We are in these buildings every day and we know first-hand how critical a vote YES is to keep our schools standing and functioning.

We know the difference between the actual facts and those manufactured ones.

We know that a vote YES is a vote for public education and we know that public education is the cornerstone of our democracy.”

Sincerely yours,

Sara Attleson
APS School Liberian
Albuquerque Teachers Federation

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Attleson has been an educator in for 42 years.

She studied Library Science at University of Southern California.

Ms. Attleson has had remarkable 35 career with the Albuquerque Public Schools, where she has been a school librarian.

Sarah has also been a teacher’s union member for 42 years.

Currently, Sarah is Chair of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation Committee on Political Education.

Ms. Attleson is the Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers and the New Mexico Committee on Political Education.

Ms. Attelson is currently serving as the Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico Labor Caucus.

There is no doubt Sarah Attelson is a dedicated and hardworking APS school employee who has the priority of making sure our kids get a quality education

For a related blog article and further analysis and commentary on the APS mail in ballot initiative see:

Vote YES On APS Property Tax Levy And Bonds To Rebuild Deteriorating Schools

Vote YES On APS Property Tax Levy And Bonds To Rebuild Deteriorating Schools

Albuquerque Public School (APS) System is conducting a bonding and property tax levy election for the renovation, refurbishment and construction of new schools to replace old schools.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1243802/aps-will-ask-voters-for-property-tax-increase.html

APS is seeking a 2-mill levy property tax rate increase and a bond initiative.

The money generated is budgeted for 34 specific construction projects.

The election is being conducted by “mail in ballot” overseen by the Bernalillo County Clerk with ballots mailed to all Bernalillo County registered voters.

All ballots must be returned to the Bernalillo County Clerk before Tuesday, February 5, 2019, or they will not be counted.

APS IN A NUTSHELL

Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is New Mexico’s largest school district, serving more than a fourth of the state’s students and nearly 84,000 students.

The ethnicity of the APS 84,000 students is:
65.8% Hispanic
22.9% Caucasian/White
5.5% American Indian
3.2% African American
2.3% Asian American
0.2% are “other”

Of the 84,000 APS students 16.6% are classified as “English Learners”, 17.2% are classified as “Students with Disabilities”, and 5.9% are in gifted programs

There are 29 APS authorized charter schools with 7,100 students attending the charter schools.

APS is among the top 40 largest school districts in the nation and the largest in New Mexico.

APS operates 142 schools consisting of 4 K-8 schools, 88 elementary schools (K through 8th grade), 27 middle schools (6-8 th grade), 21 high schools (9th to 12th grade) and 2 alternative schools.

APS students live in the city of Albuquerque and the towns of Corrales, Los Ranchos and the counties of Bernalillo and Sandoval, and the pueblos of Isleta and Laguna.

APS serves many students in need with nearly two-thirds qualifying for the federal school meals program.

APS employs 14,000 total employees consisting of 12,000 full time employees, 6,063 teachers and librarians and 1,800 teacher aides.

The school district serves 29,000 breakfast per school day and 41,000 lunches per school day.

APS has an approved 2018-2018 approved budget of $1.38 Billion.

THE APS PROPERTY TAX MILL AND BOND QUESTIONS

The 2-mill levy property tax rate increase and a bond initiative, should they be approved by voters, will generate over $900 million over the next 6 years for construction projects.

The passage of two of the measures will entail a property tax increase of 4.7% on homes, real estate and commercial property.

In dollars and cents, a 2-mill levy means someone with a home valued at $100,000 will see an annual increase of $67 in property taxes, a home valued at $150,000 will have an annual tax increase of $100, and for a home valued at $220,000, the median home value in the city, it will be a $147 annual increase in property taxes.

There has not been an APS tax rate increase since 2006, a full 12 years and well before the recession.

The “mail-in ballot” has three ballot questions or initiatives, one on the front of the ballot and two on the back of the ballot.

The FIRST ballot initiative on the front of the ballot is entitled “THE PUBLIC-SCHOOL CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS TAX QUESTION”. This initiative involves money earmarked for maintenance of existing facilities and this question is a continuation of the current tax rate. The current tax rate is at the end of its six-year cycle, and continued funding is needed to maintain APS current facilities. This money protects the public’s investment in public schools.

The SECOND ballot initiative is on the back of the ballot to the left and is entitled “THE PUBLIC-SCHOOL BUILDING TAX QUESTION”. This initiative involves money to be used to create new facilities as well as purchase needed equipment and technology. APS is asking the voter to consider a $1 per $1,000 of assessed value increase to their taxes. This question is a little confusing as it asks permission to raise taxes to $4.83 per $1,000 with people wrongly assuming this is a $4.83 increase, but the current rate is $3.83, so it is only a $1 increase.

The THIRD ballot initiative is also on the back of the ballot and on the right upper side and is entitled “GENERAL OBLIGATION BOND QUESTION”: This initiative asks voters for permission to sell an additional $200 million in General Obligation Bonds. These bonds can be used solely for capital and equipment for the district and it does increase property taxes by $1 per $1,000 for repayment of the debt.

For a sample ballot, go to https://www.bernco.gov/uploads/files/Clerk/APS-Feb-05-2019%20Sample%20Ballot.pdf

For further instructions on the ballot see Postscript below.

WHAT IS BEING SOUGHT

The total increase for all three questions is $2 per $1,000, or 4.7% of a total property tax rate.

The first initiative seeks $190 million for continuing maintenance of the public schools and keeps the tax rate as it is.

The other two initiatives seek $510 million and $200 million for construction and instructional equipment, and would increase the APS mill tax rate.

If voters approve the first initiative, property tax rates will stay the same and APS will continue to receive approximately the same amount it has been receiving for maintenance, repairs, remodels, equipment, furnishings and like projects.

Because APS schools and facilities are deteriorating from use, the other two ballot initiatives would cover the costs of rebuilding.

There is no question that many of the aging schools need replacing.

APS is asking voters for funding for 34 projects costing a total of $900 MILLION that are deemed needed throughout the entire largest school district in New Mexico.

A total of 31 of the 34 projects consist of renovating, repairing and replacing aging schools, including 16 elementary schools, 12 middle schools and 3 high schools.

There are targeted capital dollars to provide funding to finish up major rebuilds and upgrades to 23 school campuses.

The capital monies will also provide start-up monies for 11 additional renovation projects targeting aging campuses in historic neighborhoods, like La Mesa Elementary School.

The remaining 3 projects are $20 million for school security upgrades, one project is $1.8 million for long overdue Information Technology (IT) upgrades, and one project is $1.5 million for infrastructure and American With Disabilities Act renovations.

The $20 million for much needed school security upgrades is in response to APS needing to upgrade safety measures in response to the rash of incidences of gun violence on school grounds across the country, including New Mexico.

The $20 million in security funding will provide for new locks for every classroom, security vestibule entrances, upgraded camera security with a district-wide central monitoring center, and build protective perimeter fencing for school campuses.

The IT upgrading technology is for both students and teachers and is necessary to stay competitive education wise in a fast evolving, high-tech world.

Speaking in favor of passage of all three ballot initiatives, APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy said:

“We are trying to keep those buildings up and provide the best learning environment for our students.”

CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

The APS Public School System receives very little funding from the State of New Mexico for school construction and must fund, build and maintain all of its school facilities.

The construction projects are divided into two major categories:

A) Projects already designed and to be to be constructed and
B) New “Design & Construction Projects” to begin with construction funds from the 2022 School Bond Elections.

A. The following major APS projects are already designed and to be to be constructed with the passage of all the initiatives:

Jackson Middle School: Construction of Next 2 phases (PE and Classrooms and Administration) $9.4 million

Turf Fields (District): District-wide High School, Middle School and Elementary School, $3 million

School Police Command Center (District): Command Center Construction, $2.3 million

Student Ancillary Support (District): IT & District Support Consolidation, $1.8 million

Lincoln (District): Infrastructure and American With Disabilities Act renovations, $1.5 million

Arroyo del Oso Elementary School: Construction of replacement school, $24.53 million

Barcelona Elementary School: Construction of new Gym and Media Center, Admin, Kitchen and Cafeteria, $6.85 million

Career Enrichment Center/Early College Academy: Construction of classrooms and renovations $7.57 million

Jane Kahn K-8: Construction of 2 final phases of replacement school, $25.81 million

Hubert Humphrey Elementary School: Construction of replacement school, $18.76 million

Lavaland Elementary School: Construction of classroom block, $8.53 million

Monte Vista Elementary School: Construction of classroom block, $5.38 million.

Navajo Elementary School: Construction of Kindergarten/Art-music classrooms, $3.94 million

Coyote Willow Family School K-8: Construction of final phase of classrooms, $3.90 million

Sierra Vista Elementary School: Construction of classroom block, $7.96 million

Taylor Middle School: 2 phases of school replacement, classrooms, $13.65 million

Truman Middle School: Classroom & Admin, 2 phases of school replacement. $15.62

Valle Vista Elementary School: Construction of classroom block, $9.54 million

Zia Elementary School: Construction of replacement school, $15.89

ZX DW Bus Depots (District): Construction of student 3 transportation depots, $18 million

M.A. Binford Elementary School: Construction of classroom block/Admin, $7.8 million

McKinley Middle School: Construction of classroom block, 2 phases of school replacement, $3.37 million

Rio Grande High School: Construction of phase 3 of a 5 phased school replacement, $5.74

B. New “Design & Construction Projects” to begin with election passage and with construction funds to come from the 2022 School Bond Elections are:

Washington Middle School: Design & Build for School Replacement, $31.23 million

Harrison Middle School: Design & Build first 2 phases of a 3 phased school replacement, $33.84

Desert Ridge Middle School: Design & Build Classroom addition and site Infrastructure improvements, $19 million

Van Buren Middle School: Design & Build first 2 phases of a 3 phased l school replacement, $33.84 million

Hayes Middle School: Design & Build first 2 phases of a 3 phased school replacement, $32.84 million

Whittier Elementary School : Design & Build New Classroom Block and Admin replacement, $12.60 million

La Mesa Elementary School: Design & Build of Renovations & Classroom Block Replacement, $16.36 million

Eldorado Hight School: Design & Build first 2 phases of a 5 phased school replacement, $30.10 million

Hawthorne Elementary School: Design & Building Renovations & Classroom Block Replacement, $12.60 million

Grant Middle School: Design & Build new classroom, first 2 phases of 3 phased school replacement, $26.26 million

Corrales Elementary School: Design & Build & Renovate/refurbish, $3.5 million

http://www.aps.edu/community/mail-in-election/planned-and-ongoing-construction-projects.

APS NOT JUST ALBUQUERQUE

When it comes to APS students, they include the towns of Corrales, Los Ranchos, the counties of Bernalillo and Sandoval, and the pueblos of Isleta and Laguna.

Two-thirds of the 84,000 APS students are Hispanic and 16.6 percent are English Learners.

APS also serves many students in need with nearly two-thirds qualifying for the federal school meals program.

For all too many years, New Mexico’s and the APS school system have consistently rank at the bottom or near bottom of national statistics and rankings with respect to graduation rates and reading, writing and math proficiency.

STATE DISTRICT COURT RULING IMPACT ON APS

Education is the number one priority for Governor Lujan Grisham and the 2019 New Mexico legislature that started January 15, 2019 because of a District Court ruling last year that New Mexico was failing to meet its constitutional requirement to provide sufficient schooling to all students.

The District Court ruling does have a direct impacto APS.

On July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education.

The court ruled many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.

As a matter of law, Judge Singleton wrote the “lack of funds is not a defense to providing constitutional rights.”

In her blistering written opinion, Judge Singleton wrote:

“[The evidence presented at trial] proves that the vast majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career. … Indeed, overall New Mexico children rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement. … The at-risk students are still not attaining proficiency at the rate of non-at-risk students … and the programs being lauded by [the Public Education Department] are not changing this picture.”

According to the judge’s ruling, in New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners.

Judge Singleton addressing proficiency rates for Native American students said that in the past 3 years, those students’ reading proficiency was at 17.6% and their math proficiency was at 10.4%.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1200069/questions-surround-ruling-on-nm-education-funding.html

The District Court found that New Mexico does not have enough teachers and that New Mexico teachers are among the lowest paid in the country.

Governor Lujan Grisham has already announced her administration will not appeal the District Court ruling.

STATE FUNDING THAT WILL AFFECT APS AND TEACHERS

Newly elected Governor Michelle Lujan has submitted a proposed total budget for New Mexico of $7.1 billion for consideration by the 2019 New Mexico legislature.

The $7.1 billion budget increases state spending by $806 million.

The Governor’s budget calls for $3.2 billion to be spent on Public Schools, a 18% increase, and $830.2 million, a 3.3% increase on higher education.

Increasing teacher salaries, hiring more teachers and addressing the needs of our kids are at the top of Governor Lujan Grisham’s agenda as well as the New Mexico legislatures in the 2019 legislative session with $500 million in new monies proposed for education.

The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) for its part released its own budget proposal plan that would increase year-over-year state spending by $670.8 million, or by 10.6%, as opposed to the Governor’s $806 million, or 12.7% increase or a 2.1% difference between the plans.

The LFC’s budget would earmark more than three-fifths of the additional spending toward public schools statewide.

More than 50% of the proposed $806 million Lujan-Grisham budget increase will go to the public education system.

Lujan Grisham’s budget plan calls for a sharp and dramatic increase in funding for pre-kindergarten programs.

$60 million in new appropriations is being proposed for pre-kindergarten programs serving 3- and 4-year-old children statewide.

State teachers and principals will get a 6% salary increase next year under the budget.

Lujan-Grisham under her budget proposes to increase New Mexico starting teacher pay from $36,000 to $41,000 per year.

Higher pay levels are also being proposed for more experienced educators.

Teacher minimum salary levels for the three-tier licensure program will be raised to $41,000, $50,000, and $60,000 for Tiers I, II, and III, respectively.

The proposed budget raises the minimum salaries for principals to $60,000.

It is proposed that the state’s funding formula for public schools be adjusted so more money would flow to districts with large populations of Native American, disabled and low-income students, along with English-language learners.

For blog articles on the Governor’s proposed budget and the LFC’s proposed budget see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/…/gov-michelle-lujan…/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2019/01/15/governor-mlgs-budget-plan-vs-lfc-budget-plan/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Critics of the APS mill levy, including the Albuquerque Journal and the conservative anti-tax Rio Grande Foundation, argue that the property tax levy has not been fully justified and will be just another tax added onto all the other taxes that no one can afford.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1267731/request-for-school-maintenance-money-makes-sense-but-tax-hikes-in-2-other-questions-too-costly-for-many.html

Critics also say that APS needs to find construction money elsewhere and go so far as to suggest APS sell land or assets that they own in the Albuquerque area.

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2019/01/16/Why-You-Should-Vote-Against-the-APS-Tax-Increase

Selling school property owned outright by APS is shortsighted for a one-time gain given the anticipated growth of the city and infill demands of the city for school district needs.

How many APS schools need to be condemned for code violations or crumble before people realize something needs to be done now?

The Albuquerque Journal, the anti-tax Rio Grande Foundation, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Albuquerque Economic Forum have never seen a property tax that they have supported but always oppose.

The Journal, the Rio Grande Foundation, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Albuquerque Economic Forum go so far as to oppose the state using the state permanent fund to finance education programs.

All too often, many who are retired and living on fixed incomes resist wanting to pay any and all amount of taxes for public school education because their kids are fully grown and they feel they have already done their part over the years.

Every generation must be fully committed to future generation’s education.

What is involved with the APS ballot initiative is a property tax, and not a regressive gross receipts tax that everyone pays and that has a greater impact on low income earners.

Real property owners are called upon to fund education needs because they far more likely to be able to afford paying the tax.

One of the biggest criticisms against the ballot initiative is that APS has mismanaged their operating budget, it is top heavy with managers, high salaries and there is a significant waste of resources.

All the projects that will be funded are all capital improvement projects meaning that they are not a part of the APS operating budget which is funded by the state’s funding formula per child.

The 34 projects are investments in tangible assets, brick and mortar projects, not management and personnel.

Because of the extent of the number of schools that have depreciated and deteriorated and exceeded their useful “shelf life”, the APS school system and the citizens of Albuquerque are now confronted with a financial dilemma, refurbish or tear down and rebuild many of our public schools.

As is the case with any building, private and publicly owned, APS schools and facilities age and eventually have to be torn down and rebuilt, as was the case with Del Norte High School in the last few years.

All too often, remodeling and renovations in the long run are far costlier to bring a building up to code and it is more practical and economically responsible to tear down and rebuild.

A number of the schools listed, especially the elementary schools, are so old they are falling apart for lack of maintenance, upkeep and age.

APS has been generating as much as 70% of the commercial construction in the city over the past decade.

There is little doubt that the passage of all three questions would be a major infusion to the city’s economy, local businesses and to the construction industry, and the many jobs these projects will support.

Construction costs have skyrocketed and will in all likely continue to rise as years pass.

Repeatedly from the business community you hear the argument that economic development efforts and attracting new business to Albuquerque requires a successful education system.

Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham’s commitment and the New Mexico Legislature’s commitment to finally fund our education system to address our education problems is a big part of the equation to improving our education system in the state and in Albuquerque.

The voters of Albuquerque need to complete the equation and vote to refurbish and rebuild our aging schools by voting FOR all three ballot questions.

New Mexico’s kids and getting an education in a safe and secure environment is at stake.

POSTSCRIPT ON MAIL IN BALLOT

All registered Bernalillo County voters are being mailed ballots by the Bernalillo County Clerk that must be returned before February 5, 2019.

In the mailing, voters are sent two envelopes.

One envelop is the “Official Inner Envelope” that you place your ballot in after you fill in your vote.

You must use black ink only to fill in the vote area on the ballot

The other envelop you put the ballot envelope into.

YOU MUST PRINT YOUR NAME AND YEAR OF BIRTH ON THE “RETURN ENVELOPE” YOU MAIL BACK THE “OFFICIAL INNER ENVELOP” THAT CONTAINS YOUR BALLOT.

YOU MUST SIGN THE OATH THAT YOUR A REGISTERED VOTER ON THE RETURN ENVELOP.

IF YOU DO NOT SIGN THE OATH, YOUR VOTE WILL NOT BE COUNTED.

There have been past elections where literally thousands of mail in ballots not signed have been thrown in the trash and not counted. You must mail your ballot in before February 5, 2019.

For a sample ballot, go to https://www.bernco.gov/uploads/files/Clerk/APS-Feb-05-2019%20Sample%20Ballot.pdf

ABQ: “The City Mayhem” Or “Mayhem City”

Since the beginning of the New Year and during the first 16 days of January, 2019 there were 6 persons killed including 3 that involved domestic violence cases.

On January 16, 2019, it was reported that an 11-day old infant was found dead at a detox center, a woman died from domestic violence on the city’s west side and two men were killed, one shot and killed in broad daylight near Old Town.

The January 17, 2019 front page Albuquerque Journal headline said it all:

“Albuquerque police deal with a day of mayhem”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1269426/albuquerque-police-deal-with-a-day-of-mayhem.html

Mayor Tim Keller has implemented a public relations and marketing campaign to rebrand the city image with his “One ABQ” initiatives with a new logo and nickname.

Keller has come up with a strained logo that rearranges the letters in the city’s name to reflect the slang name “BURQUE” in bright red letters with t-shirts and created a web page with slick videos promoting the city.

If things continue the way they are with the murders and violence, Keller just may want to rebrand Albuquerque “Mayhem City” or “The City Mahem” a knock off of Santa Fe’s “The City Different”.

APPEARANCE POLITICS

In politics, appearance all too often are everything, as is often what is not said nor done.

“Appearance politics” is something I suspect Mayor Keller is acutely aware of given that he is in public relations mode non-stop.

Mayor Keller also had a very successful State of the City Address making an inspirational speech and hosting an event that was open to all city residents and not just the business community like was his predecessor’s practice.

Public relations is a very necessary and critical part of the job of being Mayor and Keller cannot be faulted for that point.

CITY’S VIOLENT CRIME RATES

Review of the city’s crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 show decreases in the property crimes of auto burglary (-29%), auto theft (-31%), commercial burglary (-17 percent) and residential burglary (-18%) and robbery fell by 36%.

Although property crimes have dropped, violent crime is still at unacceptable levels for a city the size of Albuquerque.

In 2017, the city broke the all-time homicide rate of 70 with 72 murders and in 2018 there were 65 murders

In March of 2018, 5 homicides were reported in six days.

In December, 2018, 2 police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours.

In 2018, nonfatal shootings went up 4% from 470 to 491 shootings.

There were 6 more murders in the first quarter of 2018 compared with 2017 which was a 50% increase.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It is very good news that Albuquerque’s property crime rates for the first time in a number of years appear to be declining, but for how long and to what extent only time will tell.

Keller can take comfort and a degree of credit for bringing down property crimes for the first time in 8 years and he can breathe a little easier, but not for long.

The bad news is that the city’s murder rates are still way too high and the city is way too violent.

The city still has the image of being a very violent city.

There is a big difference between governing and running for office.

When Tim Keller was running, he proclaimed that APD needed serious reform and promised to return to community based policing.

To his credit, Mayor Tim Keller is planning to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers by implementing a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing.

APD has had results with their recruitment program of incentives, pay raises and bonuses with the hiring of new officers and lateral hires.

By July, 2019 APD is projected to have approximately 980 sworn police, but it will still be shorthanded to deal with the crime levels.

Keller’s plan to turn APD around is going to take more time than he may have to convince people that he has solved Albuquerque’s high crime rates, especially when there is blood in the streets and our children continue to be murdered by their own parents.

APD is now Mayor Keller’s department and APD’s homicide division has brought shame upon the department in botching case after case and their clearance rate is atrocious at less than 50% when at one time it was at least 85%.

Adding gasoline to the fire, even after a homicide is committed and defendants are arrested, cases are being dismissed because of shoddy and incomplete investigations, a failure to process scientific evidence such as DNA and with people arrested that did not even commit the crime they are charged with as was the case involving the murder of 9 year old Victoria Martens.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/07/02/abq-report-apd-homicide-units-legacy-of-shame/

No amount of public relations, inspiring speeches, hand shaking and feel good FACEBOOK videos by Mayor Keller are going to bring down our violent crime rates to where they were 8 years ago.

Voters tend to be very fickle and demand results.

Mayor Tim Keller has successfully completed his first full year in office, an no matter how successful he has been, people feel unsafe and that the city is still way too violent.

With the daily reports of homicides in the news, people are beginning to believe the change they voted for is not materializing and things are getting worse with APD and crime.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/08/08/abq-report-new-apd-worse-than-old-apd/

If after two full years in office Mayor Keller is still dealing with high murder rates, drug-dealing and horrid child abuse cases it won’t be for a lack of police officers nor money spent, it will be for a lack of leadership.

Those are harsh words, but it is reality politics and the nature of city elections.

Mayor Keller’s success with dealing with our violent crime rates and the management of APD with respect to the Department of Justice reforms will have a direct impact on Mayor Keller’s chances of being reelected.

There is no amount of public relations that will prevent Mayor Tim Keller from being defined by our serious violent crime rates and he and APD need to act far more aggressively than they have to address the problem.

If our murder and violent crime rates are not brought under control by Mayor Tim Keller, do not be surprised if one of Keller’s opponents in 2 years does a political ad in a morgue standing next to a child’s coffin reminiscent of former Mayor Berry standing next to his stolen and burned out recovered truck and saying that Keller has failed as Mayor when it comes to public safety.

Extent Of Trump’s Treason And Obstruction Of Justice Coming Into Focus

There have now been two major stories that clearly call into question if President Donald Trump is a traitor to his own country or an operative or stooge for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NEW YORK TIMES REPORT

On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

Initially Trump said the firing was based on the recommendation of top Justice Department officials and because of his botched handling of the 2016 email investigation involving Hillary Clinton.

On May 10, 2017, the very day after President Trump fired James Comey, Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office that he had fired F.B.I. director James B. Comey and said:

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. … I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. … I’m not under investigation.”

The Oval Office disclosure to the Russian Ambassador reinforces the notion that the president dismissed Comey primarily because of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/us/politics/trump-russia-comey.html

However, Trump in a TV interviews, said he made the decision to fire Comey prior to consulting the Justice Department, because the FBI chief was a “showboat” and was mishandling the department.

On May 11, 2017, during and interview with NBC News anchor Lester Holt, Trump acknowledged that the Russia investigation was one of the things he considered in firing FBI Director James Comey when he said “In fact, when I decided to just do it [fire James Comey], I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

Trump’s repeated references to the Russia investigation in interviews, tweets and the letter he sent Comey informing him that he’d been fired could be interpreted as an effort to “obstruct or impede” the Russian investigation.

On January 11, 2019, the New York Times reported that within the days after President Trump fired F.B.I. director James B. Comey, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/us/politics/fbi-trump-russia-inquiry.html?fbclid=IwAR1BUlB-Z-KcCsq04hRewaaRrbI8nq_cGd4XeH2-mYc_Ifi3y9hYn49Yisk

According to the New York Times bombshell report, counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether Trump’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security.

Agents sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

What prompted the counterintelligence inquiry were two instances, one before and one after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, in which Trump tied the Comey dismissal to stop the Russia investigation.

The investigation centered on if Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation which would be both a possible crime of “obstruction of justice” and a national security concern for Russian interference in the 2016 election.

WASHINGTON POST REPORT

On January 13, 2019 The Washington Post reported that there are no detailed records of 5 personal meetings President Trump has had with Russian President Vladimir Putin but what they have said and agreed to is a mystery.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/12/politics/trump-putin-meetings-no-records/index.html

The Washington Post reported that Trump went to “extraordinary lengths” to keep the specifics of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin totally under wraps and not to be disclosed to anyone, not even United States Government officials.

Current and former US officials told the Washington Post that Trump’s efforts include confiscating the notes from his interpreter and not allowing the interpreters to discuss the details of the meetings with other officials in his administration.

After the two hour and behind closed door meeting between Trump and Putin on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, the Kremlin later reported that the leaders reached important agreements, but American government officials were left in the dark on what Trump had agreed to behind closed doors.

American intelligence agencies were left to glean details about the meeting from surveillance of Russians who talked about it afterward.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/15/us/politics/trump-putin-meetings.html

Trump’s behavior in concealing whatever he said and whatever he promises to Vladimir Putin violates past presidential standards and established diplomatic protocols.

TRUMP’S OVERT SOLICITATIONS OF RUSSIAN INFLUENCE

What is reported by the New York Times and the Washington Post is a confirmation of what has been going on with Trump before and after he was elected President.

On July 27, 2016, while running for office, Donald Trump encouraged Russian hackers to find emails that had been deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server that she used while serving as secretary of state when he said:

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing … “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Trump said at a press conference in Florida.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-russia-clinton-hack_us_5b48d9d0e4b0e7c958faf810

On July 27, 2016, Vladimir Putin and Russia were listening and heeded Trump’s call for help to get him elected President.

According to the federal indictment of the 12 Russian intelligence officers for their involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election, the Russian hacking occurred on July 27, 2016 hours after Trump gave his press conference and encouraged Russian hackers to find Clinton’s emails.

The indictment states that on July 27, 2016, the same day as Trump’s press conference, Russian hackers, “for the first time,” attempted to break into email accounts, including those used by Clinton’s personal office.

Notably, the indictment is very specific that the hack happened in the evening, meaning the Russian officials could have done it after Trump’s press conference.

Literally hundreds of times since the election, Trump has tweeted and said during events and interviews that there was “no collusion” with Russia.

Trump has called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.”

Trump then said “There was no collusion, but if there was, it was not a crime.”

After his return trip from Helsinki meeting with President Vladimir Putin Trump said “I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t. … The sentence should have been ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia [who hacked into Democratic Party computers]. … I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself”.

Regarding his relationship with Putin and Russia, Trump has said this:

“Then Putin said, ‘Donald Trump is a genius, he’s going to be the next great leader of the United States.’ No, no, think of it. They wanted me to disavow what he said. How dare you call me a genius. How dare you call me a genius, Vladimir. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? Wouldn’t that be good?”

“The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me!”

“But I have nothing to do with Russia, nothing to do, I never met Putin, I have nothing to do with Russia whatsoever.”

“I never met Putin. … I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I’m a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin.”

“I would treat Vladimir Putin firmly, but there’s nothing I can think of that I’d rather do than have Russia friendly, as opposed to the way they are right now, so that we can go and knock out ISIS with other people.”

https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/03/politics/trump-putin-russia-timeline/

RUSSIAN MONEY MAKES TRUMP’S “WORLD GO ROUND”

Donald Trump has maintained that neither he nor his businesses have any ties to Russia whatsoever and he has not done business in Russia.

On January 11, 2017, Donald Trump tweeted:

“Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

During a February 2O17, news conference, President Trump said:

“I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia … I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”

On May 8, 2017, Vanity Fair reported that the Trump Organization received substantial financing from Russia when the business was struggling in the mid-1990s and again during the Great Recession, since major U.S. banks had refuse to make any loans.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/05/eric-trump-russia-investment-golf-course

On March 17, 2017, Reuters reported that a group of 63 Russia billionaires have invested nearly $100 million in several Trump properties in Florida.

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-trump-property/

Donald Trump Jr. famously said in 2008 that:

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

During the week of May 21, 2017, the top story was President Trump’s son in law and White House Presidential adviser and employee Jared Kushner trying to set up “back channel” communications and use Russian classified government communications systems to avoid United States government detection and monitoring.

Jared Kushner, Paul Manford and Donald Trump, Jr. were at the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

On September 12, 2018, BuzzFeed News Reported that federal investigators have looked into a pair of suspicious money transfers from some of the planners and participants in a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/406252-investigators-looking-at-suspicious-money-transfers-after-trump

They involve money from Russia and Switzerland being moved to places such as the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok and New Jersey, according to the BuzzFeed report.

The secret documents it evaluated show a complex web of financial transactions may play a role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference.

Four federal law enforcement officers told the news outlet that investigators were specifically looking into two bursts of transactions that bank examiners found suspicious.

One of the bursts occurred 11 days after the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, while the other happened right after President Trump’s election.

Secret documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News reveal a previously undisclosed aspect of the meeting: a complex web of financial transactions among some of the planners and participants who moved money from Russia and Switzerland to the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok, and a small office park in New Jersey.

The documents show Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer close to both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, at the center of this vast network and how he used accounts overseas to filter money to himself, his son, and at least two people who attended the Trump Tower meeting.

The financial records offer new insight into the world inhabited by many of Trump’s associates, who use shell companies and secret bank accounts to quickly and quietly move money across the globe.

LETTER OF INTENT TO DO BUSINESS IN RUSSIA

On December 19, 2018 CNN reported that in 2016, as the Trump Organization was in negotiations to build Trump Tower Moscow, Donald Trump signed a “letter of intent” to move forward with the project.

CNN obtained a copy of the letter and news anchor Chris Cuomo showed it on air, along with video of Trump repeatedly denying that he had anything to do with Russia while he was running for president.

The letter of intent to build the Moscow Trump Tower was also signed by the head of the Russian firm that Trump’s company was working with, corroborates the argument Trump was lying when he said he did not do business with Russian interests.

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/trump-signed-a-letter-of-intent-to-build-trump-tower-moscow.html

RUSSIAN TIES OF INTERFERENCE

Three senior intelligence officials have said the intelligence community has found clear evidence that Russia did indeed compromise or interfere with voter registries in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin, and there are probably more.

(February 28, 2018 NBC News report: “U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 election”.)

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/u-s-intel-russia-compromised-seven-states-prior-2016-election-n850296

The intelligence community has found that Russia tried to influence our election in favor of Trump by circulating false and misleading information on the internet, sponsoring organization meetings and providing funding for Trump supporter rallies.

One report is money was given by Russian operatives to fund a float for a mock-up of a jail with a Clinton look alike dress in a black and white striped jumpsuit.

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged 33 people and convicted Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen of felony crimes of varying degrees and all three have cooperated with the investigation.

Some of the President’s closest advisors have been indicted, tried and convicted or plead guilty to charges and awaiting sentencing including:

Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to report foreign bank accounts with Manafort pleading guilty in another criminal case.

Michael Cohen, President’ Trump’s long time private attorney and “fixer” and who has plead guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations in the criminal investigation in New York and implicated Trump in committing campaign finance felonies.

Rick Gates, one of Manafort’s business partners who plead guilty to one charge of lying to investigators and one charge of conspiracy in exchange for becoming a cooperating witness in the Mueller probe. He testified against Manafort as the prosecution’s star witness in its case in Virginia.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser who plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations last December with Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time, Sergey Kislyak. In delaying Michael Flynn’s sentencing, Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn “Arguably, this undermines everything this [US] flag over here stands for! Arguably, you sold your country out!”

George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser who plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Papadopoulos made at least six attempts to set up a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian representatives throughout the course of the 2016 presidential campaign.

California businessman Richard Pinedo who plead guilty to one count of identity fraud. The plea deal’s release came immediately after Mueller’s office announced charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of interfering in the 2016 US election by mounting an elaborate and multi-faceted social media influence operation meant to sow political discord during and after the race.

Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer tied to Manafort and Gates plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal investigators. Van der Zwaan represents the interests of numerous Russian oligarchs. He is also the son-in-law of German Khan, the Ukrainian-Russian billionaire who controls Russia’s Alfa Bank.

Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies indicted for allegedly involved in meddling in the US political system.

Twelve Russian intelligence officers indicted for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 US presidential election. The accusations against them include conspiring to interfere with the election by hacking computers, stealing documents, and releasing those documents with intent to interfere.

https://www.businessinsider.com/who-has-been-charged-in-russia-investigation-mueller-trump-2017-12#12-russian-intelligence-officers-8

TREASON AND OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution provides that “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The power and authority to bring Articles of Impeachment rests solely with the United States House of Representatives and a trial is then conducted by the United State Senate for removal from office.

A “high crimes and misdemeanor” can be whatever the House of Representatives say it is in Articles of Impeachment.

Treason against the United States is defined under federal law as when “a person, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United State” (18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason)

Under federal law, “obstruction of justice” is defined as an act that “corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.” (18 U.S.C. § 1503)

Someone obstructs justice when that person has a specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial proceeding, such as the firing of an FBI Director during an ongoing FBI investigation which is what the Russian probe investigation is all about.

For a person to be convicted of obstructing justice, that person must not only have the specific intent to obstruct the proceeding, but that person must know:

(1) that a proceeding was actually pending at the time; and

(2) there must be a connection between the endeavor to obstruct justice and the proceeding, and the person must have knowledge of this connection.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Government officials and others familiar with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference have told the media that he is nearing the conclusion of his investigation and is expected to submit a confidential report to the attorney general as early as mid-February, 2019.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/mueller-may-submit-report-attorney-general-soon-mid-february-say-n949961

It is highly likely the information contained in The New York Times and the Washington Post articles is very “old news” to Robert Mueller.

It is more likely than not that the Russian probe has uncovered evidence of a President “giving aid and comfort” to Russia to influence his election to become President and to hide or stop the Russia investigation to disrupt the 2016 election by firing FBI James Comey or both.

Trump has spent a lifetime being loyal to only two things: himself and his money.

Given the millions and millions of dollars involved with Russian financing of Trump enterprises, Trump’s love of money probably outweighs his love for his country if he really ever had love for the country in the first place.

No one, except Donald Trump, knows what promises and commitments he has made to Russian President Vladimir Putin behind closed doors, including those promises and commitments made against the best interests of his county and the people of the United States.

What appears to be unfolding is the inevitable impeachment of a sitting President of the United States for treason against his own country for the first time in its history, and if not, for obstruction of justice.