ABQ City Council Should Thank Gov. MLG and 2019 NM Legislature for $63.7 Million In Additional Funding

The 2019 Legislature that just ended March enacted a $7.6 billion state budget, the largest budget ever enacted in state history.

Financial stress over the budget was greatly reduced from years past because nearly $2 Billion in additional revenue generated by the Southern New Mexico oil boom and increased royalties filled the state coffers.

The legislature appropriated $933 million for infrastructure projects such as road and bridge repairs.

State agencies had submitted a total of $543.4 million in requests.

Requests for senior citizen facilities totaled $28.7 million, and requests higher education institutions, special and tribal schools totaled $125.6 million, for a grand total of $697.7 million to address statewide needs.

The approved budget includes $380 million allocated to lawmakers to spend in their individual districts at their discretion.

The New Mexico legislature consists of a total 70 representatives and 42 senators.

Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have the largest delegation in the New Mexico Legislature.

In years past years, Albuquerque has not done very well when asking for funding for special projects for the city, especially during the last 8 years under former Republican Governor “SHE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED”.

ALBQUERQUE FARES WELL IN 2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

With the election of Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham as well as Democrats seizing control of the New Mexico House or Representatives, the City did a lot better, especially having a Democratic Governor who use to represent the city in the United States Congress.

New Mexico’s budget surplus of $2 Billion no doubt also contributed to the funding of projects in Albuquerque.

During last year’s 2018 session, only $39 million was secured for city projects

This year, the Albuquerque and the Bernalillo county delegation to the legislature was able to secure $63.7 million in funding for Albuquerque projects or an impressive $24.7 million more than last year.

Approximately $54 million of the $63.7 million is earmarked for city government facilities, infrastructure and equipment.

The remaining $9.7 million is earmarked for items such as little league fields and museums in the Albuquerque area such as the Natural History Museum.

FUNDING BREAKDOWN

More than 100 projects in Albuquerque are included in the Legislature’s capital outlay bill.

Following is a small breakdown of the state funded earmarked projects for the city:

Upgrading the first responder communication network (911 Emergency Communications Center) : $16.8 million

Traffic mitigation efforts around Balloon Fiesta Park including a new ramp onto Interstate 25: $7.5 million

Albuquerque Rail Yards redevelopment: $7.5 million

Albuquerque Fire Rescue vehicles, protective gear and station upgrades: $5 million

West Side Albuquerque sports complex: $1.8 million

Funding for Albuquerque Police Department DNA testing and technology: $4 million

Funding for 14 different little league projects: $2 million

Construction funding for the city’s International District Library: $1.9 million

Funding to the Albuquerque Holocaust & Intolerance Museum: $823,898

Funding for the City/County “Tiny Home Village”: $595,000

Construction Funding for a “bocce court” at North Domingo Baca Park: $147,400

Funding for public murals: $135,000

Funding for a Sandia Vista dog park $70,000

Construction funding for a centralized, 24/7 homeless shelter: $985,000

The amount secured for the homeless shelter was disappointing seeing as the cost of the centralized, 24/7 homeless shelter is projected to be $28 million.

The City officials say $14 million is needed to complete at least the shelter’s first phase and the city intends to seek funding for the shelter in the November general obligation bond request that must be approved by voters.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1293951/state-pumps-money-into-albuquerque-projects.html

NOVEMBER 2019 CITY GENERAL OBLIGATION BOND ELECTION

The next city general obligation bond cycle up for voter approval is on November 5, 2019.

A total of $127 million in projects will be on the November ballot for voter approval.

The $63.7 million in funding allocated by the 2019 New Mexico legislature for Albuquerque capital projects will allow the city considerable leeway in what voters will be asked to fund with general obligation bonds on November 5, 2019.

A few of the largest Keller Administration projects in the latest bond proposal include:

$13 million toward the historic Rail Yards property through 2029. (NOTE: The legislature funded $7.5 million for the rail yards.)

$11 million for various projects at the Albuquerque Museum over the next decade.

$7 million to a new APD southeast substation at Kathryn and San Mateo.

$7 million for a year-round homeless facility. (NOTE: the legislature funded $985,000)

$5.5 million for the International District Library. (NOTE: The legislature funded $1.9 million for the library.)

$5 million in funding for Family & Community Services Section 8 Affordable Housing.

$2.8 million for Community, Health, Social Services Centers.

$2.5 million for a new exit off I-25 to Balloon Fiesta Park. (NOTE: The legislature funded $7.5 million for the new ramp onto Interstate 25)

Links to related stories:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1289355/mayor-city-council-have-different-capital-project-priorities.html

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/city-councilors-raise-questions-concerns-over-mayor-keller-s-project-list/1766843701

COUNCIL’S SUBSTITUTE VERSION

A substitute version of the Keller Administration November, 2019 bond package was introduced by the city council containing a number of major changes.

The City Council’s major changes include:

1.The Council slashed the Keller Administration’s request of $7 million for a permanent homeless shelter by $4 million and allotted $3 million A substitute version of the bond package introduced by City Council budget chair Trudy Jones raised it to $14 million.

2. The Council eliminated the $2.5 million for a new exit off I-25 to Balloon Fiesta Park but the 2019 legislature funded $7.5 million for the new ramp onto Interstate 25.

3. The council plan designates $7.8 million for a pair of storm drainage and pump station projects compared with Keller’s $2.8 million.

4. The council plan quadruples the line item for Albuquerque Fire Rescue vehicles to $4 million. The 2019 New Mexico legislature allocated $5 million for Albuquerque Fire Rescue vehicles, protective gear and station upgrades

5. The council plan proposes $9 million for projects not on the Keller Administration proposed bond package including:

$1.7 million for a North Domingo Baca swimming pool
$1.5 million for a Westside Indoor Sports Complex
$1 million Cibola Loop library and
$1 million a West Central Visitor Center

https://www.abqjournal.com/1289355/mayor-city-council-have-different-capital-project-priorities.html

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

As the saying goes, Albuquerque is the economic engine for the State of New Mexico.

Concentration on capital improvement projects and infra structure needs are always a major need of a growing city and an investment in the entire state economy.

State investment in city projects and city general obligation bond funded capital projects need to always enhance each other in order to get a better return on investment and stretched resources.

The ultimate decision as to what will be placed on the November General Obligation Bond ballot rests exclusively with the Albuquerque City Council.

Hearings and meetings will be held by the Albuquerque Council’s “Committee of the Whole”, comprised of all 9 City Councilor’s, to negotiate a compromise between the council’s version and the Mayor’s version of the capital outlay program to be submitted to voters for approval.

No doubt the city council must now consider the $63.7 million in additional funding from the 2019 New Mexico legislature for Albuquerque projects and make changes to the General Obligation bond ballot measures.

The City Council and the Mayor would be wise to approach individual State Representatives and Senators and discuss what capital projects in their districts they may be willing to help fund with their allotment of the $380 million given to lawmakers to spend in their individual districts at their discretion.

The City Council should recognize and thank Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham as well as the 2019 New Mexico Legislature for their help and financing of major Albuquerque capital projects.

Mayor Tim Keller’s “Song And Dance” In Child Abuse Case; APD Internal Affairs Takes Things To All New Low

Terri Sanchez and James Stewart, the mother and father of a seven year old girl have been charge by the Attorney General Hector Balderas with serious child abuse allegations.

James Stewart, 37, is facing charges including human trafficking, promoting prostitution, child abuse and criminal sexual contact of a minor.

Stewart’s wife, Teri Sanchez, is accused of child abuse.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1216785/state-seeks-dna-sample-from-man-accused-of-trafficking-7-year-old.html

The AG’s Office launched its investigation in April, 2018 after a school nurse reported that she thought the girl was exhibiting signs of trafficking and sexual assault.

Other school employees described seeing “hickies” on the child’s neck and chest.

In an April safe house interview, the child said Stewart made her touch other adults inappropriately.

One of the 7-year-old girl’s teachers found the girl’s underwear had caked blood on it, the child smelled of feces and urine.

The teacher called the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) to report suspected child abuse.

On November 14, 2017 a child welfare check was made at the hotel the child was residing with her parents and the girl’s teacher was interviewed at her school.

Last month, James Stewart’s case went to trial and the child testified against her defendant father James Stewart.

The District Court Judge was force to declare a mistrial in the jury trial after witnesses gave testimony about a topic that was prohibited.

A second trial will now have to be held and the child will have to testify again once again against her father.

LAPEL CAMERA VIDEOS RELEASED

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released three (3) lapel videos and recordings of the 911 calls of APD officers going to the hotel for the well fare check and the elementary school to interview the child’s teacher.

A November 14, 2017 lapel camera video of an APD Officer and a Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) investigator was released of the 7-year old’s teacher being interviewed.

In the video, the teacher describes how she took the child to a bathroom located in the classroom to have her cleaned up and provide the child with clean clothing.

The teacher tells the APD Officer and the CYFD investigator she was “gagging because it smelled of feces and of urine”.

When the teacher took the child’s clothing and went to put it in a bag, she discovered the child’s underwear had caked blood on it with dried feces.

The teacher told the officers that the blood was not at all normal for a child of 7 who was not old enough to be menstruating.

The teacher told the police officer and the CYFD investigator it was not the first time she had to give the 7-year-old child clean cloths and it was an ongoing problem.

The teacher took the child’s clothing, bagged it, and saved it for police.

The teacher reported that she left the bag of the child’s clothing in a locked classroom bathroom and then left the classroom.

The teacher testified in a detention hearing that when the police officer came to the school the following day, the APD officer said they could not use the underwear as evidence.

She said the APD officer told her the underwear had not been kept in a secure location.

The police officer also said to the teacher “they’re going to have a field day if this ever went to court.”

Instead of taking and tagging the child’s underwear into evidence, the APD officer threw it into a school dumpster, saying it was not useful as evidence.

After the officer’s finish talking to the teacher, the APD Officer and the CYFD investigator had a discussion on what to do with the child’s clothing collected by the teacher.

The APD officer actually asks the question “Do you think it is a good idea to collect them?”

The CYFD investigator then tells the officer “That’s up to you guys. That ain’t my department.”

The APD officer attempted to call the APD Crimes Against Children Unit to get guidance on what to do with the clothing and apparently never received a response.

APD officers did not arrest the mother or father and the child was never taken into protective custody following the November 2018 interviews.

APD STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES

APD’s Standard Operating Procedures provide in part as follows:

“2-73 SUBMISSION OF EVIDENCE, CONFISCATED PROPERTY, AND FOUND ITEMS 2-73-1

2.73.2 Rules
A. … Officers will tag all found, safekeeping and evidence items using the Officer Input Module (OIM) evidence accounting tracking system. …
B. Items to be Tagged
1. …
2. All articles of evidence, safekeeping, and found items will be tagged/entered into evidence … Only a supervisor due to exigent or unusual circumstances can authorize exceptions to this; however, the evidence must be placed in a secure setting within a police building such as a safe or a locker or cabinet that can be secured under the direct control of the supervisor. … [T]he tagging officer will seal all evidence tagged either in plastic or paper bags. The officer will ensure that sealed evidence bag has the officer’s initials and date across the seal, using a permanent type marker, before placing the evidence in a locker. … The officer will ensure that sealed evidence bag has the officer’s initials and date across the seal, using a permanent type marker, before placing the evidence in a locker. …

http://documents.cabq.gov/police/standard-operating-procedures/2-73-submission-of-evidence-cofiscated-property-and-found-items.pdf

KELLER’S FIRST SONG AND DANCE: “STAND BY YOUR MEN!”

On May 18, 2018, in a TV interview, Mayor Tim Keller stood by APDs claims that no one violated any policies or procedures, including when an APD officer tossed out the blood-stained underwear of the 7-year-old child rather than tagging it into evidence.

Mayor Keller showed an obvious ignorance of the law when he used a clever law enforcement catch phrase and said:

“There are rules of what you can take, there are laws against what you can take. … This is one of things we’re proactively doing is revisiting our evidence collection policies and we want to get as far to ‘bag it and tag it’ as we can under the law.”

The officer would not have violated the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure had he collected the child’s underwear and tagged it into evidence.

A Channel 7 news report can be viewed here:

http://www.koat.com/article/mayor-defends-apds-handling-of-evidence-in-abuse-case/20737601

Both Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier initially said no one with APD violated any policies or procedures even when an APD officer tossed out the evidence.

APD Chief Michael Geier in an interview did not say exactly what the officer did with the underwear, but he defended the officer’s investigation.

Both Keller and Geier doubled down and said that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time.

Mayor Keller and Chief Geier saying APD did everything they could with the information they had rang extremely hollow when you’re dealing with a seven-year-old child and a teacher trying to do the right thing by reporting potential child abuse.

After Keller and Geier doubled down, it was reported that when two APD officers and two detectives with APD’s Crimes Against Children Unit looked into an allegation that the 7-year-old child had blood on her underwear someone from APD in fact accessed the states Children Youth and Families (CYFD) law enforcement portal and reviewed the family history of CYFD contacts.

It turns out that APD’s Real Time Crime Center had issued a policy directive months before to APD officers that they were to check and review the state’s CYFD law enforcement portal to review family history of CYFD contacts when investigating child abuse cases.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1177634/apd-was-likely-aware-of-cyfd-contacts-in-case.html

KELLER’S SECOND SONG AND DANCE: “SINGING IN THE RAIN”

On May 18, 2018 Mayor Keller called on APD to examine how they investigate possible child abuse or children’s safety issues in the wake of the case and the accusation of suspected sex trafficking of the girl by her parents with whom police had prior contacts.

Mayor Tim Keller ordered APD to undertake the following steps:

1. Review child abuse cases for patterns that raise red flags.
2. Work on trauma-informed interviewing techniques.
3. Use the Real Time Crime Center to identify people with repeat interactions with law enforcement or child welfare agencies.
4. Work with a state Children, Youth and Families Department task force to review prior cases.
5. Prioritize recruitment and funding for civilian and sworn positions that work on children’s cases.
6. Reach out to other law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, the courts, CYFD and child advocates to coordinate crimes against children cases.
7. Evaluate policies on evidence collection.

In a press release announcing what action he wanted APD to take, Mayor Keller said:

“We’re going to do everything we can to try to prevent this from happening [ever again]. It’s going to take all of us – law enforcement agencies, child advocates, prosecutors and the courts. … Today we’re stepping up ourselves, and we’re reaching out to all these partners to address coordination for cases impacting children’s safety. We’re asking all of these partners to review how they interact on child abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking cases, including the handling of evidence. We’ve got to figure out a way to build a system that protects our kids.”

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/21/better-a-great-millstone-were-hung-around-his-neck-and-he-were-thrown-into-the-sea/

KELLER’S THIRD SONG AND DANCE: “YOU CAN’T HIDE THEIR LYIN EYES”

On May 29, 2018, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Geier held a press conference to announce an Internal Affairs Investigation regarding the evidence gathering in the case.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1177857/apd-launches-internal-affairs-probe-of-child-sex-trafficking-case.html

During the press conference, Mayor Tim Keller made the stunning admission that he and Chief Geier were not initially given the full story of the police department’s handling of the case when he said:

“This administration will admit to mistakes that it makes. … We will admit we must improve, and we are now drawing a line in the sand and saying that the weaknesses in the system that let our kids down are not acceptable anymore”.

Keller said the Internal Affairs investigation will produce a report detailing “the handling or mishandling of this case.”

Keller order APD to launched an Internal Affairs investigation to provide a more complete accounting of the department’s interactions related to the incident involving the parents and the child.

Mayor Keller declared at the time of ordering the IA investigation that:

“If we find protocol was violated, where they did any procedure was wrong, we will absolutely hold them accountable. … If there is nothing that an officer did wrong, I’m not going to discipline them just because people are angry.”

Mayor Tim Keller’s’ bold pronouncement of “drawing a line in the sand” and Chief Geier saying “we started digging” was a remarkable admission that both Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier had their heads in the sand, or elsewhere, defending the actions of APD.

KELLER’S FOURTH SONG AND DANCE: “WIPE OUT”

After a week of intensive media coverage on the evidence gathering in the case, Mayor Keller went into damage control and made a trip to the Journal Center to talk with the Albuquerque Journal editors.

You always know when a Mayor has taken a very serious public relations hit whenever they make a special trip to the Albuquerque Journal Center and subject themselves to a wide-ranging interview with the Journal Editors and its reporters on a single topic.

On June 2, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal published a front-page story on Mayor Tim Keller’s interview entitled:

“Keller walks back defense of APD in child abuse case; Mayor: ‘Bunker mentality’ stalls reform in department”.

Mayor Keller is quoted in the article as saying:

“It was premature to go out with those kinds of statements [that no one with APD violated any policies or procedures and that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time] … We should have waited. … What we learned is that you can’t make a few phone calls and say you have the entire picture, and we’re not going to do it again. I think we learned a lot through this. … ”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1179756/keller-walks-back-defense-of-apd-in-abuse-case.html

Mayor Keller’s admissions were pathetic both in scope and substance.

Keller’s mistakes made in his dealing with APD at the time could be explained then by his short time in office, lack of experience with police management and no understanding of law enforcement procedures and police culture.

KELLER’S FIFTH SONG AND DANCE: “ROLL OUT THE POLICY BARREL”

On June 6, 2018 Mayor Tim Keller and APD Police Chief Michael Geier announced major policy changes for the Albuquerque Police Department.

The goal of the “new policies” was to stop child abuse and neglect cases from being mishandled as was the case with the 7-year-old girl who was allegedly prostituted out by her family members.

During the press conference, Keller had this to say:

“We are taking action today to address shortcomings in old APD crimes against children policies. These special orders will help build a better system to protect kids in our city and help officers with guidance. We’re ending the confusion about the collection of potential evidence and making it clear that previous case information must be accessed. While the investigation into the specifics of the Stewart case is ongoing, we wanted to act now to make some commonsense changes to give officers clear guidance.”

https://www.abqreport.com/home/author/Dennis-Domrzalski

The Special Orders issued were to apply to the entire Police Department.

All officers and new cadets were to get training on the policy changes to ensure they were successfully implemented.

The policy changes involved gathering evidence in potential criminal cases, accessing the New Mexico Children, Youth and Family Services Department’s child abuse database and the retention of lapel camera videos when officers are called out on child abuse and neglect cases.

The biggest change was that all officers who go out on child abuse and neglect cases would have to collect evidence if there if there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime, and regardless of whether the incident is a crime scene or a crime has been reported.

KELLER’S SIXTH SONG AND DANCE: “YOUR CHEATIN HEART INTERNAL AFFAIRS INVESTIGATION”

On March 18, 2019, Channel 7 Investigative Reports reported that it had secured a copy of a 492-page Internal Affairs Investigation in the case ordered by Mayor Keller.

The APD Internal Affairs Investigation determined that the APD police officers did nothing wrong when they failed to collect the blood-soaked underwear belonging to the 7-year-old child after her teacher called to report suspected abuse.

The Internal Affairs Investigation found that the officers did nothing wrong when they did not tag the underwear into evidence nor arrest the parents.

According to the Channel 7 report:

“The internal investigation did find some wrongdoing, including:
• While waiting to speak with the teacher, an officer had a conversation with a CYFD case worker. The officers on body camera was recording when the officer told the investigator, “she’s kind of high up there, huh?” That statement by the officer about the teacher got him a reprimand for being unprofessional.
• A dispatcher received counseling for not giving officers more information when they were called by the teacher.
• Another patrol officer who responded to a prior call was disciplined for not properly storing his lapel camera footage.
• Two officers in some of those prior calls with the family got verbal reprimands for not following through.
Ultimately, the APD investigator concluded he “did not find that there was widespread incompetence or negligence.”

https://www.koat.com/article/apd-cops-did-nothing-wrong-when-they-didnt-collect-girls-bloody-underwear/26861496

KELLER’S SEVENTH SONG AND DANCE: “IA FOOLS ON THE HILL TRASHING AG INVESTIGATION”

The APD Internal Affairs investigation is highly critical of the Attorney General’s Office which conducted the separate criminal case against James Stewart and Terri Sanchez.

An APD detective in describing the attorney general’s investigation uses words such as “troubling”, “inconsistent”, “conflicting”, and “exaggerated”.

The APD also called the teacher’s credibility as a witness as “questionable”, even though she testified at length in the detention hearing of the defendants.

According to prominent Defense Attorney John Day, interviewed by Channel 7:

“This is … basically an attack on the credibility of the attorney general’s office investigation they put together and they don’t mince words at least APD doesn’t mince words … They didn’t have to necessarily go there, but they did and the fact that this did means that the [James] Stewart defense team in the trial is going to have a lot of ammunition on their side [to attack the A.G.’s case].”

https://www.koat.com/article/apd-cops-did-nothing-wrong-when-they-didnt-collect-girls-bloody-underwear/26861496

APD Chief Geier declined to be interviewed by Channel 7 on the Internal Affairs report.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Seven-year-old children do not have menstrual cycles.

The fact that a trained APD officer could not decide to take the blood-stained underwear of a 7-year-old child secured by a teacher who was trying to report child abuse and tag it into evidence is absolutely astonishing and heartbreaking.

There should have been absolutely no uncertainty about what to do with the girl’s blood-stained underwear, which was to take it and tag it into evidence.

The police offense report mentions the bloodstained underwear.

If the blood stain underwear merited mentioning in the written offense report, the cop had the obligation to take it from the child’s teacher and tagged it into evidence for further examination by APD’s forensic lab.

The lapel camera videos revealed that the teacher reported the child went to school unkempt and smelling of urine.

When the teacher helped the child change into clean clothes, the teacher saw the child had dried, caked blood on the crotch of her underwear.

A police officer telling a potential witness in a case “they’re going to have a field day if this ever went to court” and then “tossing evidence” is totally inappropriate and is a violation of APD standard policy and procedures.

It is a judge and not a cop that decides if tagged evidence is admitted as evidence in a court of law.

There was a violation of standard operating procedure of not tagging into evidence an item given to an officer by a witness to a crime.

The requirement of keeping evidence in a “extreme-secure location” applies only to evidence collected by law enforcement to ensure “chain of custody”.

There is no such requirement of “extreme-secure location” placed on victims or witnesses to crimes who turn over evidence to law enforcement, which is what the teacher was doing with the child’s blood-stained underwear.

The IA report is astonishing and very disappointing on many levels.

The fact that APD Internal Affairs (IA) wrote a 492-page report is clear evidence that IA broke its back bending over to find the officers did nothing wrong in not collecting the bloody underwear of a female 7-year-old the child.

The IA findings of wrongdoing were down played to such an extent that only minor disciplinary action was taken.

The Internal Affairs Investigation (IA) report reflects that nothing has really changed with APD and APD is incapable of policing themselves.

Chief Geier and Mayor Keller lost significant credibility when this case first broke over a year ago when they both said the cops did nothing wrong by not collecting the underwear, then they back tracked in double time, apologized to the public and media, announced new policies and ordered an Internal Affairs Investigation with the Mayor making a pilgrimage to the Albuquerque Journal to explain himself and what happened.

A year ago, you could attribute Keller’s ineptness and gullibility to the fact he was in office only a few months, but not anymore.

APD is now Mayor Keller’s department and he should have learned something by now: it is way too difficult for Internal Affairs detectives not to spin things in the most favorable way to help another fellow police officer they in all likely know and may have even worked with in the past.

Internal Affairs now makes the same finding as the Mayor Keller and Chief Geier initially did a year ago: that there was no violation of any policies or procedures when an APD officer tossed out the blood-stained underwear of an innocent 7-year-old child rather than tagging it into evidence and arguing APD did all it could do at the time.

Geier lost credibility by refusing to be interviewed but instead had an APD spokesman claim all sorts of policy changes have been made.

What happened with the physical evidence in this case makes one wonder what the hell are they teaching at the APD police academy when it comes to standard operating procedure policy and evidence collection.

The child’s school teacher knew more about the law of evidence using her common sense than the cop who investigated the case and wrote the report.

It is very tragic that an innocent seven-year-old child may have been victimized and perhaps sold as a sex object.

Since 2001, in New Mexico, no less than 22 children, ranging from ages of 5 weeks old to 3, 4, 5 months old to 3, 4, 5, and 11 years old, have been killed as a result of child physical and sexual abuse. (Re: August 31, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Editorial Guest column by Allen Sanchez.)

All too often, our elected officials express outrage over what happens in horrific child abuse cases, making promises to change policies such as what Keller did on May 18, 2018 in announcing changes in APD policy.

All too often people do not hear, or for that matter do not want to hear or even care about the horrific details of crimes against children.

What will be unconscionable is if the offenders are not brought to justice all because a police officer failed to understand APD standard operating procedures, declined to take evidence from a victim and a witness in a case and unilaterally made the decision to trash the evidence of a crime.

APD Internal Affairs takes things to an all-time new low by criticizing the Attorney General’s case to such an extent that it now results in offenders not being brought to justice and charges dismissed.

The SOP is pretty straight forward and APD failed this child while her own parents victimized her.

We have seen too much of this in New Mexico and it has to stop.

No doubt Keller wants to do a good job and portray a positive image, but a smile on your face and a grin in your voice all the time can only get you so far when it comes to a para-military department and law enforcement.

Mayor Keller needs to get far more aggressive in getting APD in line, including Internal Affairs under control, and if he has to fire people, including command staff he has hired, so be it.

Keller needs to be far more aggressive in getting a handle on the Internal Affairs Department and demand objective investigations designed to find the truth and not blame other law enforcement agencies.

The last song and dance we may be hearing is Jim Bowe’s singing “put on your dancing shoes and let’s dance” when Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Geier accept the findings of Internal Affairs and decide not to take any further personnel action.

______________________________________________

POSTSCRIPT

Following are links to other blog articles containing news items on the story:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/30/a-line-in-the-sand-a-stunning-admission-of-head-in-the-sand/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/18/stand-by-you-man-song-and-dance-by-mayor-keller/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/21/better-a-great-millstone-were-hung-around-his-neck-and-he-were-thrown-into-the-sea/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/06/abq-reports-mayor-keller-chief-geier-announce-apd-policy-changes/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/02/maybe-just-maybe-a-valuable-lesson-learned-the-hard-way/

State Ethics Commission Created; Major Kudos To Reps. Daymon Ely, Greg Nibert And Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto

On November 5, 2018, New Mexico voters overwhelmingly voted with a three-quarters majority for a constitutional amendment to establish an independent statewide ethics commission with subpoena power. It was left up to the New Mexico Legislature to determine the details of how the seven-member commission would operate.

On March 15, 2019, with only hours left to go in the 60-day legislative session, state lawmakers reached a compromise on creating a new, independent ethics commission. During the 60-day session, the legislation underwent multiple rewrites and changes.

The state House and Senate approved compromise was negotiated by a coalition of lawmakers, including Representative Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, Representatives Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, and Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque. The final House vote was an impressive 66-0 vote in favor of passage. The State Senate voted to accept the final version sending the bill to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for signature.

DETAILS OF THE ETHICS COMMISSION

The enacted legislation creates an ethics commission that will oversee state public officials, including state lawmakers, state employees and constitutionally elected officials, including the governor. It is a seven-member commission that is empowered to fine public officials if they are found by the commission to have violated civil provisions of state laws.

Anyone who files a complaint will have to secure a notary public and attest to the truth of the allegations in the complaint under penalty of perjury.

An attorney will be appointed as “general counsel” by the seven-member commission and the general counsel will serve as an investigator and prosecutor. The commission’s general counsel will determine whether a complaint warrants investigation and if so, the general counsel will investigate the allegations made.

Ethics Commission “hearing officers” will be appointed to adjudicate the cases where evidence suggests there is an ethical violation. The hearing officers will use the legal standard of “preponderance of evidence” to make the determination if there was an ethical violation and made specific findings.

The legal term “preponderance of the evidence” means the greater weight of the evidence required for the trier of fact, the hearing officer, to decide in favor of one side or the other. “Preponderance of the evidence” is based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence.

The Ethics Commission through its general counsel is empowered to petition a state judge to issue subpoenas for documents and other materials as part of its work and with a judge designated to issue and grant the subpoenas on behalf of the commission itself. A public official who disputes a hearing judge’s finding will be able to appeal the ruling to the seven-member ethics commission.

In the final version of the bill passed, ethics complaints will be made public 30 days after probable cause is found to proceed with an investigation. The ethics commission will be prohibited from revealing ethics complaints that have been deemed frivolous or unsubstantiated, but the accuser or accused can publicly disclose the complaints.

The ethics commission is not empowered to investigate violations of legislative policies by legislators, such as sexual harassment policies, unless the Legislature works out an agreement for the ethics commission to investigate such complaints. Even then, if the ethics commission determines that a legislator has violated legislative policy, the ethics commission would be required to turn over its findings to the Legislature, which would then in turn determine the legislator’s punishment.

A very significant provision added to the bill was to include statewide public officials such as the governor, the lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, public land commissioner and state auditor, or candidates for those offices, to those prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions from January 1 through the end of each year’s legislative session. The ethics commission will have no authority over school board members and local officials such elected Mayors or City Councilors.

The enforcement of the state’s Open Meetings Act and Inspection of Public Records Act is left to the attorney general, and such enforcement is not made part of the duties of the Ethics Commission. State legislators are already prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions from January 1 through the end of each year’s legislative session.

The legislature funded the ethics commission with $500,000 in the state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019. The budget for the ethics commission will in all likely have to be increased significantly during the 2020 legislative session once a general counsel, staff and hearing officers are hired and the commission is fully operational and begins its work in earnest.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Mexico is 1 of 6 states without a statewide ethics commission. Enactment of the legislation creating an Ethics Commission is exactly how the New Mexico Legislature is supposed to work!

New Mexico has had more than its share of public corruption scandals over the years. A rogue’s gallery of unethical conduct, fraud, theft and abuse of power and influence in New Mexico politics includes Former Democrat State Senator Manny Aragon, two former Democrat State Treasurers, Michael Montoya and Robert Vigil, former Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran, former Democrat State Senator Phil Griego, former Republican State Senator Monica Youngblood and most recently former Republican New Mexico Taxation, and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla.

Unproven allegations of “pay to play” plagued the 8-year tenure of Democrat Governor Bill Richardson with a federal grand jury investigation resulting in no indictments and no finding of “pay to play”. Former Republican United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico Gregg Forate, with an obvious strong Republican partisan bias, released a scathing letter of condemnation that accused the Richardson administration of “corrupting” the government contract award process.

During the 8-year tenure of former Republican Governor “She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”, allegations of unethical conduct and undue influence with the award of the billion-dollar, 20-year Downs Race Track Lease, dubbed the “Dirty Downs Deal”, occurred. What also occurred was a federal grand jury investigation of the Republican Governor’s number one political consultant and campaign manager relating to misuse of her inauguration funding.

A statewide ethics commission will help rebuild trust in a state government that has experienced way too much corruption through the years, but only if it is empowered with real authority and only if actually does something. One area that merits consideration by the legislature is empower the ethics commission to be able to seek and secure civil injunction relief for suspension or even temporary removal from office elected officials who have been found to have engaged in nefarious or unethical conduct. Such action could be the foundation for impeachment or removal proceedings. The Ethics Commission should be given authority over local elected officials such as Mayors and City Councilors.

Kudos are in order for Representative Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, Representatives Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, and Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque for negotiating a compromise bill in the remaining hours of the 2019 Legislative session.

The Ethics Commission will go down as a major legacy that all three legislators will be able to point to with great pride.
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POSTCRIPT:

Following are links to news coverage:

http://nmindepth.com/2019/03/16/legislature-nears-deal-on-independent-ethics-commission/

https://www.abqjournal.com/1292774/lawmakers-move-toward-ethics-agreement.html

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/new-mexico-overwhelmingly-backs-ethics-commission/article_54cd9aca-e4c3-56c8-8bf0-6968fd5018ea.html

It’s Called Governing: More Consequential Legislation Enacted In 60 Days Than In 8 Years

On March 15, 2019, 12:00 noon, Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham finished her very first 60-day Legislative session as Governor.

By all accounts, it was one of the most productive sessions in a long time where the legislature and the Governor came together and got things done.

Following is a summary listing of major enacted legislation.

Legislative failures are also noted followed by Commentary and Analysis and a POSTSCRIPT with media source links for review.

BUDGET ENACTMENT

Financial stress over the budget process was greatly reduced from years past by a nearly $2 Billion in additional revenue generated by the Southern New Mexico oil boom and increased royalties filling the state coffers. The 2019 Legislature enacted over a $7 billion state budget, the largest budget ever enacted in state history. The legislature appropriated $933 million for infrastructure projects such as road and bridge repairs. State agencies had submitted a total of $543.4 million in requests, requests for senior citizen facilities totaled $28.7 million, and higher education institutions, special and tribal schools totaled $125.6 million, for a grand total of $697.7 million to address statewide needs. $380 million this year has been allocated to lawmakers to spend in their individual districts at their discretion. After years of very meager pay raises state employees will be given a 4% pay increase.

PUBLIC EDUCATION INFUSION OF CASH

The total education budget is a whopping $3.2 Billion, 16% over last years budget, out of the total budget of $7 Billion. Included in the budget is a $500 million in additional funding for K-12 education and increases in teacher pay. The massive infusion of funding to public education is the result of a District Court ruling that ruled the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education. The District Court found that many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system. Early childhood programs will be given a major increase in funding. Under the enacted 2019-2020 budget, every public-school district will be allocated significantly more funding. Teachers and school administrators will be given 6% pay raises or more with more money to hire more teachers.

DEPARTMENT OF EARLY CHILDHOOD

A new “Early Childhood Department” was created starting in January 2020. This was a major priority of the Governor Lujan Grisham. The new department will focus state resources on children from birth to 5 years of age. A major goal of the new department, coupled with other investments, will be more New Mexico children growing up to secure gainful employment as adults who don’t require government services.

TAXATION AND FEES

The Legislature enacted and sent to Governor Lujan Grisham the first package of tax hikes in over a decade. The tax increases will raise a combined $70 million for the state’s general fund through a personal income tax rate hike for the state’s higher earners, internet consumer sales and vehicle sales. The legislature increased the personal income tax for single filers making over $210,000 and for married couples filing jointly making over $315,000. The personal income tax increases take effect only if state revenues in the fiscal year that begins July 1 do not grow more than 5% over the current budget and will only take effect in 2022 if state revenues stay flat which is not anticipate because of oil and gas production. The oil and gas industry and many economist are predicting the oil and gas boom in Permian Basin will continue for some years as a result of reserves discovered in New Mexico and Texas. The working families tax credit is expanded. Internet sales will now also be subject to taxation as a result of a United States Supreme Court ruling and will result in a new tax revenue source. For the first time since 2009, the state will have the power to fine and assess fees under the New Mexico Oil and Gas Act something the oil and gas industry lobbied heavily against during the session.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1292807/lawmakers-pass-tax-package-just-before-adjournment.html

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE

The 2019 legislature raised the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour in increments and will rise to $12 an hour in 2022. Tip levels will remain the same when it comes reporting and taxation.

STATE PENSION PLANS

Over the last year, it has been reported that the state’s two major pension funds Educational Retirement Board (ERB) and the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) are in serious financial trouble because of long term liabilities of benefits to paid retirees that will exceed by the billions that are available. Despite changes enacted in 2013, PERA’s estimated unfunded liability which is the gap between future retirement benefits owed and expected future assets on hand, has increased over the past four years to $4.8 billion from $4.6 billion. Decreases in the ERB’s expected investment returns and inflation calculations have caused the system’s unfunded liability to rise to $7.4 billion, an increase of more than $1 billion since 2014 and its funded ratio to drop to 61.5 percent. The budget seeks to shore up New Mexico’s two major pension funds by increasing how much the state pays into workers’ retirement accounts with an approximate amount of $13.7 million. The solvency of the pension plans is a looming financial crisis that will have to be address in future years, sooner rather than later

GUN REGISTRATION LEGISLATION

The 2019 Legislative session enacted nearly universal background checks for all gun sales. During her years in the United States Congress, the Governor advocated responsible gun control measures to curtail gun violence. The background check legislation was strongly opposed by elected Sherriff’s and other law enforcement agencies throughout the state as being unenforceable and ineffective. In response to the universal background checks on all gun sales, a petition drive has been initiated by Second Amendment Advocates to repeal the legislation with a public vote.

The New Mexico Legislature passed Senate Bill 328 which prohibits gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act. The legislation makes it a misdemeanor for people who have restraining orders in domestic violence cases who surrender their guns to law enforcement. Under the enacted legislation domestic abusers must surrender their firearms to law enforcement. The gun possession prohibition also applies to people convicted of other crimes such as battery on a household member.

ETHICS COMMISSION CREATED

On November 5, 2018, New Mexico voters overwhelmingly voted with a three-quarters majority for a constitutional amendment to establish an independent statewide ethics commission with subpoena power and other authority. It was left up to the New Mexico Legislature to determine the details of how the seven-member commission would operate.

On March 15, 2019, with only hours left to go in the 60-day session 2019 New Mexico Legislative session, state lawmakers reached a compromise on creating a new, independent ethics commission setting powers and procedures of the commission. The enacted legislation creates an ethics commission that will oversee state public officials, including state lawmakers, state employees and constitutionally elected officials, including the governor, lt. governor, secretary of state and the attorney general. The seven-member commission is empowered to fine public officials if they are found by the commission to have violated civil provisions of state laws.

EXPUNGING OF CRIMINAL RECORDS

Under enacted legislation, defendants will be allowed to seek court approved orders to expunge or “wipe out” an arrest or a conviction from their records. Employers will be prohibited from asking job seekers about criminal history on an initial job application. The legislature also expanded pre prosecution diversion programs making such programs available to more.

FILM TAX CREDIT CAP DOUBLED

During her opening remarks to the 2019 legislative session, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham called for removing the annual $50 million cap on tax rebate payouts to eligible production companies that film in the state. The legislature, instead of abolishing the cap, increased the film tax credit cap from $50 million to $110 million. An appropriation of $225 million was made to pay off a backlog of film tax credits owed to production entities. The legislation also offers another 5% in tax rebates for productions that shoot in New Mexico rural areas.

https://nmpoliticalreport.com/2019/03/16/bill-raising-film-tax-rebate-cap-goes-to-governor/

CAMPAIGN AND LOBBYING DISCLOSURE REFORM

State lawmakers passed legislation that overhauls campaign finance regulations and require more disclosure from those who make “independent expenditures” in political campaigns. A measure was also passed that closed a loophole that exempted lobbyist spending from public disclosure. Lobbyists will be required to report their cumulative spending on individuals’ meals or entertainment items that cost less than $100.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

The ambitious “Energy Transition Act”, a renewable energy bill, was enacted by the 2019 New Mexico Legislature. The legislation requires that 80% of the state’s power from large utilities must come from “renewable energy” sources by the year 2040 and be 100% carbon free by 2045. The renewable energy bill makes New Mexico competitive with the most ambitious states transitioning to green power. Critics argue the 20 to 25-year deadlines are unrealistic and simply not enough time to transition to renewable energy.

MARIJUANA “DECRIMINALIZATION”

The legislature at the last-minute enacted Senate Bill 323 sponsored by State Senator Joseph Cervantes OF Las Cruces that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill falls very short from the complete legalization of recreational marijuana that was attempted by the House and 3 Republican Senators. Legislation was enacted allowing “medical marijuana” at school and making other changes to the medical cannabis program.

VOTER REGISTRATION AND DRIVERS LICENSE REFORM

The state “two-tiered driver’s license system” created by the previous Republican Governor’s Administration was amended to make it easier for undocumented workers to get drivers’ licenses. New Mexicans will also be able to register the same day they want to vote and people will automatically be registered when getting their drivers’ licenses.

ANIMAL RIGHTS AND WILDLIFE PROTECTION

The legislature placed a ban on all coyote killing contests in the state. The Albuquerque City Council enacted such a ban last year. An Office of Outdoor Recreation was created along with legislation identifying wildlife corridors for state protection.

NOTABLE 2019 LEGISLATIVE DEFEATS

Probably the biggest failure or disappointment for progressive Democrats was the legalization, regulation, taxation and sale of recreational marijuana by state run facilities. The measure was defeated and tabled by the Senate Finance committee after it had passed the New Mexico House. What also failed was legislation making possession of “all types of drugs” a misdemeanor and not a felony.

Another disappointment was the failure to repeal the 1969 law that criminalizes abortion, except in cases in rape. The law criminalizing abortion is not enforceable as a result of the United State Supreme Court ruling in Rowe vs Wade that legalized abortions. “Right to choose” advocates are concerned that the United States Supreme Court will reverse the Roe vs. Wade decision now that conservatives control the court.

The legislature voted against revising the “three strikes and you’re out” law mandating the imposition of a life sentence be imposed when a person is convicted a third felony. Also failing was legislation amending the criminal code eliminating the statute of limitations for second degree murder.

The legislature failed to enact legislation allowing “terminally” ill patients to secure a physician’s help for “end of life” measures.

The proposal to tapping into the “Land Grant Permanent Fund” for early childhood care failed after a full year of intense discussion during the 2018 election cycle

Increasing the gasoline tax rate by 10 cents per gallon for road repairs and maintenance failed.

Allowing cities, such as Hobbs, in the oil patch to impose a 5% “tenancy tax” on long term renters failed.

The legislature refused to cap interest rates for “payday loans” at 36%. New Mexico in essence has no “usury laws” prohibiting exorbitant interest charged on loans. Payday loans are considered by many as predatory loans on the poor.

Allowing courts to order the temporary taking guns from people found by the court to be an immediate threat to life and safety failed. Also failing was creating a criminal offense and penalties for failing to properly secure firearms around children. Parents or guardians who did not properly secure firearms resulting in a child being shot would have been subject to criminal charges.

Imposing a four-year moratorium on “fracking” for oil and gas production failed. This should not come as any surprise given the oil and gas boom going on in Southern New Mexico in large part because of fracking that has resulted in a $2 Billion surplus to New Mexico.

A proposal requiring lobbyists to disclose the bills they substantially work on during a legislative session was rejected and killed.

An “Open primary” system allowing registered independents to vote in party nominating primaries failed.

A measure that would require lawmakers make public how they allocate the funding they are given for infrastructure money for their districts died on the Senate floor after lawmakers expressed fears that such information would become politicized when they run for reelection. About $380 million this year has been allocated to lawmakers to spend in their individual districts at their discretion.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The accomplishments and legislation enacted during the 2019 New Mexico legislative session is a striking departure from the previous 8 years of downsizing government to avoid any and all tax increases at all cost even if they were necessary by a Republican Governor.

Downsizing and budget cuts and suppressing government employee wage increases resulted in a major impact on essential services and resulted in a failed public education system.

Gone is Republican Governor “SHE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED” that for the full 8 years she was in office was vindictive, mean spirited and condescending to legislators.

Republican Governor “SHE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED” lacked all ability and had no background to work with the New Mexico legislature to get things done and soon lost credibility with her zealous use of the veto pen, even on legislation that would pass overwhelmingly with bi partisan support.

Gone was the “all crime, all the time” legislative session where the former Republican Governor demanded changes in New Mexico’s criminal laws, including reinstatement of the death penalty and repeatedly seeking to toughen criminal sentences for a host of offenses without even attempting to address the root causes of crime: poverty, drug abuse intervention, poor education, unemployment and social intervention.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the 2019 Democratic control legislature can take great pride and credit for a very consequential session.

The accomplishments of the 2019 Legislative session was a reflection of government elected officials who understand how government is supposed to work with compromise and communication and not confrontation.

More importantly, the accomplishments are a reflection of elected officials who understand the needs of the people of New Mexico and who are fully committed to getting things done.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham accomplished more in 60 days than Republican Governor “She Who Shall Not Be Named” did in her two terms and 8 years as Governor.

Governor Lujan Grisham is already thinking about future legislative sessions saying she will probably champion some of the failed measures in 2020 legislative session.

This is what you call governing which we have not been seen in New Mexico state government for the past 8 years.
______________________________________________

POSTSCRIPT

Following are links to media coverage:

http://nmindepth.com/2019/03/16/governor-and-democrats-bask-in-session-successes/

http://nmpoliticalreport.com/2019/03/17/sine-die-legislature-adjourns/

https://www.abqjournal.com/1292871/lujan-grisham-lawmakers-reflect-on-her-first-session.html

http://nmpoliticalreport.com/2019/03/17/sine-die-legislature-adjourns/

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics-government/the-2019-legislative-session-ends-democrats-cheer-republicans-to-regroup/1854611208

https://www.koat.com/article/should-columbus-day-be-renamed-indigenous-peoples-day/26845209

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Budget A Dawn Of A New Day

DA Torrez Takes Credit For Lowering Crime Rates And Ignores APD, BCSO and NMSP

On March 12, 2019, Democratic Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez told the very private and very Republican leaning Albuquerque Economic Forum monthly meeting that a unit of 10 prosecutors he assigned to prosecute stolen car cases has begun taking on prosecution of other types of crimes because of the decrease in motor vehicle thefts.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1291800/da-says-there-has-been-a-drop-in-auto-thefts.html

DA Torrez said he appointed the group of 10 prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office more than a year ago because he felt car thefts were having a broad impact on the Albuquerque metro area.

Torrez had this to say about his unit of prosecutors:

“[Auto thefts] had become a dominant narrative about our community, and it was just something that I thought we could solve if we surged those resources to it and we had some specialists. … We’re not nearly where we need to be, we have a long way to go, but it’s encouraging. … The question now is, can we sustain the progress?”

According to Torrez, when his unit of prosecutors started securing high-profile auto theft convictions, defense lawyers became more willing to resolve cases earlier through plea negotiations and agreements which helped increase the flow of cases through the criminal justice system.

For two years in a row, Albuquerque led the country in per-capita car thefts, with nearly 10,000 thefts reported in 2017.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, in 2017 Albuquerque had three times as many per capita car thefts that year than second-place Anchorage, Alaska, and 10 times more than fifth place St. Joseph, Missouri.

Torrez expressed optimism that the city could see its ranking drop dramatically by the end of this year.

The drop auto thefts comes as Albuquerque is in the midst of the longest sustained drop in crime rates in over a decade.

HISTORY OF RISING AUTO THEFT RATES

According to FBI statistics, the overwhelming majority of auto thefts in New Mexico occur in Albuquerque.

From 2013 to 2018, Albuquerque saw more than a three-fold increase in auto theft along with climbing rates of armed robbery, larceny and burglary.

In 2013, a total of 2,743 auto thefts were reported.

In 2016 more than 10,000 vehicles were stolen in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County combined or more than 27 vehicles a day.

In 2016, the city accounted for about 65 percent of the stolen vehicles in the state and about 30 percent of the population.

In 2017, the number of auto thefts reported was 7,684, which was slightly down from 2016 when 7,710 vehicles were stolen.

In June, 2017, the National Insurance Crime Bureau declared Albuquerque “the auto theft capital of the nation” for its rate of auto thefts, with 1,114 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people.

BERNALILLO COUNTY AUTO THEFT SUPPRESSION EFFORT

On March 21, 2018, almost a full year ago, it was announced at a joint press conference the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) and New Mexico State Police (NMSP) were joining forces to address the city’s and the county’s out of control auto theft rates.

The initiative is called the “Bernalillo County Auto Theft Suppression Effort”.

The auto theft suppression effort includes tactical operations that combine technology, resources, manpower and intelligence from all three of the law enforcement agencies to arrest more auto theft suspects and recover more stolen vehicles.

APD concentrated on auto theft sting operations.

APD’s first auto theft sting resulted in 22 felony arrests and 23 recovered vehicles and in the first two months of the year the APD recovered a total of 843 vehicles and made 137 arrests.

The BCSO auto theft unit and its “Fugitive Apprehension & Surveillance Team” assisted APD and the New Mexico State Police with joint operations.

The BCSO participated in monthly tactical plans and used marked patrol cars equipped with a GPS tracker that can be attached to a suspect’s vehicle.

The New Mexico State Police assigned a lieutenant, a sergeant and four detectives to be part of an auto theft unit to work with APD and BCSO by running bait car operations, checking license plates and lending extra resources in the field.

ALBUQUERQUE’S DECREASING CRIME RATES

On December 27, 2018, Albuquerque’s crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 were released reflecting the very first decrease in overall crime in 8 years.

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

Following are the crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 comparing them with the statistics for the entire year of 2017 as well as the first 6 months of both years.

TOTAL PROPERTY CRIMES FOR TWO YEARS

AUTO BURGLARY FOR TWO YEARS
2017:12,999 (First 6 months: 6,559)
2018: 9,218 (First 6 months: 4,523)
Change: -29% (First 6 months: -31%)

AUTO THEFT FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 7,692 (First 6 months: 3,633)
2018: 5,341 (First 6 months: 3,061)
Change: -31 (First 6 months: -15.7 %)

COMMERCIAL BURGLARY FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 2,298 (First 6 months:1,183)
2018: 1,918 (First 6 months: 994)
Change: -17% (First 6 months -15.9%)

RESIDENTIAL BURGLARY FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 4,704 (First 6 months: 2,207)
2018: 3,847 (First 6 months: 2,075)
Change: -18 (First 6 months -5.9%)

VIOLENT CRIME FOR TWO YEARS

ROBBERY FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 2,930 (First 6 months: 1,467)
2018: 1,887 (First 6 months: 1,012)
Change: -36% (First 6 months: -31%)

AGGRAVATED ASSAULT FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 4,213 (First 6 months: 1,957)
2018: 3,885 (First 6 months: 1,851)
Change: -8 (First 6 months: -5.4)

NON-FATAL SHOOTINGS FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 470 (First 6 months: 60)
2018: 491 (First 6 months: 63)
Change: +4 (First 6 months: +5.0%)

RAPE FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 473 (First 6 months: 236)
2018: 461 (First 6 months: 226)
Change: -3% (First six months -4.2)

HOMICIDES FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 72 (First 6 months: 33)
2018: 65 (First 6 months:39)
Change: -10% (First 6 months -18.2%)

Review of the city’s crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 show the largest decreases in the property crimes of auto burglary decreasing by 29%, and auto theft decreasing by 31%.

Commercial Burglary decrease by 17%, residential burglary decreased by 18% and robbery fell by 36%.

During the entire year of 2018, APD increased sworn police officer salaries, longevity pay for officers and aggressively recruited and hired close to 90 sworn police officers including lateral hires from other departments and new cadets with the Department now at 940 sworn police.

APD dedicated further resources to the auto theft unit to deal with crushing case loads.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It is not the first time that DA Raul Torrez essentially tries to take all the credit for the reduction in crime rates ignoring the law enforcement agencies of APD, BCSO and NMSP.

On January 29, 2019, DA Raul Torrez released his report titled “Impact Prosecution”.

The report outlined several of the efforts Torrez implemented in his office aimed to curb crime rates throughout the city, such as changing the culture within the office, creating a Crime Strategies Unit and better understanding criminal networks.

You can read the news report here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1274417/da-says-timeliness-of-criminal-cases-lowers-crime-rates.html

Since assuming office on January 1, 2016, Raúl Torrez has stressed the importance of swiftly holding people accountable for their crimes while also offering many low-level criminal’s chances to reform themselves.

During his first year in office, Torrez blamed judges for increasing Albuquerque’s crime rates because they would release defendants pending their criminal trials when the judges decided that the defendants did not pose an immediate threat to the community.

Torrez also said defense attorneys were “gaming the system” to get their clients out of jail and resisting plea agreements by demanding trials.

Torrez does not seem to recognize that the center of the criminal justice universe does not revolve around him as District Attorney but that universe includes the law enforcement agencies of APD, BCSO, the NMSP, the criminal defense bar, the courts, the corrections system and the laws enforced.

In his presentation to the Economic Forum, District Attorney Raul Torrez at the very least could have given some credit to where credit was due instead of essentially taking all the credit for reducing auto thefts in Albuquerque.

The DA’s office can only prosecute those cases investigated by the law enforcement community.

Raul Torres was quoted as saying “The question now is, can we sustain the progress [of prosecutions with the DA’s office?]

The answer to that question is a resounding yes if Torres fills the 44 vacancies he has in the office, including attorney vacancies, that he has had for well over a year and stop his complaining of lack of resources he is known for in Santa Fe.

When the Bernalillo County Auto Theft Suppression effort was announced by APD, BCSO and the NMSP, it was estimated that tangible results would be seen within a year and that is what exactly happened.

Giving credit to APD, BCSO and the NMSP would have been the decent thing to do by DA Raul Torrez when he spoke to all his buddies at the Albuquerque Economic Forum.

Giving at least some credit to the law enforcement agencies that did all the auto theft investigations, arrests, put the offense reports together and forwarded them to the DA’s office probably would have meant Torrez would not have gotten his picture on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal.

For that matter, giving credit to those who deserve credit would not have been as impressive to the very Republican leaning Albuquerque Economic Forum whose membership will in all likely vote for any Republican who runs against Torrez in 2020, unless of course he has no Republican opponent and the Republicans in the Economic Forum he caters to will not be able to vote for him in the Democratic primary.

TO Déjà Vu DA Raul Torrez: DV Cases Should Be “Violent Or Dangerous Enough” To Motivate You To Fill 44 Vacant Positions

Monahan’s Take On Last Few Hours Of 2019 NM Legislative Session; “Pass The Pot Bill Joint, Man!”

The 2019 New Mexico Legislature adjoins this Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 12:00 Noon, with adjournment referred or announced as “sine die”.

In his usual and incite-full manner, political blogger Joe Monahan on his blog “New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan” published an article on the goings in the Legislature during the last few days of the session, with the link to his blog and his email address in the below POSTSCRIPT.

Below is Joe Monahan’s Wednesday, March 13, 2019 article followed by an excerpt from his Thursday, March 14, 2019 blog article on the the decriminalization of marijuana.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 13, 2019

ARTICLE TITLE: A Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On In Santa Fe: We Cover The Major Action, Plus: New And Incredible Oil Boom Numbers Rock The Roundhouse; Another Cornucopia Of Cash Coming Soon

It may not be earth shattering but the 2019 legislative session is shaping up as one of the most consequential in years. And, unlike the past eight legislative sessions under the previous Governor, these final days are busy–really busy. Let’s try to fit it all in, starting with our takeaways:

–The hefty hike in the public education budget is a done deal. The Senate Finance Committee has approved an increase of nearly $450 million million (16 percent). That puts the state on track to restore funding stripped away in the Great Recession and to begin satisfying a court order that found the state violating the Constitution when it comes to educating the many at risk students in the state. Supportive legislative Republicans and their leader Sen. Stuart Ingle get a special tip of the hat for realizing the necessity of this boost.

–The ETA is A-OK, according to the Legislature and Governor. It passed the House Tuesday and is on MLG’s desk for her signature. The Energy Transition Act establishes a goal of having the state’s energy sector going to 50 percent renewable by 2030 and 80% renewable by 2040. That’s big. The bill, however, also provides what critics call a ‘bail out” of PNM for the cost of closing down its coal-fired generating facilities. That’s also big and could lead to a court challenge.

–If the legislature passed only those two bills, they alone would make for a significant session, especially compared to the do-nothing gatherings of the recent past. But there’s much more.

–The state budget has yet to go to the Governor but it will soon and total about $7 billion. That’s a $700 million increase over last year. But hold on. There’s another cash cow that is flying under the radar.

—Bam! Senate Finance approved a capital outlay bill this week with one time money coming from the booming oil fields that will total nearly a billion dollars. Whew. It’s actually $933 million for the “pork” projects for individual legislators and the Governor, such as new buildings, parks and the like. If the Legislature can do a better job of rolling out all that dough, you are talking some serious economic stimulus.

As fiscal hawk and Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith grumbled this week:

Politicians who like spending money really enjoyed this session.

–It is really incredible to see these new numbers come rolling in from the Permian and to try to internalize what they could mean for this largely impoverished and under educated state. It’s just awesome:

(NM oil output) hit all-time record of nearly 246 million barrels in 2018, according to the latest statistics from the state Oil Conservation Division. That’s up 42 percent over 2017, when New Mexico produced nearly 173 million barrels, also a record high at that time.

If this keeps up we’re taking John Arthur to the gambling tables in Vegas for a weekend.

NO BUST IN SIGHT

We’ve blogged a number of times that the surprise for lawmakers could be how long this oil boom continues and keeps a flood of cash coming in for a long period–not the old boom-bust scenario. Chairman Smith seems to be catching on:

That preliminary forecast on surplus money for FY 2020, released late last year, may now be too low, said Sen. John Arthur Smith. . . “It appears we’ll generate more than what was forecast in December, even over $1.2 billion,” Smith said. “And for next year’s budget, we’ll likely see a steady revenue stream from oil and gas. I think production will hit 300 million barrels by the end of this year.”

Folks, it’s Ground Control to Major Tom time: All Fiscal Hawks please land immediately. You’ve been grounded for the foreseeable future.

But Dem State Senator John Sapien of Corrales is still flapping those wings:

We’re like a homeless person who wins the lottery. We’re going to spend it all, and in two to three years we’re going to be broke again.

What? Are homeless people winning lotteries in NM? Anyway. . .

John, they are not spending it all. The budget reserve for the coming budget year is an unprecedented 20 percent and then there’s that new rainy day fund (that we find excessive) that will see even more millions set aside. And then there’s the tax increase bill to provide a back-up revenue stream in the event of an oil crash. Not all of it will survive the final legislative hours but a conservative estimate is that well over $100 million in new annual tax revenue will go on the books. (Unfortunately, it appears the restoration of the progressive tax system may not stand up to conservative scrutiny). Still…

We don’t say it too often, but dammit, that is pretty good legislating. Now the job is to come up with a multi-year plan for the surpluses to come.

The Governor and the Legislature have been presented with one of the greatest opportunities in state history.

It’s time to stop fearing the future and embrace its possibilities.

SAY IT AGAIN

Ryan Flynn of the NM Oil and Gas Association has said it before and he says it again. Reacting to the historic oil gusher numbers of 2018, he declared:
This shows that even if prices remain relatively stable, the state can still expect $1 billion-plus surpluses to continue into the future.

Hey, fiscal hawks. That’s an oil and gas guy saying it, not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Sure, make certain the spending train doesn’t go off the tracks, but at least grab a seat.

Here is more persuasive evidence for the Guv and legislators that time is running short and they need to intensively prepare and plan for this cornucopia to come:

Royal Dutch Shell is on the hunt for deals to bulk up its position in the Permian Basin, where it lags rivals Exxon Mobil and Chevron. “We are definitely actively looking at opportunities,” Wael Sawan, Shell’s deepwater boss, said. “If none ever come up then that’s a disappointing outcome.”

That’s not some small independent operator. These are the major multinational corporations of the world.

Like a broken record (remember those?) we’ll say it again:

This Governor and Legislature have been presented with one of the greatest opportunities in state history.

P.S. Please don’t blow it.

TOO GENEROUS?

About our Tuesday blog saying the the current five member Public Regulation Commission (PRC) has its act together compared to previous panels and that keeping the commissioners as elected officials–not appointed ones–makes sense, a Senior Alligator writes:

You’re being awfully generous with the PRC. Just because none of the Commissioners is currently under investigation or caught with their hands in the cookie jar doesn’t mean they are a model of accomplishment. What exactly Commissisoners Cynthia Hall and Valerie Espinoza have accomplished is unclear to me. Have they fixed the state’s broadband problems yet or held Century Link accountable for their lack of investment in rural areas? How about extending natural gas northward beyond Espanola or pushing electric providers on renewables? What about putting some needed pressure on insurance providers?

A new, appointed group of commissioners might just be ethical, qualified and effective. That’s a true formula for success and a rarity at the PRC as we know it.

Several other readers said while there may indeed be a new “progressive majority” on the commission it is “inconsistent,” with Dem Commissioners Hall and Espinoza often breaking in different directions.

LEGAL POT DIES

ICYMI–The legal pot movement has died suddenly but not unexpectedly in Santa Fe. With one sentence Senate Finance Chair Smith blew smoke in the eyes of the legalization supporters. He simply said:

It’s not a priority.

Everyone and their brother saw it coming, even after the pro-pot crowd was heartened by House passage of a bizarre bill that would have put the state in charge of selling the stuff.

What’s sad is the missed opportunity. In their zealotry to get legalization its backers ignored pleas to support a decriminalization bill. That bill would have prevented the jailing of mostly low income people for possession of small amounts of the weed–the very people the well-financed national marijuana lobby in Santa Fe says it wants to help. . . Maybe they can put up the bail money for those jailed in the next year?

There you have it, Gators. That’s a whole lot of action. Don’t worry. Being a political junkie is still legal in New Mexico. But be forewarned: it can be both a blessing and a curse.”

THURSDAY MARCH 14, 2019

” ARTICLE TITLE: Just Hours To Go: A Lobbyist’s Lament, One Pot Bill Still Lives, GOP Senator Seeks Cover On Minimum Wage And Can Norway Show NM Something?

Pity the Santa Fe lobbyists. In these final hours of Session ’19 when the action shifts out of the committees and onto the floors of the House and Senate they have to contend with some new restrictions on access that are prominently posted outside the respective chambers. One of the smooth talking, Gucci-wearing wall-leaners says he and his brethren don’t like what they see:

Joe, both the House and Senate have had these signs up for a couple of weeks whenever they are on the floor. Lobbyists are no longer allowed to catch legislators on the floor like we use to before they are gaveled to order. This is what made New Mexico special and our legislators accessible.

Well, it’s a tough sell. Feeling sorry for a lobbyist in Santa Fe is like feeling sympathy for the guy who just ran over your dog. But don’t take it personal, lobbying corp. You notice how Senators this week quietly killed that bill that would have prohibited you from buying them any food or drink during the legislative sessions? They still like you–a lot.

Just two full days to go in Session ’19 before Saturday’s noon adjournment. Here’s what’s catching our attention. . .

Legal pot is dead but decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of the weed (up to half an ounce) is still on the table. ABQ Dem Sen, Jerry Ortiz y Pino reports;

Senator Cervantes’ SB323 has passed the Senate and has only one House committee referral, to Judiciary, before it reaches the floor there and is sent to the Governor. It is an improvement over what we do now, but not as broad a reform as we need if we are to have any hope of actually controlling drug use. Criminalizing it clearly hasn’t worked, but decriminalizing it only does half the job: it leaves the illegal market controlled by gangs, cartels and dealers, unimpeded, free to squeeze millions in profit from New Mexicans.

House Judiciary has the bill on today’s calendar. The state reports that the bill would reduce the number of criminal cases in the courts. In 2018, there were 2,165 cases of people charged with possessing an ounce or less of marijuana. The Cervantes bill would make possession of up to half an ounce a petty misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine. That would mean a lot of low income folks would avoid spending time in jail for smoking a joint.”

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The link to Joe Monahan’s blog is http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/ and his email address is jmonahan@ix.netcom.com