Below is a guest opinion column written by Rudolfo Carrillo submitted for publication on this blog.
Rudolfo Carrillo is a native New Mexican and was the news and music editor at Weekly Alibi from August 2015 until March 2020, where he used the pen name “August March” to write about Albuquerque culture, history and politics. He is a graduate of the University of New Mexico’s fine arts program. His award-winning writing and analysis have been featured at international academic conferences, in notable literary journals as well as in local media outlets like the Albuquerque Journal. His latest work can be read at Infinity Report with the link here:
EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this article are those of Rudolfo Carrillo and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com. Notwithstanding, the headline was authored by the editor. Rudolfo Carrillo was not compensated for the guest column. The postscript contains links to other relevant and published Dinelli blog articles.
DAVIS TO THE RESCUE: A HEARTY HI-HO SILVER OR JUST MORE BABY FOOD
You’d think that a dude who has access to the mechanisms of municipal governance and a staff full of competent writers would be a natural choice to create and maintain an informed, intelligent local news outlet that focuses on issues that citizens of Albuquerque find important.
But those conceits are clearly far from the mind and operating policy of Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis and his so-called community newspaper, The Paper.
While the publication has tried its best to meet expectations—and the quickly flowing, easy-to-drown-in river known hereabouts as la politica—this week, the newspaper descended into a muck of unsourced reporting and fringy, cringe-inducing feature stories.
It’s important for this city to have a reputable, civic-involved press corps, especially at the level of community and alternative publications. Citizens need to be informed, to have a credible source of reference and potentially even an advocate for local issues. Providing informational pabulum, à la Showbiz Cheat Sheet, is simply not enough, and, in fact, represents a detriment to the community.
Many of the big issues and scandals that have come to light over the past year, including the Sheryl Williams Stapleton education debacle, might have been ameliorated—or even preemptively discovered—by a dutiful, efficient news department focused on issues that affect the community. Instead, after the rise of The Paper, readers have been asked to follow along as Davis and company ignore much of that local news, water down what they don’t outright ignore and then turn to tabloid journalism to drive readership.
The lack of comprehensive coverage of the local stadium controversy by Davis’ publication, when considered in concert with media photo ops of the Councilor waving and smiling—next to New Mexico United owner Peter Trevisani and local sportsball champion Mayor Tim Keller—say much about the true direction of the Davis’ media mogul efforts. It’s a vanity project.
Throw in an overabundance of reprinted material from the Associated Press and Searchlight New Mexico and a couple rehashed feature stories about odd laws and urban legends of the region, and you get a good picture of a publication that is adrift, even as important local news continuously breaks on the horizon.
POLICE OFFICER PAT DAVIS NEFARIOUS PAST
First let’s take a look at how Davis—a one-time bad cop from the nation’s capital who moved to Albuquerque and continued to make controversial (some say unethical) decisions as a member of the University of New Mexico’s police force—came to hold such high leadership positions in this city, as a member of the City Council and the publisher of a weekly newspaper that touts progressive causes when it’s not busy musing about ghosts and UFOs.
Long story short, the entire city has probably heard about the Black man that Davis shot while on patrol in Washington, D.C.; they probably also know about the raft of lawsuits that the Councilor faced after being involved in some less-than-transparent university police actions.
“New Mexico official called on to resign over police shooting”, by Russell Contreras, APNews.com, June 25, 2020:
One incident even happened off campus, at the home of a university employee, where Davis and others “went to the home of Brook Bender looking for a person named Richard Hughes and telling Bender they needed to search her home.” According to the complaint, the officers did not identify themselves until Bender noticed a UNM police badge. The complaint alleges that Davis and the defendants told Plaintiff Bender that they knew she worked for UNM because they found her UNM employee ID in her car next to some contraband and that she needed to “work with them” or they would inform UNM officials about the contraband they allegedly found. According to Bender’s allegations, she responded to those threats by allowing Davis and the other defendants into her home where she asked to see a “search warrant.” They told Bender they did not have a search warrant, but they could easily obtain one. If she insisted on a search warrant, they would “rat her out” to her employer, UNM.
After settling with the citizens in question for thousands of dollars, UNM—as is their modus operandi in such cases—moved on without reform. Davis, meanwhile, moved on to an unsuccessful Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office campaign that was accused of having racist undertones, because Davis apparently used his campaign website to discuss his cop job at UNM and “seeking out people that don’t belong” as well as for allegedly targeting members of the community for low-level cannabis possession crimes.
June 26, 2020, “Pat Davis Shooting A Black Man As DC Cop Only Part of Story; Davis Engaged In Pattern of Civil Rights Violations As A UNM COP, Costing Taxpayers Thousands”:
Davis was, notably, also the founder of progressive think-tank Progress Now New Mexico, an organization which spawned the venerable news site, NM Political Report. Ironically, the same organization sent out a passionate call for Davis’ resignation—mostly based on the revelations mentioned above—in late June of 2020.
Here’s some of what Marianna Anaya at ProgressNow New Mexico wrote:
“As a self-proclaimed “progressive” Davis is not exempt from accountability. Davis’ sustained pattern of racist actions over a long period of years has led us to call for Davis to step down from his positions of authority, including the Bernalillo County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the Judicial Selection Committee, Governor Lujan Grisham’s Marijuana Legalization Task Force, and his seat on City Council. Surely, our community does not need someone who routinely targets and criminalizes Black and Brown people to be serving on committees that select judges, decide the future of marijuana legalization in our state, or pass policies and make financial decisions for the City of Albuquerque.
There are calls for justice across the nation—some are met with hostility, and others with grace. We hope Davis chooses the later, steps down from his positions and reflects on how his actions are contributing to a larger system of institutional racism.”
Following this initial action, two other respected progressive organizations joined with ProgressNow New Mexico and also called for Davis’ resignation.
“ProgressNow New Mexico Statement on Councilor Davis ‘Shooting of a Black Man and Pattern of Upholding Racist Institutions; Calls for His Multiple Resignations”, June 25, 2020:
After learning those facts, I simply can’t imagine Davis in a Sheriff’s uniform, much less wearing a publisher’s hat. It seems ironic, too, that someone who has made a career of being supportive of the carceral state has now positioned himself within the apparent bastion of its opposite.
“What is the Carceral State?”: ARCGis StoryMaps, May, 2020:
Remember when Davis ran for Congress a few years ago and dropped the F-Bomb against the NRA and gun laws? It didn’t seem quite right, did it? That Shakespearean trope about protesting too much comes to mind.
Pat Davis: Fuck the NRA, youtube.com, May 11, 2018:
And it should. That is because this is the same fellow who shot a Black man twice during a traffic stop for a faulty taillight. This is the man who used intimidation tactics to illegally search an off-campus home while on duty as a campus policeman. And now he owns a progressive newspaper.
But it really isn’t a newspaper, at least not this week. In what is surely the most visible misstep yet in his storied career (well, at least, since the gun-cussing thing), Davis’ newspaper printed an edition this week that owes more to websites like Only in Your State and Legends of America while completely ignoring important civic developments like citizen opposition to the Mayor’s stadium proposal, worsening homelessness, the intransigent City Council or the sportsball-loving Mayor’s quest for redemption.
While it’s true that the inclusion of work from Searchlight New Mexico adds some credibility to Davis’ site, the plain truth is that such writ is available at any number of other, more reputable sites, like the good old Santa Fe New Mexican.
The Paper’s overwhelming inclusion of AP wire stories looks plain awkward and speaks to the shallow depth of the editorial pond surrounding Davis and company. This crime against journalism is compounded by the fact that the paper’s original content largely lacks insight, originality and depth.
When said material is unsourced or when the sources themselves are questionable, it only makes the whole situation over there seem more desperate and untethered.
Besides being rambling and faux-authoritative, The Paper’s feature on urban legends of Albuquerque is basically unsourced or, alternatively, sourced very questionably. Anonymous sources, anonymous Facebook users (really?!) explain their paranormal experiences to a reporter who subsequently frames the whole schmear within his own proclivity for fantasy. It certainly makes for some awkward critical thinking and cognitive dissonance while reading.
The related report on weird laws of New Mexico could easily have come from any number of high-volume listicle trivia websites that inhabit the current incarnation of the interwebz. The author of this legal piece doesn’t even bother to mention sources; readers are simply told that such things were “found.” At the end of the column, the writer refers blithely and passingly to the terrific, heartbreaking homicide rate in this town; those ham-fisted final two paragraphs join the failure to reputably source law reporting, rendering the whole proceeding shockingly out of touch with the news that is needed by the average resident of this town.
And, now, we consider the coverage that really counts: “UFOs Over Burque.” While this feature is exhaustively, if questionably, sourced, the subject matter itself seems to defy gravity. There’s so much real news going on in Albuquerque that putting UFOs and the paranormal up front seems an affront to citizens who are rightly scared of violent crime, struggling to find meaningful work, still trying to avoid or recover from COVID-19 and its delta variant or are just looking for some locus of accountability and transparency that was once joyously and effectively within the ken of journalistic institutions like The Paper.
“I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY”
Davis, however, is not completely irredeemable, at least by Albuquerque political standards. Despite having a reputation for being a bad cop and having the distinction of being city councilor for the most violent district in a small city with big violence problem—in 2018 Searchlight New Mexico’s (remember them they’re one of the biggest contributing writers at Davis’ community newspaper) Leslie Linthicum called the International District “one of Albuquerque’s toughest neighborhoods,” something that reporter refers to as a “grim situation.”
February 18, 2018: “This Is home: Stories from Albuquerque’s Toughest Neighborhoods”, by Leslie Linthicum, Searchlight New Mexico in the Las Cruces Sun-News:
The thing is, if Davis wants to remain electable in the next election cycle—his second term as a city councilor comes up review in 2024—he needs to demonstrate that he really did turn over a new leaf when he put his badge and 10-gallon hat down and rode into the local political rodeo without guns blazing, sort of like that superhero of weird Western lore, the Lone Ranger.
Davis can start by using his superpowers as a newspaper publisher to cover what’s important while dispensing with the sophomoric distractions like this week’s issue of The Paper. Then he might want to consider not spending so much time on photo-ops that reflect an allegiance to ideas and personalities that probably won’t help his political career along anyway. Finally, he should concentrate on improving basic things like safety and health in a City Council district that is suffering grievously post-pandemic.
“New Mexico Disparate Vaccine Rates”, by Marisa DeMarco, KUNM.org, April 19, 2021:
In that scenario, the city’s economic condition improves as violence wanes, the newspaper that Davis champions grows huevos, and grateful citizens get to remark joyously about the kindly man on a white horse who saved their village from doom and gloom—or something like that.
Links to related Dinelli blog articles are here: