Accused Murderer Darian Bashir To Be Held Without Bond Pending Trial; Deep Dive Analysis On Bail Bond Reform Labeled “Catch And Release”

On May 4, 2019, 23-year-old University of New Mexico student Jackson Weller was shot and killed outside a crowded “Imbibe Night Club” in the heart of Nob Hill making him the 26th person killed by gun violence in Albuquerque this year. Thus far, 15 of the homicides remain unsolved. Law enforcement authorities reported that there have been 114 people shot in 112 days in Bernalillo County including the city of Albuquerque through April 23, which is a 36% increase over last year during the same time period.

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced detectives had arrested Darian Bashir, 23, for the killing of Weller. News reports revealed that in November 2017, Darian Bashir was charged with aggravated battery after he allegedly walked up to another young man in Downtown Albuquerque and shot him at point-blank range in the chest. The case was dismissed by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office because the victim, who survived being shot, did not testify. The case was dismissed in January 2018 after the DA’s Office failed to comply with court mandated hearing deadlines, including not arranging witness interviews.

According to Court records, it was District Court Judge Richard Brown that released Bashir back in January pending trial because he had a “minimal criminal history” and “no felony convictions” and noted “He was charged with a violent felony in 2017, but the charges were dismissed.” Transcripts of the previous hearing revealed the judge “was troubled by some inferences,” including the idea that Defendant Bashir and the others he was with, had been shooting at police officers an allegation the APD police officers did not include in the criminal complaint they filed with the court. Ultimately, Judge Brown found that although Bashir posed a safety risk to the community, that risk could “be reasonably addressed with appropriate conditions of release” which ostensibly was not objected to by the DA’s office.

DEFENDANT DARIAN BASHIR TO BE HELD WITHOUT BOND PENDING TRIAL

On May 15, 2019, District Judge Brett Loveless in a pre-trial detention hearing ordered Darian Bashir the accused of killer of Jackson Weller to be held without bond pending trial. Defendant Darian Bashir faces an open count of murder.

During the detention hearing, the defense attorney pointed out that Darain Bashir, 23, has never been convicted of a crime, he has no history of failure to appear, and a public safety assessment that takes those and other factors into consideration recommended he be released from custody. Bashir’s attorney also argued that police arrested the wrong man because the arrest warrant had the wrong date listed on the police offense report.

In response, District Judge Brett Loveless pointed out that Bashir had been released in a pending February case and was under court supervision at the time of Jackson Weller’s death and said:

“The defendant was already on conditions of release, where he was being supervised by Pretrial Services at a Level 3, which is only one level lower than the greatest level, and in spite of that … he is alleged to have committed a murder. ”

Ultimately, Judge Lovelace agreed with the prosecution and ordered Bashir to be held pending trial.

You can review all the news coverage at the below links:

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/man-accused-of-killing-unm-baseball-player-to-be-held-pending-trial/5354787/?cat=500

https://www.koat.com/article/man-charged-with-killing-unm-baseball-player-will-be-held-without-bond/27484977

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/man-accused-of-killing-unm-baseball-player-will-remain-locked-up-until-trial/2004496653

https://www.abqjournal.com/1316232/judge-detains-man-accused-in-unm-baseball-players-death.html

CONSTITUTIONAL BAIL BOND AMENDMENT EXPLAINED

Albuquerque’s crime wave and its violent and murder rate coupled with the killing of Jackson Weller and the release of accused defendant Darian Bashir has again reignited calls for repeal of New Mexico’s Denial of Bail Measure with accusations of “catch and release” of violent felons by Judges.

On November 8, 2016, the “New Mexico Denial of Bail Measure” was approved by New Mexico voters by a landslide vote.

The Constitutional Amendment amended the New Mexico Constitution to change the conditions under which a defendant can be denied bail and not released from custody pending trial. The Constitutional Amendment was designed to retain the right to pretrial release for “non-dangerous” defendants.

Before passage of the amendment, a defendant’ s bail and release from jail pending trial on charges could be denied:

1. Only for a defendant charged with a capital felony, or
2. A defendant has two or more felony convictions or
3. A defendant is accused of a felony involving the use of a deadly weapon if the defendant has a felony conviction in New Mexico.

The adopted amendment changed these requirements, allowing bail to be denied to a defendant who has been charged with a felony only if the prosecutor can prove to a judge that the defendant poses “a threat to the public.”

The adopted amendment also provides that a defendant who is not a danger to the community or a flight risk cannot be denied bail solely because of the defendant’s financial inability to post a money or property bond.

https://votesmart.org/elections/ballot-measure/2076/a-joint-resolution-proposing-an-amendment-to-article-2-section#.XNyEJo5KiUk

A “YES” vote supported allowing courts to deny bail to a defendant charged with a felony if a prosecutor shows evidence that the defendant poses a threat to the public, while also providing that a defendant cannot be denied bail because of a financial inability to post a bond.

A “NO” vote opposed the changes in bail thereby keeping the state’s specific requirements that bail could be denied to a defendant charged with a felony if the defendant also had prior felony convictions in the state.

https://ballotpedia.org/New_Mexico_Changes_in_Regulations_Governing_Bail,_Constitutional_Amendment_1_(2016)

The final vote was 87.23%, with 616,887 voting YES and 12.77%, with 90,293 voting NO.

District Attorneys throughout the state argue the changes to the bail bond laws, as well as rules imposed by the New Mexico Supreme Court, have made it way too difficult for them to prove to a judge that a defendant poses a threat to the public justifying that a violent felon be denied bail and be held in custody pending trial.

The argument is now being made that judges are allowing “catch and release of violent felons”.

THE DEBATE RAGES ON BAIL BOND REFORM

On Tuesday May 14, 2019, “New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan” published the article “Judge Seats Get Hotter As Crime Wave Stokes Anger. … ”

Political blogger Joe Monahan began his news story covering the debate by quoting an attorney who wanted to remain anonymous and who said:

“What is not being discussed is the real story behind the “reform” of the bail system by a couple of legislative leaders and a Supreme Court justice. Well intended perhaps, but in application has created the catch and release system that criminals exploit and brings crime to us and backlogs the courts and prosecutors. Someday, somebody has to discuss how voters were led to passing a constitutional amendment that voters and the press were told was a crackdown on crime. It was the opposite, but progressive proponents cloaked the agenda by creating a fictitious diversion and the appearance of being tougher on crime.”

On Wednesday May 15, 2019, Albuquerque criminal defense attorney Jody Neal-Post provided to Joe Monahan the following informative analysis on why the public may be confused as to whether the bail amendment is working for them or against them:

“I am the attorney, along with co-counsel, Jeff Rein (currently the Albuquerque District Defender), who litigated State v. Walter Brown, which led to the ‘”bail amendment.” I was also the House Judiciary Committee attorney who did the legal analysis on the amendment at the legislative session following the Supreme Court decision in Brown.”

“I can tell you what is going on. The judges are following the law to require clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness to detain. The prosecutors in Albuquerque are simply dug in, refusing to bring that evidence before the court in an ill-advised power struggle with our judges.”

“. . . Take the tragic case of the slain UNM baseball player. The alleged suspect in that case is reported to have been indicted for shooting someone in the stomach before this newest allegation. Then the alleged suspect was arraigned in a shooting where no one was injured. Now the allegations in the latest tragedy, a third set of allegations.”

“In the alleged stomach shooting, the case was dismissed without prejudice for the District Attorney’s failure to meet court deadlines. The District Attorney could have re-indicted the very next day. He did not. Prosecutorial discretion as to what charges to bring and when is absolute. No judge or defense counsel can affect that decision-making. So, the District Attorney made his lawful decision not to prioritize that first shooting case via prosecution.”

“Then the second set of allegations. The State tries to detain the defendant but because they failed to maintain the first prosecution, the defendant on the 2nd set of charges has no ongoing conditions of release he can be alleged to have violated because he is not on any conditions, thanks to the dismissed initial case. . . Then, in the detention hearing on the second case, the District Attorney continued his pattern since the bail amendment went into effect–that he almost categorically refuses to put on live witness testimony in a detention hearing.”

“What the District Attorney does put on is the criminal complaint or indictment on paper. Both of those documents establish probable cause for the state to proceed to prosecute. Probable cause is akin to a 35% certainty of criminal wrongdoing. Our bail amendment requires clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness to detain, akin to a 75% or so certainty. Thirty-five percent simply never equals 75 percent. Period. The District Attorney must put on more proof, and in our present example, a significant part of that proof would have come from either a conviction on the first case or violation of conditions of release on the first case, which the District Attorney did not have because he failed to meet his deadlines and successfully prosecute that first case or failed to immediately re-indict it.”

“The Second Judicial District Attorney litigated whether live witness testimony is required to succeed in a detention hearing. Our Supreme Court said “no,” in a trilogy of cases decided in January 2018. But the Court also said the clear and convincing evidentiary standard is high. The court let practitioners know that merely reiterating the indictment is 35% certainty and will rarely ever meet the clear and convincing standard of 75% certainty. The prosecutor proceeds at their own risk, hence the risk to the public every time prosecutors ignore the directives of the Supreme Court in detention hearings. . ..”

“Our judges are doing their jobs. Criminal defense attorneys have almost no role in detention hearings, other than to say the District Attorney has not put on clear and convincing evidence when that is the case. Complete control of what evidence is put on in detention hearings rests in the absolute discretion of the prosecutor and the prosecutors are refusing to put the required evidence in their possession before the courts to establish clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness.”

“The bail amendment has never been tested to gauge its impact on public safety because of the power struggle the District Attorneys have taken against the judges in refusing to just put on the evidence and see what results. When the public demands the prosecutors participate as partners in the criminal justice system’s role in public safety, and the prosecutors give in and bring the courts the necessary evidence, then we will know if the bail amendment can meet the voters’ expectations in the detentions of the most dangerous defendants. Only then.”

http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/

BAIL BOND INDUSTRY ATTORNEY A. BLAIR DUNN’S TAKE

Attorney A. Blair Dunn is in the private practice of law and currently focuses on constitutional law, civil rights, government transparency and natural resource litigation. Mr. Dunn also represents the New Mexico Bail Bond Industry as plaintiffs in a case file against the New Mexico Supreme Court regarding the court rules promulgated to enforce the bail bond amendment.

Following is Mr. Dunn’s analysis:

“Judges are told by the [NM Supreme Court] rules that they ‘shall’ release a person accused of a crime on their own recognizance unless the very high standard of “no set of non-monetary conditions” will ensure that persons return to court. On one hand the public was told that the 2016 Constitutional Amendment would help the District Attorneys keep dangerous people locked up before trial … and then on the other the Supreme Court [ rules force lower courts] … to let men like Bashir walk free repeatedly with nothing more than a promise to behave while they wait for a trial that they will never attend.”

“[An] explanation of what happened, how and why would be helpful for understanding why this mess is such a mess. First, a basic premise that we can all agree on – our system of criminal justice was founded upon the idea that there was a delicate balance of maintaining a person’s presumption of innocence versus the government interest in making sure that person accused of a crime returned to stand trial following the time between arrest and trial. This was historically done by the offering of assurances or by a person acting as a surety that the person would return.”

Fast forwarding through history to our Constitution and 8th Amendment in the Bill of Rights we as country recognized this right to bail and limited that bail cannot be excessive because excessive bail that a person cannot afford to ensure their liberties and presumption of innocence remain intact pending trial is really denying them bail. Our own New Mexico Constitution states the following … :

“All persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses when the proof is evident or the presumption great and in situations in which bail is specifically prohibited by this section. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.” (N.M. Const. art. II, § 13.)

“In 2014 the Walter Brown case happened. In effect, Mr. Brown was denied the right to bail because the judge set bail in an amount in excessive of what the indigent Mr. Brown could afford and he was trapped in jail. I think most lawyers recognize that the US and NM Constitutions already prohibit what happened to Mr. Brown from happening, but … [many blamed the bail bond industry and a move began] … to adopt a new set of laws. … In order to convince the public that this was a good idea, … language was included that was designed to provide an avenue to keep dangerous people in detention pending trial. Ultimately, legislation was not adopted [but] … a constitutional amendment was [written] by the Legislature to present to the voters as a compromise.”

“That compromise that was adopted by the voters in 2016 adds the following language to Section 13:

Bail may be denied by a court of record pending trial for a defendant charged with a felony if the prosecuting authority requests a hearing and proves by clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community. An appeal from an order denying bail shall be given preference over all other matters.”

“A person who is not detain able on grounds of dangerousness nor a flight risk in the absence of bond and is otherwise eligible for bail shall not be detained solely because of financial inability to post a money or property bond. A defendant who is neither a danger nor a flight risk and who has a financial inability to post a money or property bond may file a motion with the court requesting relief from the requirement to post bond. The court shall rule on the motion in an expedited manner.”

“This compromise remains within the boundaries of the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution by providing that if the state decides a person is a danger to the community that they must convince a judge by clear and convincing evidence (remember our system of justice regards pretrial release and presumption of innocence as a fundamental liberty that should be taken away lightly) that the person is a danger to the community and that if the person lack financial ability that they can make a motion to the court to be excused from the requirements of posting sufficient sureties. And with that everything should have been okay! [After the constitutional amendment was enacted] … the New Mexico Supreme Court convened a committee to change the [lower court] rules [to implement the new law]. … [T]hose rules [went into effect] in 2017.”

“Now this is the crux of where things went awry. The changes to the rules require the judges to release virtually everybody on their own recognizance with conditions every time. This takes what is essentially already a tough burden on clear and convincing and put a thumb on the scale [of justice] towards releasing everyone without regard for whether they will show back up for trial or whether they are dangerous to the community such that they should be financially incentivized not to commit any more crimes while they are awaiting trial.”

“The rules also got rid of the decades if not century old system of jail house bonds which allowed people to avoid full incarceration before arraignment by posting a bond – for instance you get picked up for felony DWI Friday night, you post the jail house bond and you don’t have to sit in jail and wait for your arraignment on Wednesday when they finally get to you.”

“Instead now what happens, continuing with the felony DWI example, you get arrested you sit in jail for several days and then you are arraigned, the judge won’t let you post a bond and be treated like you are innocent until you are proven guilty, rather you are forced to wear an ankle bracelet 24 hours a day, you can’t go visit your grandmother in Santa Fe, you have to surrender your weapons (leaving you without the protections of the 2nd Amendment in Albuquerque), you must submit to drug and alcohol testing and mental health screening with counseling and you must constantly check in with a probation officer.”

“Essentially what the rules do is require that everybody is treated like they are poor and everybody has to suffer much greater intrusions into their life because everybody is now presumed guilty until they prove their innocence. … [T]he rules took what was a constitutionally sound system and turned it on its head, essentially forcing the judges to treat the dangerous criminals like the innocent persons charged with a crime and treated the presumed innocent persons like they were guilty until their trial.”

“What the Supreme Court did … was unconstitutional in two major ways. First, the Supreme Court is not supposed to legislate. The legislature makes policy into law and the courts are only supposed to interpret the laws. Instead the Supreme Court violated the Separation of Powers in our NM Constitution and exceeded the authority to make rules that had been delegated to them by the New Mexico Legislature in statute. Second, their actions infringed upon the rights of all of us as Americans that are protected by the 4th 8th and 14th Amendments.”

“So while right now many people are mad at Judge Brown and blame the judges for this catch and release system or want to blame the district attorneys for not keeping people in jail before trial … the real damage that destroyed the system was the rules that were [promulgated by the New Mexico Supreme Court to implement the new constitutional amendment].”

“Either the Supreme Court needs to fix their rules or the Legislature [needs to] change the laws to take this away from the Court. The Legislature has had an opportunity 2 years in a row to ask the Court to fix their rules and the Legislature wouldn’t even pass the memorial asking nicely for the Supreme Court to do that.
…”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Under the United States and the New Mexico Constitutions, all are guaranteed the right of due process of law no matter how heinous or violent the crime. In criminal trials, with no exceptions, any defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution. A person is also entitled to post bond.

What is always ignored or forgotten whenever bond reform is discussed are some of the main reasons for the changes in the law: jail overcrowding and people held for crimes they did not commit or held on low level criminal charges, such as drugs, felony thefts and credit card fraud charges, for months and at times years only to be released. Those that could afford or had the resources to pay a bond, cash or surety, were released while those who were indigent sat in jail days, weeks or even months awaiting a trial, no matter the charges.

Prior to the bond reform, the Bernalillo County Detention Center was chronically overcrowded. Years ago, the downtown jail could house up to 800 and it often would house up to 1,200 forcing the doubling up on individual cell space. The overcrowding resulted in a Federal Lawsuit that was finally settled after almost 30 years of litigation. The West side facility after it was built can house up to 2,000, and sure enough overcrowding occurred again within a matter of months.

New Mexico’s criminal justice system is re-pleat with many cases where criminal defendants are arrested for violent crimes, including murder and rape, sit in jail pending trial for months on end, only to be released when it is found out a murder was committed by another, admitted to by another or DNA testing and forensics identified another who committed the rape.

The new court rules on bond hearings and the degree of proof needed to detain an accused are a “work in progress” as was pointed out by State Representative Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, an attorney and chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee when she said:

“I think we need to give the court some time to figure this out.”

Going after and complaining about judges for their release rulings is a red flag of ignorance of our criminal justice system. All judge’s take an oath of office to preserve, defend and protect our constitution.

Judges are strictly prohibited by the Supreme Court Rules and the Code of Judicial Conduct from commenting on pending cases and voicing opinions that call into question their fairness and impartiality, especially in criminal cases. Judges are prohibited from defending their decisions and sentencing in a public forum outside of their courtroom so criticizing judges is like “shooting fish” in a barrel.

The New Mexico Supreme Court needs to revisit the bond rules, change them and find a permanent solution that will give the lower court’s far more latitude and discretionary authority when it comes to the bond hearings and holding violent criminals in jail until trial. Common sense guidelines, not hard set mathematical formulas allowing no discretion, need to be given the Judges to allow them to make decisions that they believe are in the best interest to protect the public as well as the defendant’s rights to due process of law. Otherwise, the New Mexico legislature may act on its own and seek repeal of the constitutional amendment.

Notwithstanding, in the case of Defendant Darian Bashir, the 2016 Constitutional Amendment approved by voters worked, as did the rules promulgated by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Bashir will sit in jail until his trial, be given due process of law and if convicted sentenced once found guilty by a jury. Whatever sentence Bashir receives will be reduced by the amount of time served in jail pending trial.

Murderers, Thieves and Crooks Do Not Watch The News

On May 3, 2019, Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Klarissa Peña and Ken Sanchez held their own press conference to announce public safety initiatives for Nob Hill. The 4 City Councilors announced their proposal to invest up to $1.5 million in specific Central corridor for “public safety” initiatives and marketing measures for fiscal year 2020. Included is $500,000 in one-time funding for grants to nonprofit business associations and merchant groups along the central corridor.

Many business owners along the Central Corridor where the ART Bus project was constructed have complained about repeated vandalism in the area, break-ins resulting in the businesses having to spend money on expensive repairs and even security measures. Other Nob Hill business owners have expressed mounting frustration, fear and anger struggling to recover from the 18 months of Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) construction.

The business owners in Nob Hill asked for 12 bike officers and six dedicated motorized police units every night in the Nob Hill business district. This may sound familiar because that is what happened in downtown central, but on a much larger scale. The proposed $1.5 million investment supposedly will help lure customers back to the area because many businesses had to close during the disastrous ART Bus project down central.

On Friday, May 10, 2019, in reaction to the murder of 21-year-old Jackson Weller, Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier, UNM President Garnett Stokes, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez held a joint press conference to announce initiatives aimed at making the Nob Hill Business District safer and reducing violent crime up and down the Central corridor.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham did not attend the news conference but it was revealed that there were a series of meetings throughout the week where she pledged the assistance of her administration, including State Police, the state Probation and Parole Division, and the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.

The initiatives announced at the May 10 press conference include:

1. Assigning an additional 50 New Mexico State Police officers from across the state to work out of Albuquerque. Seven NM sate police officers already work here which will bring the number up to 57.
2. Giving UNM police access to the substation and having them coordinate patrols with Albuquerque Police Department officers.
3. Expanding the hours of the Triangle Community Substation on Central and Dartmouth until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays after bars close.
4. Stationing three bike patrol teams to work in Nob Hill during the day and three or four additional officers to patrol on Friday and Saturday nights.
5. Working with the Fire Marshal and the New Mexico Registration and Licensing Department to crack down on issues relating to overcrowding and over-serving in bars that could contribute to late night violence.
6. Using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to match casings to guns used in shootings throughout the state.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/gov-assigns-50-nmsp-officers-to-patrol-albuquerque-to-crack-down-on-violent-crime/5348521/?cat=500

During the May 10, 2019 press conference, APD Chief Geier said:

“The whole southeast is part of the initiative … The Nob Hill area right now is the most visible because of the recent homicide, the business owners and their concerns.”
APD to increase the presence of police throughout the area and in the Southwest Area Command, where gun violence is the most prevalent. The 57 State Police officers will be stationed along Central, from UNM to Wyoming.”

On May 14, 2019, 4 days after the press conference, the Lilly Barrack jewelry store in Nob Hill reported a break-in. Lilly Barrack Jewelry store is within walking distance of where the May 10, 2019 press conference was held as is the Triangle substation. The owner of Lilly Barack reported losing at least $30,000 worth of jewelry.

Cell phone video of the shop taken after the break-in revealed the aftermath of a burglary at the Lilly Barrack jewelry store in Nob Hill. Thieves broke a window to get into a vacant shop that shares a wall with the jewelry store and the thieves then broke through that wall.

Jamie Leeds, one of the store owners, reported:

“They had stolen every single layaway, every customer’s pieces of jewelry that was dropped off to be repaired, fixed or polished. … They had stolen all jewelry out of the cases. … Every single piece of Lilly Barrack jewelry is handmade. … There’s no two pieces that ever look exactly the same.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/thieves-steal-30000-worth-of-jewelry-from-nob-hill-shop/5353346/?cat=500

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

One thing is for certain, murders, thieves and crooks do not watch the news. Another thing certain, they apparently like Nob Hill.

Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and the Albuquerque City Council should be realizing that law enforcement takes more than just press conferences for a photo op to announce new initiatives to get results. There must be aggressive follow up by their subordinates which is the heavy lifting.

If you are being given everything you want and have asked for, and then some, sooner or later people demand results. What is becoming increasingly concerning for the City is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and the creations of new programs and initiatives at APD are not having any effect on bringing down our crime.

What is really unfortunate is that during the last year and a half, Mayor Tim Keller has had press conference after press conference to announce new APD law enforcement initiative and changes in APD policy, and nothing seems to be working. Patience is now running thin and public relations is not cutting it.

It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel nor resources. It is now an issue of management, or mismanagement of resources, by Mayor Tim Keller, and APD Chief Michael. If the people Mayor Keller has hired are not following through on his announced initiatives and not getting the job done, personnel changes are in order, including asking for more than a few resignations.

Otherwise voters will be making their own changes.

Mayor Tim Keller Gives Thousands Of Raises To His Political Appointees While Average City Employee Gets 2% Pay Increase

KOAT TV Target 7 reported that Mayor Tim Keller has given his appointed, highest paid city hall administrators literally thousands of dollars in raises.

The raises were given without informing the City Council and giving an after the fact justifications to the media for the raises.

You can view the entire Target 7 report at this link:

https://www.koat.com/article/top-city-officials-get-big-raises/27459126

CLASSIFIED VERSUS UNCLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES

The Albuquerque City Council is in the process of reviewing the 2019-2019 $1.2 Billion dollar proposed budget that goes into effect July 1, 2019. The City of Albuquerque employs approximately 4,800 to 5,000 full time city hall employees with 26 separate departments. The City of Albuquerque pays an average of $17.61 an hour to City Hall employees or $36,628.80 a year depending on the positions held and required education level and training levels. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $17.61 paid hourly = $36,628.80) Roughly 4,500 City Hall employees are considered “classified employees” who are covered by the city’s personnel rules and regulations.

There are 223 full time “ungraded” positions at City Hall, who are in unclassified positions and “at-will” employees who can be terminated “without cause” and who work at the pleasure of the Mayor or the City Council. All of the Mayor’s top administrators and City Hall Department Directors are “unclassified employees” and serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and can be terminated without cause.

At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners at city hall. The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1, to December 31 of any given year. In February, 2019, City of Albuquerque updated the list of the 250 top wage earners at City Hall for 2018. You can review the entire listing of all 25o wage earners at the below link.

POLITICAL APPOINTEES GIVEN THOUSANDS IN RAISES

KOAT TV Target 7 reviewed the city’s transparency website and found 5 political, at will employee appointees received raises in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Keller has given APD Police Chief Michael Geier a $27,000 raise and he is now being paid $187,000 a year.

Keller has given his Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair a $20,000 pay increase and she is now paid $190,000 a year.

Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow’s pay went from $132,000 to $150,000, or $18,000 more.

Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael is now being paid $185,000, up $19,000 from last year.

Keller gave his Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta a $13,000 raise and his pay is $131,200.01.

Because Keller’s top administration employees are appointed by the mayor, the City Council does not have to approve any of raises. The approval of all the raises came from Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, who had to approve her own $20,000 pay raise and Mayor Keller.

Mayor Tim Keller issued a statement through a spokesperson indicating all the raise he gave were needed for the city to stay competitive and the statement said:

“We looked at salaries for these positions throughout our region and found that, even after these raises, our salaries are much lower than those offered in cities in the region of a similar size. We also have to compete with the new state administration which pays higher salaries, and to which we lost several key people, and a city council that has given consistent annual raises. By offering more comparable salaries, our goal is to attract and retain talented leaders to serve the city of Albuquerque.”

COMPARING THE SALARY INCREASES

Following is the salaried paid all 5 that appeared in the February, 2019 list of 250 top wage earners comparing their salaries to their predecessors at city hall:

Chief Administrative Office (CAO) SARITA NAIR: $169,556.80, now paid $190,000. Former Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry was paid $189,936.

Chief Administrative Office Chief Operations Officer LAWRENCE RAEL: $165,524.80, now paid $185,000. Former Chief Administrative Officer Michael Riordan was paid $152,319.

Albuquerque Police Department Chief MICHAEL GEIER: $159,513.60, now paid $187,000 a year. Former APD Chief Gordon Eden was paid $166,699.

Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief PAUL DOW: $132,691.20, now paid $150,000. Former Fire Chief David W. Downey was paid $138,993.

Finance Admin Svc CFO/Director SUNALEI BHAKTA: $131,200.01. Former Director of Finance Department Lou Hoffman was paid $99,732.

The Mayor’s salary and City Council salaries are determined by the Citizens’ Independent Salary Commission. Beginning January 1, 2018, the Mayor’s salary went from $103,854 a year to $125,00 a year. Mayor Keller is provided with a car, expense account as well as an APD protection detail. Eight Albuquerque City Councilors are paid $30,000 annually and the City Council President is paid $32,000 annually. The city council also increased their contituent contact fund from $5,000 to $20,000.

https://www.cabq.gov/audit/citizens-independent-salary-commission

2% RAISES FOR ALL OTHER CITY EMPLOYEES

On April 1, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller submitted to the Albuquerque City Council a $1.1 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019. The proposed budget represents an 11% increase in spending over the current year. Under the proposed budget, general fund spending, which covers most city government operations, climbs $65 million to $642 million. Buried in Keller’s 2019-2020 proposed budget is city workers will get a 2% pay raise under the Keller budget plan, though those represented by unions could get more based on their units’ agreements.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1299497/abq-budget-could-surpass-1-billion-for-the-first-time.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

In the normal world outside of city hall, even in other government agencies and in the private sector, huge salary increases are associated with promotions, additional responsibilities taken on or exceptional job performance above and beyond the call of duty. The truth is that it is difficult to identify with any clarity exactly how APD Police Chief Michael Geier, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael, Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow, and Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta have set themselves apart or have gone above and beyond the normal job performance required by their positions.

It is these types of out of line salary increases that creates a tremendous amount of animosity among the personnel of the city of Albuquerque. It is these types of raises that essentially tarnishes the reputation of elected officials by allowing their top paid administrators to engage in a money grab with the public perceiving poor performance, no results and even mediocrity.

Former Republican Mayor Richard Berry was notorious for paying astronomical, out of line salaries to his top political operatives, especially during his second term in office. For example former Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry was paid $189,936 (#1 highest paid employee), former APD Chief Gordon Eden was paid $166,699 (#2 highest paid employee), former Chief Administrative Officer Michael Riordan was paid $152,319 (#4 highest paid employee), former City Attorney Jessica Hernandez was paid $150,217 (#5 highest paid employee), former Fire Chief David W. Downey was $138,993 (#11 highest paid employee), former Deputy Fire Chief Eric Garcia was paid $133,872 (#13 highest paid employee) and former APD Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman was paid $132,435.

The most disgusting pay increase Berry gave was a 22%, $33,000 pay increase to Chief Administrative Officer Rob Berry who was paid $190,000 a year and became the top paid city hall employee of all time. What made Perry’s raise so disgusting is that he made sure all other city employees were given pay cuts of 2% at the time or zero or 1% or 2% pay increases and even going so far as cancelling the negotiated pay increases for police officers. Berry justified his salary increases by using similar or identical arguments Keller is now using saying that the salary increases were needed to keep people from going elsewhere and retain talented leaders to serve the city of Albuquerque. Yeah, right.

https://www.abqjournal.com/292346/ex-councilor-ken-sanche-zcalls-increase-unacceptable-administrator-perry-had-been-finalist-to-lead-nm-finance-authority.html

To be perfectly blunt, the salaries now being paid to APD Police Chief Michael Geier, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael, Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow, and Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta now are probably the most they have ever been paid in their careers. At least 4 appointees were hired by Keller without a real national search to fill their positions and are considered Keller’s political operatives and “inner circle” of loyalist. The “national search” for a new APD Chief was considered by many as a sham with Geier always considered the front runner. Geier also has two other retirements that are vested. There was no need to attract many with pay in that they worked for Keller when he was state auditor.

Given all the recent stories on Albuquerque’s violent crime rates and the murders, the $27,000 raise for Chief Geier is highly questionable and very difficult to justify to the public. Adding insult to injury, APD Chief Geier decided not discipline APD’s Public Information Officer Simon Drobik for claiming massive amounts of overtime and being paid $192,000 in 2018, despite recommendations by the Police Oversight Commission he be terminated. What Geier and Drobik are being paid is considered nothing but a money grab, as is all the other pay raises in the double digits.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/05/01/pathetic-but-not-surprising-no-discipline-for-apd-192000-spokesman/

Mayor Tim Keller prides himself in being well educated and a quick learner and said when he was running for Mayor he said he “had done good at all the jobs he ever held.” With only one year and six months in office, Keller has learned very quickly to make sure his political operatives are well taken care of by giving them out of line salary increases that approach what many city hall employees makes in a full year. Mayor Keller will now have to deal with the animosity among average city hall workers his pay raises will no doubt create. One thing is for sure is the 4,800 to 5,000 full time city hall employees who did not get raises do vote, as do their families, and Keller will have to decide was it worth it.

For a related blog article listing the 250 top wage earners in 2018 see:

“$100,000 Or More” Paid To All 250 Top ABQ City Hall Employees

“Desperate Measures For Despicable Crimes” And Another Press Conference

The expression “desperate times call for desperate measures” is commonly attributed to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. In his work “Amorphisms”, Hippocrates wrote: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.”

In Albuquerque when it comes to the cities’ violent crime rates, Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and District Attorney Raul Torres have come up with their own version of the expression: “Desperate Measures For Despicable Crimes” with yet another response to yet another senseless murder and another press conference to announce initiatives. Mayor Tim Keller for his part has also begun blaming the courts to some extent.

THE CITY’S 26TH MURDER AND COUNTING

On May 4, 2019, 23-year-old University of New Mexico student Jackson Weller was shot and killed outside a crowded “Imbibe Night Club” in the heart of Nob Hill making him the 26th person killed by gun violence in Albuquerque this year. APD responded to the shooting call out around 2:15 a.m. and found Weller lying in the street. He had been shot once in the chest and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to news reports, those inside the club described a single gunshot heard outside the nightclub. Customers quickly ran out through the front door to see what was going on. In the street, a woman was screaming and others yelled for an ambulance as a crowd gathered around Weller’s body.

Jackson Weller just turned 23 last month and went to UNM to play baseball. He was a member of the Lobos baseball team in 2018 and was planning on rejoining the team this fall. Weller grew up in Keller, Texas where he played baseball throughout middle school and his high school years.

Weller’s killing is the 26th homicide in Albuquerque this year. Thus far, 15 of the homicides remain unsolved. Law enforcement authorities reported that there have been 114 people shot in 112 days in Bernalillo County including the city of Albuquerque through April 23, which is a 36% increase over last year during the same time period.

For a related story and statistics see:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/04/30/headlines-114-people-shot-in-112-days-albuquerque-police-deal-with-a-day-of-mayhem-da-torrez-and-mayor-keller-lose-election-bids/

SUSPECT APPREHENDED

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced detectives had arrested Darian Bashir, 23, for the killing at a Northeast Heights apartment. According to the arrest warrant affidavit filed, a video surveillance showed a man, later identified as Bashir, walk up to Weller, pull a gun from his waist and shot him point blank in the chest. Bashir is then seen getting into a vehicle that speeds away through a back alley. According to the arrest warrant affidavit three witnesses identified Bashir as the man who shot Weller. One witness told police he heard a gunshot and saw Bashir walking away holding a gun. Two other witnesses say they saw Bashir shoot Weller and walk away as Weller collapsed to the ground. Friends of Weller’s who were with him told detectives that he had been in a fistfight with several people before the shooting but that Darian Bashir was not one of them.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1314397/apd-arrests-suspect-in-slaying-of-unm-baseball-player.html

In November 2017, Darian Bashir was charged with aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm after he allegedly walked up to another young man in Downtown Albuquerque and shot him at point-blank range in the chest. However, the case was dismissed by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office because the victim, who survived being shot, did not testify. The case was dismissed in January 2018 after the DA’s Office failed to comply with court mandated hearing deadlines, including not arranging witness interviews.

According to District Attorney Raul Torrez, although his office missed a few deadlines, the case fell apart when the victim didn’t show up to multiple pretrial interviews and Torrez said: “In cases that have this type of violence, sometimes we don’t have cooperative witnesses … So we have enough to initiate an arrest but not enough to complete a prosecution.”

The case has since been refiled, and Bashir was indicted April 9, 2019 by the District Attorney.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1314265/suspect-in-nob-hill-fatal-shooting-has-violent-record.html

ANOTHER PRESS CONFERENCE, ANOTHER INITIATIVE

On Friday, May 10, 2019, in reaction to the murder of 21-year-old Jackson Weller, Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier, UNM President Garnett Stokes, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez held a joint press conference to announce initiatives aimed at making the Nob Hill Business District safer and reducing violent crime up and down the Central corridor.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham did not attend the May 10 news conference, but she was the main focus of the news conference because of the action she took. She revealed that there were a series of meetings throughout the week where she pledged the assistance of her administration, including State Police, the state Probation and Parole Division, and the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.

The initiatives announced at the May 10 press conference include:

1. Assigning an additional 50 New Mexico State Police officers from across the state to work out of Albuquerque. Seven NM sate police officers already work here which will bring the number up to 57.

2. Giving UNM police access to the substation and having them coordinate patrols with Albuquerque Police Department officers.

3. Expanding the hours of the Triangle Community Substation on Central and Dartmouth until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays after bars close.

4. Stationing three bike patrol teams to work in Nob Hill during the day and three or four additional officers to patrol on Friday and Saturday nights.

5. Working with the Fire Marshal and the New Mexico Registration and Licensing Department to crack down on issues relating to overcrowding and over-serving in bars that could contribute to late night violence.

6. Using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to match casings to guns used in shootings throughout the state.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/gov-assigns-50-nmsp-officers-to-patrol-albuquerque-to-crack-down-on-violent-crime/5348521/?cat=500

Governor Lujan Grisham in a news release stated:

“Violent crime in Albuquerque is a scourge, and we will attack the roots of that scourge with targeted deployments of manpower and resources. … New Mexico residents must be free to have every expectation of safety in their homes and communities. It’s our duty as a state to take every action we possibly can to realize that freedom, and I’m proud to stand with our partners in Albuquerque in providing immediate, directed assistance.”

During the May 10 press conference, Mayor Tim Keller had this to say:

“I am saddened and angered by the news that a student’s life was taken last night. … I am getting updates regularly from APD as they work hard to solve this case and bring the killer to justice … Gun violence is not a problem with a quick or obvious solution, but we are determined to fight back in every way. … We understand the urgency of this moment, and I want to say to the people and businesses of Nob Hill that we are not giving up on Nob Hill. … No one is giving up on Nob Hill. We are increasing our efforts because we understand, especially because of the proximity to UNM, that Nob Hill is just as critical as any other part of our city.”

Mayor Keller has also said “Over the last decade, violent crime driven by drugs, gangs, guns, and domestic violence has become an increasingly deadly challenge for this community. … We have made this dangerous mix of crime our top priority.” Keller also disclosed that he had been working with the state to come up with a plan to bring down violent crime.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1310999/man-shot-killed-in-southeast-albuquerque.html

For the first time since becoming Mayor, Tim Keller has adopted the practice of his predecessor Mayor Richard Berry and began to blame the courts for a violent crime. Keller told the news conference that:

“This suspect was recently released from jail on his own recognizance for a felony firearms case in February, in which he was openly firing out of a vehicle … Unfortunately, this individual was back on the street.”

Keller was essentially saying the Defendant was guilty of drive by shooting that he had never been charged with and that Jackson Weller would not be dead if the defendant had not have been free pending trial in the first place by the Courts. Keller made no mention that it was the DA’s Office that was responsible for the dismissal.

According to Court records, it was District Court Charlie Brown that released Bashir back in January pending trial because he had a “minimal criminal history” and “no felony convictions” and noted “He was charged with a violent felony in 2017, but the charges were dismissed.”

Transcripts of the previous hearing revealed the judge “was troubled by some inferences,” including the idea that Defendant Bashir and the others he was with, had been shooting at police officers an allegation the APD police officers did not include in the criminal complaint they filed with the court. Ultimately, Judge Brown found that although Bashir posed a safety risk to the community, that risk could “be reasonably addressed with appropriate conditions of release” which ostensibly was not objected to by the DA’s office.

SENATOR VICTIM OF ROAD RAGE

During the May 10, 2019 joint press conference, District Attorney Raúl Torrez for his part, and not at all surprising, proclaimed the “preventative detention” system is not working and said he will pursue policy changes to keep violent offenders off the streets and said:

“Next week, I intend to introduce a proposed package for legislative action that I will be asking the Governor and the leadership in Santa Fe to take action on in the next session.”

No doubt that Torrez was also reacting to interviews made by South Valley Senator Jacob Candelaria who was a victim of a road rage incident and who called out Torrez saying Torrez was given significant increases in his budget and the office was not doing much. On May 9, 2019, it was reported that South Valley State Senator Jacob Candelaria was almost a victim of gun violence while driving home from work. The incident occurred on Academy near Wyoming when a driver flashed a gun at Candelaria. In a TV news interview, Candelaria stated “[A] Car speeds up, gets behind me, tries different maneuvers to try and pull up next to me, I knew something was wrong. … [When I saw the gun] I peel out of there and I get into a residential area. .. It was probably the most frightening experience I’ve had in my entire life.” Senator Candelaria went on to say “Two years ago, the legislature – and I was part of this – appropriated millions of dollars more for the Albuquerque district attorney … We were promised as a legislature immediate result. I have not seen those results.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/lawmaker-demands-action-after-road-rage-close-call/5347779/

VIOLENT CRIME IS CITY WIDE PROBLEM

During the May 10, 2019 press conference, APD Chief Geier said APD plans are to increase the presence of police throughout the area and in the Southwest Area Command, where gun violence is the most prevalent. The 57 State Police officers will be stationed along Central, from UNM to Wyoming. According to Geier: “The whole southeast is part of the initiative … The Nob Hill area right now is the most visible because of the recent homicide, the business owners and their concerns.”

Data from the District Attorney’s Office reveals that shootings with injury or death are not just a Downtown and Nob Hill area problem. Gun violence is heavily concentrated elsewhere in the Southeast Area Command, with the majority occurring east of San Mateo.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has implemented a data collection program called “Ceasefire”. Ceasefire is supposedly a data-driven approach to combat gun violence.

According to the DA’s office a breakdown of data from January 1, 2019, to April 23, 2019 is as follows:

There were 101 shootings in which individuals were injured or killed, several of which had multiple victims
114 people were shot, 17 of whom were killed.
95 incidents happened in the city.
6 incidents happened outside the city but within the county.
2 people were shot by law enforcement.
10 cases were self-inflicted shootings.
The shortest time between shootings was 16 minutes.
The longest time was a five-and-a-half-day stretch in early January.
The average number of shootings was just over one shooting per day.
Suspects have been identified in 42 cases, although it’s unclear how many have resulted in an arrest.
There were 27 more shootings so far in 2019 compared to the same time period in 2018 when there were 74 shootings.

CHRONOLOGY OF PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED INITIATIVES

The May 10 press conference was only the first in recent months where the city and APD made announcement of plans to deal with violent crime.

MAY 3, 2019 CITY COUNCIL INITIATIVES FOR NOB HILL

On May 3, 2019, Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Klarissa Peña and Ken Sanchez held their own press conference to announce public safety initiatives for Nob Hill. The 4 City Councilors announced their proposal to invest up to $1.5 million in specific Central corridor for “public safety” initiatives and marketing measures for fiscal year 2020. Included is $500,000 in one-time funding for grants to nonprofit business associations and merchant groups along the central corridor.

Many business owners along the Central Corridor where the ART Bus project was constructed have complained about repeated vandalism in the area, break-ins resulting in the businesses having to spend money on expensive repairs and even security measures. Other Nob Hill business owners have expressed mounting frustration, fear and anger struggling to recover from the 18 months of Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) construction.

The business owners in Nob Hill asked for 12 bike officers and six dedicated motorized police units every night in the Nob Hill business district. This may sound familiar because that is what happened in downtown central, but on a much larger scale. The proposed $1.5 million investment supposedly will help lure customers back to the area because many businesses had to close during the disastrous ART Bus project down central.

DA RAUL TORREZ HIGH TECH INITIATIVE

On April 29 and 30, 2019, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez show cased his Crime Strategies Unit (CSU), which he touted as being “intelligence-driven prosecution”. According to Torrez, the initiative is less about putting people in jail and more about seeing the bigger picture of fighting crime and how to prevent it.

According to Torrez “[The CSU] is a group of investigators and analysts who use a variety of technology, platforms and tools to build and develop a comprehensive picture of who’s engaged in crime, particularly violent crime in the community.” Launched in August last year by Torrez, the CSU office will be fully implemented by the end of May.

https://www.koat.com/article/bernalillo-county-da-showcases-tech-based-crime-fighting-tools-to-prosecutors-across-us/27327157

APRIL 8, 2019 CITY DECLARES VIOLENT CRIME “PUBLIC HEALTH” ISSUE

On April 8, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller and APD announced a new program and efforts that will deal with “violent crime” in the context of it being a “public health issue” and dealing with crimes involving guns in an effort to bring down violent crime in Albuquerque.

Mayor Keller and APD argue that gun violence is a “public health issue” because gun violence incidents have lasting adverse effects on children and others in the community that leads to further problems. APD supposedly is tracking violent crime relying on the same methods used to track auto thefts, weekly reports summarizing shootings, refining policies, and learning from best practices used by other law enforcement agencies. One goal is for APD to examine how guns are driving other crimes, such as domestic violence and drug addiction.

The initiatives announced on April 8, 2019 include:

1. Using data from APD’s Real Time Crime Center to focus on areas with a heavy concentration of gun violence and identify any patterns.
2. Forming units of officers called Problem Response Teams in each area command. The Problem Response Teams will be made up of officers who don’t take calls for service but will be available to help community members as they need it. After a violent crime, the teams, along with Albuquerque Fire Rescue, will visit the neighborhood and provide resources or information.
3. Identifying those who are selling firearms illegally to felons or juveniles.
4. Working with agencies and universities to conduct research on gun violence as a public health issue.
5. Implementing a standardized shooting response protocol that police must follow within the first 72 hours of a reported crime. APD intends to collect and test all casings at shooting scenes and intends to purchase new equipment and technology that can assist detectives in investigating gun crimes.
6. APD is in the process of hiring additional personnel for the crime lab and securing technology that will increase efficiency around DNA testing including automating the entire unit. The unit that tests DNA and the unit that tests latent fingerprints will be split in an attempt to reduce a backlog of evidence that needs to be tested.
7. Increasing the use of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and the Problem Response Teams. The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network program is used to identify which guns have been used in multiple crimes by analyzing all casings they can find at violent crime scenes where a firearm has been discharged
8. Use of a placard police officers can hang on doors to encourage residents to call with information about a crime.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1301057/police-to-focus-on-gun-violence.html

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 DOWNTOWN PUBLIC SAFETY DISTRICT

On September 12, 2018, Mayor Tim Keller announced a new “Downtown Public Safety District” for Central Downtown that assigns up to 12 police officers specifically to the area and applying other city resources, such as a Family and Community Services Department social worker. The Downtown Public Safety District” created by Keller was in response to a petition drive by Downtown businesses and residents demanding such a substation. The substation for the Downtown Public Safety District is located at the Alvarado Transportation Center at First and Central SW. The substation gives a permanent police presence in Downtown Albuquerque.

The congregation of the homeless in the Central Downtown area have been a chronic problem especially around the Alvarado Transportation Center. Consequently, a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) was assigned to the district to address homelessness and behavioral health needs.

Several other city departments a well as community organizations providing services to the homeless and mentally ill contribute resources to the district. The other city departments that provide services to Central Downtown area include:

1. Albuquerque Fire Rescue (AFR) has increased its presence near Central Avenue during high-volume call times and by driving a loop around the district after each call for service.
2. The Transit and Municipal Development departments contribute security personnel to the district in coordination with APD patrol plans.
3. The Family and Community Services Department is contributing a social worker to coordinate service providers and implement Project ECHO to train mental health workers in the district.
4. The Municipal Development and Solid Waste departments have expanded the use of street cleaning machines throughout Downtown, including alleyways, and add collection routes for Downtown businesses to address overflow of trash from Saturday nights.
5. Solid Waste is using its “Block by Block” program to wash sidewalks and its Clean City Graffiti crew to eradicate graffiti as soon as possible.
7. The Family and Community Services Department is working with Heading Home’s ABQ Street Connect program to help people with significant behavioral health disability and who are experiencing homelessness.
8. The Family and Community Services is also working with HopeWorks and outreach partners including APD’s COAST team, APD’s Crisis Intervention Team and ACT teams to do mental health outreach and are working with the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness to help service providers for homeless people.

https://www.cabq.gov/police/news/mayor-tim-keller-unveils-new-downtown-public-safety-district

DISTRICT ATTORNEY TORREZ BUDGET INCREASES

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office employs 330 full time personnel which includes 118 full time attorney positions. During the 2018-2019 legislative session, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez secured a $4.2 million increase for the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office. During the 2019-2020 that just ended, the office received another $5,000,000 increase in budget for the 2019 fiscal year. Torrez now has $24.8 million-dollar budget to run his office.

According to the New Mexico sunshine portal, District Attorney Raul Torrez currently has 330 fully funded positions within his office. The Sunshine Portal also reveals that Torres has 55 vacancies, 21 which are attorney prosecutor positions.

MAYOR KELLER’S DEDICATION OF RESOURCES

In 2017, then State Auditor Tim Keller campaigned for Mayor proclaiming he had the right plan for reducing crime, police reform and community-based policing. On April 1, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller submitted his first proposed budget to the Albuquerque City Council which was approved. The City Council Approved Mayor Tim Keller’s spending of $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers. Keller further implemented a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing. By July, 2019, APD should have up to 950 sworn police which is still 250 below the desired number of police officers.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and District Attorney Raul Torrez asking Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for help and succeeding in having the Governor assign a total of 57 New Mexico State Police officers from across the state to work out of Albuquerque can be described as “desperate measures for despicable crimes”.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s action does come with considerable risk to other New Mexico smaller communities given the fact that significant law enforcement resources from the New Mexico State Police are being diverted from much smaller communities that need them more than Albuquerque.

Notwithstanding, Governor Michell Lujan Grisham with her words and actions announced in a press release showed far greater sense of urgency acknowledging the crisis than did Keller, Geier and Torrez.

The fact that Mayor Tim Keller, like his predecessor Mayor Richard Berry, began to blame the courts for a violent crime is extremely disappointing. It is also evidence that Keller knows his policies are failing. Despite Mayor Keller’s increases APD budget and personnel, he has not shaken the stark reality that the city is way too violent. Mayor Keller is relegated to issuing condolences to victim family’s that ring hollow when he conducts news conferences to repeat or try and come up with new initiatives to reduce violent crime in any given area. Mayor Keller should probably save a lot of time and effort and just video tape one press conference that could be played on a video loop to save time in that he seems to say the same things over and over again: how sad he is for the death or current tragedy, this has been going on for a long time, it is going to take more time for things to get better, we are “One Albuquerque” and this is what APD will now be doing.

Both Torrez and Keller campaigned to get elected DA and Mayor on platforms that they could and would bring down our skyrocketing crime rates. No at all surprising, Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez have tried to take credit for crime rates being on the decline in all other categories other than gun violence offenses.

In 2016, Raul Torrez campaigned on a platform of reducing crime arguing that crime rates were too high, our criminal justice system was broken and that he was the guy to fix it. Torrez during his first year in office blamed judges for our high crime rates because of reduced sentences given to violent criminals and dismissal of cases until it was revealed that his office voluntarily dismissed cases at much higher rates than the courts.

After more than two years in office, blaming judges for high crime rates and constant complaining about lack of resources without filling over 55 vacancies in his office, DA Torrez only now realizes that has not worked and finally reached out to others to find better strategies, such as his “Ceasefire Program” and his “Crime Strategies Unit” .

https://www.abqjournal.com/1308746/san-francisco-da-analyzing-data-helpful-in-fighting-crime.html

Both DA Torrez and Mayor Keller have initiated programs in an effort to bring down violent crime rates and gun violence. As the shootings, assaults and killings continue to rise, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller are increasingly focused on the gun violence and the city’s murder rates, but time is running out for both of them despite their efforts.

Notwithstanding, voters are very fickle and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. The Bernalillo County District Attorney Office is now Torrez’s full responsibility and he cannot blame his predecessor for continuing increases in our crime rates and bungled prosecutions. APD is now fully in the hands of Mayor Tim Keller and his appointed command staff, and he cannot blame his predecessor for continuing increases in our crime rates, so he now appears to be changing tactics an blaming judges.

Mayor Keller, APD Chief Geier and DA Torrez asking for additional resources and more personnel from the State is essentially an admission by them that all they have been doing for the last two years is failing and they need still more, money and resources. Keller, Geier and Torrez are also realizing that governing and law enforcement takes more than just press conferences to get results and if people they have hired are not getting the job done, personnel changes are in order, including asking for more than a few resignations.

If you are being given everything you want and have asked for, and then some, sooner or later people demand results. What is becoming increasingly concerning for the City is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and new programs at APD and the DA’s Office are not having any effect on bringing down the violent crime and murder rates.

It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel nor resources. It is now an issue of management, or mismanagement of resources, by Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and District Attorney Raul Torrez. Why bother with real results when it is so much easier to hold press conferences, give out condolences, do TV interviews, blame the courts for violent crimes and hold your hands out for more money and resources.

An Albuquerque Mother’s Day Tribute, 2019

Rose Fresques Dinelli was born on August 30, 1921 in Chacon, New Mexico. She passed away on September 6, 1997 at the age of 76 after a five-year battle with breast cancer. Rose Fresques Dinelli left a legacy of love, family, character, compassion for others, and true courage in the face of adversity, struggles and even death.

My mother Rose came from a family of 7 raised in Chacon, New Mexico with 4 sisters and 3 brothers. They were dirt poor with my grandfather being a “carpenter” and a field laborer when needed. When the depression hit, she remembered that her family would say “What depression, we’re already poor! During World War II, she saw her older brothers Fred and Mac Fresques go off to war and they both saw action. She told me that during the war, she took off to California and worked on an airplane assembly line to help build US war planes. She worked as a “riveter” on the planed assembly line and she said she would laugh when people called her “Rosie the Riveter”.

“Harvey Girl’s” were trained at the Alvarado with dormitory facilities provided to young woman in need of work. A very young Rose Fresques Dinelli in her mid-twenties lived in the dormitory and was trained to be a Harvey Girl. Many years later, she would meet Paul Dinelli at the Alvarado Hotel. Again, many years later Rose would again become a waitress at other restaurants after Paul became seriously ill and she initially supported the family of five on the minimum wage. Paul and Rose were married for 27 years before Paul passed and she never remarried. Rose Dinelli was a waitress for some 30+ years before she passed away in 1997 at age 76. Rose Dinelli passed away in the very same Mossman-Gladden home she had purchased with her husband Paul around 1962.

Rose Fresques Dinelli supported a family of 6 and was able to kept us together when my dad became 100% disabled from a WWII service-connected disability when I was around 12. For a number of years, she had to work “split shits” from 11:00 am to 2 pm to work lunches and then working from 5:00 pm to 12:00 pm to work dinner hours. My mother returned to work as a waitress working for minimum wage and tips to support her family. She loved being a waitress for over 34 years. My mother loved people and the restaurant industry! She was one of the most independent, hardworking, determined people I have ever known. Sure, there was love, but just as important there was immeasurable respect for someone who sacrificed so much for her family. I have no doubt she lived the meaning of “woman’s liberation” many years before the term was ever coined. She was part of “America’s Greatest Generation” who lived through the Great Depression and World War II.

Mom worked at some of the best places in Albuquerque, including the Four Hills Country Club, the Sundowner, Diamond Jim’s Restaurant, the 4 Seasons Crystal Room and Maria Teressa restaurant she helped open and the closed after working there for so many years. She often told me the restaurant business was one of the few places to work where you would always see people at their very best behavior and their worst behavior in the manner of a few hours. She also said that a measure of a person is reflected on how they treat people who work for them.

It was not until many, many, years later when I was an adult and after she had passed that I came to really appreciate how many young woman’s lives she had touched and influenced over the years. Many would approach me and tell me what she had done for them. One woman in particular has opened a very well-known restaurant in Albuquerque with her husband and has told me of many memories she had of “Rose”. What I found is that there were many times young, struggling woman would turn to her for guidance and help who were struggling to make a living, needing help handling a crisis in their personal lives and struggles.

I remember Winrock Shopping Center growing up as a kid. My family lived on San Pedro north of Menaul in a red brick Mossman Gladden home across from Quigley Park. My mother worked as a waitress at Diamond Jim’s Restaurant at Winrock until the day it was closed.

A branch of First National Bank was in the North area outside the mall with a Safeway Grocery store and a Value House Jewelry Store. Many years later, when I was an adult and running for Mayor in 1989, I ran into a teller who retired from the bank and who was working at a retail store. She asked me in an affectionate tone of voice if I was the son of the “ones” lady.

I looked at the woman very puzzled. I did not understand until the she told me she knew my mother Rose. They had become friends when she was a bank teller at First National Bank and she said my mom would deposit her tips daily from her job as a waitress at Diamond Jim’s when she worked “split shifts”, the lunch and dinner shifts. All of her tips were always in one-dollar bills. Bank tellers who did not know my mother by name would call her the “ones” lady.

My mother instilled in me the importance of getting an education, honesty, integrity, hard work, the true meaning of family and the meaning of character and courage in the face of adversity and doing what is right in life. I talk to my mother every day and thank her for what she did for our family and for me over the years.

The white peones flower was my mother’s favorite flower of all time. The peones has the sweet smell of a rose when it blooms only once a year. My mother had a very large group of peones “bulbs” in her back yard she cater to for years at the very house where we grew up. In late October, 1997 after she passed, I remember one very rainy, muddy and cold night going to her home and digging up the cluster of bulbs and then taking the ball of dirt and transplanting the bulbs in the front of our home. I had serious doubt the plants would live. To our delight, my mother’s flowers survived the winter transplant, grew and on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1998, the white peones were in full bloom as they have done each year around Mothers Day!

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY ONE AND ALL! GIVE YOUR MOMS A BIG HUG AND A KISS!

When At First You Do Not Succeed, Try, Try Again, Especially When You Have A Leaky Roof!

On Monday May 6, 2019, the Albuquerque Public School (APS) Board voted unanimously to seek voter approval on the November 5, 2019 election ballot of a mill levy and bonds for school maintenance, education and music equipment, technology and school security. The mill levy if passed will generate $190 million over six years and $100 million in general obligation bonds will be issued over four years for capital projects and needs.

In February, voters rejected 3 separate, much larger initiatives, including the renewal of an expiring mill levy for maintenance and upgrades aging facilities. In February voters overwhelmingly struck down APS’ two mill levy questions and bond issue in a mail-in election. Those ballot initiatives would have brought in $900 million over six years in part through a tax increase. APS would have raised its tax rate from 10.45 to about 12.45, a 19% rate increase that would have result in a 4.7% uptick on residents’ total property tax bills.

$190 million is a far cry from $900 million and with no new taxes! Unlike the February failed mail in ballot initiative, there will be no property tax increase. What APS will be asking for is to re-establish the mill levy for school maintenance, repairs, education and music equipment, technology and school security with the existing mill levy set to expire later this year. Without replacing that mill levy, there will be no funding to repair the 142 facilities APS operates.

APS is projecting that a total of $302 million in election revenue, including state matching money, will be generated if voters approve the single measure. According to APS officials, $114 million in “capital improvement revenue” will be generated and go toward maintenance and operations and include a projected $13.5 million for school security and $85.5 million for design and construction of school facilities. Capital improvement revenue is separate from the APS operational budget and cannot go toward operational issues such as teacher or staff salaries.

The APS Board also voted to re prioritize funding voters approved previously and redirect money to higher priority projects that can be completed right away instead of going toward planned projects that won’t have enough money to be finished due to the failed February election. The APS Board identified 12 projects as priority construction projects, including work on bus depots in the district and new classrooms for Career Enrichment Center and Early College Academy and Navajo Elementary School.

Scott Elder, the APS Chief Operations Officer for all APS facilities was blunt about what will happen if the new initiative fails at the polls:

“The loss of maintenance, technology and equipment is a pretty significant and tremendous burden … If [voters] do not continue to impose this mill, we do not have the money to maintain our facilities.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1312110/aps-to-go-before-voters-again-in-november.html

APS IN A NUTSHELL

Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is New Mexico’s largest school district and among the top 40 largest school districts in the nation APS operates 142 schools consisting of 4 K-8 schools, 88 elementary schools (K through 8th grade), 27 middle schools (6-8th grade), 21 high schools (9th to 12th grade) and 2 alternative schools. The average age of an APS school is 50 years old, with many needing serious repairs, new roofs, plumbing and upgrades along with enhance security measures. APS employs 14,000 total employees consisting of 12,000 full time employees, 6,063 teachers and librarians and 1,800 teacher aides.

APS serves more than a fourth of the state’s students, nearly 84,000 students. The ethnicity of the APS 84,000 students is:
65.8% Hispanic
22.9% Caucasian/White
5.5% American Indian
3.2% African American
2.3% Asian American
0.2% are “other”

Of the 84,000 APS students 16.6% are classified as “English Learners”, 17.2% are classified as “Students with Disabilities”, and 5.9% are in gifted programs. There are 29 APS authorized charter schools with 7,100 students attending the charter schools. The school district serves 29,000 breakfast per school day and 41,000 lunches per school day.

CITY GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS ALSO ON NOVEMBER 5, 2019 BALLOT

The Albuquerque City Council is placing $127 million in general obligation bonds on the November 5, 2019 ballot for voter approval.

Over $53 million is being proposed to be put into community facilities that includes:

• $13 million toward the historic Rail Yards property through 2029.
• $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.
• $5.5 million for the International District 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.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

In February when voters overwhelmingly rejected Albuquerque Public Schools’ two mill levy and one proposed bond questions, they not only rejected funding for the district’s future capital improvement master plan but the critical and necessary funding of $190 million to repair and maintenance of the 142 aging APS schools. The APS school system went into a major tail spin and it does not have much of a choice to try again to get voter approval for school maintenance and security. Voters in November will in essence be asked to decide between building a homeless shelter, a community library, fund museum projects, make road repairs and clean up the Albuquerque Rail Yards versus providing funding to maintain and repair aging and deteriorating APS public schools.

APS desperately needs the funding for maintenance and repairs of aging school facilities. APS needs the tax funding for maintenance and repairs just as much as the city needs general obligation bond funding for capital improvement projects. It is not a sure bet that voters will go along with both on the same ballot. The November 5, 2019 ballot will be a “consolidated” ballot and will have city, sate and APS issues on the ballot and it will not be a “mail in ballot” as was the February, 2019 APS ballot initiatives.

Mayor Tim Keller, the City Council, the APS School Board and APS administration need to confer with each other and come up with a winning strategy to ensure all measures are successful in the November 5, 2019 election.