Friday, April 28, 2006

Attorney General's, and Sheriff's Race

The state wide Sheriff's Conference has ended and it was a real good conference. The social events ended up really interesting with the different Sheriff's from New Mexico's 33 Counties discussing their various races in an honest and casual atmosphere. This being an election year that was the main topic of conversation outside of the training and meetings.

A forum was held for the Attorney General Candidates. Candidates Lemuel Martinez, Geno Zamora, and Jim Bibb all attended. Notably missing was candidate Gary King, he was reportedly in Geneva Switzerland giving a speech. The forum went well with all candidates coming across knowledgeable and speaking well. I will withhold my opinion on this race except to say that as a staunch democrat I will have no trouble supporting any of the democratic candidates as they are all very qualified and should do a great job. Jim Bibb was young and did somewhat impress me and I am sure we will see more of him (maybe we can get him to change party's). Jim Bibb did seem to emphasize his tour in Afghanistan just a little too much. He deserves much respect for his service but I am not sure that relates to the job of Attorney General.

A big topic at the forum for Attorney General Candidates was the State Treasurer Robert Vigil's Trial. Each candidate took a strong stance on corruption and the investigation and prosecution of government officials involved in corruption. Which brings me to some kudos for The Santa Fe Reporter and their story this week uncovering the connection between Guy Riordan and Con Alma. It was a fact that remained uncovered by all the other news media. They also actually spoke to Eric Serna on the issue which was another exclusive in itself. I wonder if Con Alma will survive the scandals and still be around in a year or two. They do fill a need in New Mexico and do many worthwhile donations and grants.

Two of the three local papers have called to set up meetings for endorsements in the Sheriff's Race. I am hopeful for a home run with all three endorsements. The media in past years has always emphasized freedom of the press issues and access to government records. I can't think of another police agency that is more open than mine. In three years we have never even had a Freedom of Information Act Letter sent to us because I always release information with just a phone call and if I don't release the information I make very clear why and the reporters have always understood. All the media has my cell phone which I answer 24/7 and my home number is even listed in the telephone directory so all constituents can call me at home or at the office. Try looking up my opponents home phone number, you will not find it. I have always tried to be as accessible as I can given my hectic schedule. Endorsements are nice to have but all candidates realize that they don't take the place of hard campaigning and gaining the support of the voters. Due to early and absentee voting many voters have either voted or made up their minds by the time endorsements come (usually the week or weekend before the election). Have a safe weekend!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

County Commission Passes DWI forfeiture Ordinance

The Santa Fe County Commission passed the DWI forfeiture Ordinance yesterday. The ordinance allows the seizure of a suspect’s vehicle on the third DWI arrest when they have two prior convictions on their record. A vehicle may also be seized if the driver is driving while their license is revoked for a DWI arrest. Commissioner Harry Montoya carried the ordinance after I proposed that the county consider passing such an ordinance. I really want to thank the County commissioners, our excellent legal staff and all the DWI prevention proponents who assisted in getting this passed. A special thanks to the Santa Fe New Mexican who really kept this issue at the forefront of the newspaper and on their web site. I also want to thank the other media who also keep this issue on people’s radar screens.

Seized vehicles will either be sold at auction or the county may allow an innocent owner to sign an agreement which will allow the vehicle to only be booted for 30 days. The owner pays the cost of the boot and the vehicle will not be forfeited. An ignition interlock may also be installed as part of the agreement. The agreement also states that if the same offender is caught driving the same vehicle while either on a revoked drivers license (revoked for D.W.I.) or while actually driving while intoxicated, the vehicle will be subject to immediate seizure and will be sold.

This ordinance will give families a tool to use when their family members want to use the car and they have a history of drunk driving. They can refuse to lend or allow use of the car and tell their family members the reason is that they do not want to lose the family car. It puts more pressure on family's to not let their family member drive drunk.

Currently drivers convicted of D.W.I. have no reason to drive on a revoked drivers license. Anyone who has had their license taken away for D.W.I. can get their license back if they install an Interlock Device on their vehicle. With that provision there is no reason that someone should be driving on a revoked license for D.W.I.. Therefore we have given them the means to legally drive and not be subject to having their vehicle taken and if they choose not to follow the law then the consequences are their own fault. The ordinance will take effect July 1, 2006.

In other news aside from returning to Santa Fe for the county commission meeting, the State Sheriff's and Police Conference is going well. The training has been excellent and the networking as always is a great tool to see what is happening in other parts of the state. As another great side note they have door prizes and I won an IPOD given away at the conference. My 13-year-old daughter has been asking for one and I will probably give it to her for her 14th birthday, which is in June.

The winds are playing havoc with my campaign signs for the re-election. No matter how carefully we secure them we are losing quite a few each day. I hope the winds die down otherwise we will have to place another order for more signs. Signs are a necessary evil and the most inexpensive form of advertising. They also can be the most frustrating part of a political campaign. Signs are routinely thrown down, blown down, run over, vandalized and mysteriously disappear. Candidates and their supporters begin to blame the other candidates and their supporters for the missing and damaged signs. After two campaigns and now being in the midst of my third I can say that most of the time it’s just the elements (wind, rain, etc) or people not related to the other candidates damaging or throwing down signs.

Now for a plug on my re-election campaign. If you would like a yard sign or have property where you would like us to install the sign call 505-470-4731 and we will get one to you or install it for you. If we install it we also keep a list and take it down when the election is over. You can also fill out a form at my campaign web site to ask for bumper stickers, buttons, and signs as well as volunteer to help the campaign. Other than signs in the wind the re-election campaign is going well. Unfortunately my opponent is getting increasingly negative in her campaign however, I will not follow suit. I vow to stay positive and just campaign on my record and the issues.

Monday, April 24, 2006

State Cops Conference Time

This week I am at the New Mexico State Sheriff's and Police Association Conference in Albuquerque New Mexico. It is a week long Annual Conference and it includes many hours of training. I am a Vice President of the organization so we are in for a busy week.

The training this year includes Marijuana growing information, Interview, Interrogation and Investigative Strategies, Clandestine Lab Manufacturing Awareness Trends, Terrorism Intelligence, Money Laundering and Terrorist Finance, Avian Flue and Bio Weapons, Fugitives in Mexico, Current Trends in Meth Trade, Taggers, Legal Updates, Intelligence Preparations to Operations and combating Terrorism, and Right Wing Extremists and Hate Group training. There will also be a few non-training discussions on various topics. Whew, that was a lot to list. On top of all that we also have meetings with all the Sheriff's just to share information on what each of us is dealing with in our respective 33 counties.

So you can see that when New Mexico's Sheriff's get together for a conference it is far from a junket or all party. Although there is fun stuff also, Golf and Pistol Tournaments, dinners, award ceremonies and other social events. So this week I will try and fill you all in on the weeks training and events. Maybe I can even through in a few pics of our conference. The Golf Tournament was Sunday April 24th and I did not attend (I must admit I am one of the few politicians I know that has never played golf). I checked into the hotel late tonight and as you can see I am still up past midnight finishing my online Community College homework and blogging.

This week I will travel back and forth to Santa Fe for some items I cannot miss. Tuesday is the first public hearing on the DWI Forfeiture Ordinance. I hope this passes and I do not expect much public resistance. The City is moving forward on this also and I want to thank City Councilor Patty Bushee for getting the ball rolling on this.

Several Times during this week I have NDI practice. NDI is the National Dance Institute which is a children's self esteem building program in Santa Fe. Each year they put on a show with 500 kids in one show and myself, some other deputies and some City Police Officers will join them in the show. Last year Kathy De La Torre a New Mexican Photographer caught me in mid air during this show and while I got a lot of ribbing, the photo was chosen as one of the top 10 of 2005. Some friends photoshop'ed (is photoshop'ed a word?) the pic and added a ballerina and tutu just to have fun with me. I actually enjoy a good joke and it was funny. The kids (and yes there are 500 in one show) really get a kick out of it and it allows them to see cops in a non-stressful situation and get to know them as friends. Usually when kids see cops it is only when something bad is happening you can see I have a busy week but I will try and keep you up to date as the week progresses. Good luck to our new Chief of Police, I know he will do a great job!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Red Light Camera's

One item that has come up in Santa Fe County recently is the use of Red Light Cameras at Santa Fe County intersections. The use of these cameras to issue official criminal traffic citations is illegal in the state of New Mexico. State Law requires citations to be given by a uniformed certified officer who must witness the infraction. The only exception is in the case of an accident when the officer can rely on evidence at the scene and witness statements to issue the citations. So how does Albuquerque use the Red Light cameras to issue citations? They do this through a civil action.

The citations issued are civil summons issued by the city. The only cause of action if you do not pay the citation is for the city to take civil action and boot your vehicle under civil forfeiture ordinances until you pay. If you do pay the citation then the only penalty is the cash you send to the city. No matter how many citations you get for running red lights by the cameras you will not receive points on your M.V.D. records. Your insurance companies will not know you even received a citation. The penalty is cash and or impoundment. Violators are fined $100 the first time, $250 plus a 30-day impound of the vehicle for the second time. For subsequent offenses, there is a $500 fine plus a 90-day impound. The city saves on storage fees by impounding your car in your own driveway by booting the vehicle.

The number of cameras in Albuquerque that will catch those running red lights has doubled in the last month and will increase five times in a year. Critics say that the city is expanding the program not to prevent red light accidents but rather because the cameras are huge moneymakers for the City. In February of 2006 a traffic camera at Coors and Paseo del Norte caught 1,353 motorists driving through the intersection after the light turned red. Assuming that all citations were first time violators the city raised $338,250 in one month at one location.

A real disturbing trend is the local media searching the records of who was cited and publicizing politicians, government workers, police officers and other notables who are caught running the lights. I am someone who really does not media bash or blame the media for all the worlds ills however, how many searches have been done for media workers who are caught by the camera's. If you make a mistake and are caught by the camera is public embarrassment for the select few who work for the government or whom are public figures an intended punishment of which only those individuals should be subjected? Granted everyone’s driving record is public record but its not as likely that you will ever see a public officials citation written by a regular officer published on the front page or on the ten o’clock news.

I really see a problem when traffic citations are used as a revenue source. Unlike the view of many cited motorists, there are no quotas. We do not raise the Sheriff's Office Revenue by issuing citations. The public would probrably not re-elect me nor should they if we had quotas. These promote abuse and bad citations issued by deputies who just need to pull over citizens in order to reach their quota. We do receive $1 (one dollar) for every citation that is plead or found guilty in court. Most are not, usually people go to driving school or get a deferred sentence and we do not get the dollar. Last year I believe we got about $10,000 from the thousands of citations we issued. This was out of a taxpayer provided budget of just under seven million dollars.

The bottom line is we give citations as educational tools, not to raise money. They final question I have is do we approve that the owner of the vehicle should pay the price no matter who is driving when the red light is run? Drivers are not usually identified so the car and the owner are cited not the actual driver. So what do you think? Do the problems of red light runners and the high amount of accidents they cause justify the use of the red light cameras? Feel free to comment on this post.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter Eggs !


This holiday I felt I would not post anything controversial, at least not as controversial as my April Fools Day Post. How many of you knew that your software, DVD Movies, Games and other items have Easter Eggs? Well they do ! Just like any good Easter Egg, you have to hunt for them.

Easter eggs have been cropping up in computer hardware and software for at least a couple of decades now. No one's certain exactly when this practice started. In 1977, Many cartridges for the Atari 2600 game system contained Easter eggs. Early Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga's also were known to have some eggs hidden in their system software. Since then, nearly every major operating system and software program has been home to at least one egg. Some companies are strict about putting Easter Eggs in their products and others companies are less strict.

Here is what Bill Gates said in an Interview to New York Times : "We don't mind including credit screens in a product, as long as they don't burn up too much development time or require many resources of the consumer's machine. A lot of work and pride go into creating a software product, and it's understandable that the people involved enjoy getting credit. Unfortunately, the credit list can never be comprehensive because so many people contribute."
Other companies don't have much use for eggs of any kind. Developers at Intuit, say they'd rather spend time fixing bugs than adding eggs. Nico Mak, maker of WinZip, states that his team would rather add more features to the product than waste time with eggs.

Not every egg is simply a scrolling list of programmers. These computer goodies range from a dull, scrolling cast list of the developers to cool, 3D video games. Click here to start exploring some of the best known Easter Eggs, available to date.

And from The Sheriff, let me wish you all a very Happy Easter!

P.S. (see if you can find the Hidden Easter Egg in this post!)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The "War on Drugs"

I am taking classes at the Santa Fe Community College (mostly on line) in order to finish a degree in Criminal Justice. One of my classes is Composition and Rhetoric. The class was assigned the task of a one page essay on the cause and effects of legalizing drugs. I thought I would take some excerpts from that paper and post it here. The entire essay seemed long to post here so hopefully my butchering it will still leave it readable and on point.

The legalization of narcotic drugs in the United States is a constantly debated topic. When you separate the hype and political rhetoric from the facts you will find that legalized or not drug addiction and the crime associated with it will not go away.

One of the problems with this issue is “what some call the war on drugs”. I believe that the catch phrase is part of the problem. The criminal aspects are no different than other serious crimes law enforcement deals with every day. We try to reduce burglaries, homicides, and auto accidents, yet we don't call those efforts a “war”. The fact is people who are in drug treatment get there by way of the courts and law enforcement. Legalizing drugs will not stop people from being addicted. It will not lower the drug related crimes either. Those addicted will still have to pay for their addiction. Addicted persons tend to be unproductive and will still be unable to hold down a job. They will resort to crime to pay for their addiction.

Movies such as Traffic, made in 2000 highlight the many factors that make the drug problem one that has no easy answers. In the Movie Michael Douglas plays a conservative judge who is appointed by the President to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is an addict. He is forced to examine his core beliefs about the drug war and just who the drug addicts are. To many those with drug addictions are the homeless, downtrodden who have “created their own situation”. What this movie forced its main character to come to grips with was the fact that those addicted with drugs are our own brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren, and even our mothers and fathers.

In Santa Fe County I have worked in what some call the war on drugs for about 12 years. I grew up at an early age just across the street from one of Santa Fe’s Community Housing Projects. Most of the kids I grew up with are in prison or dead. The prevailing factor has been drugs. Go to any drug addiction treatment facility and ask people why they are in treatment. The overwhelming majority of patients will tell you they are court ordered. How does one get court ordered to treatment? Through arrest or charges filed by law enforcement. It is primarily through law enforcement efforts that people receive treatment. Society does not look at law enforcement in that manner.

Many say the cost of illegal drugs will drop if legalized. Why would drug companies lower costs on a captive audience? Have alcohol prices dropped since prohibition ended? Politicians would put a high sin tax on drugs just as they do with cigarettes and alcohol. The high cost of legal drugs will allow for a black market and the illegal drug trade to continue. Restrictions on the sale of drugs to felons and to those with addictions will be passed also. This would further the black market and illegal sales.

The majority of inmates in prison are not incarcerated for drug charges; the fact is they are incarcerated for crimes committed in order to pay for their addiction or for violence committed during drug transactions. The average criminal is arrested and convicted three to four times for felony offenses before they are sent to prison. These are individuals who have failed to avail themselves of the opportunities for treatment and the chances to turn their lives around with each arrest. Legalizing drugs will not change any of these factors. Individuals will still become addicted. Once addicted, they will not be productive members of society with the ability to pay for their addiction. They will turn to crime as a means to obtain or pay for the drugs. My opinion is to strengthen an all-inclusive approach to the drug problem. We need a good balance of law enforcement, treatment, prevention and education.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Controversy and Immigration

My stance on this issue has created some controversy especially on the New Mexicans comments section of their website. I have received some very hateful and vicious emails and calls and some very supportive. The supportive calls and emails has been about three to one which is nice. The biggest bone of contention seems to be the belief that some have that I cannot enforce the laws while speaking out against them at the same time. I truly believe that in America laws are drafted and changed through a democratic process that involves speaking out and letting our elected officials know how you feel on an issue. The fact that I am an Elected Official and a Law Enforcement Officer does not preclude my right and responsibility to seek changes in our laws while still enforcing them.

That said, I want to make very clear that we as local Law Enforcement Officers do not enforce immigration laws. We cannot arrest someone strictly on the basis of their immigration status. If someone commits a crime and also happens to be undocumented then the arrest is made and immigration officials, if they are interested in the case will take up the immigration portion of the case. Just a note: many, many misdeameanor cases such as D.W.I., shoplifting etc. are ignored by immigration officials and they will not deport based on these arrests simply because they are over taxed and do not have time to deal with these individuals.

Now, what I am advocating is not that we do not deal with the immigration problems but rather that we advocate legal means for these workers to come to our country and work legally. I support working towards a meaningful immigration policy that makes sense and is enforcable. It is obvious that the current system does not work. Another note: Some of the people who have called me, hire or have used undocumented workers themselves, yet they disagree with my beliefs on this issue. On the one hand they want to take advantage of the workers while they are here but on the other hand they say we should not allow them to be here illegally. I find this highly hypocritical and is at the root of this problem.

I truly feel that we can deal with homeland security issues and immigration issues while still bieng compassionate and giving of the people coming to America to make a better life for themselves and their family's.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Human Rights and Immigrants March

Today I attended the Immigrants Rights Rally and March organized by Unsomos Pueblo Unido and others. It was definitely the largest rally and march of its type I have ever seen in Santa Fe. Hundreds of immigrants and locals joined with union leaders, politicians, members of the NAACP and many other oganizations to march for peace and immigrants rights. I have worked with immigrants rights groups on many issues and I was asked to give a speech. Here are excerpts from the speech I gave. I have doubts about spelling on the Spanish portions.

Buenos Tardes, Me llamo es Gregorio Solano, el Sheriff en Santa Fe. (Good afternoon, my name is Greg Solano the Sheriff of Santa Fe.)

Me habla muy poquito espanol, pero me corazon es puro Hispano Americano. ( I speak very little Spanish however my heart is pure Hispanic American.)

At one time our president demanded Russian President Gorbichof to "tear down that wall". Now some in the Republican Party and in Congress wish to build a great wall on our borders.

This will change the very nature of America and the principles it was built on. The call from the statue of liberty itself. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. " Outlined what America is all about.

We must work together for legalization of undocumented immigrants and a guest-worker program.

We must oppose laws that crack down on illegal immigrants and laws that would punish those who help them.

We have a god given mandate to care for our brothers and sisters and show compassion for the poor.

We must stand united, this is not a Mexican verses an American thing, this is a human rights issue. Often we go to other countries and fight for the human rights of others. There is a human rights struggle happening here and now in our own country.

It is not easy for some to stand up and speak out. But I defer to the late great Dr. Martin Luther King who put it best when he said "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

So to all the politicians out there who are trying to stay politically correct, to those who are silent in this issue, I say speak out. It's a not just a political issue, it's the right thing to do.

Gracias, vallen condios ( Thank you , May god go with you)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Attack of the Republican Consultant

In a move usually reserved for statewide candidates or candidates of higher office Whitney Cheshire, President of Cheshire Communication Strategies, a Republican and conservative campaign attack dog, has blasted me for my April Fools Post. On her unabashedly Republican blog Wednesday Morning Quarterback she has taken the typical Republican attack strategy straight out of the their Michael Paul Astorga play book and gone as far as to say that on the night I posted my April Fools post I should have been out looking for Michael Paul Astorga. Wow, that one floored me. I truly feel she dishonored law enforcement in general and all the efforts in particular of my fine deputies and detectives, who spent countless hours participating in the man hunt. She also felt I had ruined my relationship with the presidents security detail. What this really is about is a Republican attack on a staunch Democrat. Since she does not allow comments on her blog I emailed her.

Here is a excerpt:

I can guarantee that I have an excellent working relationship with the Secret Service and this didn't even register a blip on their screen. Do you really think that the Secret Service is worried about where the President is not going to be? I personally have worked with two Presidents Administrations and one Vice President (Clinton,Gore and Bush) and have met both Presidents and the Vice President on their visits to Santa Fe County and I am sure I will continue to do so. I was very careful not to do anything that would endanger or hurt anyone in this and your insinuations that I somehow hurt homeland security or put the president at risk, or even brought shame to the county or state is really out there. Oh well, Blogs including yours and mine are about opinions and I respect yours even though I disagree. I allow comments on my blog and I wish you did on yours also.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Biggest Visitor Days Ever

The April Fools Day Prank has lead to the largest number of visitors I have ever had to this Blog. There has been over 200 visitors to this blog since April 1 and the biggest day ever was Monday April 3, 2006 with 116 visitors. The last biggest day was 51 visitors on March 30th. Most average days prior to this was 20 to 30 per day. I am not sure what it says that my prank attracted more visitors then my regular ramblings. Hopefully you all will stick with me as a regular reader. I offer the ability to comment on my posts, please take advantage of this I would like to see this become more of a dialog on issues I bring up rather than just my thoughts and opinions. Until next time be safe and have a great day!

Monday, April 03, 2006

April Fools Day is Over

Ok, I had a lot of fun with the last post. If any of you did not click on the more information link then you still may not realize it was an April Fools Joke. I received no less than 15 calls from various reporters and new organizations including two of the three Major T.V. Stations in New Mexico. Some called just to congratulate me on a good joke, Some called trying to get more information on President Bush's Visit to Santa Fe. One reporter thanked me for angering his editor, he thought that was the really funny part. Apparently his editor did not think my joke was that funny. I really thought that any newsperson would want to know more about the story and click on the more information link right away and learn it was a big April Fools Joke. I was surprised that some reporters began running with the story before clicking on the link which would let you know it was an April Fools Joke. Anyway, I had a lot of fun and hopefully some of you did also. A big thanks to Henry who unwittingly gave me the idea for this prank. Now back to serious stuff.