Monday, January 29, 2007

My Feelings about John Dendahl Leaving New Mexico

John Dendahl says enough is enough and I'm off to Colorado. As reported in the Albuquerque Journal John Dendahl is leaving New Mexico, hitting I-25 and headed North to Colorado. This reminded me of my political wins and losses, actually it reminded me of my losses. I know his official rant about leaving New Mexico because it is corrupt and the voters like it that way. I think as I remember how I felt after a huge loss in a more localized election that the truth of the matter is that even thought he was like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza mounting an unsuccessful attack on a windmill in every political fight there is still some hope that you will defeat the windmill.

As I read about John Dendahl leaving New Mexico it reminded me of when I ran for my last re-election for City Police Union President in 1994. Donald Grady was Chief of the City of Santa Fe Police Department. Appointed as an agent of Change by then Mayor Debbie Jaramillo, the first Black Chief in Santa Fe's history was controversial and his tenure created deep divisions in the City Police that remain to this day. The Department was divided into two camps led by myself as President and Sergeant Frank Novelli who was a radical activist who would become President. The group led by Frank Novelli wanted Grady removed at all costs. Racial comments were often thrown about behind closed doors and really disgusting things such as pubic hairs placed in cake which was given to him were the types of things this situation had degenerated into.

Former S.F. Chief Donald Grady

I as Union President, while agreeing that his tenure had done more harm then good, still tried to find common ground between his administration and the officers. As such I was often portrayed as on the fence or pro-Grady. Flyer's were made up with a cartoon showing me standing on a wood fence with half the Police Department yelling at me from one side of the fence and the other half yelling at me from the opposite side. I lost the Union Presidency by 3 votes in 1994. I have to admit I was very demoralized. The fight was bitter and had taken all that I had. Half the department who voted for me wanted for me to continue the fight as a board member of the union.

The truth is I had nothing left. Being in the minority on the board meant that I would have little chance of having decisions go our way. Being listed as a board member meant that my name would still be tied to decisions the board made even if I voted against them. The racial aspects of the unions fight to remove Chief Grady continued until his eventual resignation in February of 1996. I lasted about 1 year longer before I made the decision to walk away. I was already a Sergeant in the department so walking away meant losing seniority and a position as a commander in the department. Some family and co-workers still give me their opinion that I should not have left. That I would probably be Chief or Deputy Chief by now and would be eligible for retirement next year. To this day the bitterness over Chief Grady is such that every Chief's photo hangs in the Police Station except Chief Grady's. Whenever one is put up to replace the missing one it goes mysteriously missing.

John Dendahl

So what does all this have to do with John Dendahl? I have never agreed with anything John Dendahl has had to say. He and Republican extremists like Whitney Cheshire leave no room for middle ground so they make it hard for those like me who truly believe in the ideals of the Democratic Party to find common ground. But for the first time I had something in common with John Dendahl. He probably believes in his causes as much as I do and even though he was like Don Quixote attacking the windmill that is Governor Bill Richardson he probably somewhere in the back of his mind thought he would have a chance and maybe make a difference. When he was unable to make a noticeable dent in Governor Richardson's Armor he was so disgusted he just walked away. The way I walked away from the City Police.

When I left I did so quietly and it was many years of introspection before I ever really was able to talk about how I felt and what the loss of the Union Presidency did to me. In the end it made me stronger and I would not be where I am today if it were not for what I went through then. John Dendahl should have done the same thing. Walked away quietly and not talk about his feelings until he fully understood them. He should not have lashed out against the very voters he once courted. The voters decide and then those of us in political positions or with political aspirations must live by those decisions and use them as a growth and educational experience. Some people call it pandering to voters when politicians look at what citizens want and react. I call it doing your job.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bill Richardson Declared Winner !

The writer of this blog, who also writes a Las Vegas Poker Blog, Declared Bill Richardson the Winner of the Democratic Primary on Monday. The author apparently is not too up to date with political news as on Monday Jan 22, 2007 when he declared our Governor the winner he was not aware Bill had even officially jumped into the race. Either way Nevada is an early primary state and here is one Nevada resident sold on Governor Richardson. Could this be the begining of an internet revolution for the underdog?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What about the Lieutenant Governor?

A few friends and I were discussing Governor Richardson's Presidential bid and we were both in agreement that regardless of what happened in the Democratic Primary Election the Democrats will probably win the General Election. We were also in agreement that Governor Richardson will probably be Vice President or Secretary of State. But some interesting dynamics began to come into play as we discussed this.

One was what if John Edwards wins the Primary? Kerry/Edwards team was not happy that Governor Richardson did not deliver New Mexico. Patricia Madrid who was supported by the Governor in her bid to unseat Heather Wilson is supporting Senator John Edwards and not Governor Richardson in the Presidential Primary. Patricia has always supported Senator John Edwards and she headed his New Mexico Campaign when he last ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Patricia and John Edwards are also good friends. So the Governor had no expectation she would not continue to support John Edwards. He did however have no choice but to support then Attorney General Patricia Madrid in her race against Heather. How much influence will Patricia have to recommend or not recommend Governor Richardson to her good friend John Edwards should he win the nomination? It has long been felt by many that there is no love lost between Patricia and the Governor.

What about Hillary? would she forgive Governor Richardson for running against her? Can the Governor run an aggressive campaign without straining his relationship with Hillary? My feeling is he probably can. On this week with George Stephanopoulos the Governor talked about his light hearted Got Milk?, Cowboy ads which he ran during the Governors race. He stated he felt the public was ready for positive light hearted ads that were a change from the negative voting record type ads of the past. I feel this is part of his strategy. Run a clean light hearted campaign that will not endanger his chances of a Vice President or Secretary of State position.

This brought our conversation to the Lieutenant Governors position. I have been taking a look at this situation as it was interesting to note that should the Governor leave for what ever position in Washington there is no provision to put a Lieutenant Governor in place for the remainder of current Lt. Governor Diane Denish's term. A good friend in State Government brought it to my attention that barring a constitutional amendment the position could remain unfilled until the next election cycle.

The legislative session currently underway allows for an opportunity to fix that situation. Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino plans to introduce a Constitutional amendment which if passed must still be voted on in 2008 in a state wide election, that would allow the lieutenant governor-turned governor to pick a second in command, to be approved by the Senate. It is my understanding that at least one name is being tossed around by the Lt. Governors staff for this position.

I began looking at it because I had been asked by a group of supporters to consider running for this position in 2010. (no this is not an announcement). This situation is very interesting however. If the voters do not approve a constitutional amendment (very few proposed amendments are approved), this would leave us with no Lt. Governor for the remainder of Diane Denish's term. If the voters do approve the amendment Lt. Governor Denish would be in the unique position of choosing her Lt. Governor prior to any election giving that person a distinct advantage in the next election. In New Mexico the Lt. Governor and the Governor run seperate campaigns in the primary and then must join forces in the General Election. So in essence the Governor candidate really does not choose his or her running mate the public does.

While Richardson has much national campaigning to do, look for Diane Denish to begin taking more local news time then she has in the past as she prepares for her race. However Richardson will still be careful of giving the impression that he is not spending enough time or keeping tabs on the goings on in New Mexico. Very few Lieutenant Governors go on to win the Governors race and there are some formidable opponents eyeing the Governors seat even as only the first month of Governor Richardson's second term is finishing up. However, Lt. Governor Denish has made it very clear she intends to run for Governor. As for me, I am watching with interest but very busy completing only my first month in the next four years as Sheriff in Santa Fe County.

One final note: I took a look at Bill Richardson's Presidential Campaign Web Site and he has covered many bases including a My Space Page, a You Tube page, Flickr and of course a Blog. Of special note is his video The New Mexico Comeback, it was a well made video which was visually pleasing as well as informative for those who don't know much about New Mexico.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Hanging in my office is a quote that I have always admired.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Great words from a great man.

Today we honor Dr. King and in that spirit I have provided courtesy of YOU TUBE his famous I Have a Dream Speech. I would be born less than three months after he gave this speech on August 28, 1963.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

End Homelessness, Private Prisons and Jails

Yesterday I was up and out of the house really early to attend Mayor David Coss's Blue Ribbon Panel tasked with coming up with a plan to end homelessness in five years. It is an ambitious goal. I give a lot of credit to Mayor Coss for beginning this process. I was asked by Mayor Coss to sit on the panel and I was happy to do so. I am not a morning person so I am glad the next meeting is not at 7:30 am like the first one was. The first meeting was introductions and preliminary discussions while the next meeting will begin breaking the group up into committees. The Santa Fe New Mexican's Henry Lopez was up early to cover the meeting. The one thing I have always admired about Mayor Coss both when he was a Councilor and as Mayor was his ability to think "bigger picture" and not just take on the easy political issues. These types of initiatives take courage to even begin and most politicians will not take them on for fear of the high chance of failure to do more than make short term gains both politically and realistically. This group seems highly motivated and knowledgeable so I see good things coming out of these meetings.

The New Mexican's Steve Terrell did a piece on private prisons and this subject always interests me. It was a standard piece which contained the usual quotes from the firm Rothstien and Donatelli. All reporters run to them for their negative quotes whenever doing a prison or jail story. The firm has made millions off the backs of governments and taxpayers while purporting to be advocates for prisoners. I have said it before and I will say it again when this firm puts even 10% of the millions they make into any inmate programs whether it be vocational training, living skills or substance abuse programs I will have a little more respect for them.

Donatelli mentioned that Santa Fe County was struggling to run its jail after years of it being run by private entities. One of the reasons the County, (any County for that matter) has to struggle is that resources and money that could go towards operations and programs go to insurance and legal costs to fend off those who make a living taking advantage of taxpayers and getting the easy money to be made in the lawsuits against jails. The Firm Donatelli and Rothstien collected two million dollars for 6 months work in the Strip Search lawsuit. Even if they worked all day every day 40 hours a week this comes out to a ridicules hourly wage.

District judges and defense attorneys try to keep prisoners who are sentenced to prison out of the prison system by having prisoners sentenced to say five years in prison but deferring all but 364 days. What this does is burden the county jails with hard core prisoners who belong in prison and whose bill should be paid by the state but because of the deferred sentence they end up with the bill for their incarceration being paid by the County. Private jails and prisons have not been good for New Mexico and that is one of the few areas where Donatelli and Rothstien and I agree. Privatization does make more sense for prisons than jails and I have yet to see a jail in New Mexico where it has worked out. On the other hand the State of New Mexico sets up jails for failure. State inmates are forced to be housed in county run jails with counties forced to foot the bill.

It also means that a jail which is not equipped or able to afford programs to reintegrate felons into society is saddled with long term housing of felons. Exactly the type of housing a prison is designed for. The legislature refuses to address these problems because it would mean increasing State Corrections costs considerably. As more and more jails bankrupt county budgets you are going to see increased pressure on legislatures from the local governments to do something about this. Remember all politics is local and legislators have to run in their local districts and more and more roads, libraries and other local services are suffering because of jail costs.

Ok, this is one of my longer blog posts and I tend to go off on tangents where jails are concerned. It is an issue which both intrigues me and incenses me. We have a lot of dedicated people in Santa Fe County who really care about the jail and having a well run jail that has meaningful programs. We just struggle because of costs and burdens saddled on local governments by law firms who take advantage and the state government.

.....One final note, I do have some really good friends who are attorneys so on thier behalf I offer this disclaimer.

*** Nothing in this blog is meant to label all attorneys and any remarks which resemble attorneys living or deceased is purely coincidental, accidental or on purpose depending on which portion of this disclaimer stands up in court.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Christmas is over, enough with the snow.

I know, no blogging for weeks. Between the Snow, the Snow and the Snow I have not had much else to deal with. Its been very busy at the Sheriff's Office and the weather has presented many challenges from citizens who don’t have propane, running low on medications, or live in an area powered by solar power and are not getting enough sun. If I never see another snow flake that will be fine with me. Let it rain for moisture.

Tonight we found our first weather related death in Santa Fe County from the winter storms. A 20 year old male was found dead of apparent hypothermia. We are not sure if drugs or alcohol were involved but apparently he was walking home when he died in a field not far from his home. I am very sorry for his family but I am glad we have not had more deaths and frankly I am surprised.

Even though there is a lot of criticism being thrown around, this storm was one that is not the norm and many dedicated people have worked around the clock cleaning roads, getting supplies to those in need and evacuating those who must be evacuated. The hundreds of phone calls we received on a daily basis that were resolved by dedicated public servants (especially Fire and Public Works) who do not make the news. For every one of you who were inconvenienced there was one person who literally was in need of lifesaving medication, or had run out of food or propane. Those people, EVERY ONE OF THEM, who called and needed help, got that help. Ok, that’s my rant and rave for the day.

I am really glad pretty much everyone lived through the storm of 2006/2007 and maybe one day I will tell my grandchildren about the time the snow was so deep we had to use a snow cat and rescue people from their homes. I might even embellish the story and say how I walked to work in the snow with bad shoes for miles and they should be happy they have school buses. :-)