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.

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