Tuesday, July 31, 2007

County votes yes on large increases in pay for deputies

I just got home from the Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners Meeting where the commissioners voted unanimously to raise deputy pay an average of a little over three dollars an hour, with some deputies getting as much as $6 an hour increase. Our starting pay will now go to $14.89 an hour for a deputy starting with no experience. These pay increases put us at exactly the same pay scale the City of Santa Fe Police who were beginning to steal away our employees after they received two pay increases in just the last year. Law Enforcement over the last four to five years have become one of the most competitive fields of employment as less and less people are attracted to a career in law enforcement. Money verses risk has become more important as the days when young people grew up longing to be officers is long gone.

Many young people just don't feel the pay is worth it, young men and women today have a much higher expectation of pay than public service normally provides. So over the last few years Law Enforcement has had to come to grips with the fact that pay had to increase dramatically in order to attract new men and women to law enforcement jobs.

A little over three weeks ago we started losing deputies to the City of Santa Fe Police Department with many more putting in applications or talking about doing so. I called an emergency meeting with County Manager Roman Abeyta and the Heads of Finance and Human Resources. When I explained the dire straits we would soon be in the County Manager jumped on board and immediately began preparations and began gathering the figures and locating the money to match the city's pay. I have to give County Manager Roman Abeyta a lot of credit for not only understanding the problem but for not trying to band aid the problem and going out an making the raises happen. He showed great leadership in my opinion.

The County Manager then met with the commissioners and explained the need for the raises and why we needed to bite the bullet and match the city dollar for dollar. He came back with positive results so the next step was to get the union to agree not only to the raises but to set aside non monetary issues in the current negotiations and come up with an agreement on pay first. Usually during negotiations which we are now in the middle of all non financial issues are dealt with first leaving financial issues for last. The union and management stepped up the meetings and agreements were reached. The union membership voted on the contract agreement and we were now set for a final vote before the county commission. The total cost of the raises was just under $700,000. Not a small chunk of change to ask the commission to approve. None the less the vote was unanimous and the raises take effect the first full pay period in August.

Every one involved showed great leadership and worked hard to make this happen in an amazingly short amount of time. The citizens of Santa Fe County will benefit greatly from this and will absolutely get their monies worth from the deputies whom I know are the best of the best in New Mexico Law Enforcement.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sheriff Solano calls for passage of SCHIP

I joined other New Mexico law enforcement leaders today to call on the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to improve the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cut crime.

SCHIP provides health care coverage to children from low-income working families. Without increased federal funding for SCHIP, many enrolled kids may lose their coverage. And many eligible kids will not be covered if funding is not increased. At least 18,000 children in New Mexico currently have no health coverage.

During a conference call, I joined Deming Police Chief Michael Carillo and Ernie Ortiz, Deputy Director of the New Mexico High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and we released a new research brief from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. The brief showed that SCHIP can help cut crime by ensuring that children’s behavioral, emotional and mental health problems are identified and treated. In New Mexico, methamphetamine abuse may be one of the factors in the increase in cases of abuse and neglect. As a result, admissions to foster care have increased 26 percent from 2000 to 2005.

The Senate Finance Committee has approved $35 billion in new funding for SCHIP over five years. This would cover 3.3 million eligible but currently unenrolled children. The bill also includes a mental health parity provision. The mental health parity provision would amend SCHIP to ensure that states’ children’s health plans include no financial requirements or treatment limitations for mental health care that are more restrictive than those of other medical benefits of the plan. A number of states currently restrict or limit the amount of mental health coverage children in SCHIP receive. As a result, a family with a schizophrenic child may get less financial help than if their child suffered from diabetes.

The SCHIP legislation will be voted on in the Senate this week. I have asked that Senator Pete Dominici and Senator Jeff Bingamen vote for the SCHIP funding in the Senate. In the press release and letters to the senators I said many children need to be screened for emotional and behavioral problems and, if necessary, provided with treatment to help them lead productive lives. Without health insurance, such screening and treatment is unaffordable for many working families. Failing to provide such services to children may lead to increased crime and violence as they grow up.

“The behavioral and emotional well-being of our nation’s children is just as important as their physical health,” I said. “If we make these investments, and these kids get access to treatment, we will save lives and cut crime.”

I truly believe that shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the John Hyde's of America can be avoided if mental health problems could be caught and addressed at a young age. Unfortunately President Bush is threatening to veto increased funding for SCHIP, this does not surprise me since President Bush is all talk when it comes to his so called "Compassionate Conservatism". Whether it is cutting COPS Program funding or vetoing funding for children's health care President Bush never ceases to disappoint me.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Funny Friday- Dancing Inmates

Belive it or not, here is 1,500 plus CPDRC inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, Cebu, Philippines at practice! Supposedly this is not a punishment! Seems cruel and unusual to me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Looking for Joe Monahan ?

I won't be sitting at the side of I-25 with a radar gun looking for Joe Monahan, or will I ? LOL.
I made an attempt to win a free lunch from Joe when he had a contest on his blog which offered the meal if you could answer this question: What were the names of the four candidates who sought the 1982 Democratic nomination for the District 3 northern congressional seat in New Mexico.

Graduating from Santa Fe High in 1982, the extent of my political experience at the time was spending many an elementary school summer break hanging around the Roundhouse with my grandmother Eufemia Solano who was a custodian. I vividly remember Governor Bruce King who always treated me nice and let me play in his office more than once. Many a Senator or House Rep. bought me a candy from the vending machines or a drink from the small cafeteria.

I also remember my mother volunteering for Governor Tony Anaya during his first run at the Governor's seat. My family was never really political however we did vote and take part in politics from time to time. Ok, I digressed so back to the contest. Of course I could not remember the 1982 District 3 race although we did live in the district. I do remember Roberto Mondragon and his many visits to our schools over the years where he sang "O Fair New Mexico" and other songs. So I did what any geek like me would do I searched the internet. It actually took some time before I came upon the website ourcampaigns.com which actually a friend of my wife's found. See the extent I would go to just to have a free lunch?

Of course as all of Joe Monahan's readers now know the web site was incorrect. Or was it? The site lists George Perez as Charles Perez. Perhaps the site was right and Joe just did not want to buy me lunch. Could this be one of the conspiracy's that Joe often talks about on his blog? Could Joe be powerful enough in New Mexico Politics to get Charles Perez to change his name and keep Joe Monahan from having to buy me my Taco Plate from Sadie's in Albuquerque?
Hmm, perhaps an investigation is needed. Seems like a job for Eye on Albuquerque.

Either way I am firing off a stern letter to ourcampaings.com telling them they owe me lunch. I wonder if Attorney General Gary King will take the case, this is a fraud if I ever saw one........

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Email mystery solved?

Duke City Fix had a blog post up even before I wrote today's earlier post where I pondered how the email from Sandra Richardson to Paulette de'Pascal got into the wrong hands. According to Duke City Fix the email was accidentally sent to the wrong email address by Mrs. Richardson. The email was reportedly sent to another person on the contact list who's name starts with the letter D. The comments on Duke City Fix for this blog post are a very interesting read. Actually the whole story is interesting in a Fiesta Melodrama kind of way.

Who's the Boss? The District 4 Albuquerque City Council Race.

I have been reading with much amusement, both the Eye on Albuquerque Blog, and Mario Burgos Blog as they cover developments in the Albuquerque District 4 City Councilor race. In the blogs there is much discussion over an email which purportedly came from a campaign worker or supporter of Paulette de'Pascal who is facing Brad Winter in the race. The discussion on these blogs is centered on whether Mayor Marty Chavez, and City Employee Greg Payne is behind Mrs De'Pascal's campaign. The email in question made me ponder what I would do should I receive such an email.

In a local political campaign there is much to do and most of the work is done by volunteers and few if any paid staff. While I had a few Democratic political experts volunteering and helping, I had no paid staff. I relied on the expertise of those who had been in many a campaign for advice. I then made the decision on what direction the campaign would take based on my gut feelings, personal knowledge, discussions with my wife, and the advice I received. The campaign was mine to win or lose. I never received advice or emails in such a manner as what has reportedly been emailed to Mrs De'Pascal but I can say that if I did I would thank the sender for their opinion and help, however their services would no longer be required. A good candidate must be a leader and not a follower. He or she must take charge and not be led around on a leash. When I have encountered candidates or elected officials who allowed themselves to be led by individuals or special interests they often fail, either during the election or afterwards.

Making decisions contrary to the advice of "those who have been in races back when I was still in grade school" was sometimes a delicate task. I tried to take into account their advice and make sure they understood how much I appreciated it and how I incorporated their advice into what ever was my final decision. In my case they were volunteers whom I greatly appreciated and who's advice I really did listen to and incorporate into what ever I finally decided. I still have all the volunteers not only as good friends but as loyal allies in any future campaign I would undertake.

This is really the basis of my management style. I have good experienced people working for me and many times before deciding on a course of action we will meet and I will ask their opinion. I will then formulate a plan taking those opinions into account but not necessarily always doing exactly what I am advised. At the same time I try to stay away from micro managing. I try to steer the ship without telling the engine room and communications people how to do their job, only ensuring that they are doing it.

What has really made this whole thing interesting is who released this email to the public? If the candidate were to release it the end result could only be bad. Brad Winter seems to be trying to distance himself from the campaign so why would he release it? The purported author of the email Sandra P. Richardson would have nothing to gain by releasing it either. If the candidate really was confiding in many others and seeking advice from many individuals perhaps she forwarded it to someone who forwarded it to Eye on Albuquerque and Mario Burgos. However the only person who stood to gain from the release of the email is Brad Winter. Now I am not pointing fingers as I and many other candidates have been the victim of an over zealous supporter who did something I would never condone or approve in the name of helping my campaign. All you can do is remind your volunteers at every meeting about the kind of campaign you are running and set the example.

I purposely never talked bad about my opponents and only spoke positively in front of my volunteers in order to set the example and reinforce that any campaigning would be positive and that we would talk about our strengths rather than our opponents weaknesses. However, the motive and consequences of the release of this email is very suspect. The real question out of this whole episode is the age old question, Who dunit?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Kid Nation prompts complaints and controversy

A reality TV show which was filmed in Santa Fe County is generating complaints and controversy. The advertising for the show says:

40 children, 40 days, no adults—eager to prove they can build a better world for tomorrow in the new reality series KID NATION. Settling in Bonanza City, New Mexico, once a thriving mining town but now deserted, these kids, ages 8 to 15 and from all walks of life, will build their own new world, pioneer-style. They will confront grown-up issues while coping with the classic childhood emotions of homesickness, peer pressure and the urge to break every rule. Episodes end with a town meeting in which the kids award one child a gold star worth $20,000, all leading to the grand finale, with an unimaginable test, the biggest awards and a special surprise for every child.

The trailer for the show available at CBS website is chock full of made up information. CBS claims the show was filmed at a long ago abandoned mining town called Bonanza City. CBS also claims in its trailer that adults abandoned the town because they could not make a life there yet the children will somehow make a go of it.

The truth is the filming was done at Bonanza Creek Ranch at a movie set built in 1989 for the filming of the "Lucky Luke " TV series. According to producers of the show the kids were not really alone. they were surrounded by councilors, medics, camera people, nutritionists. and psychologists.

Although during filming I had no complaints forwarded to our office, after the filming was completed a mother wrote a letter which was sent to my office, various state agencies and others. She complained that the children were mistreated and that child labor laws were broken. She stated in her complaint that she was not properly informed of her child's condition nor the conditions her child was in while filming at the set. The mother also was upset at a confidentiality agreement she signed which she felt forced her and other parents to not speak out about conditions at the set.

While the allegations in her letter were troubling, investigation by our agency showed that the allegations did not rise to a criminal level. I am sure that the other state agencies who looked at this probably came to the same conclusion. I do feel that the show went to far and that parents who allowed their children to go to this filming and not be present and oversee their children's participation were not making a good choice. I for one would not have allowed my children to participate without my being on site or at least visiting often to assess what my child was doing. According to the parent who complained she had little or no contact with her child most of the time and felt her child received inadequate medical care for injury's and rashes her child obtained while filming.

It will be a lot harder to film another Kid Nation because many states will probably monitor these productions much closer now that complaints were lodged with this production. New Mexico enacted new laws after the production which limits the number of hours children can work on a production - a maximum of 18 hours during a school week, and no shooting after 7pm. New laws also require that studio teachers and a parent or guardian are on the set and that the children are fed proper meals.

These new laws would have greatly altered the way this series was filmed and probably would have resulted in filming not happening in New Mexico. While the complaints about the show have garnered some attention in the media over all the story has not had legs. I think it just has not been picked up by the major news media yet. The disappointing thing is that the producers of the show were probably counting on some controversy which would then be used to garner ratings. Should the show decide to try and film in Santa Fe County again the Sheriff's office will be on site and closely monitor the show, although my preference is that the producers go else where.

Monday, July 02, 2007

New Mexico becomes a "Grow Your Own" Medical Marijuana State.

There is now a whole new meaning to the phrase "New Mexico the Land of Enchantment". New Mexico in the last legislative session passed a medical marijuana law which legalized the use of marijuana for patients whose doctors certify they are eligible for the program. in the next few weeks, approved patients, or their approved primary caregivers, would receive temporary certificates allowing them to possess up to six ounces of marijuana, four mature plants and three immature seedlings. The law allows the use of marijuana for specified conditions including cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and HIV-AIDS, as well as by some patients in hospice care.

When this law was going through the legislature about ninety some percent of New Mexico Law Enforcement was adamantly against it. The New Mexico Sheriff's and Police Association of which I am the current president but at the time I was the incoming president, lobbied and testified against the bill. I was called by the Executive Director to join in the lobby efforts and press conferences opposing the bill but I respectfully declined. Much to the amazement of my colleagues I was in support of the bill.

Those of you who have read my blog in the past know I have debated and opposed legalization of drugs as a whole. However, I do support some sort of medical marijuana legislation based on nothing more than compassion. I do not believe that marijuana provides any more medical benefits than other legal prescription drugs could provide. However part of me says, these people are suffering and dying and if smoking a joint makes them feel better so be it. These are individuals whose life span is short and the idea that these individuals will graduate to worse drugs, become criminals to pay for their habit, or become dealers to pay for their habit is probably unlikely for most of them. I also believe that those who are legally certified and go through the process to use the drug legally are probably going to be law abiding citizens as it is.

What I am upset about is the State of New Mexico's recent decision to license and allow patients to "grow their own". I truly do not believe that had this been a component of the original legislation that this would have passed the legislature. I also believe that we are creating a huge problem for law enforcement. When some neighbor or pizza delivery guy calls us and says marijuana is being grown at a certain home we will respond as we usually do. These cases require serious security measures when we approach such a home as we usually do not know if we have a casual user or a dealer. We don't know if we are going to find "Grandpa Joe" with glaucoma or someone with elaborate traps and heavy artillery waiting on the other side of the door.

Who will regulate and inspect these homes licensed to grow marijuana? Who will ensure that "Grandpa Joe's" nieces, nephews, or grandchildren are not picking from the family plants? When criminals learn that "Grandpa Joe" is growing will he be in danger of home invasions and burglary's? The state is making a grave mistake in my opinion. The whole idea of legalizing any one to grow marijuana is crazy as long as it is still an illegal drug for the rest of society. Already a man caught with a number of marijuana plants claimed he had them because "he thought marijuana was legal now in New Mexico". This new law is making news around the country with headlines like "New Mexico in Dope Business", and "Marijuana Law Requires New Mexico to 'Grow Its Own" on Fox news. While I believe Governor Richardson wanted to pass a medical marijuana law to show compassion to the nation I really can't believe he expected to condone people growing their own marijuana.

I know how we got to this place. The federal government does not condone and takes the stand that medical marijuana even when legalized by the states is still illegal. The State of New Mexico is afraid that employees of the state could be charged criminally by the feds for administering the State Medical Marijuana and could be charged for trafficking should we have a state run growing and distributing system. Therefor the State has thrown it upon the patients to grow their own thus the only one who can be charged by the feds is the patient, for growing and using. In other words the state is throwing the patients under the bus should the feds decide to prosecute someone in order to make an example of them.

Once again we are back to my opinion but, isn't this what this blog is all about? Anyway, the state should take the bull by the horns and if they are going to fly in the face of the federal government and approve medical marijuana despite the feds saying they can not, then the state should go all the way and provide a safe and secure means of regulating, growing and distributing the stuff.