Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!


Stir the eggnog, lift the toddy, Happy New Year, everybody!

Here's wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Please be safe, Don't Drink and Drive and God Bless You all!

Greg, Antoinette and Family!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Public needs to know or Breaking News?

I try and respond to requests for records with open arms. I am even criticized by my peers for being too open to the press. Not mildly criticized mind you but heavily criticized and accused of damaging the ability for law enforcement to function in the state and creating roadblocks for the ability to successfully investigate and prosecute cases by releasing too much to the media. While my reasons for doing it in my mind are clear, open and honest government, I have been accused of being too accommodating to the media only for political reasons, or because I am "a media hog".

I bring all this up because I truly believe in open government, however the recent fight over the Governor releasing names of 59 employees who are being laid off in a few weeks has me questioning motives and what is right and decent. The media and bloggers have been trying to force the governor to release the names of the employees. Two of the names have already been released. Those two were released either by the employee themselves or through leaks.

Many of these 59 employees are widely regarded at least by the media, but probably by the public as well to be undeserving political flaks who only got their jobs by serving Governor Richardson in some point in his political career. Some may be, and who knows maybe all of them are. You know what? They are also people. People with families, kids, mortgage payments, college tuition etc. Yes these may all be high paying jobs, but the more you make the more you spend. And who says high paid workers hurt any more or less when they lose their jobs? Now lets combine the suffering of being told you will lose your job weeks before Christmas with the media dying to have the "BREAKING NEWS" banner listing your name as one of the poor slobs who lost their jobs.

Reporters often say the public "has a right to know" or "needs to know", "this is taxpayer money" but does the public even want to know who has been laid off? Is outing peoples identity who have lost their jobs necessary? There are no taxpayer dollars being spent in the move to cut these jobs, in the contrary taxpayer dollars are being saved. If the names are released what will the media do with them?

Lets take a look at the two names which have been released. Bruce Kohl, head of the Securities Division at the Regulation and Licensing Department and former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron with the state Department of Workforce Solutions. The media portrayed Bruce Kohl as a victim who really was not the type of employee who should lose their job and was in a needed position while Rebecca who is facing federal charges for misspending money in her former elected position of Secretary of State is portrayed as someone who either should have lost their job months ago or someone who should have never gotten the job to begin with.

Now that's exactly what will happen if all the names are released. First there will be a big headline listing all the names. Then the rush will be on to see who gets the in depth story. Each news agency will try to interview the employees who are losing their jobs and exploit their situation for all its worth. Some of the employees will be portrayed as deserving in losing their jobs while others will be portrayed as human beings who will suffer due to the job loses.

All T.V. Stations, Newspapers, and even radio have had cutbacks in the last year. When the Santa Fe New Mexican laid off employees in two separate cuts in the last year, no one interviewed the employees and decided who was deserving of losing their jobs and who was not. No one went to their homes and workplaces like stalkers and shoved microphones and cameras in their faces trying to get that emotional story that makes up the tabloid style journalism that has permeated the media today. But wait! There is a difference, the reporters and news staff are private employees, the laid off state workers are government employees. Since they are government employees they are not worthy of dignity. By becoming public servants they give up all rights to a private life and deserve to have the entire state aware that they are now unemployed.

In the past editors weighed the story against good old fashioned morals and right and wrong as well as whether the story was really newsworthy. Today news media want to be first with the big story. Emotions and tragedy sell or so they think. Yet as the media go's for the jugular and becomes more and more tabloid like, people are buying and watching less and less. Is this just a coincidence?

One of the reasons reporters often ask for police reports is not just to relay the facts of the case. Public information officers, Chiefs, and Sheriff's provide that information. The real reasons they ask for the reports is to hunt down witnesses, suspects, and victims like dog the bounty hunter looking for his criminal. Once they find them they bring their cameras and show up at their front doors. Even when the person exercises their constitutional if not god given right to decline to talk to the media then the story just becomes the reporter knocking on the door and the person refusing to talk. Heck I have seen reporters chase people into bathrooms and then make that the story when the person refuses to talk. I look forward with disdain to some poor state employee who is probably already depressed over losing his or her job at Christmas being chased down a hallway or into a bathroom by the reporter trying to get his or her story online or on TV first.

In the case of these laid off employees I really don't believe the public wants to know. Its the reporters who want to know, the Governor has had the audacity to deny them their story! So like any good reporter or blogger would do, they can still write a story, the headline instead is "Governor Releases No Info on Outgoing State Employees". There is many a reporter in this state who are mumbling "as god is my witness we will fight the governor on this"! I have no doubt that the press will get the names one day. To those employees who will be subject to undignified embarrassment and harassment I am sorry. It is no wonder it is so hard to find good public servants. I often warn new deputies, this is not a regular job, you are subjected to public scrutiny unlike any job you ever had and you must recognize it and be ready to deal with it. The truth is you can not get ready to deal with it. If you get involved in a major case or make a mistake, only then will you receive a baptism by fire, only then will you truly understand what it is like to be a public servant.

Final Notes: After I wrote this I had my wife read it over. We had a lively discussion about how hard I was on the media. Many times she reads my posts before I post them and she convinces me to change things. I have debated in my mind changing certain things like the reference to Dog the Bounty Hunter. My wife says this post gives the impression that I am painting all media with the same brush. She says it is exactly what the media is doing to these state employees and actually to all exempt state employees. She is right. I have been very harsh to the media in this post.

Many times members of the media proudly proclaim that they are the watchdogs of the government and only when they expose governments downfalls will changes occur. But who is the media's watchdog? I say it is the public, when the public stops reading, stops buying or expresses their disappointment with the media only then will they change. When the media goes after perceived wrong doing in the public they often do it with tenacity and extreme criticism. Editors don't often mince words and the editorial pages and news stories often mix. Well first off I apologize to any reporter or editor who would not take advantage of employees losing their jobs. If I have painted you with the same brush, then take this note to heart, you are not the one I am talking about. To the rest I chose to leave the post just as I initially wrote it, full of strong language and passion.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Reflecting on Lost Friends.

I had refrained from blogging about the loss of Governor Bruce King and now I have lost another political mentor and friend. Eli Senna, after attending his funeral mass on Saturday I started reflecting on both Eli and Governor King.

Governor Bruce King.

I first met Governor King when I was around eight years old. He was in his first term as Governor of New Mexico. My Grandmother Eufemia Solano was a custodian at the roundhouse.

Eufemia Solano (Grandma)

During the summers we could not afford any type of daycare so I would go to work with either my uncle who was a jockey at the Santa Fe Downs Racetrack or I would go to the State Capitol Building with my Grandmother. I was pretty much allowed free rein though out the capitol from the nursery which used to be above the rotunda and was used to grow plants for the building, to the parking garage underground. I remember Governor King catching me in the hallways or in the lobby to his office and telling me lets go! We would go to the lunchroom or the nearest vending machines where I would have my pick of treats on his dime. Sometimes I was invited into his office to hang out for a few minutes or to get the latest giveaway stuff. These gifts ranged from Smokey the Bear coloring books and crayons to little Highway Department toy cars.

Up until graduation from High School I was a page or just hung around the roundhouse every year usually during summer or winter school breaks. I went through the administrations of Dave Cargo, Bruce King, Jerry Apodoca, and Toney Anaya. While all treated me good, I have especially fond memory's of Governor King who always went out of his way to pay attention to me or find something to give me. As everyone who met him knows he was down home folksy and the kind of man who made you feel like you knew him all your life even if you just met him.

I have told a few people these stories and I am often asked if this is where I got the bug for politics. I don't really think so because I never thought I would get involved in politics until the early ninety's when my stints as Union President and Vice President of the City Police Union forced me to get involved. Yet I do think I learned a lot from those days hanging around the Roundhouse. I actually saw the back slapping, making deals in the hallways, and learned that by the time things got to the floor of the House or Senate the outcome was usually a done deal. One thing I did learn from Governor King was to keep grounded in your cowboy boots and remember that you are one of New Mexico's people not one who is elevated by the people. I also learned that you are always campaigning even when you are not running and you never leave a room until everyone has met you and received a hand shake. For those aspiring to a political office who have never seen Governor King in action you will never realize what lessons you have missed.

Eli Senna ( My Brotha)

I first met Eli Senna on my second run for office in 2002. I first ran for Sheriff in 1998 and lost to Sheriff Raymond Sisneros. When I ran the first time I had no idea what I was doing and ran a very limited campaign with little money and only close friends and family helping. I came back in 2002 to run again and by this time I had broadened my base and become more involved in the Democratic Party. One of the people I credit with my win, Charlene Rodriquez, made sure I met every politician and every person who was involved in the Democratic Party in Northern New Mexico. One of those people she introduced me too was Eli Senna. Eli was easy going and extremely knowledgeable in Northern New Mexico Politics.

He made sure he got to know you and everything about you. He got your phone number and called to check up on you from time to time. There was two reasons he called you, one to just say hi and see how you were, and two, to get what ever information he could glean from you on the latest political happenings. By the same token if you needed to know something political in New Mexico, Eli had the answer or could get it in a few minutes. He ran for Magistrate Judge in 2006 and I supported him and to this day I think he would have made an excellent Judge. Eli was one of the first people I met who made a living getting people elected. I never hired him because he was already working for another politician in every election I was involved in.

My wife and I enjoyed having dinner with him after a many a Democratic meeting or during some function and I learned more about current politics in five minutes from him than any newscast, newspaper or blog. When he made his periodic check on me phone calls he always started the conversation with " hey Brotha how are you doing?" As soon as I heard this phrase I knew it was Eli. Brotha, Antoinette and I will miss you but I will always remember your insight and your political teachings. In your memory I will try and pass them on to the next generation who unfortunately will not have you around to guide them.