Friday, January 22, 2010
Every day there are thousands of cops who do the right thing and they will never make the headlines with as big of a splash or stay in the headlines as long as the ones who do bad. Unfortunately there are two ways a cop makes the headlines for more than a day. When they are a bad cop and when they die in the line of duty.
The current case is now becoming a part of the political scene. A local race for mayor is being thrust into the police abuse that occurred in 2007. Usually the incumbent mayor is saddled with the burden of anything an officer does under his watch, even though the mayor really does not have any direct oversight of the individual officers. In this race the shoe is on the other foot. The leading opponent of Mayor David Coss has aligned herself with the police and fire unions. Asenath Kepler initially garnered the police union endorsement after deep divides in the police union allowed Allen Lopez to become president and Adam Gallegos to become Vice President. I know both officers well, I was Allen's training officer in 1989 or 1990 when he was a young rookie and Adam worked for the Sheriff's Office before his discontent and anti management views drove him to leave and go work for the City Police. I thought that Adam would start over at the city and leave his discontent behind but from all indications he has transferred that discontent to a new police administration. It is unfortunately also my understanding that Allen Lopez has joined the ranks of the malcontent as well.
At the Santa Fe City Police the union has a history of electing those who are most vocal against the administration or those who have an axe to grind. This is unfortunate since the growth and success of the police department is dependent upon good management/union relations. What union members there have not yet figured out is that smart effective union leaders are better for the union as a whole than angry ineffective leaders. It is worse when those leaders are facing disciplinary actions themselves or have had a troubled past. The Santa Fe Police Officers Association (the union) is a chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. I have great respect and admiration for the Fraternal Order of Police as I was the former local Vice-President of the F.O.P. and former union president of the P.O.A. . However locally the F.O.P. and P.O.A. have become wayward children of the National Organization. The Santa Fe F.O.P. is near bankruptcy and the P.O.A. is in shambles.
On top of all that we come back to the incident I started this blog post with. The reprehensible beating of the 17 year old suspect who was in handcuffs at the time is embarrassing to watch and there is no way to justify what happened on that day. Yet Sergeant Allen Lopez the police president continues to give statements to the media that these officers, two of whom were fired, should have kept their jobs. There is statements from the mayor that the police union pressured him to intervene in the firings and indications that the reasons the police union did not endorse Mayor Coss was because the mayor refused to intervene. In another city police disciplinary described in a story in the Santa Fe Reporter an officers testimony about an incident was proven to be false in audio recordings and he was fired. The mayor was also asked to intervene and again the police union president was claiming termination was too harsh. An officers word means everything in court and when you are caught in a lie your career is over. As a former City Police Union President I can say it was unethical and outside of the provisions of the Union Contract to ask the mayor to intervene in these disciplinary actions. I give big kudos to Mayor Coss for not allowing politics and union pressure to enter in to what was the right thing to do.
When a union president allows himself to be portrayed in the media as defending bad officers their credibility in the public becomes unreliable and their influence on the public for political endorsements and asking for the public's help when it is time for raises and other needs becomes diminished. As a former union president I can say that the union has a responsibility to assist its members through the disciplinary process and support them to a conclusion. They need to balance that responsibility with their responsibility to provide effective leadership to the rest of the union members as well and allowing the union to look foolish in the media and the public eye does not further their cause. Yes there are bad cops and the rest of us in law enforcement must speak out the loudest when we see them disrespect the profession we all love. Only then will the public believe that we are not all the same.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Elvis Grave site at Graceland.
Kind of a running joke I have is telling friends Elvis Presley was my father. My son Aaron is actually named after Elvis although my wife would not let me name him Elvis so we compromised on using Elvis middle name Aaron. January 8th is Elvis 75th birthday. Wow am I old! Elvis was not really my era, I was born in 1963 and by the time I was in junior high Disco was the thing.
But my mother had Elvis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and many other 50's and 60's albums and 45's and that's what I listened to growing up. It became my music. When Happy Days the TV show was in its heyday in the late 70's I had a leather jacket just like Fonzie and never missed an episode. Yeah, go ahead and laugh, I am laughing too.
Me at Sun Records on the Same Mic Elvis once Used.
Anyhoo, I have always been an Elvis fan and in my teens through 20's I was a big collector of Elvis memorabilia. After my wife and I got married we needed money and I sold most of my collection to a lady who had an Elvis museum on the road to Taos somewhere near Pilar. It was attached to a pottery and northern New Mexico knick knack shop which I think was called El Iguana or something like that. I had a tour jacket from one of his last tours, a ton of 45's in original sleeves and the crown jewel was a Dinner menu from his 1968 Comeback concert. Oh how I wish I still had that! Well at the time we needed the money so I don't regret it. I have rebuilt my collection of memorabilia and friends and family buy me Elvis stuff all the time.
I later heard the lady died and all the Elvis stuff was sold to another Elvis Museum. I wish I knew where so I could at least go visit my stuff.
Me on the steps at Dads house, Graceland.
Sounds corny but Elvis songs were the ones in my life I listened to when I needed a pick me up or when I was on cloud nine. I remember Don't Cry Daddy playing over and over in my head when my mother died and at my wedding we walked down the isle to I can't help falling in love, played and sung by Judge George Anaya at Saint Johns Catholic Church. We have all heard our parents and grandparents talk about the good old days and I think each generation has their own "good old days". I think I missed my opportunity by about 20 years. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be sitting in front of the old black and white TV on September 9, 1956 when Elvis appeared for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show. Or to be standing in the audience when he strutted on stage on October 2, 1954 with his three piece band at the Grand Ole Opry.
There are a lot of influences which make up a persons life and makes them what they are. I never had a father and my mother was tough and made sure we still had many of the influences a father would have provided, we fished, watched sports, she taught us how to be a man and stand up for what's right and work hard. What male influence's I did have in my life really came from the people I idolized and those were people like Elvis Presley, Evel Knievel, John F. Kennedy, and yes even the Fonz! So Happy Birthday Elvis you were a big influence in my life and were really part of what made me what I am today.
Here are some pics from my trips to Graceland and Sun Records
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Tonight I attended the Santa Fe Police, Fire and AFSCME forum for the City Council and Mayor candidates. I was interested for several reasons but primarily because the forum would be to address public safety issues. I also have some lingering interest in the city police having started my police career at the city and being a former president of the Santa Fe Police Officers Association which is the city police union and one of the sponsors of the forum.
The questions asked were remarkably similar to the forum I attended in 2006 when the same unions held a forum for city council and mayor candidates at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge#3. The questions focused on the annexation, paying for public safety, the economy, and union/management relations.
The format of the forum led to a long and tenuous forum to sit through. Because there were three mayor candidates and seven council candidates, two running unopposed. For anyone else out there looking at putting on forums I suggest separating the mayor and council candidates into two forums and leaving out the candidates running unopposed. The forum started about 6:45 and ended about 10:15pm. With all the candidates they only had time to answer 7 prepared questions and they each had a short introduction and a short time at the end to give a final speech. I counted one hundred and twenty people at the beginning but by 9:40 the crowd thinned down to seventy.
Many notables were in the crowd including Police Chief Aric Wheeler, Deputy Chief Robin Contreras, City Fire Chief Barbara Salas, New City Attorney appointee Geno Zamora, District Judge Michael Vigil and his wife, County Commission Candidate Angelica Ruiz, Magistrate Judge David Segura, Congressional Candidate Adam Kokesh, and probably a few others I missed.
The crowd had about equal Kepler and Coss mayoral candidate supporters with T-shirts, stickers, and buttons. Kepler supporters also carried signs. Other candidates went without supporters with campaign materials. Clearly these two candidates had the most organized support. Both Coss and Kepler had many supporters who I recognized as active in Santa Fe politics and unions over the years. I did notice that some of Keplers supporters were Coss supporters in 2006 when he ran for mayor. The candidates participating in the forum were as follows:
Incumbent David Coss, Asenath Kepler and Miguel Chavez for mayor
Incumbent Chris Calvert, Doug Nava and Russell Simon for City Council in District 1
Incumbent Rebecca Wurzburger and Stefanie Beninato in District 2
Incumbents Carmichael Dominguez and Ron Trujillo, each running unopposed in District 3 and 4
The first Question asked what the candidates priorities for restructuring were and what if any functions would you privatize. Kepler and Chavez did not address privatization while Coss stated he has always been against privatization and that cuts could be made where needed. Miguel Chavez stated he would concentrate on basic city services such as police, fire, and senior citizen services. Asenath Kepler said she would conduct a thorough analysis of the budget in every department, she blamed the managers and department heads for putting the city in its current situation she says she would bring them all in cut their pay and lay them off before she affected any of the line workers. Wurzburger stated she would look for efficiency's and places which could be cut and work to increase tourism in order to bring in more revenue. Calvert said he would rely on workers to suggest cuts and efficiency's. Simon said he would look to diversify Santa Fe's economy and do more than just go after tourists. Beninato pretty much agreed with Simon.
The heated question of the night was the annexation question, the city recently entered into an agreement to annex 10,000 acres over the next few years with phase one taking place in November of last year. The annexation has been discussed and put off for about 30 years and finally began to come to fruition in 2009. It has been a sore subject for police and fire in the city with fears that current staffing levels are far too inadequate to cover the areas when annexed. There has been a large debate over just what the staffing levels should be and how to pay for the additional staff.
Kepler hit the ground running as she raised her voice in answering this question. She said she wants to stop all further annexation not knowing how it will be funded. She said "it was unconscionable to put lives in danger" referring to officers fears it will be unsafe with inadequate staff, she added again with a raised voice and serious expression on her face "this is no joke!" Mayor Coss was much more relaxed as he stated the city had developed a good relationship with the county and that the counties deputies were not going anywhere, He also added that the city had already increased police by 30 officers, fire by 20 firefighters and added 3 new fire stations since he was elected. The mayor went on to say the annexation should have happened in the 1980's but we flinched at the costs. He went on to say the city was committed to adding 40 more officers in the future to help meet needs. Miguel Chavez said we need to move forward with the annexation, there are benefits as well as challenges, he pointed out that in phase one the costs are estimated at $200,000 while the revenues from the area are $187,000 so he went on to say we are generating revenue as we annex these areas.
Incumbents Ron Trujillo and Carmichael Dominguez joined Coss in saying the annexation needs to happen while all other candidates said they would re-look at the annexation agreement and perhaps spread out the time period for the additional phases of the agreement. Ron Trujillo also mentioned that the red light cameras which he was the leading proponent of would create additional funds for police and fire. He brought up red light camera's again later in the forum as a source of revenue for public safety. The camera's are not yet installed but are slated to go up in the next few months. I thought this was particularly interesting since all along the cameras were pushed as a safety issue and not intended to be for generating revenue. Councilor Trujillo also lamented the governor of the state pushing legislation to have half the revenue from red light camera's diverted to the state.
Much of the remaining questions and answers dealt with the economy and the need to diversify and bring new jobs to Santa Fe. Many candidates advocated taping the cities reserves to avoid further furloughs and any layoffs. Kepler again heated up the room when she said "the tapping of reserves was avoidable, a good city manager and finance director would have known the economy would crash, I will save millions with audits" She also said there were allegations of fraud and waste in the city and audits were needed. Coss replied he knew of no fraud and waste and stated the city had saved for times just like this and had eleven million dollars above the minimum required reserves.
I took pretty extensive notes on the rest of the questions but I have no doubt that if you have read this much you probably won't read much more. One last thing I have to mention is the crowd looked pretty much in shock when during the forum Coss supporter Morty Simon was standing up front taking pictures with the flash on his camera turned on, of the mayor candidates or perhaps just the mayor it was hard to tell. Kepler was about to answer a question when she stopped the forum and told Mr. Simon "You have taken enough pictures, I don't know if you are taking them of me or one of the other mayor candidates but you have taken around 50 and you have enough pictures!". Mr. Simon sat down and as far as I know took no more pictures. The forum was interesting but long, even the reporters had to leave half way though to go and get their stories written and submitted. I am glad I went by and watched I always learn from watching these both from the perspective of the constituent and as a political candidate.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
All that aside its been an uplifting experience. I have all but one of the candidates for Lieutenant Governor contact me to discuss endorsements and I plan to meet with each one and discuss an endorsement. I take this process very seriously even though I realize that just because I endorse someone it does not commit my supporters to that person, it only suggests that my supporters consider that person based on my assessment of the race. If I do endorse a candidate It will not just be a quick endorsement and then I go on with my life. If I do endorse I will work for that candidate in the primary and regardless I will work for all our democratic nominees in the general election.
Fellow democrats, we can not take the general election for granted. Despite the obvious disarray the Republican party is in they could still pull out a win, just look to Albuquerque for the example. In current economic conditions having the executive and legislative branch in the hands of our party is more important than ever. Only the Democratic party has a proven track record of supporting the people over special interests and corporations. Of course there are individual politicians who claim to be Democrats but don't always walk the walk and I would be naive to think otherwise. Just what are the differences between Democrats and Republicans? I have taken definitions of Democrats and Republicans from http://www.demsunite.com/ and modified them somewhat to meet what I think the definitions are.
Everyone would have their own beliefs and definitions but these pretty much sum up mine. I opened this blog post with a description of the blogs and media reports of my dropping out of the Lieutenant Governors race and below is a compilation of those reports if anyone cares to read them. I apologize if I left someone out. Let me know if I did and I will update.
Democrats - a short summary
Democrats generally support government policies that benefit working class families, seek more corporate regulation, and less government influence over the individual. Democrats favor a government that supports lower and middle-income families and workers through a tax structure which has all paying their fair share based on the income they have. They strongly support government programs such as social security and health care in order to provide for the common good. In social matters, Democrats emphasize personal choice, privacy, and liberty. They believe that it is the responsibility of the family to promote morals and values in society and not the government's responsibility (this is usually labeled as socially liberal).
Republicans - a short summary
Republicans generally support government policies that benefit large corporations, seek less corporate regulation, and more government influence over the individual. Republicans favor a government that supports corporate America and the wealthy by reducing taxes and regulations on corporations. Republicans believe that reducing corporate taxes and regulations will translate into lower unemployment rates. They would prefer to out-source government entitlement programs such as social security and health care to the private sector. In social matters, Republicans believe that the government should make certain moral decisions for us and sometimes see privacy and liberty as a risk to security. They believe that the government should be actively involved with promoting morals and values in society (this is usually labeled as socially conservative).
Democrats believe that in order to have a strong economy, the government must promote policies that empower individual workers. These policies can include supporting unions, discouraging companies from exporting jobs overseas, and increasing the minimum wage. Democrats believe that companies must be regulated (to an extent) to ensure fair compensation and treatment of American workers, to prevent large corporations from abusing employees, and to reduce corporate fraud. In a broader sense, Democrats believe that it is better to stimulate the economy from the bottom-up (stimulating the worker) instead of from the top-down (stimulating corporations).
Republicans believe that the best path to a strong economy is by promoting policies that benefit large corporations. Lower corporate taxes, not increasing minimum wage, and reducing corporate regulation are all policies that benefit corporate America. Republicans believe that by reducing corporate taxes and regulation, American corporations will in turn hire more workers and increase wages. While these policies are some of the foundations of capitalism, they can sometimes be detrimental to the American worker (exporting jobs overseas, no minimum wage, etc.). In a broader sense, Republicans prefer to stimulate the economy from the top-down (stimulating corporations) instead of from the bottom-up (stimulating the worker).
The Santa Fe New Mexican (first mainstream media outlet to find my blog post and report)
Roundhouse Roundup ( praised my candor and accessibility, Thanks Steve.)
Albuquerque Journal (subscription required, short and to the point)
New Mexico Politics.net ( called blog post insightful, Thanks Heath.)
The New Mexico Independent.com ( Straight forward, good ending)
Diogenes Six (Ched clearly understood what my campaign was about.)
Democracy For New Mexico ( Took the time to give a good summary of my blog post)
A Female New Mexican's Point of View Blog (Mary had some great quotes about the over importance of money in our political process)
New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan (Joe gave the story little column space and seemed offended of one sentence in the blog where I bemoaned the media paying little attention to the issues.)
Saturday, January 02, 2010
1. My friends, advisers and myself felt Lt. Governor Diane Denish would be a shoe in if not unopposed for the Democratic nominee for Governor. I really felt that I could make a difference on many issues which I felt were important to the middle class. Not coming from a high income family, not being a lawyer or a high brow politico was something I felt was lacking in the roundhouse. I truly felt we were lacking a majority of progressive democrats who understood the hardships which typical middle and low income families endure.
2. With Lt. Gov. Diane Denish having a solid foundation in Southern New Mexico we felt she needed a Hispanic from Northern New Mexico to balance the ticket and bring in much needed Hispanic votes.
3. We all felt Lt. Gov. Denish would be Governor by Jan-Feb 2009 with Richardson leaving office early.
4. In order to get noticed by Lt. Gov. Denish I would have to begin the campaign early. I am well established politically in Santa Fe County however I did not have strong connections to state wide politics. The goal was to get on Lt. Gov. Denish's radar screen for a possible appointment.
5. It was felt by us all that my lack of connections to state wide politics could be a positive. Even though we did not foresee the scandals and accusations that would later hit the Richardson Administration we did foresee some citizens had become weary of the Richardson Administration and my lack of connections to the administration could be a positive for a Diane Denish run for Governor.
So, I announced my campaign for Lieutenant Governor in August of 2007. In January of 2008 Governor Richardson dropped out of the presidential race and rumors were still rampant that Richardson should leave office at the end of the year. Barack Obama then won the Democratic Primary for President in June and was well on his way to a win in November. At the time it was believed that Bill Richardson would leave soon after the inauguration in January of 2009.
I had reached out to Lieutenant Governor Denish in the weeks prior to my announcing my run for Lieutenant Governor and we were not able to meet. In early 2008 I made more attempts to meet with her and we had sill not been able to meet. This was the first of many roadblocks I began to encounter. In 2008 I had concentrated on meeting Democrats across the state and getting my name out there. In 2009 I began trying to raise money for the impending race. While many were talking about running for Lieutenant Governor and many were rumored to be considering running, I was still the only candidate actually announced. While running in three different elections for Sheriff. I did rather well raising money within Santa Fe County. I was however, encountering a lot of difficulty in raising money for the Lieutenant Governor race. Donors who had given to me in election after election were not donating for this campaign.
Some wanted to wait and see how things would shake out after the Governor left and the Lieutenant Governor ascended to the Governors seat. Others had heard that there was a favorite who would be appointed and they did not want to do anything that could offend an appointee who may not be me. One even claimed they were advised by those in the roundhouse to hold off donating to anyone until "things had a chance to shake out in the Lt. Gov's Race". I did some checking and this was found by me to be true. Some of these donors had given thousands to me in the past and had held fundraisers for me but they were not willing to get involved in the race at this time. This was disappointing to me and would be the beginning of a death blow to my campaign.
The interesting thing to me was how many business owners were not outright saying it but they seemed to be in fear that if they donated to the wrong person it could affect their business with the state. Now I am not saying it was any type of pay to play or corruption but rather cautious large business owners who needed to keep a good relationship with the upper levels of state government and feared making a mistake in their donations. I think that in my county races the donors felt they could make donations based on people they liked or in some cases I know the same donor gave to both me and my opponents but they did not feel that in local races it could come back to bite them later.
It was a big awakening for me and showed me the stark differences between a local and a state wide race. By spring of 2009 I had five other announced opponents who were out campaigning and starting to raise money. Governor Richardson was no longer leaving and it was clear that the next Lieutenant Governor would have to become Lieutenant Governor the old fashioned way, by being elected. While I tried to talk issues and issued platforms statements, some opponents concentrated on raising huge sums of money and were being very successful at it. Other candidates put tens of thousands of money from their own pockets and borrowed tens of thousand from banks in order to compete with the couple of candidates who were from one hundred and fifty thousand to a quarter of a million dollars. Even today several of my opponents have no issues or platform statements on their website and speak little about the issues and much about their success at raising money. On October 13, 2009 we all had to report the money raised so far. One candidate had raised over $250,000 and two had raised around $150,000 although one did so through loans of $100,000 to his campaign. The other three candidates including myself had less than $20,000 raised.
After all the campaign finance reports came out I decided to go into hiatus on raising money. I needed to make a decision as to whether I would be staying in the race. Until I decided for sure I did not want to take any additional money while I was unsure of my position on staying in the race. We did begin to gather petition signatures which were needed to garner a place on the ballot. In addition to gathering petitions we reached out to State Convention Delegates to see where we were in garnering the 20% needed to get on the ballot in June as well. A lot of voters don't realize that they are the last to decide who wins a race or not. There are numerous hurdles candidates need to get over before voters ever get to see their name on a ballot. One of these is getting past the delegates at the State Democratic Convention. One of my opponents has a decided advantage in that arena having been Chairman of the State Democratic party for over two years. I expect him to take well over the 20% of delegates in the convention leaving the rest of the candidates to fight over what remains.
By Thanksgiving it was becoming increasingly clear I was in for a huge uphill battle. I decided to take the holidays off the campaign trail and make a decision and announcement after the new year. I have met thousands of people who have really supported me, if not with money but with their heart and words. Many of my supporters are everyday people who in today's economic times could not afford to give money to political campaigns while they are facing job loses, furloughs, and fear of just keeping their houses. While the middle and low income people of New Mexico are the ones needing representation and change the most they are the ones least able to pay for the influence they need at the roundhouse. I do feel we have some great candidates running for Lieutenant Governor and I also feel Diane Denish is in touch with the plight of middle income residents of New Mexico and will represent them well. I truly hope the next Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico will remember that as the state faces tough economic times that we must not forget to bail out the people as quickly as the state and nation bails out industries.
I also feel that the state has been remiss in meeting with state employee unions and negotiating cuts and ideas to save money rather than handing down orders, furloughs, and cuts without input from the union members. That is why we have unions to give employees a voice in what happens to them.
At least two candidates have approached me for endorsements should I get out of the Lieutenant Governors race. I am considering whether I endorse and if I do who it would be. So, if you have not figured it out by now I am leaving the race for Lieutenant Governor. It is really too bad that the one thing the media, bloggers, and political operatives care about most is how much money a candidate can raise. The issues, the person are secondary in a state wide race to money.
I lost my first run at political office in 1998 when I first ran for Sheriff. I learned more from that loss than my subsequent two wins for the office of Sheriff. I can honestly say I learned a whole lot from my attempt to become the states next Lieutenant Governor. I have no regrets and the lessons learned will only help me in anything I do in the future. I have never been one to make New Years resolutions. I have always thought you should make decisions on your life and any changes on a day to day basis and not just once a year. So I start this new decade and New Year with a new adventure. The great thing about life is you never know where the road will take you.
When I was a young son of a single mother I would have never guessed in a million years I would even have an opportunity to run for Lieutenant Governor. I would have never guessed I would be Sheriff of Santa Fe County, meet three presidents and numerous movie stars and have the great life and family I now have. I am truly blessed. To all those who have supported my candidacy I hope I have not let you down. I have always been very pragmatic and logical in my decisions, (my wife says I am too logical and not emotional enough), She is probably right and I am constantly working on that. Logically I was not in a position to win. However, I have run races before where I have lost and come back to win another time, so don't count me out.
Thank you all for your support, whether in an elected office or not I will always be an outspoken advocate for you and for what is right. To my wife and children thanks for putting up with a life in politics, few realize what you go through and the price you pay for having me as a husband and father. I do realize the sacrifices you have made and I appreciate it more than I could ever show you.