NM Political Report has been in operation for more than two years and we’re proud of the investigative work we’ve done. Our readers and other news outlets know we are an independent, small, scrappy news organization. We also know that our ties to ProgressNow New Mexico, which serves as our fiscal sponsor and helps find funding for our operations, stick out to some. When ProgressNow NM’s executive director, Pat Davis, won an election in the fall of 2015 to the Albuquerque city council, we continued to report on city of Albuquerque issues, but always disclosed ProgressNow NM’s association with us whenever we mentioned or quoted Davis in one of our news stories. The disclosure usually went along the lines of this:
Pat Davis is the executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico.
Many Albuquerque-area political figures are rumored to be gearing up for a congressional campaign after New Mexico Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she plans to leave the seat and run for Governor. There are still no definitive announcements or declared candidates, but the handful of people NM Political Report spoke to this week gave similar answers—that they have been encouraged to run and are giving it serious consideration. Some said they don’t want to run for family reasons, in particular because of the amount of travel that comes with the job. The state’s congressional members often travel back and forth from Washington D.C. and New Mexico. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s family, for example, lived in Albuquerque while he served in the U.S. House before Lujan Grisham.
Mayor Richard Berry’s administration says it will bring in an independent investigator to review allegations that city police employees tampered with videos from police shooting cases. The announcement Tuesday afternoon comes less than 24 hours after City Attorney Jessica Hernandez told city councilors that her staff and APD already were investigating the claims and that an outside review would not be necessary. Councilor Pat Davis* said at Monday night’s Council meeting — and again in a letter to Hernandez sent Tuesday morning — that he wanted the probe handed off to someone outside city government. Davis wrote that “establishing public trust in the outcome of this investigation is critical” especially given the serious implications of the cases. “And that must be accomplished without delay,” according to the letter.
Kari Brandenburg, the outgoing Bernalillo County district attorney, said Monday a federal “criminal investigation is absolutely warranted” into allegations that Albuquerque Police Department employees have tampered with videos that show police shootings. Brandenburg said Monday in a telephone interview she is sending documentation detailing the allegations to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office would not say Monday whether the agency planned to open an inquiry based on the district attorney’s referral. But spokeswoman Elizabeth Martinez wrote in an email “the Justice Department takes seriously all referrals from state and local prosecutorial authorities.”
Reynaldo Chavez, the police department’s former records supervisor, swore out an affidavit as part of an ongoing civil right rights lawsuit against APD in which he alleged that department employees had altered or deleted videos showing the events surrounding two controversial shootings by officers in 2014.
Because of a disagreement between the Albuquerque City Council and Bernalillo County Commission, it’s not clear which ballot initiative voters will get to vote on—or if either will even be on the ballot. During a Bernalillo County Commission meeting last week, commissioners did not discuss either of two recent ballot initiatives sent to them by the Albuquerque City Council. In fact, neither even appeared on the agenda. One initiative, prompted by a successful petition drive, would require some employers to provide sick leave to employees. The other would increase public campaign finance dollars to Albuquerque mayoral candidates.
As we have seen in the current presidential race and in recent local elections, big money still dominates the way we fund campaigns at all levels. From the Koch brothers spending millions in the Republican presidential primary to the Santolina developers spending tens of thousands in the recent Bernalillo County Commission Democratic primary, powerful wealthy individuals and organizations seek to influence elections by spending big money in campaigns. But we have a chance to reduce that influence in next year’s mayoral race. On an 8-1 vote, the Albuquerque City Council recently passed legislation to make the City’s public financing program workable again. Our thanks go to City Councilors Don Harris and Pat Davis* for reaching across the aisle to fix the current system, which was originally approved by about 69 percent of the voters in 2005.
A complaint accuses an Albuquerque state representative of improperly directing state money toward a charter school project overseen by his brother. The complaint names Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, of the ethics violation. David Pacheco, an architect and Paul Pacheco’s brother, designed and oversaw construction in early 2015 of a campus building for ASK Academy, a charter school in Rio Rancho. The year before, Paul Pacheco requested $900,000 of state taxpayer money earmarked for capital outlay projects be used for the charter school. The state ended up awarding $230,000 that year to ASK Academy, which became part of a $6.9 million bond issued to ASK Academy in February 2015.
UPDATE 7:25 pm: APD spokesman Tanner Tixier is telling reporters that the man in the tie is not suspected to be related to the investigation. Tixier said reports started with a call to the police about a man running around in city hall saying someone was shooting and people had been shot. More calls with scattered information came in what Tixier called “a really bad game of telephone.” When asked if this was a possible prank call situation, he answered that it’s “very possible.” Tixier says search will continue for a few hours, room by room, floor by floor.
Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community gathered in a park in a Southeast area of Albuquerque Sunday evening in solidarity with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. Hundreds of people gathered while local politicians and advocates spoke out against violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community. University of New Mexico LGBTQ Resource Center Director Alma Rosa Silva-Bañuelos opened the somber and tearful event by addressing the Orlando shooting. Related: Photos: Albuquerque gathers for vigil for victims of Orlando
“We lost our family this morning and that’s why we’re gathering here today,” Rosa Silva-Bañuelos said. “If you’re sad it’s okay because it shouldn’t be happening in 2016.”
Rosa Silva-Bañuelos repeated a common sentiment that these bars and clubs are often a place of comfort for a community that may not have another place to go.
Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden has offered a full-throated defense of his department’s increasingly controversial “reversal narcotic operations,” including one on May 9 in which undercover officers posed as drug dealers along East Central Avenue, sold and traded small amounts of crack cocaine and methamphetamine to homeless people, then arrested them on felony possession charges. The operations improve “quality of life” for area businesses and residents, decrease property crimes, gain intelligence for narcotics detectives to use in future cases and provide those arrested access to addiction and mental health services they otherwise shun, Eden wrote in a letter dated Wednesday to City Councilor Pat Davis*. This piece originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is used with permission. Davis, whose council district includes the area where APD detectives made the arrests on May 9, asked Eden in a May 20 letter to suspend the “low-level” operations, calling them “misguided” and saying they “target the symptom of a larger problem without bringing any long-term benefit to the community.”
The chief said in his letter that the operations would continue, though the department’s “focus has never been to target the homeless population.”
In the May 9 operation, APD detectives accepted $3, colic medication, clothing, used electronics and other paltry sums for drugs. At least six of the eight arrested were homeless people of color.