Thursday, December 31, 2009

Question; what is the difference between Denish's press conference and a PSA?

Lt Governor Diane Denish promised New Mexicans that
she would not do any more Public Service Announcements.

She acknowledged it was "playing dirty pool", link, for incumbent political candidates to use their public office to put their face and name in front of the public during elections.

Watch the video, link, and then point to a substantive difference
between her "press conference" and a PSA.

Except for the fact she would have had to pay $10K a minute
for a PSA, and a press conference is a freebee, I don't see one.

This along with with her claim, thirty seconds into the video,
of having "fought hard" to pass the legislation,
speaks to her character, imho.

Denish "launches a new day in open government"


There will be those who, upon reading this post, will write that I am bashing Lt Governor Diane Denish because I "hate" her, and because I am partisan.

I do not hate Diane Denish. I have written more than once, if she offered the greatest promise of ending the incompetence and corruption in state government, I would vote for her.

I do not believe she offers the greatest promise.

Rather, I tend to believe
Senator Tim Eichenberg,
a Democrat, who said,
is either complacent
or complicit in "pay to play"
corruption in Santa Fe.

I am not partisan. I rarely
mention party in my posts.

If anything I am anti-partisan.
Partisan politics is an
anathema. I loathe it.

Read this then as an objective statement of facts. If you disagree, and can articulate your disagreement with civility, I will gladly publish your disagreement.

Lt Governor Diane Denish recently took the podium, link, to announce that House Bill 546 will be implemented January 1st. The legislation provides for internet access to state contracts over $20K.

I am troubled by her press conference for three reasons;

1. The bill was actually sponsored by
State Representative Al Park
I don't know if he was in the room, but
he certainly was not at the podium.

If any one person deserves credit for
the legislation, it would be him.

Yet Denish stepped up to bask in the limelight.

2. Denish claimed, "we fought hard"
to pass the legislation. Yet, there is
no evidence of any fight at all.

The Bill was voted on in three
committees before going to the
House; it passed 7-0, 9-0, and 8-0.

It passed in the House 65-0, and
it passed in the Senate, 39-0.

When and where was the "hard fight" she claims to have fought?

3. Finally, and most disturbingly, she claims "a dawn of a new day in open government". While the legislation is worthy and long overdue, it is hardly the dawn of a new day.

If ever there was a dawn on a new day in open government in New Mexico, it occurred on the morning Rep Janice Arnold-Jones walked into a committee meeting and began webcasting of the people's business in the people's house.

If anyone deserves credit for the dawn
of a new day, it is Janice Arnold-Jones,
and not Diane Denish.

photos Mark Bralley

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"My child is safe at school."

In the Journal this morning, readers will find a three page ad bought by APS. I assume it is an ad because it includes APS' logo, and because it cannot be found by searching the Journal online.

Within the ad, one section entitled "Parent Survey Shows Parents Believe Students Safe ..."

Every year, a parent survey is done in all public schools.
The survey has twenty questions; ten supplied by the NMPED, five by the local school board, and five are written at the school level.

I cannot remember whether all parents are offered the opportunity to participate, or whether a representative sample is taken. The APS ad does not reveal survey size or any other statistical parameters.

The very first item reads; My Child is safe at school. Parents can, strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree, or indicate they do not know.

APS claims; 30% strongly agree with the statement, 59% agree, 4% disagree, 2% strongly disagree, and 5% don't know.

Which begs at least one question; how would parents know if their children were safe at school?

The leadership of the APS has chosen to not publish any information on safety (and discipline) in schools. As recently as September of this year, APS admitted it was not compiling crime statistics, had not been for two years, and what few statistics that were compiled, were "not very scientific", link.

A few years ago, the Council of the Great City Schools did an audit of the APS. The audit revealed,

"APS administrators routinely falsified crime statistics to protect the reputations of their schools".
I once sat in a meeting with then Albuquerque High School Principal Tom Savage, who when asked to tell stakeholders the truth about what was going on at his school, said,
"If I told the truth about what was going on at my school, the realtors in my neighborhood would have my neck."
Then Superintendent Peter Horoscak, when asked to tell stakeholders the truth about what crime and discipline in schools, said,
"You can't just tell the truth, you never know how someone might want to use it."
The leadership of the APS will not be honest with stakeholders. If you ask them, and I have, to point to a time, a day, and a place, where they will sit still and answer legitimate questions about the public interests, they will not answer the question.

When the question is, will you tell the truth?, any answer except yes, means no.

That only 5% of the survey respondents indicated that they "do not know" whether their child is safe at school is misleading.

The truth is, 100% of parents don't know whether their child is safe at school.

They just don't know, they don't know.

The APS Student Standards of Conduct are clear and unequivocal. Students are told their character depends on their responding to legitimate questions candidly, forthrightly, and honestly.

There is not one single APS senior administrator or board member willing to be held accountable to any standards of conduct that require truth telling.

School Board President Marty Esquivel, the seniormost executive role model of the student standards of conduct, will not even respond to questions about role modeling of the student standards of conduct; the Pillars of Character Counts, link.

APS Superintendent Winston Brooks, the seniormost administrative role model of the student standards of conduct refuses to step up as well.

He says,
"the standards of conduct that apply to students
do not apply to adults."

Finally, the truth.

photos Mark Bralley

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Brooks' reasoning defies reason.

APS Superintendent Winston Brooks is on a mission; every student, in every school, in the same book, on the same page, on the same day, and now, at the same time of day.

Schools used to have the authority to determine daily bell schedules that, while complying with state law, met their individual needs. Some schools like block schedules, some, more traditional schedules.

Brooks see a need to change all that. According to the Journal, link;

"The push comes from Superintendent Winston Brooks, who said he wants consistency for the benefit of students who transfer between schools, and so middle school students can all be similarly prepared for the transition to a high school schedule.
As far as I know, there is no empirical evidence demonstrating a significant number of students have any significant difficulty changing schedules when they change schools. Nothing in my experience leads me to believe the issue is significant.

APS leadership finds nothing wrong with taking a non-English speaking student and simply dumping them into a full schedule of English only classes, yet they think a student will be traumatized by a simple bell schedule change. Unfathomable.

There is even less reason to conclude that the change from a middle school bell schedule to a high school bell schedule is insurmountable.

Yet they are willing to overrule teachers and staffs with strongly held objections, just for drill.

Associate Superintendent for Middle Schools Ruby Ethridge, according to the same article, said;
"... another benefit of a standard schedule is ... so teachers district wide can learn how best to teach material in a certain block of time. ."
... more evidence that the art and science of teaching is being inexorably degraded into script reading on strict time lines.

Brooks freely admits the lack of justification for the change to any particular schedule;
"I really don't care what the schedule is,
but I do think it ought to be common."
Teacher union President Ellen Bernstein observed;
"... some middle school teachers are resistant to changing
the schedule, especially if they like the one at their current school.

"They question, if it's working well for us, why do we have to change?"
Point well taken. Though despite that glaring caveat, the feckless teachers union is willing to go along with the change as long as they have a say in which poison teachers will drink, offering;
"... the district and union have collaborated in good faith on finding a common schedule for teachers.
The teachers union, at one point, had a proud past history of advocacy for teachers' right to participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their interests. More recently though, its silence about Brooks' intention to return all decision making authority to the central office, is deafening.

It is hard to imagine a demographic with less in common than middle school students; they share a common birth year. Yet we are going to treat them as if they have everything in common, including the pace at which they are able to move through school.

It is increasingly apparent to me, the greatest obstruction to education is the insistence that individuals can be dealt with in groups. It is only when individual students with individual needs are treated as individuals, that individual learning has any hope of reaching its potential.

Darren White's hypocrisy.

Darren White is upset because a police officer in his chain of command has a sweet deal that not only pays him $30K a year more than his compatriots, but allows him to retire under an $81K salary rather than the $50K he should be getting, link.

The hypocrisy becomes apparent when you recall that White had nothing to say when Ed Adams was given a similar "Chavez insider" deal guaranteeing an excessive salary.

An added irony, Ed Adams is the one who signed off on Torres' sweet deal.

The Eye on Albuquerque reminds us that this is actually the third insider deal to come to light, link.

Berry's HR guy says there aren't any more.

I've checked with my Magic 8-ball, wikilink; it says;

Don't count on it.

photo Mark Bralley

Taxpayers out $11M, friends of Bill, up $11M

Scarantino digs deep, finds the money is simply gone, link.

He closes with;

" ... now you also know the story.
The facts we have reported have never been refuted.
We’ve done our part. It’s up to you to take it from here."
He's absolutely right of course; nobody is going to fix this for us.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Unscientific polls are inadequate to the need.

Why aren't scientific polls being done in state government?

What if state employees see corruption and incompetence,
but are afraid to report it, and have no real place to report it
even if they were not?

Simple surveys of state workers would reveal most if not all,
of the corruption and incompetence in state government.

So why is not one done?

Is it because the people who appropriate the money,
a pittance by any reasonable measure,
don't want the corruption and the incompetence exposed?

Or is there some good and ethical other reason,
a reason no one can think of
much less, point to?

Journal editors love Ed Adams, hate his sweet deal.

Though the editors have nothing but praise for the man,
they find the sweet deal he got from the Chavez administration,
sour, link.

The editors are willing to give Ed Adams all of the credit apparently, for the Montaño Bridge, Isotopes Park, and a "big part ... in how Albuquerque looks today".

They are apparently of the opinion that if a person does enough "good", they get a bye for their "bad".

Adams ran the Department of Municipal Development when the system failed to protect taxpayers from getting ripped off by one of Marty Chavez' crony's nephew's landscaping company, link. The failure of the DMD to manage these contracts effectively and efficiently reveals incompetence bordering on corruption.

There is no reason to suppose that this blatant and egregious ripoff of tax dollars was a fluke. It would be bone crushingly naive to suppose that such egregious incompetence/corruption was limited to just one contract. Yet that is the presumption the editors make when they sing Adams' praise while ignoring his failure as the Director of the DMD, to protect taxpayers' interests.

The editors' "coverage" is lop-sided to say the least.

They say, where there's smoke, there's fire.
Here we have smoke and fire, and Ed Adams is getting a bye.

I look forward to reading about their outrage over the fact that the City of Albuquerque's Office of Internal Audit and Investigations did not investigate other contracts between the city and Mountain West Golfscapes; investigations which would undoubtedly reveal additional failures in Adams' department's management of their contracts.

photo Mark Bralley

Can Diane Denish work with Republicans?

Is anyone else sick to death of partisan politics?

Little good comes from intransigent toeing of the party line.
Most good and lasting solutions are found in the middle.

Whoever is elected Governor, s/he who works best with both sides of the aisle, is more likely to do what is best for all New Mexicans.

If you examine the rhetoric coming from the Denish campaign, you will find the word "Republican" used in derision.

In a letter to her supporters, Denish heaped praise on Senator Fred Harris for his attack on "Republican candidates", accusing (all) Republican candidates of running campaigns based solely on negativity, completely void of any new ideas to help New Mexico families.

Denish wrote; Sen. Harris hit the nail on the head."

In fact he did not, though he never admitted to, nor apologized for his misguided attack. She never recanted her support for his misguided attack.

In fact, there are substantial differences between the Republican candidates. Consider; Allen Weh and Janice Arnold-Jones. It would be difficult to find two more different people. He, for example, fought against the adoption of Roberts Rules of Order for Republican meetings. It was Janice Arnold-Jones who had placed the question on the table.

Weh believes in ham-fisted leadership, link, Arnold-Jones, anything but. Yet Denish would happily paint Arnold-Jones and Allen Weh with the same brush in order to mislead voters.

I have been attending Rep Arnold-Jones' Saturday morning office hours for almost two years now. I have not heard her say one bad thing about Diane Denish, not one.

I have heard Arnold-Jones praise Democratic legislators at least as often as I have heard her offer praise to fellow Republicans. She can point to a record of working across the aisle.

Denish cannot, or will not, even differentiate one Republican from another.

Which of the two will lead both sides toward solutions that work for all New Mexicans; Republicans and Democrats alike?

Extremists in the Democratic Party, looking for someone to cram Democratic initiatives down Republican's throats, will find their voice in Diane Denish.

Extremists in the Republican Party, looking for someone to beat Republican initiatives into people "with a baseball bat" will find their voice in Allen Weh.

Moderate Democrats and Republicans, looking for moderation and respect for all voices, will find their voice in Janice Arnold-Jones.

Wonder about "the 59" takes eyes off the ball.

Amid the wonder about the identity of the 59 exempt state employees whose jobs are being eliminated, there is little wonder about the remaining 400 or so "gov-exes", link, whose jobs are not being eliminated, and about exempt employees who have been moved to classified positions immune from cutbacks.

The Journal provides a relatively contemporary list of exempt employees arranged by salary, link.

As we scan the list, it is fair to wonder about some of the jobs.

What, for instance, does an Acequia Liaison do? And do we really have to pay the better part of $90K a year to hire a good one?

Who looks at every one of these jobs to find out what they do, how much they get paid to do it, and how much they contributed to either Governor Bill Richardson or Lt Governor Diane Denish's political campaigns before their hire?

Are PIOs really worth a hundred grand a year?
Do we really need so many of them?

Does the Governor really need a Residence Chef for more than $90K?

Does Expo New Mexico need a Community Legislative Liaison for $65K?

No doubt there are exempt employees who's service to the citizens of New Mexico justifies their jobs and their salaries.

No doubt there are donors and cronies who are the recipients of largesse far beyond their contributions.

What assurance do we have, these jobs are necessary, being done well, and justly compensated?

None really, except blind trust.

As usual, there are more questions than answers about the
spending of our power and our resources.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why is Marty Esquivel on the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government?

According to their website, link, APS School Board President Marty Esquivel is on their Board of Directors.

Esquivel's notion of open government includes arresting someone who stands at the public forum and asks them to tell the truth, (42 minutes into the November 4, 2009 meeting.) link,

Oddly, Board Member Paula Maes is also on the NM FOG board of directors. Her claim to fame in support of "open government" was to declare she would "never agree" to any audit that individually identified corrupt and/or incompetent APS administrators or board members, APS Policy Committee Meeting, August 13, 2007.

You would think the NM FOG would vet members of their Board of Directors a little more thoroughly, in order to prevent the manifest hypocrisy of having Directors of the ilk of Esquivel and Maes.

Having Board Members with so little honest regard for open government casts a shadow on the NM FOG's efficacy and honesty.

cc NM FOG upon posting.

photos Mark Bralley

Important ruling on Public Forums

Democracy for New Mexico, link, offers great news.

The 13th District Court for Cibola, Sandoval, and Valencia Counties ruled that local governments cannot prevent people from using the public forum to criticize public officials.

It is such a no brainer, you have to wonder why the ACLU needed to go to court to prove it. But then, that is the way bullies act. They won't stop their bullying until they are compelled to, by someone more powerful than they.

The ACLU also sent a letter to the City Commission of Truth or Consequences, which had passed a rule requiring anyone speaking at their public forum to submit their comments for prior approval by the Commission. DfNM reports that the City Commission dropped the rule.

I had filed two complaints with the ACLU myself; one over the rule in T or C, and one over the APS School Board arresting me for using their public forum to criticize them for their failure to tell their constituents the truth about various issues in the APS, link.

I have not heard from them, about my second complaint.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Writing laws for ever.

Senator Harry Reid has proposed an amendment to the
health care bill now being debated in the Senate, which would
change Senate Rules, making it impossible for future
congresses to change a part of the health care bill, once enacted.

The change would apply to the Independent Medical Advisory Board making the so-called "death panels" immortal.

Reid's change reads;

“It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of
Representatives to consider any bill, resolution,
amendment, or conference report that would repeal or
otherwise change this subsection.” link
In effect, any party in control of congress, currently Democrats,
could write legislation that no future congress would be able to

It is unlikely that Reid will succeed, the amendment is unconstitutional on its face.

These kinds of shenanigans are made possible by the size
of the health care bill, now more than 2000 pages long,
making it easy to hide even the most outrageous of proposals.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Unabashed politicking

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars
are being given to Democrat Senators in order to secure their
votes in favor of the health care bill now before the Senate.

A high ranking politician has said, anyone who didn't get their
fill at this trough, simply isn't paying attention.

They are absolutely unashamed that they have sold their vote
in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of benefits
for their constituents.

This is the way things are done, they say.

Richardson 40, Monahan 19

Governor Bill Richardson announced that he intends to lay off
59 state government employees. He refuses to name them.

Advocates of open and transparent government argue,
the public has a right to know about the spending of public resources; the Governor argues, not.

The truth will be known in less than a month. Anyone who cares to, can look at lists of government employees in December and compare the it to government employees in January, and the names that disappear will be those who didn't make the cut.
It seems silly for Richardson to spend his credibility forestalling the inevitable for a few short weeks.

Never the less, Blogger Joe Monahan, link, has dedicated himself to winning the pissing contest between the Governor and the people. With the help of his "alligators", he claims to have identified 19 short timers. His intention is to name them all before the list gets published anyway.

The current score then, Richardson 40, Monahan 19.

All of which misses the point entirely.

Either the people have a right to know about the spending of
their power and resources, limited only by the law and due
process, or
the Governor has the right to hide the truth, limited only by what
he can get away with in court at taxpayer expense.

We need to keep our eyes on the ball; government that is
transparently accountable to the people, and forget about
beating Richardson at his own game, on his home field.

Office of Hispanic Education, a feel good boondoggle.

You have an "at risk" student in front of you. You and s/he
are separated by a curtain.

You ask the student to describe all of the barriers that put
them at risk of failing to be educated.

In the end, you will not know the ethnicity of the student.

In the absence of overt racism, race doesn't play.
In the face of overt racism, the solution lies in ending the
racism, not in trying to teach in spite of it.

In the end, every child is an individual. If every child were
treated as an individual, we would find ourselves far ahead
of our current situation.

The real problem is the relentless insistence that 30 kids,
who have nothing in common beyond the year of their birth,
can be moved together at the same speed for 12 years,
even against their will.

The real correlation in the likelihood educational success,
is between SES (socio-economic status) and achievement.

Although there is a correlation between race and SES,
the correlation does not extend through SES to educational
success. Because A affects B, and B affects C, it doesn't
necessarily follow that A affects C; there are to many
examples of success in C, despite A.

Any Office that groups kids according to the year of their birth
(and their ethnicity), will not solve the problem, it will simply
perpetuate a failing model.

Richardson hiding more subpoenas?

The Journal reports this morning, link, that their request for public records, specifically regarding any additional federal subpoenas, has been denied by the governor's office.

According to the Journal, they were told

"Any responsive records the Governor's Office may have received would be exempt from disclosure. Such documents would relate to a matter that is or will be before a federal grand jury. This office will not release records of this nature pursuant to the federal rules governing grand juries."
The letter went on to say, "There are also countervailing public policy considerations that warrant denial of your request as well, including but not limited to this Office's effort to cooperate and not unduly interfere with any federal grand jury investigation(s)."
The New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, link, includes an explicit and specific list of exemptions from the requirement for public records surrender. The spirit of the Act is that records are subject to surrender unless they qualify under an exception.

Governor Bill Richardson
apparently thinks he can create
his own exceptions.

If you don't like it, sue him.

You will pay for his lawyers;
however many he decides to
dedicate to his defense.

If you win, you will pay his fine.

Transparent enough for you?

photo Mark Bralley

Toothless watchdogs.

Heath Haussamen has a story up this morning, link, on efforts
by State Representative Joseph Cervantes, to get movement
on complaints filed under the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.

Apparently, the Attorney General's Office cannot keep up with
the number of complaints that have been filed; more than 100.

Why not? underfunded. Just like the State Auditor's Office.

Haussamen reports that
Attorney General Gary King

echoed the statement that we have
heard again and again from
State Auditor Hector Balderas

“If you spend $100,000 or so helping us move these cases, we might bring millions of dollars in.”
Balderas has said, give me 1% of the budget to ferret out corruption and I can save taxpayers 3-5%.

Regardless of how strapped we are for cash, we need to fully fund every agency whose job it is to end fraud, waste, and abuse in government.

It's a no brainer.

photo Mark Bralley

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Of, by, and for the people.

Government is supposed to be for the people.

It is supposed to be conducted in the best interests of the people.

Is it not in the peoples' best interests if government is efficient
and effective? And it that too much too expect?

They have had after all, hundreds of years to work out the bugs.

Would it not be in the people's best interests if politicians and public servants put in eight solid hours of competent work everyday? honestly and transparently accountable to meaningful standards of conduct and competence?

Government is not now for the people, because it is neither
by the people, or really of the people.

For as long as the people are willing to not be told the truth
about the spending of their power and resources,
that is the way it will remain.

Having control over power and resources that belong fundamentally to the people, begins with the people knowing the truth about how they are being used.

APS misses another NMIPRA deadline.

I filed a request for public records; the reports from two of the three different investigations of the scandal in the APS Police Department, link.

APS' Custodian of Public Records
Rigo Chavez
, was required to respond
to that request within three business
days and did not.

At 15 calendar days, the records are
supposed to have been surrendered;
they have not.

Taxpayers are incurring a potential fine of $100 per day as APS continues to stonewall the request, link.

If a custodian does not deliver or mail a written explanation of denial within 15 days of receiving a request to inspect, an action to enforce the Act may be brought and damages awarded to the requester. ... a custodian’s failure to provide the required explanation may result in damages of up to $100 per day until the written explanation is provided.

The Act does not make the custodian personally responsible for payment of any damages awarded, but provides for payment from the funds (read; your tax dollars) of the public body.

It is my belief, the reports will document the involvement of senior APS administrators in felony criminal misconduct, link.

photo Mark Bralley

In your face PIO abuse.

Public Information Officers have two roles;

  1. the imaginary one, where they help the public find information about the government of the people, by the people and for the people, and
  2. the actual one, where we surrender tax dollars to pay public servants to make it difficult to find out anything about the public interests and public service. They work in the interests of politicians and public servants with something to hide.
Apparently, not content with making it difficult for Journal reporter Thomas J. Cole to find out anything about Governor Bill Richardson that might make him look incompetent and/or corrupt, the Governor's press secretary, Gilbert Gallegos stands accused by Cole, link, of going an extra mile;
In my case, Gilbert Gallegos, the governor's combative press secretary, has gone a step further, recently ordering public-information officers throughout government not to speak to me.
Bullshit of course, but what are you going to do about it?

What more proof could you need that you have lost control over power and resources that are fundamentally your own, than the use of that power and those resources to keep from you, the truth about the wielding of that power and the spending of those resources?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Denish claims to be foregoing PSAs, but they're still running.

Lt. Governor Diane Denish was in another PSA this morning. It was paid for by the New Mexico Department of Health, and ran on KKOB.

Recently, she claimed she was going to stop doing that.
The NM Department of Health said they weren't going to use
the PSA anymore.

This is the part where it's fair to point out how cheap talk is, and
actions speak louder than words.

Update; it has been pointed out to me that these ads may have been in the works and "unstoppable", although no mention of that possibility was made by either Denish or the NM Dept of Health.

According to blogger Terrel, link,

A spokeswoman for the department said they have pulled the Denish ad. The department had planned to stop the PSAs in January anyway.

Ed Adams, bulletproof?

Ed Adams was promoted to Chief Administrative Officer by Mayor Marty Chavez. This despite overwhelming evidence that as the head of the Department of Municipal Development, he failed to create or maintain a system that actually protected taxpayers interests in the management of contracts between the city and independent contractors working for the city.

There is one contract in particular, between the city and Chavez' crony's nephew's landscaping company, where taxpayers got ripped off big time. An investigation was done following a complaint made to the City of Albuquerque's Office of Internal Audit and Investigations. Their report is posted online, link.

To my knowledge, Ed Adams was never asked to explain how a contract could have been so badly managed by his subordinates.

Instead, he was given a bonus; a contract agreement between Adams and the city, was entered into by the then Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman.

The Journal reports, link, City Attorney Bob White, asked to investigate the one of a kind contract, found the contract legal and binding. This despite the fact that according to White, "... the Perlman memo had never been sent to city attorneys "pursuant to the normal contract review process."Again, from the Journal report, the Perlman memo included the following;"In addition, it is clear that (Adams') service to the City as an unclassified employee has been exemplary."That "exemplary service" included of course, the failure to see that contracts were managed in the public best interests, by city employees subordinate to Adams in the DMD.

Neither Adams nor Perlman has responded to the Journal's questions directly; the Journal reports that Perlman did not return a phone call and Adams referred them to the Mayor's Office.

The expectation that Ed Adams should have explain his abject failure as the Director of the Department of Municipal Development to see that the contract with Mountain West Golfscapes, Inc,was managed in the public best interests, is legitimate.

But he will not have to explain anything at all.

Business as usual, the good ol' boys give each other sweet deals, and when asked legitimate questions about the public interests or about their public service, rather than a candid, forthright and honest response, we get referred to someone else or, blown off entirely.

photos Mark Bralley

Sunday, December 20, 2009

UNM has $4.5M worth of VPs. Are we getting our money's worth?

The Journal has a lengthy exposé on UNM's many Vice Presidents and their salaries, link.

Readers are left, as they always are when they read reports such as these, thinking, wow, that's a lot of VPs, or wow, that's a lot of money. But, compared to what?

The real questions are;

  • do we, taxpayers, need this many VPs, and
  • do we need to pay them this much?
Those questions never get answered. UNM President David Schmidly is apparently ready to admit that he has hired too many VPs, but only in the context of the current budget crunch.

Before the crunch, he (apparently) thought he needed between 19 and 25 VPs (depending on how you count them).

If you want to ask two questions;
  1. Do we need this particular Vice President, and
  2. do we need to pay them this much?
you will be hard pressed to find an objective answer. If you ask the person who hired them, the answer to both questions is of course, yes.

But if you dig a little deeper, you find in many cases that the justification for the salary, and maybe even for the job is, everyone else has one and, everyone else pays that much, specious arguments, both.

Taxpayers find themselves being whipsawn between salaries here and salaries there. Everytime APS hires a new superintendent we play the same game. We have to pay what Tucson pays, plus a little more to sweeten the deal, then Tucson has to pay what Albuquerque pays, plus a little more, until superintendents are being paid more than a quarter of a million dollars a year with no more justification than, "everybody else is doing it".

Who knows what we might find if we hired an impartial person to look at a job, the amount and complexity of the work, the skill set required, and determine what we should actually have to pay to hire someone for the job.

Nor will you ever.

Schmidly is not going to hire someone to critically examine his hiring of VPs, nor are the regents.

It's just not the way they roll.

photo Mark Bralley

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Records requests over job cuts.

Governor Bill Richardson says he is going to lay off some of his political appointees. A number of people have asked, who?

Their questions came in the form of requests to inspect the public records of who is being laid off.

Richardson's response, through spokesman Gilbert Gallegos,

"it's not necessary, nor is it appropriate or dignified to identify individuals who are losing their jobs".
The New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act does not provide such an exception.

Which begs the question, are public records closed unless proved otherwise, Richardson's position, or are records open unless proved otherwise?

Should we have to seek permission to see public records, or
should public servants need permission to hide them?

Are the records ours, or theirs?

By placing the burden on the requester, government is less transparent.

If the burden were on the public servant who wants to hide the record, government would be more transparent.

This situation points to a need for an impartial and relatively speedy system for deciding which records do and don't enjoy exception to the law.

Denish has some more 'splainin' to do.

Jim Scarantino has uncovered more stimulus fund spending
by Lt Governor Diane Denish, link.

Of interest is a comment left on the post by someone who will
identify himself only as "Richard".

It is for the most an ad hominem attack on Scarantino and his blog.

Richard is unhappy because Scarantino didn't go to Denish
and ask her for some explanation of the spending.

In his response, Scarantino points out correctly;

Fair point. Indeed, Denish’s office has criticized us for not asking them to comment. Problem is, they’ve never answered any questions, even when we spell them out in e-mails with the promise we would print their answers verbatim.
That is my experience as well.

She did the same thing to me when I asked her to clear up the confusion over whether she would really support an independent body that would oversee public records requests.

Politicians and public servants like Denish, can't respond to legitimate questions about the public interests and about their public service, by ignoring the questions.

It is a fundamental flaw in our government.

It is proof positive that we have lost control over power and
resources that are fundamentally our own.

Apparent problem with Ethics Commission Legislation

Steve Terrel, link, follows up on Jim Scarantino, link.

There might be some constitutional issues in jailing nonmembers of the commission, for leaking information about ethics charges.

Terrel hopes they won't pass flawed legislation;

"Hopefully our wise Legislature will see clear not to pass a bill that has foreseeable constitutional violations."
I say, hopefully they will fix this simple problem before the legislature even convenes, and pass this important legislation.

APS looking for input on cell phones.

So they say, link. Being a cynic, having been there, having done
that, I doubt that they really are. My experience is, they are
looking for some input that supports their intention.

They intend to ban cell phones from school campuses.

There is one opinion here that matters more than most.

It is the opinion of the teachers and staff members who are
expected to enforce this "stupid rule" against the wishes of
nearly every student in the APS. It is they who will pay the
piper when kids look for someone to hold accountable.

APS has a department called Research, Development and
Accountability. They have the wherewithal to survey teachers
and determine with some degree of certainty and accuracy,
their buy in.

According to an online calculator, link, of random survey size
and accuracy, RDA could survey 400 or so teachers, and get
results that are accurate within 4%, + or -, with 90% confidence.

A one item survey; piece of cake.

They won't of course. It's just not the way they roll.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A fundamental difference.

When Rep Janice Arnold-Jones and Doug Turner were asked to point to a fundamental difference between them, neither could.

I can.

If you go to Errors of Enchantment and watch the Candidate Forum video, link, at approximately 1:45:40 you will hear me ask both candidates to describe the limit they would place on transparency in government.

Doug Turner went looking for instances of government that should be open.

Rep Janice Arnold-Jones went looking for instances that
should not; and could not point to one
(except those provided by the law, of course).

The approach is fundamentally different. One presumes
opaque except by exception, the other presumes
transparent except by exception.

Diane Denish, Susana Martinez, and Allen Weh
were not even there to take the question, and still
have not answered it.

All else equal, which is the more likely to provide really transparent government?

I would rank them in the following order.

1. Rep Janice Arnold-Jones

2. Doug Turner

3. (in alphabetic order) Diane Denish, Susana Martinez, and Allen Weh.

photos Mark Bralley

The APS split, cherry picking?

There are a number of northwest side residents who want to
see APS split into two districts. Their rationale according the
the Journal, link;

"... splitting from the 87,000-plus student Albuquerque Public Schools would help improve the education of their students, including those at West Mesa with its dismal graduation rates.

... a smaller district with a scaled-back administration ... would be more responsive to needs of the classroom.

... give our kids a better education, bring parents into the process, and increase performance."
All of these arguments are specious.

Whether or not a district administration is responsive to the
needs of the classroom, has nothing to do with district size,
and everything to do with the attitude of the administration
toward the people in the classroom.

If the APS administration is unresponsive to the classroom, that unresponsiveness flows directly from APS Superintendent Winston Brooks' deliberate decision to bring all decision making power back into the district headquarters under his personal control, and the teachers' union failure to stand in his way.

It was he, with a rubber stamp from the school board, who decided to ignore the 70,000+ years of teaching experience in APS classrooms.

There is no guarantee that the superintendent hired to run a new northwest side district will not do exactly the same thing.

The lack of opportunity for stakeholder input has to do with executive and administrative conceit and arrogance, not with district size.

It has to do with government that doesn't give a rat's ass
about input from the governed.

The seat of decision making can be in central office, or it can be in the neighborhood school. The largest district in the country can respect the education, expertise, and experience of its teachers, and the smallest can ignore them.

It is a deliberate choice by a superintendent, not a function of size.

According to the Journal,
"... APS chief Winston Brooks, charge (sic) that the proposed district is "cherry picking" its schools, leaving APS with an even more difficult road than it has now.
... the proposed district (would) leave out many of the poorest neighborhoods, students in the new district would outperform those in the rest of the city.

If approved, the new district would make it "really hard" for Albuquerque Public Schools "to increase graduation rates and proficiency levels when we get left with the poorest kids," Brooks said."
The truth is; test scores correlate tightly with SES (socio-economic status). Experts, given the SES of a school can predict test scores with great accuracy. Tests scores are a surprisingly accurate indicator of SES.

If richer neighborhood schools are removed from the APS, the APS overall performance indicators will show a decline.

So what?

Is the issue increasing students' performance, or looking good?

Brooks argues, it will be hard to increase graduation rates and proficiency levels if left with the poorest kids.

The graduation rates of those particular kids are going to remain the same whether the district splits or not. To imply that splitting the district somehow disadvantages those particular students, is not honest. It's just easier to hide that simple truth, if you can mix in higher performance rates of more affluent students.

NM Public Education Secretary
Veronica Garcia
has been drawn
into the fray.

According to the Journal,
"Garcia met with APS in November to discuss the proposal but said the district has still not provided her information about the effect of a split, student growth projections, transportation and other issues."
If anyone wants to point to an indicator of the real problem, consider the fact that the NM PED Secretary can ask APS for facts and figures, and then not get them.

If the northwest side really wants more input into the education of their offspring, they would do well to elect someone other than Robert Lucero to represent them on the school board; someone with less conceit and arrogance;

someone who might actually respond to their emails.

photos Mark Bralley

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More windows will be broken.

Over the weekend, vandals broke between $8K and $10K
worth of windows at Cochiti Elementary School, link.

KOB reported, link, APS spent $619,000 last year, repairing vandalism at APS schools; a new record.

I would suggest, if character education were taught, and if
expectations were enforced on APS campuses, that number
would go down.

When I was teaching character education, I admitted that character education was not going to change the worst kids into good kids.

What it does do, is push the undecideds in the right direction.

There are kids who think about it for a minute, when their peers
say, let's go break some windows.

APS is giving those kids nothing to work with
as they make their decision.

Do the math, the fewer kids that think vandalism is acceptable,
the less vandalism there will be.

In a very real sense, the leadership of the APS is responsible
for vandalism in schools because they steadfastly refuse to
invest in any training that would lead students down a different path.

There is no character education in the APS.

There is no discipline philosophy for getting kids under control.

There only cleaning up the mess afterward.

To the tune of the better part of a million dollars a year.

Unscientific poll points to problems in the APD.

The poll on the Eye on Albuquerque, link, was "unscientific".

That means the results are unreliable. It doesn't mean the results are inaccurate.

If "eye" readers are really in the know about the inner workings and hidden mechanisms in the Albuquerque Police Department, there are real problems.

The suggestions of problems in the leadership of the APD are so relentless, it would seem prudent to investigate them.

The problem is, the system doesn't work that way.

If anyone wants an investigation done,
they must first do the investigation they want done.

And if the investigation reveals corruption and incompetence,
maybe another investigation will be done by those powerful
enough to do something about what they find. Or not.

The good ol' boys don't necessarily like each other. They may not even get along. But they act as one in defending the good ol' boy system from attack by outsiders.

Mayor Richard Berry may come to regret his choice for Chief of Police. Or he may not. Likely, he will just ignore the criticism and act like nothing is wrong.

That works out alright for him, and for Chief Ray Schultz,
but not so good for the rank and file who complain about
corruption, incompetence, and retaliation for pointing to either.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Compulsory" education.

Consider the idiom;

You can lead a horse to water,
but you can't make him drink.
and its corollary
You can drag a kid to school,
but you can't make him learn.
While attendance can be made compulsory, learning cannot.

There is no such thing as a disengaged learner.
The concept is oxymoronic.

NM-Leftnright, link, points to a misguided plan to deny learner permits to children who are perpetual truants. They report the following;
Santa Fe - The Public Education Department hears testimony on a proposed rule that would make good grades and school attendance a pre-requisite for granting teens a driver's permit.

Education Secretary Veronica Garcia says the idea is to ensure kids take school seriously and to get them in the habit of attending regularly by 9th grade so they're less likely to drop out.

It is difficult to believe that anyone with any teaching experience can come to the conclusion that if you drag a kid to school enough times, s/he will "get in the habit of attending regularly".

What do these folks suppose happens when the recalcitrant is dragged kicking and screaming to school? Does anyone really suppose that they settle down and get to work?

News flash; they don't.

For the most, they disrupt the education of 29 other kids for the rest of the day.

The same folks who would advocate dragging kids to school against their will, will argue;
They can't learn if they aren't in school.
There is a kernel of truth there, though it disregards completely the out of school learning opportunities. Not the least of which is on-line learning.

But for the most, the argument is specious.
It presumes that if a kid is in school, s/he will learn.

There are a number of ways to address the issue of truancy.
The least effective, most costly, and most difficult to implement,
is dragging kids to school against their will.

It would appear that one of the greatest problems in education today, is the lack of sensible leadership.

Photo Mark Bralley

This isn't about cell phones.

APS is set to "crackdown" on cell phones, link.

This isn't about cell phones,
it is about students not following rules.

It is about students who do not recognize the authority of adults.

Were it not for the fact that students don't follow rules about
cell phone use, there would be no need even to discuss a ban
on cell phone possession.

But the leadership of the APS doesn't want to talk about
students disobeying adults, so they will talk instead, about
banning cell phones.

There are only two reasons why students obey rules;

  1. virtue, and
  2. self interest.
Virtuous students follow rules because it is the "right thing to do."

In the absence of virtue, students will follow rules only when it
is in their best interests to do so. It is a cost benefit analysis;
the reward that misbehavior offers versus the cost of
misbehaving (the likelihood of being caught couples with the
consequence of being caught).

In the APS, there are too few rewards for following the rules, and too few consequences for breaking them.

As but one quick example; a student walks into the cafeteria and sees a long line of students waiting to be fed. The student has a choice to make; cut in line, or wait in line.

The reward for cutting is immediate and satisfying. The cost of cutting is inconsequential; even if caught, which is unlikely, the consequence is they will have to go to the end of the line, which is precisely where they would be anyway.

For the student it is a no-brainer, go ahead and cut.

The only reason they might not cut, is that it is the wrong thing to do, and they want not to do the wrong thing; virtue.

APS is doing nothing to build virtue in students. The most immediate opportunity to build virtue is character education. The leadership of the APS has renounced character education. When asked to point to any district wide effort to provide character education for students, APS spokesperson Rigo Chavez could not point to one, though occasionally you still see Character Counts! posters hanging on walls.

In fact, APS Superintendent Winston Brooks has a large Character Counts! tapestry hanging right outside his office.

Yet if you go into that office,
and ask him to hold himself
honestly accountable as
a role model of the
APS Student Standards
of Conduct
, the most
fundamentally important
in character education,
he will not.

If you ask School Board President Marty Esquivel to deal with the issue of executive and administrative role modeling of the student standards of conduct, he will hide from the question.

If you ask Rigo Chavez another question; what is the district's discipline philosophy?, he will admit that there is not one. APS has no written discipline philosophy; no effort has been made to write down the philosophical foundations for effective discipline policies.

So here we are, no effort to build virtue in students, and no effective strategy for making the consequences of misconduct considerable in the cost benefit analysis done by students contemplating breaking the rules.

The result is policies written in the heat of the moment, like the ban on cell phones, with no thought given to any foundation upon which the policy rests. If a student asks why s/he cannot bring a cell phone to school, instead of offering any philosophical justification, we are stuck with; because I said so.

"Because I said so" does not work, it has never worked, and it
never will work. If for no other reason than, students do not
respect the authority of adults. They do not accept that they
have to do as they are told; especially in the light of the fact
that there are so few and ineffective consequences for
their refusal to comply.

And there is so much misbehavior in schools, that it is adversely
affecting the opportunity for all students to educate themselves.

There is no aspect of public education that would not improve
on the day students are expected to follow the rules.

And the very first rule is;
1. You have to obey the rules.
Students in the APS don't accept rule 1.

And the leadership of the APS has no plan to deal with that
fundamental reality, except to limit the right of students to
carry cell phones.

photos Mark Bralley

The "right" to carry a cell phone.

Albuquerque Journal editors recently argued in their support of APS' cell phone ban, link;

"Having a cell phone isn't a right, ..."
Well of course it is.

Just because it is not written, "citizens have a right to carry cell phones", does not mean that the right does not exist.

Rights are not created by being recognized by, and written in,
the Bill of Rights.

All rights exist independently. The right to exercise them is
sometimes limited in the community's best interests.

Students' right to carry cell phones is real.

The opportunity to exercise that right may be limited, rightly
or wrongly, but to argue that it does not exist is nonsensical.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Journal editors support fighting over cell phones.

In a Journal editorial Sunday, link, the editors weigh in on the decision to fight students over their cell phones. They note;

APS can expect serious pushback.
It should resist that call.
It is easy for the editors to ignore the "push back"; there is not one of them who will suffer the consequences of taking some kid's phone away. No one of them will have the paint on the their car scratched, not one will have something put in a coffee cup left unattended on a desk.

Nor will any one of the people who wrote this "stupid rule", suffer any of the consequence for enforcing it. The simple truth is, there are many school site administrators, principals and assistant principles who will ignore phones, rather than suffer the consequences that follow taking them away.

The heat will be born by a handful of teachers who believe that the worst thing you can do for a kid is tell them they can't do something, and then let them do it anyway. They will try single handed, to avoid yet another instance of permitting prohibited behavior.

Not true? Look back to the district wide ban on "sagging", link.

Based on the "expert" advice of various law enforcement gang units, a decision was made to prohibit sagging. A one point, it was even specifically and explicitly prohibited in school board policy.

Then came the push back; saggers continued to sag and dared those in "authority" to do something about it. In the end, students are still sagging. Please note; this is not about sagging, it is about permitting prohibited behavior.

It is about a bunch of people who haven't been in a classroom in decades, or in the case of Journal editors, people who have never run a classroom at all, coming up with bright ideas for other people to enforce.

There are currently well over 70,000 years of teaching experience in the APS. That experience, that expertise, did not have a seat at the table where this decision was made. It was not they who decided to pick a fight with 90,000 students over cell phones.

The only thing more difficult than enforcing the rules is enforcing "stupid rules". Kids can understand enforcing rules like, no fighting. They may not like it being enforced on them, but they can at least understand the rule. This rule is going to be appreciated as "stupid". And the relative handful of teachers who are going to be stuck with all of the enforcement of "another stupid rule" are going to pay the entire price of enforcement, they are going to feel the entire push back.

Not the administrators and school board members who decided to pick the fight, and not the editors of the Journal, whose advice to those who will feel it, "resist" it.

Worth noting, there is not a single member of the leadership of the APS, neither in the administration or on the board, who is willing to be held honestly accountable to the standards of conduct that they establish and enforce upon students.

There is not one of them willing to lead by their personal example. They are more than willing though, to insist that other people do.

We have to pick our battles, and cell phones are not a hill worth dying on.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mayor Richard Berry begins independent investigation.

There has been a cloud over red light cameras since their inception.

City Hall has been loathe to releasing any data that would support any investigation of the efficacy or honesty of the system.

Mayor Richard Berry promised to dismantle the program if it could not be proved that the cameras contributed to safer streets.

He has taken an unprecedented first step; an independent investigation of the facts, link.

The independent review he proposes is unheard of.

An independent review of the administration of the UNM was shot down by the Board of Regents, who are themselves are appointed by the Governor.

Governor Bill Richardson has no obvious interest in seeing anyone of his appointments held accountable for the conduct and competence of the administrators they oversee.

An independent review of the administration of the APS has been shot down by the APS Board of Education. Board President Marty Esquivel will not even discuss an independent review on the record.

There is a check and balance between administrative and executive branches of government.

Administrators are not directly accountable to the people; they are accountable to the executive branch, which in turn is accountable to the people.

If the executive branch of government is not willing to step up and hold administrators accountable, they are free to do whatever they please, hire whomever they want, and pay them whatever they care to.

It is unusual to say the least, for an executive leadership to tell the actual truth about the performance of administrative leadership.

Kudos to the new Mayor.

photos Mark Bralley

21 Vice Presidents at UNM

The Journal reports on possible job cuts and furloughs at the
UNM, link.

Martin Salazar reports that there are 21 Vice Presidents on
the payroll.

Which begs at least one obvious question; are taxpayers getting their money's worth?

Which begs another question; how would we know?

If you ask the leadership of the UNM, I would suppose that they would say yes. What else could they say?

But if you hired someone to come in and do an impartial investigation, would they come to the same conclusion?

Unfortunately, we will never know. We will never know because,
there never will be an impartial investigation.

If you google "business efficiency experts" you will find an interesting Wikipedia overview, link, and 4,210,000 other hits.

There are organizations and individuals who do this for a living.

They just won't be doing it at the UNM.

Ask UNM President David Schmidly.

Ethics Commission Analysis

Jim Scarantino is writing a very detailed analysis of the proposed legislation that would create an ethics commission.

As a huge fan of an ethics commission, I find his analysis disheartening. He points to a number of flies in the ointment. link.

Friday, December 11, 2009

APS' continuing disregard for the law.

I have filed a request for public records with the APS, under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.

The request was filed at 8:51 on Wednesday December 2, 2009. The receipt of the request was acknowledged at 9:33 that morning.

According to the law,

"A custodian ... shall permit the inspection immediately or as soon as is practicable under the circumstances, but not later than fifteen days after receiving a written request. If the inspection is not permitted within three business days, the custodian shall explain in writing when the records will be available for inspection or when the public body will respond to the request."
Well over three business days have passed, and I have not been allowed to inspect the records, nor have I received any notification when the inspection will be allowed.
APS is in apparent violation of the law.

My recourse is to take on APS and Modrall, one of the largest and most powerful law firms in the state, in court; their home field.

One should not have to sue in order to inspect public records.

To: Custodian of Public Records, Albuquerque Public Schools

From: Charles MacQuigg, xxx, xxx

This constitutes a request for public records.

I am requesting the opportunity to inspect the reports of two of the three investigations into the scandal in the APSPD during late 2006 early 2007.

1. I request the opportunity to inspect the report following the internal investigation done by APS.

2. I request the opportunity to inspect the independent investigation done by Access Investigations.

I understand that a third investigation is underway by the APSPD. I have asked APS Police Chief Bill Reed if releasing the Access Investigation will interfere with his ongoing investigation. He responded by saying that, the release of the Access Investigation "... would not interfere with what we are doing."

The NNIPRA Compliance Guide states the following;

1. This exception does not protect all records held by a law enforcement agency. A request to inspect law enforcement records can be denied only if the records requested reveal confidential sources, information or individuals accused but not charged with a crime. Otherwise inspection must be allowed.

2. Further, the guide states, The Act requires the applicable records custodian to separate out the exempt information in a file or document before making the record available for inspection. The fact that a file may contain some information that may not be disclosed does nt protect all the information from public disclosure.

The records will reflect the involvement of senior APS administrators in criminal misconduct.

The leadership of the APS has kept the records secret for three years; long enough for statutes of limitation to expire on felony criminal misconduct.

"A Change in Attitude ..."

Jim Scarantino reports an encouraging sign an apparent
turnaround in the handling of public records requests under
our new mayor, link.

The truth is an essential element of reform; it is in fact, fundamental.

Hear, hear. wikilink

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Rio Grande Foundation Gubernatorial Forum.

Only two
showed up
for the
informal Q&A,
Rep Janice

Doug Turner

The rather homogeneous crowd saw no fireworks. In fact, when asked to point to any major policy or philosophical difference that separated them, neither could immediately identify one.

Both had made it quite clear that they were about ending the culture of corruption and about the need for increased transparency as a first step toward that end.

Because I take so much flak for my insistence that candidates promise to tell us the truth about the public interests and about their public service, I decided to rework my question.

Instead of asking, will you promise to tell the truth?,
I asked both to describe the limit on the increased
transparency they advocate.

What is the limit on transparency surrounding the public
interests and their public service?

Being rigid, I was not entirely satisfied with either's answer.

Janice Arnold-Jones quipped that transparency ends at the
restroom door. Doug Turner cited examples of processes that
should be open.

The answer that would have satisfied me entirely would have been;

Every meeting is open to the public, unless the law
specifically and explicitly requires that it be closed.

Every public record is subject to surrender unless the law
specifically and explicitly requires that it be kept hidden.

And most importantly, decisions limiting access to
meetings and public records must be made by an impartial
third party, in strict accordance with the spirit of open
government laws.

The appearance of a conflict of interest in allowing those
with the most to "hide", to close meetings and redact
public records must be addressed by ending the practice.

The limit on transparency is; as much as the law will allow.

Rep Janice Arnold-Jones was the "winner" in my opinion,
based on the depth and breadth of her responses, bases on her
12 years of experience as a committed legislator.
She was able to illustrate points with concrete examples.

Doug Turner
seemed as fluent in philosophical underpinnings
but less conversant in specifics.

photos Mark Bralley