Saturday, October 31, 2009

Three legitimate questions for our next governor.

1. Do you plan (intend) to end the culture of corruption?

2. (If yes, then) What is your plan ? (design, scheme, method, program, plot, formula, system)

3. When?


If they have a plan, why won't they lay it out for voter examination?

If they don't have a plan, why would anyone vote for them?

Why would anyone pay them, one more moment of attention?

I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is;

the level of the political discourse in New Mexico over
the election of our next governor is not going to decline.
The bad news is,
the level of discourse is not going decline because,
apparently we are going to start at the very bottom. link.
I'm not sure what we can do to raise the level of the discourse
to legitimate issues of content and character, but I do know,
it is important that we do.

There are important decisions to be made in critical times.
We need to make those decisions based on facts.
We need to hear from everybody with something to say.
We need to not drive off diverse opinions with personal abuse.

Martin Luther King expressed the need for a time when
people are judged by the content of their character (and the
power of their argument).

We need to not let this election to be about who can buy the
most negative advertising. We deserve better. We owe better
to everyone whose sacrifice paid for government of the people,
for the people, and by the people. This is not what they would
want their sacrifices to have bought.

The only answer I can see is self discipline and some genuine
respect for the process.

The longer we take, the harder it will become.
At some point, it will actually be too late.

In boxing, you lose points for hitting below the belt.
If it worked the same way in elections,
we would be the better for it.

Journal editors, Winston Brooks at odds.

Journal editors and APS Superintendent Winston Brooks
are not the same page; they're not even in the same book.

There is a charter school in town who's goal is to serve "at risk"
students. The students are "at risk" of anything between not
getting a high school diploma to, "at risk" of spending most of
the rest of their lives in prison.

Within their walls, the school is having some success. They
are making annual yearly progress for example, a feat that
a number of other schools are not able to accomplish.

Some of the students are making trouble in the neighborhoods
surrounding the school. They are making so much trouble
the city is seriously considering shutting the school down.

In handling the problem, the editors are damn near spot on, link;

"... disruptive students who refuse to follow the rules can,
and should, be kicked out — permanently."
Winston Brooks has a far different take. In his opinion,
students who refuse to follow the rules should receive a
"verbal/written warning".

I hold in my hand, the Jimmy Carter Middle School Cavalier Code of Conduct. It is apparently identical to the codes of conduct for every other APS middle school. They are identical because Winston Brooks thinks every school is identical, or should be, to every other school.

Nobody at Jimmy Carter had any input on the code of conduct. Nobody at any school has any input. The district admits to, never surveying teachers to ask them what they think they need from the administration, in order to succeed in their endeavor to educate almost 90,000 of this community's sons and daughters.

There are more than 70,000 years of teaching experience in the APS, and no seat at the table where decisions are made. They are not asked what kinds of student conduct help or hurt them in their struggle in classrooms district wide.

Winston Brooks has decided that student misconduct can be arranged in three levels. The number is completely arbitrary. The law provides for two; misdemeanor and felony misconduct.

The levels are arranged according to the relative severity of the misconduct.

At level one we find the likes of; tardiness, horse play, profanity, violations of the dress code.

At level two we find the likes of; profanity toward staff, bullying, cheating, and vandalism.

At level three we find the likes of; theft, possession of alcohol or drugs, fighting and gang related activities.

Brooks parts company with the Journal editors and the overwhelming majority of teachers by having at level one; insubordination, defiance of authority.

If adults are to succeed in school, they must be "in charge". There is little doubt that in most, maybe all APS schools, students are "in charge".

Need proof? Here is the test; an adult makes a rule, the student disobeys it, deliberately. Who is "in charge"?

The editors have it right; if a student will not submit to the authority of teachers and other adults at school, the environment is disrupted to the point where even obedient students can no longer be educated. Chronically disruptive students have no place in regular classrooms.

Brooks has it wrong. Students cannot be educated if they are not willing to do as they are told.

Period.

Journal reports picture of deception in Krebs' statement.

The Journal reports this morning, link, on an ESPN report.

New to the mix, according to the Journal;

The network's reporting indicates Locksley's confrontation wasn't an isolated incident.
Stakeholders have been told that Locksley will be fired if this happens again; implying a record of violence will be handled differently from isolated violence. Yet, there is a history of violent confrontations that was apparently not brought up, as Locksley's punishment was being contemplated.

Further, the ESPN report contradicts the UNM version of the dust up between UNM Head Football Coach Michael Locksley and one of his assistant coaches.

I thought the Krebs' version was fishy from the start. He told the press that no one who was in the room at the time testified that they had seen Locksley throw a "punch". Much attention has been paid to the meaning of the word "punch", a dead giveaway that there is some deliberate deception in play.

Krebs did not object when "no one testified that they had seen a punch thrown" morphed into "those in the room testified that no punch was thrown". There is a huge difference.

It is significant, when UNM Human Resources interviewed six people inches from the scuffle, none of the interviews was recorded. "Notes", not a transcript, were taken, apparently, by a UNM lawyer in attendance.

In a situation where the basic meaning of words like "punch" and "choke" are in dispute, the actual words used by eye witnesses are of huge significance. Yet, the actual words of eyewitnesses were not recorded by the highest level UNM officials who investigated the incident. Why?

None of these people ever seem to learn; tell the truth, take the consequences. They always end up not only having to take the consequences for the original misconduct, but additionally they suffer the consequences for being dishonest about the original problem.

Let's hope there are actual consequences for the good ol' boys
in the leadership of the UNM for choosing to not tell the truth.

Let's also hope for world peace, food enough for everyone,
and an endless supply of non-polluting energy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Diane Denish, a proven leader"; calling out Josh Geise

Josh Geise is the Democratic Party's Executive Director.

He says, Diane Denish is a "proven leader".

If Denish a proven leader, in what way exactly, is she leading?

I will concede that she is leading in accumulating enough money to buy the election.

In what other way, in what other place, in what other endeavor, is she leading?

a leader;

one who goes before or with to show the way, influencing, guiding in direction, course, action, or opinion, commanding or directing, acting as a guide; showing the way, taking the initiative.
Can anyone point to a concrete example of Diane Denish's
actual "leadership"?

I am particularly interested in an example where she showed
some real courage in bucking the system. Has she ever "laid
it all on the line" in defense of a principle? Has she ever spent
political capital on a controversial issue?




photo Mark Bralley

The gubernatorial campaign is going to be ugly.

This from Heath Haussamen, link.

"Josh Geise, the Democratic Party’s executive director, said in a news release.
“Regardless of who emerges from the Republican primary, the lack of experience in their entire slate of Republican candidates should deeply concern New Mexicans,” Geise said. “Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We need a proven leader to help New Mexico families weather these tough times, and none of the Republicans running come close to meeting that challenge.”
What ever he means by calling good men and women "second tier", it isn't good.

Is New Mexico not big enough for two political parties?

Will name calling be the only course on the table?

Can there not be civil discourse on any issue?

It would appear that Josh Geise cannot say a single good thing about anybody who is not a Democrat.

Some would say; "Well duh. That's his job"

I would say, Well yeah, maybe, but it's still a damn shame.

"Soft landing" for Ed Adams?

Blogger Monahan was one of the more recent to point to the
apparent largesse of our lame duck mayor, Marty Chavez, link.

While this apparently "the way things are done" in politics
in New Mexico, Monahan pointed to one pill in particular that is going to be especially hard to swallow;


The kicker (according to Monahan) is the new associate director position that was recently created in the Aviation department. Will (Chief Administrative Officer) Ed Adams fill this position, which just happens to be salaried at his current pay rate of $145,000. Sound fishy?
Well yeah, it does.

Neither Adams, nor anyone else apparently, is going to be held accountable for the rape of taxpayers which was going on, and probably still is, in the Department of Municipal Development, link.

Every year, millions and millions of dollars are spent hiring private contractors to build things for the city. It is the job of the DMD to "manage contracts". It is their job to make sure taxpayers don't get ripped off by contractors.

There are a whole bunch of instances where the interests of taxpayers have not been protected. There is one case in particular, where the circumstances of the rip off were particularly egregious. The case involves one of Mayor Marty's crony's nephew's landscaping company. Tax payers were ripped off big time.The incompetence revealed in the audit, link, is so egregious as to appear to be more than just incompetence. It looks like outright corruption.

No head rolled.

Ed Adams was the head of the DMD at the time. It was his responsibility to make sure that those under him were doing their jobs. He didn't, and they weren't.



And now, he gets another cushy job at taxpayer expense.



All of which begs a question;
Is the Berry Administration going to run the corruption, incompetence, and kickback bus off the road, or are we just switching drivers?
The question will be answered by Ed Adams next assignment.




photos Mark Bralley

Tax hikes looking better every day.

Anyone who is being completely honest, will have to admit the budget deficit is not going to be fixed without "enhancing revenues". No one wants to be the first one to climb up on a stump and tell taxpayers what they don't want to hear.

So the legislature came and went, and Governor Bill Richardson is going to wait until November 12th to step up and say what the legislature would not.

In the meantime, at the rate of about one per day, one state agency after another is spotlighted on the news. The director of the agency de jour, testifies before one group or another and points to the very real effect of the proposed cuts.

  • Suicide hot lines point to the number of suicides that will not be prevented.
  • CYFD points to the number of children who will be left in abhorrent conditions because CYFD cannot afford to pull them out.
  • DA Kari Brandenburg points to the cases that will not be prosecuted for lack of funds.
  • Someone, I don't remember who, pointed to police cars that will sit with empty gas tanks.
  • Someone else pointed to 600 inmates that will be released because two prisons must be closed.
  • Etc, etc, etc, ...
The needs are real, the suffering will be real.
And taxes will be raised to alleviate the suffering.

Fortunately for legislators and governors, they won't have
to step up and deliver the bad news personally.

Couldn't have worked out better for them if they had planned it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

APS school board members admit to administrative fat, but are still unwilling to allow stakeholders to know the whole truth about it.

APS board members Marty Esquivel and Robert Lucero
were interviewed recently by KOB TV, link.

KOB reports;

Esquivel and fellow school board member Robert Lucero both agree that additional cuts can be made at central administration.
According to the standards of conduct these gentlemen establish and enforce upon students, stakeholders have a right to participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their interests.

Stakeholders are being denied those rights because they are being denied the whole truth they need in order to participate meaningfully.

If independent "efficiency experts" came into the administration of the APS, they would certainly find the fat in the administration, and their report would be a public record. The public could weigh in on the decisions of which fat gets trimmed and which does not.

The leadership of the APS will not allow independent review. They insist on doing their own internal reviews, keeping the results secret from stakeholders, and further insisting stakeholders "trust" them to do the right thing.

Board member Paula Maes
once revealed, she would
never agree to any audit
that individually named the
corrupt, the incompetent, and
the superfluous in the
administration of the APS.


She casts a large shadow
on the school board.

Board President Marty Esquivel
once built a compelling argument for
an independent audit of APS
administrative functions.

He was even price shopping for auditors.

Bowing to Maes insistence,
he simply dropped the issue.
He has not mentioned it since.

At this point, he won't even answer questions about an independent audit.

Member Robert Lucero
has never been inclined
to tell the truth.

It was he who tabled
a motion that would have
required board members
and administrators to
answer any legitimate
question, candidly,
forthrightly and honestly;
the standard of conduct to which students are held accountable.

Nobody else on the school board will stand up on the issue of an audit. They simply sit and pretend they haven't heard the question.

They wouldn't be hiding the truth except for a reason.
If nothing else, it simply looks bad, very very bad.

There is only one reason to not tell the truth to stakeholders,
and that is, a manifest lack of character and courage.

If there were another reason, they could, they would, point to it.




photos Mark Bralley

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Balderas lays it on the line.

State Auditor Hector Balderas was interviewed by KOAT TV for their 10 o'clock news tonight.

This morning, a link is up on KOAT's website. It's a must see.

He said the same thing he was saying when this photograph was taken months ago,

Every dollar invested in auditing the spending of tax dollars will be repaid many times over in dollars not wasted through public corruption and incompetence.


He said tonight, if he has to trim 4% off his already too small budget, it will cost tax payers millions more dollars than will be saved.

KOAT reporter Chris Ramirez closes the piece pointing out,
if the State Auditor had even three more auditors,
he could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are some things in a budget you cut last. Among them,
State Senator Dede Feldman
pointed out recently, link,
are cuts that will kill people and cuts that will cost the state
in matching funds. If you can spend one dollar to save four,
it is a prudent investment even in the hardest of times.

She did not have on her list; don't cut the funding to the people
who can protect tax dollars from theft and waste. Ending waste
has the same effect as cutting costs or adding revenue.
It means more money for the services we really need, without
raising taxes or cuts in other services.

Balderas is willing to actually expose public corruption and
incompetence, the administration is not.

You don't hear either Governor Richardson or Lt Governor
Diane Denish
, calling for more funding, not less for the
State Auditor's Office.


Diane Denish's latest, greatest solution for ending the waste
from corruption and incompetence, is to create an
"Efficiency
Hot Line".

Balderas' solution to corruption and waste, is to audit them
out of existence.

It can be made impossibly difficult to hide corruption.
Tax dollars can be made impossibly difficult to steal.

Denish's plan will cost little and save less.

Balderas' plan will cost more, but will save much more than it costs.

If ever there was a no brainer, this is it.


We are in hard times. It is more than likely, taxes will be raised.

I will be more in support of a tax increase, if I know that
those increases will not be squandered or stolen.
I worry much less about the money being spent, than I worry
about the money being wasted.

I am willing to pay to keep prisons open,
I am willing to pay for law enforcement,
I am willing to pay for public safety.
I am even willing to pay more for education.

I am not willing to have even one more dollar wasted because
no one is willing to stand up to those who are wasting our resources, and make them stop.

Balderas' is willing to make them stop. All he needs is resources.

If ever you were inclined to write to your legislators and tell
them what you expect them to do, this is the time.

Tell them you want the Office of the State Auditor to have
whatever resources they need
to end the culture of public
corruption and incompetence, at once and for all.

Click on this link, find your legislators, house and senate,
send them an email. Tell them you expect them to give
State Auditor Balderas the resources he needs
in order to protect our interests.

Do it now. I have.




photo Mark Bralley

Denish's hot line, a feckless feel good.

Lt. Governor Diane Denish has followed up on the Journal coverage of her new "Efficiency Hot Line" with an email to her supporters. In which she wrote;

...we all must do more to make government leaner and more efficient.

We simply must root out wasteful spending wherever it exists, and find creative ways for government to do more with less.
... I established an efficiency hot line ..., so that the government's customers - you - can offer recommendations on how the state can do things more efficiently.
In order for an efficiency hot line to produce meaningful savings; a very particular set of circumstances must exist;
  1. there must be inefficiencies in state government, and
  2. those inefficiencies must remain unaddressed simply because, and only because, no one (in power) knows about them.
I will concede the first point without hesitation.

The second deserves some scrutiny.

I will use the New Mexico Public
Education Department
, and,
Secretary Veronica Garcia
as the
example.

If the Efficiency Hot Line points to
any meaningful inefficiency in the
NMPED
, that inefficiency exists for
one of two reasons;
  1. Secretary Garcia is unaware of it, or
  2. she is aware of it and either cannot or will not do anything about it.
If she is unaware of significant inefficiencies, then why is she being paid $177,407.36 a year? Is it not reasonable to expect that after years in the office, she would have ferreted out the significant inefficiencies; all of them?

If she is aware of those significant inefficiencies and either cannot or will not fix them, then what good is it going to do to report them on Denish's Efficiency Hot Line? What would be the point?

The end result of the Efficiency Hot Line will be to report insignificant inefficiencies, paperclip and staples savings, and to make taxpayers feel good. The hope is, the "good feeling" with translate into votes.

The hot line has been up for a week; long enough for any real inefficiency to have been reported. Has one significant inefficiency been reported? If so, what is it and, what is being done about it?

The real advantage to having a hot line as the only mechanism for dealing with public corruption and incompetence, is that they can then be kept under wraps.

If taxpayers really want to eliminate inefficiencies in state government, the most direct path is to hire impartial efficiency experts, who will actually ferret out all of the inefficiencies and report them to the public record. Then and only then, will those inefficiencies be eliminated.

Not with some silly, utterly disingenuous Efficiency Hot Line.




photos Mark Bralley

Stink on stink.

Governor Bill Richardson is looking for someone to replace
Gary Bland, the former State Investment Officer.

According to Monahan this morning, link, the crew that will
select the new investment czar is comprised entirely of people
who donated at least $2.3K to Richardson's presidential run.

I don't know any of these men; they may be the most upright
and outstanding men in the state. But still, is there no one
who could do this except Richardson's campaign contributors?

No matter what else, it just smells bad.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Just so it doesn't go completely unnoticed, the leadership of the APS is in apparent violation the law, again.

APS is holding a policy committee meeting this afternoon.

The Open Meetings Act is applicable law.

"Past practice" is "the way things have always been done".
It becomes as binding as law. If something is being done
for a long enough time, one must keep doing it, even though
the law makes no specific mention of it.

The meeting agenda includes approving the minutes of the previous meeting. According to the OMA, the minutes that are going to be approved, should have to be posted in public for 24 hours in advance of their approval. APS has a past practice of publishing those minutes on their website, as part of the current meeting agenda.

The minutes that are going to be approved tonight, are not yet online. Their approval will violate the law. If you care to push the issue, you will be up against APS/Modrall, their considerable influence with local judges, and their virtually unlimited budget for litigation.

They also intend to approve tonight, the minutes of the September 22nd meeting. According to the law, those minutes were required to have been approved at the October 13th meeting. They were not; again, in apparent violation of the law.

How grievous are these violations of the law in the overall
scheme of things? The answer is, not very.

But you have to wonder, if they have so little regard for the law
they will not obey it when it would be easy to do so,
why would you expect them to have any regard for the law
when that regard comes at some substantial price?

Anyone who will steal a nickle, will steal a dime.

Anyone who will tell little lies, will tell big ones too.

Anyone who will ignore the law anytime they want to,
will ignore the law anytime they need to.

Asking the Governor a question, just for drill.

I am cynical. I don't expect a response. Nevertheless, I have
submitted a question directly to the Governor via his website.


Sir,
I think that it is fair to say, the average New Mexican thinks that state government is not as efficient as it could be. And further that, if government was as efficient as it could be, a great deal of money would be saved. If you accept that premise, then would you please respond to the following question.

Why will you not order every state agency to be audited by "efficiency experts" who will go over each division with a fine tooth comb, and report to taxpayers, any inefficiencies they find?
Now we will see whether my cynicism is warranted.

UPDATE; At 10:40 I received the following message.
Ironically, my email program identified it as "probable spam".
Mr. Macquigg
This is to acknowledge receipt of your message and
advise that it has been forwarded for review.
Thank you for contacting Governor Bill Richardson.

Who has taxpayers' backs?

The Journal reports this morning, no link available;

"The Pentagon's chief auditor was forced from her post Monday after sharp criticism from lawmakers over failures to hold defense contractors accountable for overcharges and poor performance."

The report did not indicate how many millions, billions?,
of dollars were wasted or stolen as a result of the failure
to protect the public interests.

How are we to protect ourselves and our tax dollars?

Who has our back, not just in Washington, but in Santa Fe,
in Albuquerque, and in the Albuquerque Public Schools?

Trust us, they say.

I say, I would much rather have real honest to God, efficiency
experts examine every aspect of government and report their
findings to the public record, not just to those
who have knowingly permitted or negligently allowed
our tax dollars to be wasted or stolen.

"Trusting" runs a far distant second to "impartial auditing",
if the object is to end the waste, fraud and abuse.

Governor Richardson wants to hear from the public.

About what exactly? If you google "New Mexico State Budget"
you cannot find it. By which I mean, it isn't on the first page
of hits. It may exist deeper in.

I am sure, if you find it, you won't be able to make sense of
it.

So the Governor is reading emails, listening to phone calls
and chatting in person with a handful of people who will travel
to Santa Fe for a chance for five minutes of face time with the
Governor. Each representing and defending the part of the
budget (cuts) which directly affect them.

My point is that we really don't know enough facts to do
anything except defend an issue we know is important to us;
education, medicare, ...

I would like to see the budget laid out in simple English.
I would like to see the "Ben Lujan Highway Interchange"
lined up side by side with "taking food from orphans' mouths".

It would make the decision making more fact based, and less
emotion based. It would be useful.

All of which begs the question;

Why isn't the state budget posted online in plain English?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why are we still paying for Public Information Officers?

I remember reading, though I cannot remember where,
New Mexicans are paying $17,000,000.00 a year for
Public Information Officers.

If anyone has a more accurate number, I will be happy to amend
this post. I could look it up, but it would be harder to do than it
should be and take too long as well. The exact figure is not critical to the argument.

You would think from the name "public information officer",
their job would be to give information to the public.

The only limit on the amount of information they would give
to the public is, ethical redaction; the truth redacted by
due process, and by due process alone.

The actual information that PIO's give to the public is,
everything that makes their boss look good, and nothing that
makes them look bad. NMPED Secretary Veronica Garcia
needs two.

Their job is to not tell the (whole) truth.
I did not say their job is, to lie. There is a difference.

Their job is to "spin" the truth toward a single end;
to make their boss(es) look good.

Under these circumstances, shouldn't PIO salaries be paid
by the individuals who benefit directly from their services,
and not by taxpayers, arguably damaged in the process?

There should be one PIO for the whole state, with
however many underlings it takes to do the job.

The job would be to answer every legitimate question
put to them and, rather immediately.

311, on steroids.

The biggest inefficiency of them all

Imagine that you knew of a state government within which
there are many inefficiencies. You decide that it is time to
eliminate them.

The best plan you can come up with is to establish a hot line
where callers could report the inefficiencies to the same folks
who created and enable the inefficiencies in the first place.

It doesn't seem like a very efficient strategy to me.

For only a little more money immediately, with a promise of
net savings eventually, you could hire efficiency experts
who would examine all of state government, ferreting out
one inefficiency after another, until they are all gone.

So why propose a "hot line" instead of "efficiency auditors"?

The main reason is to keep control over accountability.
The minute impartial auditors come in, control over accountability
is out of the control of those whose interests are served by
keeping things under wraps.

Why propose a plan with no hope of succeeding?
Why bring it up at all?

The plan is a charade whose purpose is to make people
feel better.

Cover up incompetence and corruption, and make the people
feel good about it.

It's a twofer.

Lt. Governor Diane Denish establishes yet another new hot line.

In the Journal this morning, it is reported that Lt. Governor Diane Denish has established a "government efficiency" hot line.

My first thought is, so what?

Please do not read this as a criticism of Denish.

Any day a high ranking government official publicly admits that there may actually be inefficiencies in government, is a good day. And the public official that makes that admission is doing a good thing.

I just don't believe that a state government (riddled) with inefficiency is going to deal with those inefficiencies very efficiently.

Denish says that if callers report abuse, the information will be forwarded to the appropriate investigative or enforcement agencies. Ok, but what good with that do? If they were efficient in handling inefficiency, there would be no inefficiencies to report.

As but two examples; complaints have been filed with the Attorney General's Office and with the Office of the State Auditor. The complaint filed with the AGO has to do with the fact that the leadership of the APS is holding evidence of felony criminal misconduct involving senior APS administrators, and refuses to turn it over to the DA for prosecution. The complaint was filed in February of this year, link. To date, they have done nothing except give me the runaround.

My critics will jump in here and write; it is a nuisance complaint and it is being given the attention it deserves. To which I will point out that no one has ever denied anything that I have alleged, and further that a school district hiding evidence of felony criminal misconduct is no small matter.

The complaint filed with the OSA, was filed February 5th, 2009, link. I alleged that the leadership of the APS submitted an audit for approval by the OSA, and it contained a deliberate fraud. (APS represented that it has a whistle blower program that meets federal standards; I proved conclusively, they do not, link.) To date I have seen no evidence to suggest that they are doing anything at all. I did receive one assurance that the complaint was being taken seriously, but it was accompanied by an explanation that "audit rules" prevented them from showing me anything that would indicate that it was.

A follow up with the ombudsman in Denish's own office, was ignored.

Never the less, if it would make you feel better, by all means,
call the number, make a complaint, and see what happens.

The number is 505-750-4684.




photo Mark Bralley

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"... first in bureaucracy and last in achievement."

says House Minority Whip
Keith Gardner
.
He was referring to the
NM Public Education Department
.

It was one of a number of spot on observations by state lawmakers interviewed by Kate Nash, Santa Fe New Mexican, link, for her report on the cuts lawmakers would like to see in state bureaucracies, in particular the NMPED under NM Secretary of Public Education Veronica Garcia.

Nash reported, "... no other state in (her) comparison spends as much overall for administrators."

Garcia's staff reported that the
NMPED spends only 0.04 percent of the funds that they administer, on administrators. It is one of those statistics that sounds good until you think about it. No matter what the number is, it doesn't speak to efficiency or effectiveness.

A wasted dollar is a wasted dollar.
Whether it is a millionth of the budget, a billionth of the budget or a zillionth of the budget is a distinction useful only to Public Information Officers whose job it is to make people like Garcia, look good.

They work for her, not for taxpayers.

Since we're playing with statistical manipulation of numbers, I would like to play with the statistics regarding the number of Public Information Officers that Garcia "needs" compared to the other states Nash investigated.

Here are some numbers that point to a real problem.

Garcia "needs" 170% more PIO's per student than Idaho.
Garcia "needs" 181% more PIO's per student than Nebraska.
Garcia "needs" 294% more PIO's per student than Kansas.
Garcia "needs" 340% more PIO's per student than Utah.

Garcia, according to Nash, is not going to be able to cut any of her top staff. If there are going to be cuts Garcia says, they will be in personnel.

All of which begs at least one question;

How do taxpayers know that government bureaucracies
are lean and mean?
The answer is that we have to "trust" people like Garcia, and
like APS Superintendent Winston Brooks to not only
know the truth, but then be willing to tell us the truth.

So far, their willingness to let the public know the truth, is
best reflected in their willingness to let independent auditors
come in, sniff around, and then report to the public record.

So far, no one of them has had independent auditors come into the bureaucracies they head, and do then an honest and impartial audit of their management models. No one of them is going to allow impartial audits that report to the public record.

And I will argue again, as I have argued before, in holding people accountable, "trusting" politicians and public servants runs a far distant second to auditing them, independently, impartially, and honestly.

Every one of our pennies, spent by state government, should be subject to audit and public knowledge. Then and only then, will government grow to be lean and mean. Only then can we feel any real confidence that our tax dollars are being spent effectively and efficiently, and not being spent instead on filing the stable with bunches of political cronies and hangers on.




photos Mark Bralley

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bralley gets bounced, again.

The story begins more than two hundred years ago with writing of the first amendment to the Constitution, and the protection it is supposed to afford members of the press. When the folks that wrote constitutional protection for the human right to be a free press, they wrote it to protect the least significant of the press; one man, handing out one "newspaper".

Mark Bralley is a photo journalist blogger. If ever there was a man protected by the first amendment, it is he.

And the Constitution of the United States of American is apparently worth squat.

Bralley has been illegally arrested. Again.
Arrested by police officers" following
orders"; following orders from people
who have no authority to give such orders.

This time the orders given to the University of New Mexico Police Department, by a Special Events Coordinator, and ASM Administration Graduate Programs Aline Gonzales. Nothing in her job description even remotely suggests she has the authority to unilaterally suspend any one's first amendment rights.

It is unclear at this point, why as many as five UNM Police Officers surrounding the alleged berserker, link, followed the order to deny Bralley his constitutional right to be doing exactly what he was doing, exactly where he was doing it, and exactly when he was doing it.

Though they arrested Bralley, they never pointed to anything that he had done that was in any way illegal. The only justification offered; he had been "uninvited" by Gonzales.




"If you take one more photograph, I’m throwing you out."
Is "arrested" a fair word.

No one is suggesting Bralley was maced and tazed and then beaten into submission. He was compelled by police,
to go somewhere he did not want to go,
against his will; he was arrested. Illegally.

He was not charged.

He was also battered. No one is suggesting Bralley was beaten
bloody by the zealous little censor. Nevertheless, she is guilty of;
(the) ... intentional touching or application of force to the person of another, when done in a rude, insolent or angry manner.
It is a battery. It is unlawful. Whoever commits battery is
guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

Unclear at this point, whether any one of the five police officers will file any charges against her, or even if they will make any official record that a battery has apparently taken place.

Also unclear, why Gonzales, and the UNM Police Department, thought she ever had the authority to make such a ridiculous demand in the first place. One could argue that the UNM Police Department needs to hold a departmental in-service on First Amendment rights.


It has to be mentioned that
all of this happened in front of
Lt Governor Diane Denish.

Denish
was the keynote speaker
at the Lecture and Dinner, link,
Bralley
was reporting upon.

Bralley has no reason to believe that
Denish
had anything to do with
ordering him to be illegally arrested.

Nevertheless, she did have the conn.

When the party boat crashed into the dock down at Elephant Butte Lake, I argued that whomever was at the wheel, it was Governor Richardson who had the con. If you don't think that all the eyes in the room weren't on Big Bill, long before the debris stopped falling, you are most certainly wrong.

In the same sense, Lt Governor Diane Denish had the authority to step up and defend Bralley, who had clearly done nothing wrong and should not have been surrounded by police and hustled out the room.

She had just finished a speech in which she reminded the audience;
“We need to listen to those with whom we don’t always agree.”
and
"There would not even be a discussion at all about transparency if it truly existed. There would be no need".
According to Bralley, Denish had just "called for the assembled public administrators to be mentors and to lead."

It's a shame she didn't then show them what that looks like,
by stepping in at some point and putting an end the outrage.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An illustrative example; Hector Balderas' frustration.

I write in response to this Jose Z. Garcia's post, link.

Apparently there are some issues with the Gadsden Independent Schools Audits.

"More than a year after it was disclosed Gadsden Independent School District was $3.9 million in the hole, and after failing for four years in a row to fulfill the mandatory annual audit reports required of school districts, GISD still has not caught up with its books."

State Auditor Hector Balderas has written a letter to Legislative Finance Committee and the Secretary of Public Education seeking their help. He wrote;
We have been working for months with GISD and Gibson (the GISD auditor) for this information and have been unsuccessful.
In response, he was told, those responsible, will be given yet another three and a half months to comply with Balderas' requests.

In situations like this, two questions pop into my mind;
  1. who is responsible? and
  2. what consequence will they suffer?
My experience is;
  1. none of your business, and
  2. as little as can be arranged.
If the books are screwed up, it is the responsibility of the district superintendent. One could argue, in a "buck stops here" kind of a way, the school board is responsible because their signatures are the last on budgets. In a practical sense though, it is the superintendent's responsibility to establish the standards and accountability which produce on time and accurate audits.

OK, so it is the superintendent who is responsible, and it is the superintendent who should suffer some consequence for their corruption and/or incompetence.

Why won't the legislature jump on this with both feet? Why aren't they demanding immediate compliance with any request the State Auditor makes? Is more good ol' boys covering each others asses?

So who then, is the Superintendent of the Gadsden Independent School District; a district, $3.9M in the hole?

According to their website, link, it would be one Cynthia Nava.

Why does that name sound familiar?
A little more research reveals that
Ms. Nava
, is a member of the very
legislature that has just blown off
Balderas'
request for their help.




The Superintendent of the GISD, is none other than
State Senator Cynthia Nava.



According to her own bio, she is a legislator with some suck;
  • a Senator in the New Mexico Legislature
  • entering her fifth term
  • Commissioner, Education Commission of the States
  • Co-Chair, Capital Outlay Committee Task Force
  • Chairman, Legislative Education Study Committee
  • member, Water/Natural Resources Committee
  • member, Committees' Committee
  • member, Corporations Committee
  • Chairman, Education Committee
Now if the good ol' boys on the Legislative Finance Committee were inclined to blow off the State Auditor, to cover some other good ol' boy's ass, they would be doing it for someone like Senator Nava.

Why else would they be giving her a few more months
to cover up her incompetence?

And while we're at it, has she recused herself on votes sending
tax dollars to her book keeping?




photo Mark Bralley

Gary Bland quits, soooprise! soooprise!

And why not wait 'til the last possible moment?

He was pulling down another $1,000.00 every day he could
put off the inevitable. Every day, more time to cover tracks
and fiddle with records.

It has been more than two weeks since convicted felon
Saul Meyer
admitted;

On numerous occasions, he recommended investments pushed on him by politically-connected individuals in New Mexico. Knowing that these politically-connected individuals or their associates stood to benefit financially or politically from the investments and that the investments were not necessarily in the best economic interest of New Mexico.
Two weeks later, we still don't know the names of every one of the "politically connected individuals" named by Meyer.

What a shame, the people have no one aggressively pursuing
those who steal tax dollars. What a shame that it takes years,
and years, and years, to bring them to justice.

It's almost like the system works against taxpayers and in
favor of those who rip them off.

APS students aren't the only ones who can't pass a test.

The leadership of the APS was tested last night during the public forum. They failed, miserably.

It is hard to imagine a part of education that plays a greater role in the ultimate success of the endeavor than student conduct.

Superintendent Winston Brooks
was asked to tell the truth about
executive and administrative role
modeling of the student standards
of conduct.

He failed the test when he chose to
not respond.





One after the other, the rest of the leadership of the APS,
Marty Esquivel,
Lorenzo Garcia,
Delores Griego,
David Peercy,
David Robbins,
Robert Lucero,
and
Paula Maes
,
chose to fail the test as well.

If we cannot expect the leadership of the APS to tell the truth about as basic a concept as student standards of conduct, and their role as role models, how can we expect them to tell the truth about anything else at all.

The leadership of the APS rejects accountability as role models of the student standards of conduct for one reason and one reason only; it is a standard of conduct that requires them to tell the truth to stakeholders.

APS students don't have a chance, never did, never will, apparently.

The Journal was there and watched it all.

Apparently the refusal of the leadership of the APS to answer
a legitimate question candidly, forthrightly and honestly,
even as important a question as role modeling of the student
standards of conduct, is not "newsworthy".

If you would like to see the testing, link, make your way to
33:05
, pay attention for one minute.

See School Board President
Marty Esquivel
hiding
his face, perhaps even in
honest to God, shame.




photos Mark Bralley

Is it time for a Constitutional Convention?

When Senator Peter Wirth sat on the panel at the Common Cause luncheon, he suggested as an aside, maybe it was time for a Constitutional Convention.

It strikes me, the State Constitution is a little like Microsoft Windows; it started out with a decent plan, but as the flaws became apparent, they were patched rather than fixed. After enough patches, the program no longer works even with the patches. What we have now, is a government over which, the people have no control.

Steven Terrell writes today, link;

One of the most frustrating things about this special session, especially today, (Day 5) is that virtually any action has been behind closed doors -- party caucuses, meetings between small groups of legislative leaders and the governor.

After all the effort to get webcasting and all the other changes that were supposed to make government public, the first and most fundamental step in regaining control over the spending of the people's power and resources, little has changed.

The heavy hitters in the legislature, still see no need to involve the people in the making of decisions that affect their interests.

What more proof does anyone need, they have lost control over power and resources that are fundamentally their own, than that they are not part of the decision making process on how they are spent?

Let's start over from the beginning. And as each line is written, hold it up to the test; does it create government by the people, for the people, and of the people?

And if it does not, strike the line, write another.




photo Mark Bralley

Peter St Cyr chats with former Gov Gary Johnson.

Peter St Cyr, nmpolitics.net, link interviewed former Governor Gary Johnson, over our current pickle.

I was with the former Governor right up until he told St Cyr;

I hope the fallout is that nobody gets re-elected. We need to fill it (government) up with new people who will actually be reality-based and address the very real problems that currently exist.
If you ask Rep Janice Arnold-Jones to name a few "reality based legislators who address the very real problems that currently exist", she will. And those she names, are not all Republicans; there are Democrats who have earned respect as well. She gives credit where credit is due.

To throw her and those others out, simply for drill, makes little sense.

It's a little like giving firefighters squirt guns, and then firing them all because they were unable to put out a forest fire; no matter how brave, how competent, or how dedicated their service.

The plan seems more than a little short sighted.




photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

City hall raises point to Marty Chavez' dishonesty.

Lame duck Mayor Marty Chavez just handed out some pretty big raises, link.

He won't defend them in person. Instead he has trotted out
Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams
.

Adams doesn't want to talk
about the timing of the raises.
Instead, he wants to refocus the
discussion to, whether the raises
were justified or not.

If they are justifiable now,
they were justifiable two weeks ago,
before the election.



Marty Chavez
just didn't want to give voters a chance to hold him accountable for the raises, so he didn't bring them up before the election.

Now suddenly, everyone deserves a raise.




photo Mark Bralley

State Auditor finds "egregious" misconduct in yet another New Mexico school district.

From the Journal today, link, yet another school district has been caught misappropriating tax dollars.

The legislature is seriously considering cutting funding for public schools. Every penny counts.

Yet because the legislature steadfastly refuses to fund the Office of the State Auditor adequately, another quasi-governmental agency has been caught ripping off taxpayers. This time, for "only" $64,000.00.

I wonder if enough will ever be enough.

State Auditor Hector Balderas seems to find corruption everywhere he can afford to look.



Auditor Balderas is seen here, telling me, if he just had the resources he needs, he could forensically audit public corruption out of existence. In a time were every penny counts, a dollar spend on the OSA will return between 3 and 5 tax dollars not stolen or wasted.

Yet, no one in Santa Fe is even considering putting an end to the stealing, as a cost cutting measure, or as a "revenue generator".

It is disturbing that, even if giving the Auditor the audit staff he needs, wouldn't yield a positive return on investment, that the stealing and waste should not be ended simply as a matter of principle and, at any cost.




photo Mark Bralley

Is NMPED Secretary Veronica Garcia a good role model for New Mexico students?

In a recent Journal report, link, it was revealed that NM student scores on NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress, testing showed statistically insignificant growth;

However, New Mexico's scores for both grade levels improved by only two points since 2007 — the last time NAEP released math data — and that change is statistically insignificant, according to the report card.
In the Journal today, NM Public Education Department Secretary Veronica Garcia takes issue with the previous Journal story, link. She writes;
While New Mexico's performance on NAEP since 2003 has shown significant improvement, as a state we cannot afford the attitude that this is "just another test" and not take it seriously.

"Technically", she told the truth today; the select truth.

Which truth is more important to stakeholders,
  • the fact NM students continue to perform below the national average and ,there has been no improvement in the last two years, or
  • There has been significant improvement since 2003.
I would argue that the former is the truth to look at, and the latter is the truth to tell if you want the Secretary of Public Education to look more competent.

It is possible to tell the truth dishonestly.

According to the standards of conduct that apply to the most of public school students in New Mexico,
Honesty precludes all acts, including half-truths, out-of-context statements, and even silence, that are intended to create beliefs or leave impressions that are untrue or misleading.
It is up to stakeholders to decide whether there has been an effort to create beliefs or leave impressions that are untrue or misleading.

For myself, yes, there have.

In fairness, Garcia is not alone in her willingness to mislead stakeholders. The leadership of the APS are more than willing, through their silence (stonewalling) to create the belief and leave the impression that they are accountable as role models of the APS student standards of conduct, when in all honestly, nothing could be further from the truth.




photo Mark Bralley

The Richardson/Denish administration.

Is it fair to call the current administration, the Richardson/Denish administration?

It would appear that Lt Governor Diane Denish is not happy with the characterization. Even with $2M in her war chest, Big Bill is an enormous albatross to be dragging around at election time.

Denish has responded to efforts to link her my name to the "Richardson" administration by invoking the time honored response to the pointing of fingers directly at her;

Legislators should act quickly, she said–putting “personal animosity aside”–because the state doesn’t have “time or money to waste”
Calling her out by name is "personal animosity".

Many argue that her unwillingness to stand on her own on issues, is the result of the fear of being slapped down by Big Bill; no one, not even the Lt Governor can stand up to him without being crushed under his onerous political weight.

I've never been much impressed by that argument.

If you only stand up for what you believe in, when there is no consequence for doing so, you don't end up standing for much of anything.

Denish, for example, still has no public position on the overwhelming number of political appointments to cushy government jobs, and their cost to taxpayers.

She cannot even promise not to abuse the process herself, for fear of pointing to Richardson's excess.




photo Mark Bralley

The Governor has a point.

Amid the angst over painful budget cuts made necessary in order to balance a badly out of balance budget, many have blamed Governor Bill Richardson. Richardson chose his blog, to make his stand. He points to overwhelming support by legislators, of every budget he ever passed, link.

2009
House 45-25
Senate 35-5

2008
House 57-10
Senate 36-4

2007
House 48-20
Senate 33-5

2006
House 68-0
Senate 39-2

2005
House 66-3
Senate 35-3

2004
House 54-14
Senate 31-18

2003
House 43-20
Senate 38-0

He has a point.

Governor Bill Richardson, blogger?

Politicians rarely admit even to the existence of blogs and bloggers. Lame duck Mayor Marty Chavez once came right out and said, he doesn't pay any attention to them at all (although he had one of his own, however briefly).

The obvious political bias of some of the dead tree news, the
Albuquerque Journal among the worst, has led many seekers of the truth to venture into the blogosphere. If they find a blogger they can trust, they are usually well rewarded for the effort.

In any event, Richardson has posted a defense to allegations
of profligate spending, link, on his own blog.

NMI's Matthew Reichbach furnished the link, and a report on Richardson's first post in a very long time.

Finally, finally, lawmakers step up.

Trip Jennings reports, link, that legislators have put all of
Governor Bill Richardson's political plum appointments
on the table.

According to Jennings; Rep Nate Cote has written a bill limiting the authority of the Governor to reward loyal supporters and their friends, relatives, and acquaintances with high paying jobs in state government;

“I’m not going after the governor,” ...(he) said, “We believe the number of political jobs is larger than ever before. We have to take some steps to reduce that number.
Cote isn't going after classified employees, some of them earning only $20K. Rather, he would like to look at some who are making more than $100K and, "... don’t have much of a job.”

Jennings reports that Richardson may have as many as 500 appointees, where a previous governor, Gary Johnson had only 170.

Jennings illustrates his report with a number examples of actual employees and their extraordinary salaries. For example, he points to Gary Bland, a Richardson appointee, who should have protected tax dollars from being ripped of in investment schemes, and did not, who pulls down nearly a third of a million tax dollars a year.

Jennings reports bipartisan support for limiting access to the public trough.

Hear, hear.

45. Sell the state jet.

Steven Terrell has published, link, a list of cost saving measures Governor Bill Richardson could undertake without enabling legislation.

I would suggest that the legislature is probably ill advised to be
"meddling" in the day to day spending of tax dollars. That said,
the suggestion presupposes that "someone else" would perform
the function of looking at the spending of every last penny,
with the idea that no more pennies will be wasted.

Realistically, the only folks we could depend on to do that,
and do it well, would be those in the trenches where the
tax dollars are actually spent.

The Republican list includes a near miss in that vein;

"32. Ask employees to identify programs, processes and tasks that they perform that contribute little or nothing to the mission of the agency. Cut those activities."


Yeah, like that's ever going to happen.

"Brooks is SCUM"

It is probably worth your while to take a look at public reaction
to APS Superintendent Winston Brooks' plan to save money in
the APS. The place is KOB TV's Topix Forum, link.

Forum comments are by no means a scientific measure. For
the most, it's a place where Jerry Springer fans get to vent
when their show isn't on. Yet, some of these people do vote
and they've had it with the leadership of the APS.

As an aside, it appears the hiring of Monica Armenta,
might be doing more harm than good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Foxes guarding the hen house.

Senator Dede Feldman posted an essay on Heath Haussamen's site, link. She suggests a few "principles" to guide the budget cutting knives.

According to Feldman;

  • Don't make cuts that will cost people their lives; and yes, some cuts might really have that chilling effect.
  • Don't make cuts in areas where there are matching federal funds. Medicaid dollars for example, are matched four to one with Federal dollars.
  • Address "combined reporting" which allows out of state corporations to pay taxes in states with lower tax rates, on money they earned in New Mexico. And last but far from least;
  • "Salary reductions, if there are to be any, should be done on a sliding scale, not across the board. What sense does it make to cut the meager salary of an educational aide who makes $8 per hour the same percentage as an administrator who makes $100 an hour? Yet, this may be the effect of across-the-board cuts, particularly if it is the administrators who decide how to implement reductions".(emphasis added)
This is precisely what will happen with respect to any cuts that are made in the APS. The cuts will be made by administrators, and if we are to glean anything from past practice, audit dodging and budget hiding, the administration will not suffer in proportion to teachers and teaching assistants.




photo Mark Bralley

Journal editorial deeply, deeply disappointing


Give them credit at least, for writing link about the issue of T or C's City Commission requiring speakers at their public forum to first submit their remarks for approval and censorship. To my knowledge, no one else has expressed even misguided outrage over the blatant abrogation of first amendment rights.

I know of this situation, what I read in the Journal, link. If the editors know more, they've not cited their source.

According to their article, one of the City Commissioners is upset that a regular speaker at T or C's public forum has called him a liar and a thief.

"Commissioner Freddie Torres said he did not appreciate being called a "thief and a liar," and that a small group of relentless critics have "screwed this up.""
Commissioner Torres, as far as the Journal reports, does not challenge the truth in the characterizations, only that they have been repeated over and over. It is not reported that he has asked for a restraining order, or filed any suit over the defamation of his character.

Nor has any argument be offered that "relentless" criticism isn't absolutely appropriate. If Torres is a liar and a thief, why should this brave soul be limited to pointing to it, only once?

Never the less, the editors have concluded;
"It appears some commission meetings have devolved into name-calling by a few self-appointed gadflies. That may entertain some, but consider the real cost — the waste of public time and money while truly important work goes undone."

If there is a City Commissioner who is a liar and a thief, the truly important work is indeed undone. The effort to get that business done, is not done for "entertainment", it is done in defense of government of the people, and for the people, and by the people.

And it isn't going to get done while the Journal attacks the messenger and ignores the message. "Name calling is a red herring. It is done to draw attention from the, as far as we know, credible allegations; liar, thief.

I take this all rather personally because I too am a gadfly, link.

I didn't "appoint myself."

It is a name I am called in order to diminish my credibility
without having to actually address my credible allegations.
It is attacking the messenger and not the message.

I am a "gadfly" for the same reason I am called "a disgruntled
former employee"; to draw attention to me, and away from
their ongoing refusal to answer legitimate questions about
administrative and executive role modeling of the
APS Student Standards of Conduct.

I assume, "Editorials" are written by a group of people, among whom is the one that will not investigate and report upon the credible allegation that the leadership of the APS is suppressing evidence of felony criminal misconduct involving APS senior administrators, link, for more than two and a half years.

I assume, "Editorials" are written by a group of people, among whom is the one that will not have their "education" reporter, investigate and report upon the ongoing refusal of the leadership of the APS to hold themselves actually accountable as the seniormost role models of the standards of conduct they establish and enforce upon students.

Journal editors are giving what looks like their tacit approval
of the leadership of the APS excepting themselves from
accountability as role models of a nationally recognized,
accepted and respected code of ethics.

When in fact their approval is overt, overt and absolutely deliberate.

In light of an upcoming $650M bond issue election,
it is also an utter and deliberate betrayal of voters' trust.

Where is the surplus?

I suspect that there is a lot of money lying around in state government. As a former government worker, a teacher, I can remember hearing every year, "use it or lose it". Spend every penny, or next year's budget will be cut. I bought things I did not desperately need.

I assume the same thing is going on now, although in these hard times, perhaps to a lesser extent. Budget requests routinely overestimate the cost of what ever is being done; there is almost always a surplus to use or lose.

The question is; how do we find those funds and recapture them to be used somewhere else?

We cannot expect the people at the top of each of these oligarchical pyramids to point to funds they aren't using.

Take for example NM Public Education Secretary Veronica Garcia. As the head of the NMPED, she is responsible for any loose money still floating around. But she is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The rock; the pressure to find that money to free it up for appropriate use.

The hard place; she doesn't want to admit there is money floating around that she doesn't know about, or isn't using.

I would suppose that every department head in state government is in the same boat; they could find some unencumbered money under their control, but they don't want to admit on the record, they do.

If we want to find the loose money in government, we need to provide the opportunity for those at the bottom of the oligarchy to be able to point to it, and to any other waste, without suffering retaliation for their candor.




photo Mark Bralley