Thursday, June 30, 2011

The worst thing any politician or public servant can do

is anything they do in unnecessary secret.

There are things that governments do in private; secrets they
keep from the public with good reason. However, the exceptions
to public records and public meetings law are specific and limited.

Limitations are critical because the more things government
does in secret, the more fuel there is to feed the fires of doubt
and suspicion that public interests are being betrayed in favor
of the personal interests of the powerful and the politically

Power does not corrupt, absolutely or even just a little.
Temptation corrupts; the greater the temptation the greater
the likelihood it will provoke corruption. It is human nature.
There is no legislation that will change human nature.

The clearest path to eliminating corruption is to eliminate
temptation. Casinos for example, eliminate most theft, by
eliminating temptation - it is nearly impossibly difficult to
steal from a casino. Their greatest tool in eliminating the
temptation is the certainty that there is no secrecy; there
is no place where there would be temptation, where there
is not also a camera, or two, or three.

County Commissioner Wayne Johnson is concerned that three
Ethics Committee members met
in secret and dismissed a complaint
made against Commissioner
Maggie Hart-Stebbins. He has
released an op-ed on the issue, link.

The complaint had gone through the
process; an independent investigator
had determined the complaint had
merit. The investigator prepared
a sworn complaint which along with
the results of the investigation, was
supposed to be presented to the full
Ethics Board. Instead, it was presented to a sub-group of three
Ethics Board members who met in secret and dismissed the

The specifics of the complaint are important but irrelevant
to this discussion. The issue is not whether the group of three
came to a correct conclusion, but rather whether they should
have come to any conclusion at all, whether they should even
have met, at all. Johnson argues that the County Ethics
Ordinance does not provide for hearings by less than the full
Ethics Board.

The independent investigator has determined that three
complaints have been made that have merit; are worthy of
consideration by the Ethics Committee.

All three were filed against
County Commission Chair
Maggie Hart-Stebbins.

None have been heard
by the full Ethics Board.

Johnson argues;
The ordinance clearly intends that a full board of five members be present to hear complaints – even providing for a replacement appointee where a member has a conflict of interest.
Johnson's concern extends to the fact that
At the time the dismissed case was “reviewed” by the “review committee,” there were two members of the Ethics Board still waiting to be confirmed and one of the three “review committee” members was an appointee of the accused.
He wondered;
How can the public trust a ruling from a committee where one of three members was appointed by the accused, the decision was made in secret, and the County Attorney appears to be encouraging dismissal without a public hearing?
Johnson's op-ed didn't include any allegation of impropriety
beyond that the group met without authority. He hasn't
accused anyone of unethical behavior. The point he makes is
We will never know for sure (if there was unethical behavior) ... because that case has been dismissed in secret by a “review committee".
There is lies the rub. Perception is reality in the eyes of the
perceiver. It doesn't make any difference if the Ethics Board
is above reproach if the people perceive that it is not.

Johnson concludes;
The people of Bernalillo County deserve open, transparent, and ethical government. There can be no shortcuts to dismissal and no short circuiting of the original process created by the Commission. Valid complaints need to be heard in public not dismissed behind closed doors. It’s our responsibility as elected officials to restore and maintain the trust in county government. Obviously, we still have a long way to go.
Hear, hear. wikilink

photos Mark Bralley

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Denish's about face

Not that very long ago, Diane Denish was running for Governor.

The albatross she wore around her neck during the campaign
was the culture of corruption in state government and her
inability to point to anything she did by way of taking a stand
against it during the eight years she sat at the desk of the
Lt Governor.

During her campaign she ignored the issue. On the rare occasion
of a response from her or one of her apologists, it would be
dutifully pointed out that the Office of the Lt Governor is
"largely ceremonial and feckless" - she could not have fought
the incompetence and corruption from her Office, even if she
had wanted to.

Now, her tune has changed. It would appear the Office of the
Lt Governor is not all that feckless after all. Now that John
Sanchez is sitting at her old desk, suddenly everything is
possible. All the new Lt Governor has to do is to make it so.

She wrote in a piece for Heath Haussamen, link;
If one cares to use the prestige and power of the
(Office of the Lt Governor) to make a difference
in the lives of New Mexicans, the field is wide open –
and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do it.
Either the duties of the Office have changed - did I miss a
Constitutional Convention? or, she could have made a
difference in the lives of New Mexicans, by standing against
public corruption and incompetence, but did not.

Basically, what everyone was saying in the first place, and
no doubt a large part of her defeat.

She wants to run for Office again. Again, she will be asked to
explain her failure to stand up as a champion of transparently
accountable government. Again she will ignore the question
as often as possible, and when she or someone in her stead,
answers the question, she will have to do an about face one
more time and convince us all the Office of Lt Governor is
"largely ceremonial and feckless".

Good luck with that, Ms Denish.

photos Mark Bralley

Monday, June 27, 2011

Is government out of your control?

Any representative form of government first requires that the
people surrender over to their representatives and public
servants, control over the people's power and resources.
The people are not allowed to spend their power and resources
except through representation.

Some politicians and public servants think that means they get
to do whatever they want, with the power and resources we
entrust to them. They think the people have no seat at the
table where they make decisions about the public interests.

Has the public lost control over public servants and their public service?

Do you think the government in under the people's control?
Do you think the government is of the people, by the people,
and for the people?

Stop for a minute to calculate a number that describes the
amount of control you feel you have over the government
and the spending of your power and your resources?
Do you feel 50% in control? 25%? 75%?

It's a trick question; there is no percentage. The answer is,
it is either/or.

There is in control and there is out of control; it is one or
it is the other. If your control over your power and resources
can be usurped anywhere in government, it can be usurped
anywhere else in government.

Do you tell your government what to do, or does the government
tell you what they intend to be done?

Who decides; who decides? Who sets the limits on government?
Whose prerogatives, the public or the public servants, include
telling public servants what they will do within their public service?

Who has the
exclusive right, privilege, power and authority to
write the terms of public service, the servant or the master?

Do you tell government what decisions you will allow to it, or
does government tell you what it will allow you? And, whether
you like it or don't.

What are you going to do about it?

Some where, some time, some day, the people will have to
show up and take back control over power and resources that
belong fundamentally to the people.

At that time, on that day, and at that place, you have to show up.

There is no equivalent gesture.

Those who wait for the perfect circumstances before wading
into fight, will find only a perfect excuse to never wade in.

You must demand a seat at the table where decisions are made.
You have lost your rightful seat and it will not be returned to
you by executive decree, legislative relief, or judicial intervention.
It will be done by our insistence, or it will not be done at all.

The people have a right to meaningful participation in decision
making that affect their interests. But, you will have to fight
for it.

I would suggest, the time, the day and the place, is the public
forum at the next school board meeting. And the next, and
the next, and the next.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Balderas' Office won't help

I have come to the conclusion that State Auditor Hector Balderas, seen here explaining to me how underfunded and understaffed is his Office, will not intervene in the whistleblower scandal in APS.

His Office knows that the APS School Board promised a layer of due process in whistleblower complaint adjudication and then reneged on that promise. Every complainant who filed a complaint (more than 300 of them) did so under an assurance that the administration of their complaint would see executive review and approval. The Auditor's Office knows the APS Board rewrote their policy to excuse their past misconduct and relieve themselves of any future responsibility and obligation to ensure due process for whistleblower complaints against Winston Brooks and other administrators.

In the future (as in the past), if a complaint is filed against APS Supt Winston Brooks, that complaint will be adjudicated by one of his subordinates. Administrators will be adjudicating complainants against fellow administrators. The blatant conflict of interest will be ignored.

The Board reneged on their commitment and obligation out of cowardice and corruption. If there is a good and ethical reason to deny complainants their impartial review of the administrative handling of complaints against other administrators, I cannot imagine it, and no one in the leadership of the APS has articulated it.

It would appear that the Board cannot be held accountable
for their cowardice and corruption under the auspices of the
State Auditor.

The same disappointment flows
from the Office of Attorney General
Gary King's. I tried to get him/them
to do something about the fact that
APS senior administrators were
involved in felony criminal misconduct,
and the leadership of the APS is hiding
the evidence.

I told them for example, that that
Winston Brooks and the Board are
hiding a public record; the Caswell
Report; the results of an independent investigation into public corruption in the leadership of the APS Police Department and the APS. They won't do anything about it.

Gary King's Office knows the leadership of the APS is hiding solid evidence of felony criminal misconduct involving senior APS administrators, long enough for statutes of limitation to expire, and his Office won't do anything about it.

Neither will DA Kari Brandenburg.

Who is more aware than she that
the APS Police Department is yet
to surrender evidence of felony
criminal misconduct by members
of the APS Police Department?

She says its not her responsibility
to investigate. She can do nothing,
she says, to keep the APS Police
Department from "investigating"
their own corruption and hiding the evidence for ever.

The Albuquerque Police Department won't take complaints
about crimes that take place on school property. They told
me, tell it to the APS PD; the subjects of my complaint.

The APS Police Department is a publicly funded, private police force. It is not accredited, certified, certificated, or accountable to anyone but Winston Brooks and the School Board.

They are a Praetorian Guard in every sense.

Right now, they are enforcing
an illegal restraining order
penned by Marty Esquivel,
that revoked my "privilege"
to attend school board meetings.

Paula Maes signed off on it too.

The Praetorian Guard will
arrest me if I attempt to
exercise my right to stand up at the podium at a school board meeting in order to exercise my constitutionally protected
human rights to speak freely and to petition my government.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office is of no use. It and then

Sheriff, Darren White, were party
to APS' felony criminal misuse of
the NCIC federal database entrusted
to White.

They allowed APS administrators
to do background checks on
whistle blowers; a criminal invasion
of their privacy.

Someone, they won't say who, thought
it would be a good idea to use the
NCIC criminal database to run a background check on then
APS Asst Supt Tom Savage's fiancee. These illegal background
checks were felonies, and they are being covered up.

The leadership of the APS is breaking one law after another
in plain sight and there's nobody in law enforcement
who will do anything about it.

They get away with it in no small
part because the establishment
media won't investigate and
report upon any aspect of the
ethics and accountability scandal
in the leadership of the APS;
Kent Walz and the Journal
worst among them.

Walz is caught here giving a
Hero of Transparency award
to Winston Brooks, knowing full
well that Brooks and APS are hiding public records of public
corruption in the APS Police Department; the Caswell Report.

Brooks and the board are hiding the truth about corruption in
the leadership of the APS, all the while, Walz and School Board
heavy hitter Marty Esquivel are making Brooks look honest by
hooking him up with a (formerly prestigious) award for being
a "hero of transparency".

They gave Brooks the NM Foundation for Open Government's
Dixon Award, while he was, and continues to, hide the truth
from stakeholders, even in violation of the law.

Either that or I'm a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy nut-job and
none of this is really happening.

photos/Walz framegrab Mark Bralley

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ticket probe uncovers dysfunction in County

In the Journal this morning, link; evidence of dysfunction.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston is investigating around
what smells like public corruption in County Administration.

He is accused by the County, of being inordinately hamfisted
in his approach.

Public power and resources are caught up in what looks like
interpersonal jousting between the Sheriff and at least one
County Commissioner; Maggie Hart-Stebbins.

Reporter Dan McKay wrote;

The sheriff’s investigation comes after Stebbins and Houston had a public dispute over whether his department can sell a helicopter and use the proceeds to buy other vehicles.
What does that mean?

Is Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston's heavy handedness
payback? Are investigations of public corruption subject to and
affected by personal disputes? Is control over our power and
resources being abused?

Governmental oversight, in whatever form, is the only warranty the people will ever have on the safety of their power and resources in the hands of people they don't even know.

We cannot protect our power and resources except by insisting that politicians and other public servants protect them for us. If we must entrust control over our power and resources to people we don't even know, we must insist that the oversight these same people provide, is adequate. More than adequate, the system that protects our power and resources from abuse must be state of the art; casino security on the spending of the public trust and treasure.

The question of the function of PIOs resurfaced.

The Public Information Office is accused by Houston, of being
"evasive" when his deputies went to retrieve records,
"... many of (which) had already been made available
last month to reporters who simply asked for them."
I have no trouble imagining that the Public Information Office
gave the deputies some lip. To imagine otherwise, is to imagine
a PIO not covering their bosses ass. Which brings up an old
question; to whom are PIOs loyal; the people, or the people they
work for? To whom do they owe their loyalty?

When all is said and done, do Public Information Officers serve
information or disinformation?
Are we paying them to tell the truth or to hide it?

The question is not simply rhetorical.

The manifest answer; their first loyalty is not to the people
and to telling them candidly, forthrightly, and honestly,
how their power and resources are being spent
should be upsetting to the people who pay their generous

Are our Public Information Officers a first source for truth
or a first line of defense, between public servants and those
whom they serve?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Huffman-Ramirez refuses to put it in writing

Mayor Berry and his PIO Chris Huffman-Ramirez are confident
that they can deny "press credentialing" to people who, in their
estimation, are not worthy members of the "press". They insist,
not only are there such things as "credentials"; some token or
talisman that one must present in order to establish their identity
as members of a free press, but moreover, that they have the
right and the authority to decide who gets them. The arrogance
is appalling.

Huffman-Ramirez phoned me
to tell me that he wasn't going
to be granting Mark Bralley and
I our "credentials", we are not
entitled to First Amendment
protection as members of a
free press.

We are not the press.

A number of questions are begged,
beginning with; where in the job
description of a PIO does it include interpreting the constitution?

It has been argued before the Supreme Court that a guy in a basement with a xerox machine is a member of the press. Who is Huffman-Ramirez to say we're not the press because we don't work for the establishment media?

I asked Huffman-Ramirez to put their position in writing;
something I could show to a judge. He refused.

When the question is are you going to tell the truth,
any answer except yes, means no.
When the question is will you hold yourself honestly
accountable for your conduct and competence within
your public service, any answer except yes, means no.

When you're denying citizens the free exercise of constitutionally
protected human rights, you should be willing to put it in writing.
Unless of course, you know what you're doing is wrong, and you
don't want to create a paper trail.

He refuses to hold himself accountable within his public service.
He refuses to own his conduct and competence as a public servant.

And Mayor Richard Berry
is good with it.

I am so disappointed.

photos Mark Bralley

Waiting for our phone call

Photojournalist Mark Bralley and I went to chat with the Mayor
yesterday. Mayor Richard Berry gave constituents the chance
to sit and chat with him for five minutes.

We went to ask for relief from discrimination at the hands of his PIO Chris Huffman-Ramirez.

Bralley and I are bloggers.

There is no doubt in any reasonable mind that Bralley, I, and
other bloggers are entitled to the protection of the First Amendment which reads in significant part;

"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom .. of the press..."
Loosely, but accurately translated; The Office of the Mayor
shall make no rule abridging the freedom of the press.
The Office of the Mayor shall make no rule that treats members
of the press disparately. What is done for one, is done for all.
What is done for the establishment press is done for the
non-establishment press, and yes for the anti-establishment
press as well.

Then comes Huffman-Ramirez and his determination that
"you aren't the press unless you own a printing press or a
broadcast license".

We argued that when the founding fathers offered constitutional protection of our human right to be a free press, they offered that protection to bloggers. We weren't called bloggers then of course, we were called pamphleteers, wikilink.

Richard Berry listened. He promised to get back to us.

Huffman-Ramirez just sat there looking arrogant and

wearing his supercilious little smirk.

Gotta wonder what he knows
that we don't.

Update; 11am, just got a call from Huffman-Ramirez. He said that nothing will change; Bralley and I are still denied our "credentials".

I asked him if he would mind putting his position in writing. He declined. He said the Mayor promised us a phone call and that's all were getting.

Consequently my estimation of the character and the courage of

Mayor Richard Berry is
diminished considerably.

photos Mark Bralley

Darren who?

Ben Franklin gets credit for articulating a simple truth;

"Power shites upon reason's back."
Everybody since, shares credit for articulating the corollary;
Shite rolls downhill.

Well, the city's top cop, Public Safety Director Darren White took a giant shite Wednesday, on the backs of "... 120-plus officers with the rank of sergeant and above." Journal- no link.

It took him two hours to get it out.

Later that day, or early this, every one of those 120-plus officers with the rank of sergeant and above, took a dump on everyone below the rank of sergeant.

Switch perspective now to the rank and file who are wondering; who is Darren White to be dumping on my back?

In an organization where there are clearly defined chains of command and power; the rank and file as a whole reflect their leadership. If there is bullying, it is because bullying is the example being set for them by their leadership. If they are corrupt, it is because their leadership is corrupt. If they are incompetent, it is because their leadership is incompetent.

Darren White will say at some point, because it's a great soundbite;
"The buck stops on my desk."
The buck may stop there, but the shite didn't.
It's already been dumped on those who have neither the power,
nor the resources, nor the ultimate responsibility to change the
culture of an organization to something better than the culture
the leadership has created, enabled, and maintained.

According to the Journal, White said;
"I don't think I'd day there's a cultural problem at APD, but there are a number of folks -and it's more than just a few - who don't live up to the values and ideals of the majority of the hard-working men and women on this department."
"More than just a few" means there is a culture that tolerates
their disregard for the values and ideals of their community.
Darren White and Police Chief Schultz are responsible for the
rot in the barrel; not the "more than a few" bad apples.

There is a fundamental flaw in thinking that requires sub-
ordinates to hold themselves accountable to higher standards
of conduct and competence than their bosses.
It is human nature to reject that hypocrisy out of hand.

Who is Darren White to be telling the rank and file that they
need to be setting a better example for the people they serve;
  • his lack of character is manifest, link
  • his corruption is manifest, link
  • and, he is yet to survive a vote of confidence by his subordinates; he has failed two and by wide margins.
If you google Darren White and scandal, you get almost 21,000 hits, and not because he's famous for uncovering them.

Consider; if someone asks you to do something that is unethical,
illegal or immoral, the first thing you have to do is ask yourself
why that person thought you would say, yes. If the rank and
file of the Albuquerque Police Department have been behaving
inappropriately, what made them think they could get away
with it? If it is the culture, then those who create the culture
own the misconduct.

Who is Darren White to tell anyone else to set a better example?
He's the one with the power. He's a political appointee and he
can do whatever in the hell he wants to;
even shite upon the backs of others for the culture he owns.

Reason dictates that White and Schultz be held accountable
for the culture in the Albuquerque Police Department.
Their power in city hall, guarantees that they will not;
because power shites upon reason's back, almost every time.

photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Martinez' town hall meeting disingenuous

One of the most courageous things a politician or public servant
can do is to stand before citizens and answer their questions
about the public interests and about their public service.

The prerequisite character and courage are diminished if the
questions are censored. If inconvenient questions are ignored,
there might just as well not have been a public forum in the first place.

Governor Susana Martinez
hosted a so-called "town hall
meeting" on Facebook yesterday.

She required interest holders
to submit their questions
beforehand, and selected the
few she would answer.

To pretend that she would stand
and deliver candid, forthright
and honest responses to even the
most inconvenient of otherwise legitimate questions and then
to sidestep the ones she didn't feel like answering, is manifest cowardice.

I did not submit my question as it has already been asked and
not answered, link. My question was and is;

Does she have any intention of honoring her commitment
to independent accountability audits of state government agencies?
It's too bad really; it would have been a great step forward
in politics and public service in New Mexico.

Imagine; a politician with the courage to answer any legitimate
questions about their public service.

photo Mark Bralley

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The establishment of standing

I have searched online a bit for a definition of "standing" that
worked for my purpose. The search was unsuccessful.

If I were writing about "legal standing", I could link you to nice solid definitions. But on the issue of citizens having "standing" with their government, there is no readily obvious definition.

I will offer a definition of my own. A citizen who has standing can tap their government on the shoulder and the government will acknowledge the tap. A citizen who has standing can ask their government any legitimate question, and the government will respond to the question.

In contrast; consider the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and their rule that you are not allowed to ask questions during the public forum. Worse, you are not entitled to a response even if you submit your question in writing.

They do not recognize your right to ask them questions
any more than they recognize their obligation to respond
to your legitimate questions
about public interests and
about their public service, by answering them candidly,
forthrightly and honestly.

Why wouldn't you have a right to ask questions, except that
you haven't the "standing" to ask them?

Why do they feel no obligation to answer your questions,
except that you haven't the "standing" to expect them to
respond to your or your question?

Why not, except that in their eyes, you haven't the "standing" to intrude upon their existence?

Once, link, in a meeting with
School Board Member
Marty Esquivel and then
Board Member Jon Barela,
I expressed my conviction
Supt Winston Brooks has an
obligation to answer some
questions; questions about
why he will not hold himself
honestly accountable as a role
model of student standards of

His response was to ask me, who was I to think that a superintendent (or any of his many subordinates) should have to respond to a question from me in the first place? Who in the hell did I think I was? What standing did I have, to ask questions of powerful politicians and public servants?

It was the same question
Jon Barela asked me when
I filed a complaint against him
with the Republican Party of
New Mexico, link;
who in the hell was I,
(how much money had I
given to the Republican Party)
to be filing a complaint against him?

It's snobbery really. They think
they're the privileged class and we are the great unwashed.

Which gets me back to the question; so what do we have to do
to establish our "standing" with politicians and public servants?

We have to establish our standing with them, before we can
establish their accountability to us.

photos Mark Bralley

Friday, June 17, 2011

Graduation rates inaccurate

In the Journal, link.

It turns out that our frighteningly low high school graduation
rates are lower than reported. 12% of students who were
reported as having "graduated" did not have the required
credits in order to graduate.

The problem is blamed on institutional incompetence; the
system lacks the resources and the ability to keep track of
senior's credits for them.

The Journal did not (investigate and) report upon APS'
individual graduation statistics to see if their rates were
inflated by graduating students who had not earned it.

To those in the know, that indicates there is a problem with
APS' numbers too.

"Most governments lie to each other"

That was the testimony of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
before the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

He continued;

"That's the way business gets done."
In between the lines we read; it is acceptable.

For whatever reasons it is acceptable for governments to lie
to each other, is it not also acceptable for them to lie to their

Is it acceptable for our government to lie to us?

Under certain circumstances, perhaps it is. There are secrets
in and about government which should reasonably be kept secret.

Which begs the fundamental question;
Who decides what gets kept secret, the people or
politicians and public servants?
I would argue that it stands to reason;
Secrets in and about our government are legitimately kept
from the people, only with the people's fully informed and
explicitly expressed consent; period.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

School Board "commits" to build board ethics and code of conduct policy

In the draft minutes of the last regular board meeting, link,
you will find the following statement. It is the last bullet under
"V. Special Issues"

"Commitment to build board ethics and code of conduct policy"
No indication who said it or what it means.

The current state of board ethics and code of conduct policy is this;

1. The code of conduct that applies to administrators and board members, no longer requires them to be accountable as role models. They removed the role modeling clause which read;
In no case shall the standards of conduct for an adult,
be lower than the standards of conduct for students.
As a result, they are accountable only to the law; the lowest standard of conduct acceptable among civilized people.

Students. in stark contrast, are accountable to one of the
highest of standards of conduct. They are expected to
"... model and promote the Pillars of Character Counts!"
a nationally recognized, accepted, and respected code of
ethical conduct. Adults, consequent to the manifest lack of
character and courage on the school board and in the senior
administration, are not accountable as role models of the
student standards of conduct even for the measly few hours
each day they are holding students accountable to them.

The Policy Committee and its chair, the coward David Peercy, link, cannot summon the character and the courage to discuss, in and open and honest meeting, their refusal to restore the role modeling clause to their own code of conduct.

2. The APS School Board already has a code of conduct, link.
By their own admission, it is utterly unenforceable.

3. One cannot discuss codes of conduct without simultaneously
examining the actual accountability to them. There is not one wit
of difference between the highest of standards and the lowest,
if neither can be enforced.

The leadership of the APS; senior administrators and board members, are not subject to any system under which a complaint filed against them is guaranteed due process; not even the courts. The leadership of the APS routinely employs "legal" loopholes, technicalities, the legal weaselry of the lawyers at Modrall, and an unlimited budget for litigation against complainants.

4. Currently, these board members who are contemplating building ethics and codes of conduct, are denying due process to hundreds of whistle blower complaints against administrators and board members. They promised every whistle blower "review and approval" of their complaint; the promised a final hearing above administrators adjudicating complaints against their fellow administrators. A complaint filed against Supt Winston Brooks is actually adjudicated by a subordinate. It is an egregious conflict of interest and the board is enabling it.

It should be quite a discussion, if it ever comes up.

I am still banned from participating in that discussion by
the board's illegal restraining order and the threat of being
arrested by APS' Praetorian Guard; the APS Police Dept;
a publicly funded, private police force that reports directly
to, and only to, the leadership of the APS.

It is the APS Police Department that is suppressing evidence
of felony criminal misconduct involving APS administrators,
link. It is Winston Brooks who is suppressing the Caswell Report; with the aid and abet of Kent Walz and the Journal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Who's in charge at West Mesa High School?

Who's in charge at West Mesa High School; adults who "require"
students to attend classes, or the students, who between them
failed to attend 88,000 classes this year? link

It amounts to each student missing 13 full school days last year.

The graduation rate at WMHS is 59%.

There might be a correlation.

The correlation extends to every manifestation of students in
charge; tardiness, truancy, bullying, lack of respect and
responsibility, and every other permitted though prohibited
misdemeanor. The more rules students choose to disobey,
the lower their likelihood of success.

Ask the leadership of the the APS, who is "in charge" in schools.
They will tell you, they are.

If a person makes a rule, and another person disobeys that rule,
who is "in charge"?

It makes no difference if those who make the rules are a school
board, or an administration, or teachers; when students break
rules deliberately, they are in charge.

That students are in charge at any given school, correlates
directly with the school's success rate. Where those with
education, experience and expertise are in charge, the
likelihood of success increases. Where students are in charge,
the likelihood of success diminishes.

Why is the out of control of students not on the table when
the reform of public education is being discussed?

Either it is because there are no real teachers at the table, or
they sit at the table in too few numbers to influence the discourse.

It is because those who do have a seat at the table; those with
the power, the resources and the obligation to ensure that adults
are in charge at school, have failed miserably. They have failed
miserably and they don't want to be held accountable for their
failure. So student behavior is simply never brought up when
the discussion is about what needs to be done to "fix" public schools.

Teachers have enough to do, just to teach well. To saddle
them with responsibility for the behavior of students who don't
come to class or obey the rules when they do, is a waste of a
precious and expensive resource.

It's time for Supt Winston Brooks
and the leadership of the APS to
step up and take responsibility for
allowing students to take charge in

Instead, his cronies at the Journal
give him another 20 column inches
to extoll the success at Rio Grande
High School. (no link provided)

Not to begrudge them their success,
but if the resources that they have invested at Rio Grande HS,
were invested at every school, every school would do better.

I am reminded about a line from a movie; two marines were
arguing about the relative worth of the F4 Phantom Fighter.
One observed;

"The F4 is a testament to the fact that with enough
horsepower, you can make a brick fly
Rio Grande High School is testament to the fact that if you invest
enough resources
and pay close enough attention, you can make
a failing school fly. Much like Brooks pet project; AVID, link,
there is no wonder that devoting extraordinary resources and
attention to kids who are themselves extraordinary (based on
their willingness to make the requisite investments of their own)
they can succeed.

It implies the application of resources and attention that are
simply unavailable except in extraordinary circumstances.

What is available, in every circumstance, is to return control
in schools to the adults. And in so doing, the success rate at
every one of those schools will climb.

What is lacking in that regard is an administrative will.
What is lacking is the character and courage even to admit
there is a problem.

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, June 13, 2011

Editors blame reform failure on "turf wars"

The editors cobbled together an editorial on school reform, link.
Recent research pegs New Mexico 49th of 51 states in education.

The editors concede there is

"the potential to do much better."
They conclude;
"Stakeholders must abandon turf wars, take these lessons
learned, and make it happen."
There may be turf battles going on, but this is the first time
anyone has suggested that they are causal in the failure to
educate an entire generation of New Mexicans.

If there is a fundamental failure, it is the failure to closely
examine each of the myriad of failures that accumulate in an
overall failure.

Take for example; student discipline. Student discipline has
as great an effect on educationally efficient environments as
any other factor. Yet, if you google "Albuquerque public schools"
and "student discipline", you will little to nothing by way of
research or conclusions.

Supt Winston Brooks and the
leadership of the APS cannot
even point to a written
discipline philosophy

Without a coherent philosophy,
policies and procedures lack
foundation. They are often
contradictory and unenforceable.

Brooks and the rest of the
administration won't even concede
that the responsibility for dealing with chronically disruptive
students is an administrative responsibility. Instead, they
send even the most disruptive students back to the classroom
to become the responsibility of teachers who have been stripped
of any of the power and resources necessary to deal effectively
with students who routinely interfere with the educational
process of their classmates.

"Turf battles" may exist; they may even obstruct in miniscule
ways, the reform of education. To try to pass them off as a
fundamental and proximate cause of the failure to reform
educations, points to the editorial lack of understanding of
the real problems.

The editors would do well to talk to more teachers and fewer
superintendents, if their interest is truly understanding the
obstacles to real reform.

photo Mark Bralley

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Who to believe; Armenta or the Journal

If you believe APS' website, link, the graduation rate at Rio
Grande High School is up 13%. According to a table attached
to an article in the Journal, link, RGHS' graduation rate is
actually down 5.55%; a discrepancy of nearly 20%.

If you dig, likely you will find a kernel of truth in APS' version;
there will be some bit of isolated "data" that points to a 13%
increase; an outright lie would be a stretch even for them.
Their version will be of some select subgroup of students that
will make them look good; left-handed seniors with freckles,
and then present it in a manner likely to leave or create
impressions that are not true.

Is that what we really want?

Do we want to spend the better part of a million dollars a year
on APS' Communications Dept, including $107K a year for an
Executive Director of Communications to put a spin on the truth
in order to APS schools look better than they really are?

Maybe that's the way the leadership of the APS feels about it, but I doubt taxpayers and other interest holders feel the same way.

You cannot simultaneously solve a problem and hide it. That's why APS is so bad at problem solving; they devote so much energy and resources to hiding problems, there's nothing left to solve them.

photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Balderas finds corruption.

State Auditor Hector Balderas' Office has uncovered some more
corruption, link.

No surprise there, it's a
target rich environment.
Shoot a bullet in any
direction in state govern-
ment and it will poke
a hole in either corruption
or incompetence.

Balderas would go shooting
more often, but the politicians won't have it. Governmental
oversight has always been underfunded in New Mexico.
The proof of the lack of support is the existence of the culture
of public corruption and incompetence in state government.

Balderas has said straight out; he's under-manned and under-
funded. He says the legislature won't give him the resources
he needs to do the audits that need to be done.

Why not? Why won't they?

Why is governmental oversight perpetually underfunded?

Why does government enable corruption and incompetence,
except that politicians and public servants want it that way?

Casinos and government hire from the same applicant pool.

Those who end up in politics or public service will be exposed
to endless temptation; a system that gives them control over
enormous power and resources and with very little oversight.

If power corrupts, then power without oversight, corrupts
absolutely. What do we expect from human beings, when we
push piles of cash under their noses, and don't pay enough
attention to what they do with it? Their ultimate corruption
is as predictable as it is inevitable.

In stark contract, casinos spare their employees any temptation
at all. Casino employees handle cash all day long and they're
never given a chance to steal it. It is impossibly difficult to steal
from a casino without getting caught; there isn't temptation
because there isn't opportunity.

It is manifestly not impossibly difficult to be a corrupt or
incompetent politician or public servant, and get away with it.
Even the ones who get caught, invariably get away with it.

The people who created government; everyone who has ever
served in politics or public service heretofore, have created a
government that is short on real oversight; real standards of
conduct and competence, and honest accountability to them.

There are two reasons and two reasons only, to have created
such a government; their corruption and their incompetence.
Either they could not, or they would not, provide casino
security over the spending of our power and our resources.

Which begs a thornier question;

Why are the sitting politicians and public servants not now
providing casino security on our government?, except that
they too are corrupt or incompetent; unwilling or unable
to put an end to public corruption?
Steve Terrel writes that Governor Susana Martinez said,
"... this audit report will help to inform our further efforts
to root-out government corruption in New Mexico.”
If Martinez really wants to root-out government corruption,
she will put full funding for governmental oversight on the call
for the Special Session. She will make legislators pick a side
in the fight against the culture of corruption and incompetence
in state government.

In the end, there will be robust oversight on the spending of
our power and resources, or we will know the names of those
who stood in its path.

"The right time, to do the right thing, is always right now." unk

The right time for government that is fully and transparently
accountable to the people, and to meaningful standards of
conduct and competence within public service, is right now.

It's not that it is impossible; it can be done. It's a matter of will.

Politicians and public servants either can not provide casino
security in government because they are incompetent to the
task, or they will not provide casino security in government
because they are corrupt.

If there is a third reason to not end the culture of corruption
and incompetence in state government, if there is a third reason
to continue underfund oversight, what is it?

What is it?

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, June 06, 2011

You will either; "be respectful" or be arrested; your choice.

The Secretary of the APS School Board Kathy Korte, is in charge
of the public forum at school board
meetings. She reads a caveat to
speakers before they are allowed
to speak at the forum.

One of the things she, and they
expect is for speakers to be

If in her/their opinion, a person is
being "disrespectful", bad things
will befall them; beginning with the
forfeiture of the remainder of their
time, and ending with the real possibility of being arrested and removed by the APS Police Department.

She doesn't mention the arrest part, but they have done it
before, more than a dozen times, and there is no reason to
believe they wouldn't do it again - if provoked.

I have "provoked" them on countless occasions and they have
"arrested" me on more than a dozen. They might argue that
I was being disrespectful; I would argue that I was speaking
truth to power and, they just can't handle the truth.

When asked to surrender any public record/evidence they
have of behavior that actually warranted any if these (illegal)
arrests; they had to admit they hadn't even one.

Speaking truth to power is by its very nature disrespectful.
For the school board to make a rule that you may not speak
at a public forum if you insist upon speaking truth to power;
is nonsense on its face.

The right to speak freely and the right to petition one's
government are constitutionally protected human rights.
You don't forfeit those rights because a politician or public
servant thinks your speech or manner is "disrespectful".

School Board Member Marty Esquivel and School Board
President Paula Maes don't get to arrest people, they don't
get to write illegal restraining orders, just because they think
a citizen is being "disrespectful". It is an abuse of power;
our power.

photo APS website

Robbins does NOT! speak for the board!

That was the message several board members iterated and re-
iterated during their comments after the public forum.

School Board Member David Robbins created a brouhaha when
he started a rumor that the
Board was going to close CEC
and Coronado E. S.

The upset in the community drove
the number of them who showed up
at the public forum to such large
numbers, the board was "forced"
to limit them only one minute, instead
of the customary two minutes that are
usually allowed to citizens who want to petition their government.

Of those on the dais, Board Member Marty Esquivel was one
of the most visibly upset. You can watch if you like, on the APS website, link.

Watching him, it would appear that Esquivel understands that
individual board members
have no authority to act or
speak for the board.

Though he does believe,
apparently; board members
have the individual authority
to write illegal restraining
orders banning dissidents
from speaking freely and
petitioning their government for redress of grievances, at public forums, link.

He believes he has the individual authority to order that the illegal order be enforced by the (corrupt leadership of the) APS Police Department; APS' publicly funded private police force and Praetorian Guard. The APS Chief of Police Steve Tellez backed his play, in writing.

If you watch the board member comments, you will get to see

Board Member Lorenzo Garcia
continue to whine about the
inadequacy of public forum as
a means of communication.

His upset does not compel
him to actually do anything
about the fact that neither
he, nor any other board member,
nor any member of the senior
administration, will point to a time,
a day, and a place where they will
stand and deliver candid, forthright and honest responses
to legitimate questions about the public interests and their public service.

If you google "poster boy" for "talk is cheap", you will find
him there. Him and the rest of them; it's a group shot.

photos Mark Bralley

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What if teachers were asked ...?

Every time the establishment puts together a task force to
reform public education, it is staffed with the same people;
the current leadership in the failing endeavor.

Those who between them have hundreds of thousands of years
of current teaching experience, never sit at the table. The
token teacher seat is filled by an establishment appointment.

Why are we not asking everyday teachers for their input,
except manifest disrespect for their experience, expertise,
and opinions?

Speaking of which, nearly a third of a year has passed since
New Mexico Public Education Secretary
Designate Hanna Skandera passed over
native teachers to go elsewhere for
expert advice, link.

What progress have they made?
What question can they answer
after four months, that our own
teachers could not have answered,
and could not now answer,
the moment they are asked?

photo Mark Bralley

Friday, June 03, 2011

Teaching Task Force light on teachers

Governor Susana Martinez has created the “New Mexico Effective Teaching Task Force”. The Task Force has fifteen members; only one is a teacher. "The rest are politicians, superintendents, principals, administrators and a union president" according to Ken Whiton in his letter to the editor, link.

The press release, link, from the Governor's Office indicates
that nine are "current or former" teachers. In fact, only one
appears to be actually teaching currently. There is a difference
of course, between former and current teachers; putting former
teachers (now representing the perspective of educational
administration as opposed to actual education) on the Task Force
is not equivalent to currently teaching teachers on the Task Force.

For example; those who are currently teaching and those who
used to, but are now administrators, will likely have far different
views on who is responsible for dealing with chronically disruptive
students. I wouldn't be surprised to find they have different
feelings as well, on the subordinate evaluation of administrators
by the classroom teachers they supervise.

Whiton was right on, writing;

There is no substitute for giving teachers a meaningful
and respected voice in every discussion and the power
to have an effect on all decisions.
I could not agree more.

In the APS, teachers share nearly 100,000 years of teaching
experience and have no seat at the table where decisions are
made. The Director of APS' Research, Deployment, and
Accountability Department, Tom Genne, admitted to me that
APS has never, not once, surveyed teachers and asked them
what they need to be successful.

The likelihood of successful reform in education is inversely
proportional to the number of qualified teachers who have a
meaningful voice in the reform. No teachers, no (successful)

One teacher out of 15 members is about 7% of the Task Force,
making the likelihood of their eventual failure to come up with
useful reform, about 93%.

New Mexico Public Education Secretary
Designate Hanna Skandera made a
mistake when she went out of state
to hire eight "consultants".

Apparently, she learned nothing from
that mistake and will continue to treat
New Mexico teachers as if they have
nothing to add.

photo Mark Bralley

Thursday, June 02, 2011

APS serves red herring on student molestation

Apparently, a student on an APS field trip via city bus, was
allegedly molested by an adult bus passenger unassociated
with the field trip. The Journal could hardly have hidden the
story more deeply, made it harder to link to, or left APS out
of the story more completely.

APS' Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta
did appear on KOB TV, her old stomping grounds, to answer a
few questions for them, link.

Armenta's response to one of the questions illustrates the
difference between ethical and legal and the associated
problems in the senior-most leadership of the APS.

She was asked if there are protocols that must be followed
when students ride on public transportation. The question
was a legitimate one. Armenta's immediate response was to
represent that she didn't understand the question. If you
followed the link and watched the video, you know the
question wasn't that hard to understand. If she truly didn't
understand it, her competence and her worthiness of a salary
three times as great as a teacher come into question.

If she was just stalling; her character is called into question.

Everything she said, she said instead of just telling the truth,
a truth which, might include admitting she didn't know the
answer off the top of her head.

What she did do was to represent that APS policies and
procedures are as tight as they can be. The foundation for
her argument, that perfect policy is impossible, is a red
herring, wikilink.

There is an immediately obvious policy improvement;

Chaperones have to sit in the back of the bus, where
they can see every kid every second.
This idea didn't come after 24 hours of reflection; it was my
knee jerk response. It is obvious to anyone who has been
a chaperone on a bus and taken that responsibility seriously.

This young girl's parents, and her community, expect her to
be protected from molesters whether at school or on a field
trip. They expect APS to have the requisite policies in place
and in practice.

Armenta dodged that concern and any examination of APS'
policies and procedures. She sought instead to "... create a
belief, or leave an "impression that is untrue or misleading",
an act explicitly and expressly prohibited according to the
Student Standards of Conduct.

When I was trying to help students understand truth telling;
an essential element of their character, I had considerable
difficulty helping them understand that just because you are
telling the truth, it doesn't mean you are being honest. If the
intent is to deceive or mislead, the truth is a lie.

Armenta's statement; perfect policy is impossible to write, is
absolutely true. But her intention was not to point out the
impossibility of writing a policy that applies in every instance,
but rather, to inject a deliberate distraction. She wanted to
take the focus off district policy and its apparent inadequacy.

What she did was "legal", is just wasn't "ethical". And there in
lies the rub; there are two standards of conduct in the APS;
one for adults and another for students.

Students and their role models used to have the same standards
of conduct; adults had inescapable obligations as role models of
the standards they established and enforced upon students.

Then they removed the role modeling clause from their own
standards of conduct. The code of conduct that applies to
administrators and board members used to read;
"In no case shall the standards of conduct for an adult,
be lower than the standards of conduct for students."
It doesn't anymore.

Now administrators and board members are accountable only
to the lowest standard of conduct recognized by civilized people;
the law. And the case of the APS; the least accountability that
loopholes, technicalities and the legal weaselry of their Modrall
lawyers will allow.

In start contrast, students are still expected to "model and
promote" a nationally recognized, accepted and respected code of
ethical conduct; the Pillars of Character Counts!, link.

You really want to see Armenta
do some shuck and jive? Ask her
why the leadership of the APS
are no longer accountable as role
models of the Pillars of Character

Or ask her why the leadership
of the APS are suppressing the
Caswell Report on felony criminal
misconduct by senior administrators;
not how but why?

Ask her why hundreds of APS' whistleblowers are being denied due process for their complaints.

Ask her why the leadership of the APS will "never agree to any audit that individually identifies corrupt or incompetent administrators or board members".

You want to see Kent Walz and the Journal do some shuck and jive; or TV News Directors Sue Stephens at KOAT, Laurie (Spurry) Passman at KOB, or Iain Munro at KRQE? Ask them why they won't investigate and report upon the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

APS' "computer glitch"

APS' Executive Director of Communication Monica Armenta
would have interest holders believe 81% of students showed up
to school yesterday. She explained it was "on paper" attendance;
whatever the hell that is.

A reliable source informs; APS' computer attendance system
defaults to "present". If a student is absent and the teacher
doesn't tell the computer the student is absent, the computer
assumes the student is present. Apparently, substitute teachers
cannot log into the computer that records attendance, so
students who are absent on days when there is a sub, are
recorded as present.

That allegation alone casts serious doubts on APS overall
attendance claims.

And finally, on Tuesday, even teachers who wanted to take roll
were not able to; the computer informed them that attendance
could not be taken because "the computer" did not recognize
Tuesday as a school day. No one in the leadership of the APS
thought to reprogram their computer regarding the existence of
the makeup day. Since teachers could not report absences, the
computer recorded students as present and voila!;
81% attendance "on paper" on the "stupidest makeup day ever".

The media will report APS' claim of 81% attendance "on paper".
they will not report that it is all a bunch of hooey created by
Armenta to "... create beliefs or leave impressions that are untrue
or misleading..."

Her ass is covered.

Armenta reports record last day attendance

APS Executive Director of Communications
Monica Armenta reported on KKOB, that
APS attendance Tuesday was 81%
"on paper". She did not elaborate on the
meaning of "on paper".

Whatever it means, it doesn't mean
"in classrooms" or even "in the building".

In twenty five years of teaching, I never
saw 81% attendance on the last day; not
even close. Average daily attendance all
year long barely exceeds 90%.

Armenta's big lie flies in the face of the Journal's report, link,
on attendance on what has been called "the stupidest makeup
day ever."

Coincidentally, or conveniently depending on your perspective,
an APS "computer glitch" prevented the compilation of an
incontrovertible record of actual attendance. It means we will
never know how many kids really attended school yesterday.
The evidence that would contradict Armenta's blatantly
dishonest statement was vanished.

On Thursday KRQE reported, link, "the district expects kids to
show up." I asked Armenta for attribution for the statement
and she chose to not respond; to not be candid, forthright, and
honest. Much like her reporting that 81% of students showed up
for school yesterday.

The boggle; if you're going to lie,
why lie about something where
the controverting truth is so readily

Perhaps it is because media maven
Armenta knows her cronies in the
establishment media aren't going to
call her out on her lies of commission
and omission.

They not going to call her out on;

  • the cover up of the Caswell Report on felony criminal misconduct involving APS senior administrators,
  • the denial of due process to hundreds of whistleblower complaints,
  • the abdication of the entire leadership of the APS from their obligations as role models of the student standards of conduct, and
  • the steadfast refusal of to allow any independent audit of APS standards and accountability that will "individually identify" any corrupt or incompetent administrators or board members.
And they're not going to call her out on "... creating beliefs or leaving impressions that are untrue or misleading..." about actual attendance on the last day of school.

photos Mark Bralley