Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lujan Grisham odds on favorite?

Blogger Joe Monahan reported this morning that betting odds have been established in the race between Rep Janice Arnold-Jones and County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham.  He reports that they favor Lujan Grisham.

If it were my job to set the odds, I would want to see a debate or two before I did.  Debates can be game changers; that's why there are so few of them.

When Arnold-Jones and Lujan Grisham sit down and talk about;

  • Ethics, honesty, and gov’t corruption
  • The budget deficit and national debt 
  • Jobs and the economy
  • National security
  • Social security
  • Gay marriage
  • Immigration 
  • Health care, and
  • Energy
voters will see which is the more knowledgeable, more articulate
and ultimately more persuasive candidate.

The one with the most to hide, will hide the most
from open and honest public discussions
of important issues in this election.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FOG Director joins Emailgate cast

Offered as an illustrative example of the NM Foundation for Open Government's Jekyll and Hyde, wikilink, nature.

Modrall Attorney Pat Rogers has been implicated in emailgate, link.

Rogers still sits on the board of the FOG. In the relevant past, he sat on their Executive Board, serving as Treasurer.

If anyone understood how wrong it is, for so many important reasons, that public business not be done in private emails, you would think it would be the leadership of the FOG.

Let's look at the leadership of the FOG.

Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce President Terrie Cole is the President of the FOG. I knew her as an outspoken advocate of APS and Character Counts!. Then I asked her to help hold the leadership of the APS honestly accountable as the senior most role models of APS' student standards of conduct.

The record is, she did not.

The new FOG Vice President Mary Lynn Roper is the President and General Manager of KOAT TV. KOAT is covering up the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

She is tied to the leadership of the APS through her Chairmanship of the Executive Board of the NM Broadcasters Association.

The President and CEO of the NMBA is APS School Board President Paula Maes.

Maes also sat on the FOG's Board of Directors.

Maes, the board, and APS Supt Winston Brooks benefit greatly from Roper and her KOAT's refusal to investigate and report upon credible allegations and evidence of an ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS, link.

The (perpetual) FOG Secretary is Journal Editor Kent Walz. He is covering up the cover up of felony criminal misconduct by APS senior administrators, a story the Journal first broke, link, and then abandoned when the cover up trail led to the most senior administrators and the Board.

Walz is seen here telling FOG members why APS Supt Winston Brooks deserves a Dixon Award as a hero of Transparency, while at the same time, he and Brooks were hiding public records of findings of independent investigations of the corruption.

Walz couldn't do that by himself; he has a crony, School Board enforcer Marty Esquivel. Esquivel also sits on the Board of Directors of the FOG. So well respected is he in the FOG, that he nearly became their President.

As the Board's enforcer, Esquivel has written what amounts to an unlawful restraining order, link.

The order prevents me from peacefully assembling, speaking freely, and petitioning my government at School Board Meetings.

It is enforced, link, by a publicly funded, private police force, a Praetorian Guard; the APS Police, upon the unlawful orders of its Chief Steve Tellez. Tellez co-signed the unlawful order.

Iain Munro sits in the FOG. He is the News Director at KRQE. They won't investigate and report upon the APS ethics and accountability scandal either.

KOB doesn't appear to sit in the FOG leadership. Their refusal to investigate credible evidence and testimony can be assigned perhaps, to their loyalty to APS' Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta and Board President Paula Maes.

photos and Walz frame grab, Mark Bralley

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How do we compel them to debate?

I was listening to the Eric Strauss show on KKOB, link.

The gist was, Strauss would love to have political candidates on his show. He said he doesn't have them on because election law requires equal time and not all candidates were willing to appear on his show.

He said he would like, for example, to have candidates Rep Janice Arnold-Jones and County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham on the show to debate energy.

Moving from specifics to generalities; there is a possibility for candidates to get on radio shows and debate election issues. Strauss claimed Lujan Grisham wouldn't come on his show because he and KKOB share a political philosophy contrary to her own. I wonder why that makes any difference.

In the first place, we need another word to use beside "debate". The debates we've seen and heard are not debates at all, wikilink. Which is not to say the debating under the formal rules would be any more useful than what we are seeing now.

The primary focus of "debates" should be the needs of voters, the need for information and perspectives on issues, and knowledge of the candidates relative abilities to defend their positions in debates with politicians representing contrary interests.

The most fundamental question is; who decides how candidates present themselves before the people? Do candidates get to decide whether to hide behind campaign ads or stand on a stump somewhere, or do the people get to decide?

The obvious answer is the candidates decide and that's why the people will never see them standing up and defending their positions, intentions, and qualifications.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Emailgate" it is then

There is some uncertainty about the name for the current scandal in Santa Fe.  There are manifest essential elements of ____-gateness, and the obvious choice is "emailgate".

Unless someone has a better name, why not?

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but it seems to work pretty well anyway

The most powerful elected official in New Mexico State Government and her minions have run afoul of the law. She, and they, will not be punished for so doing.

The New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act defines the term "public record" thus;

A “public record” is defined to include any document, tape or other material, regardless of form, that is used, created, received, maintained or held by or on behalf of a public body, and is related to public business.
Governor Susana Martinez, by and through her spokesperson Scott Darnell, has a different idea about what public records are, link;
“There is no law that prohibits the use of personal emails, but there are regulations that govern which email messages are public record and which are not,” Darnell said.
Darnell's statement implies that he has some actual knowledge of the state law; if he knows what the law doesn't say, it's reasonable to assume that he knows the law does say.
“Like the majority of legislators and other officials throughout the state, we occasionally communicate on personal emails when those communications are not considered public records.”

“... types of conversations that are in lieu of oral conversations ... would not be recorded and preserved, and that’s why state regulations do not require that these emails be maintained.”
Public business was done in private. Their excuse, that private emails are the equivalent of oral conversations, and that records of public business conducted orally, needn't be recorded or preserved is nonsense.

Martinez must have given some thought to that logic before running it out as their excuse.

It won't hold up in a court of law, but the point is moot, as they won't end up in a court of law to argue it.

Their excuse; their ignorance of the letter of the law, the spirit of the law, and the expressed will of the people, is serving its function; red herring. The discourse is about their lame excuse and not about the fact that the very best case scenario is; they managed to get around the law without breaking it, all in order to keep the public out of the loop on the spending of their power and resources.

photo Mark Bralley

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Liberty and public meetings

Liberty is a manifestation of freedom. As much as human beings have a right to be free, they have a right to liberty; the right to do whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want; subject to limitations imposed by legitimate government. The process by which those limitations are imposed, is the passage of laws. There is no contrary provision in the Constitution.

The government can impose no other legitimate limits on personal freedom and liberty, than the due passage of laws.

There are politicians and public servants who think they can limit the personal freedom and liberty of citizens by writing and enforcing "Rules of decorum". They are not laws and they limit personal freedom and liberty. As such, they are not sanctioned by the Constitution. It amounts to outlawing behavior that is manifestly legal.

The 10th Amendment requires that powers not delegated to government are reserved to the people. The power to impose limits beyond the law, on personal liberty, has not been delegated to the government, and therefore resides with the people, even when they are standing at a public forum in a public meeting.

The government cannot limit personal freedom and liberty except according to the law.

Whatever personal expression that is not against the law, can be done legally as an expression of personal liberty, without fear of arrest or intimidation by the government.

Politicians and public servants find that the people can do things that make them uncomfortable, but aren't against the law, like asking them inconvenient questions; why will they not hold themselves honestly accountable as a role models of student standards of conduct?

It's not against the law, but it makes them feel uncomfortable.

So they write of a "rule of decorum" prohibiting personal expressions that make them feel uncomfortable.

There's a big difference between breaking the law and breaking a rule of decorum. Under the law, there is a promise of due process. A citizen accused of breaking the law is protected by a system that protects both the accuser and the accused.

There is no due process under rules of decorum.

If the government, a la APS School Board enforcer Marty Esquivel accuses a citizen of breaking a "rule of decorum" there is no justice; there is no due process. There is no balance of power.

There is no place to appeal his decision. There is no place to protest his unlawful use of a publicly funded, private police force, link,to curtail personal liberty beyond the law. No place where he will not be protected by the government, using all ts power, resources, and influence to stand between him and any personal accountability.

It isn't just Esquivel; it isn't just Torrance County Commissioner Lonnie Freyburger, link, it's petty politicians and public servants everywhere, who think they can invent and enforce "rules of decorum" and in so doing limit the free exercise of Constitutionally protected human rights to assemble peacefully and speak freely in the effort to petition the government.

Rules of decorum and the enforcement of those rules by the government, are as unconstitutional as they are unlawful.

And yet, they get away with it.

In Esquivel's case, it helps to have Journal editor Kent Walz covering his trail.

photos Mark Bralley

Why not cut the waste?

The spending of public resources by the government can be represented by means of a pie chart.

This chart, from the Wikipedia, link, is presented for illustration, not information purposes.

There is a missing slice. The slice you don't see, "waste", is actually a slice of every slice. In every agency of government, some amount of our resources are "wasted".

The proportion of the waste slice varies from agency to agency, but I would bet there is no agency with no waste. I would hope there is no agency that is all waste, but if someone found one somewhere, would you be surprised?

I believe that 25% is a reasonably accurate estimate of the number of taxed and borrowed dollars lost to waste every year.  If waste were eliminated, the cost of government would be cut by 25%.  Never mind the benefits of increased efficiency from qualified public servants.

Budget deficits are cured by one of two methods; reducing spending or raising taxes. Reducing spending is complicated by the fact that, no matter which slice of the pie you want to trim, there are people (powerful enough to have a slice in the first place) who will vigorously defend their slice.

No one stands in defense of the waste slice. If a meeting were held, the purpose of which was to eliminate governmental waste, there would be no one who would stand up in favor of maintaining and enabling it. If a meeting were held, the waste slice would be eliminated.

Can waste really be eliminated, at once and for all?

Waste flows from two founts; incompetence and corruption.
If incompetence and corruption were eliminated, the waste
they generate would end as well.

Can incompetence and corruption be eliminated, at once and for all?

The are two factors that can enable or eliminate incompetence and corruption; standards, and accountability to those standards. Clearly high standards and honest accountability will tend to eliminate them, while lower standards and less accountability exacerbate both.

It is possible to write meaningful standards of conduct and competence for politicians and public servants within their public service. It is possible to hold pols and public servants honestly accountable to those standards; accountable under a system over which they have no undue influence, and powerful enough to hold even the most powerful, accountable, even against their will.

Meaningful standards and honest accountability are fatal
to public corruption and incompetence.

It is is possible, in the first few weeks of the legislature,
when we're paying them $50K a day to do nothing else,
to pass legislation creating transparent accountability
in politics and public service.

They won't of course. Not unless we the people, can make transparent accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence in politics and public service, an issue in the next election.

How do we do that exactly; how do we make political candidates talk about the things we want them to talk about?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Time to call the outcome of our shadow government scandal

The final outcome of the shadow government scandal in Santa Fe is as obvious as it is inevitable; high ranking politicians and public servants will have admitted they used private email accounts to conduct government business, our business, without creating a public record, and they will not be held "accountable" for their misconduct.  They will promise never to do it again and walk away otherwise, scot free.

There is no good and ethical reason for them to have used private emails to conduct government business. In truth, there is only one reason to have done it at all; to prevent the creation of a public record of their public service.  It isn't about, did they violate "the law".  Rather, it is about did they do something they knew, or should have known, was wrong, and did they do it deliberately, with forethought.

There are two reasons why these politicians and public servants used private emails to conduct public business; they are incompetent, corrupt, or both.

Ignorance is incompetence; enabling ignorance is corruption.
Deliberate violation of agreed upon standards of conduct, is corruption.

Supposedly, they all now understand that it is wrong to conduct public business off the record, except as required by the law. Those of them who did not honestly understand that until they were caught doing it, are manifestly incompetent. They should know the standards of conduct that we the people, hold for them within their public service.

If Jay McCleskey, Governor Susana Martinez/Jay McCleskey, Chief of Staff Keith Gardner, Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela, Public Safety chief Gorden Eden, and NM PED PIO Larry Behrens, were aware of the standard before they were caught violating it, then their decision to violate it anyway is manifest public corruption.

The establishment's media has apparently lost interest, and has moved on.

There is one ray of hope; attorney Sam Bregman. He will keep this in the media for as long as it takes to compel the government to settle enough of our money on him and his client, to make them go away without creating a stink.

At that point, it all goes away and no one of them is going to have been punished for betraying the public trust, and we will have more conclusive evidence that, there is no honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence in politics or public service.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Records of the cabinet meeting in question?

A former Cabinet Secretary has alleged that Governor Susana Martinez's Chief of Staff Keith Gardner told attendees at a cabinet meeting, to use private email accounts to do government business in order to avoid a paper trail. The Governor's spokesperson Scott Darnell, all but calls her a liar;

"Her statement is simply false, and she knows it."And it's being peddled by a partisan attorney ...
What, partisan attorneys can't peddle the truth? The truth lies in the records of that meeting, and in the testimony of those who were there. Accordingly, I have asked the Governor's Office Constituent Services to answer a few legitimate questions;
There have been reports that Keith Gardner encouraged the use of private rather than state emails, during a cabinet meeting.
Is there a list of those who attended that meeting? Was there an agenda? Are there minutes? Were any recordings made, of that meeting?
We will see how candid, forthright and honest, is the response.

Good ol' boy accountability

When good ol' boys get caught, take for example Governor Susana Martinez and her shadow government, if they talk about it at all, it is only to point out that it was all "legal". Martinez has offered some quasi-law of her own, a la Joe Monahan, link;

This includes discussions preliminary in nature to final decisions or actions that have occasionally been sent via personal email because they are not required to be maintained under state law.
Her thinking is now clarified; the expectation that the people's power and resources be spent transparently, now includes the discussions that lead to final votes. Apparently, they hadn't thought of that before.

We the people, have no choice but to entrust the spending of our power and resources to politicians and public servants. If we the people, want to hold a politician or public servant accountable under the law, on the issue of their trustworthiness, we cannot. On this issue in particular, Martinez reminds us;
"There is no state law that requires this to be done ..."
More than the law requires; less than the law allows.

Any standard of conduct higher than the law require more
than the law requires, and allow less than the law allows,
or it isn't a higher standard at all.

Martinez has finally realized;
"... utilizing only state email to conduct state business in connection with public employees' duties is another important step to ensure continued confidence in government...".
If not using private email to conduct government business is an important step in the right direction today, why was it not yesterday and the days before? Had no one thought of it?

The foundation of trustworthiness is truth telling.

Is Susana Martinez trust worthy; can she be trusted to be candid, forthright and honest with interest holders?

A former Cabinet Secretary, Lupe Martinez, testified in a deposition that, Chief of Staff Keith Gardner told cabinet secretaries and others, ...
to, whenever possible, use our private emails when communicating because by doing such would prevent them from being discovered through public records requests."
Governor Susana Martinez is alleged to have witnessed that act, and given it her tacit approval.

Every person who attended that meeting should be asked under oath and under threat of perjury, whether that instruction was given.

Governor Susana Martinez could arrange for those statements to be taken and made public, and rather immediately.

Whether she does or not is a measure of her willingness to do more than the law requires in truth telling, and less than the law allows, in an effort to hide it.

photos Mark Bralley

Governor and NM FOG meet in private to discuss open government.

It is reported, link, that a team led by Governor Susana Martinez met Saturday, with a team from the NM Foundation for Open Government, to talk about governmental transparency, in private.

To be filed under I, for ironic.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

APD leadership; penalty for insolence and lying not high enough to deter it.

The Albuquerque Police Department has a unit called the Repeat Offender Project. Until very recently, a wall mural in their unit office included a hangman's noose. Not the most politically sensitive move. It has been there a long time. A lot of very high ranking police officers walked by it.

A Journal reporter; link, called APS Commander Doug West.
West, who oversees the unit, responded to the reporter's questions in a manner I find profoundly disturbing.

When asked whether they were using a hangman's noose as an icon, West said, he

"wasn't a knot expert."

"I don't know a whole lot about knots."
The knee jerk response from a police supervisor to a question about the public interests and his public service, was to be a wise-ass.

He is a wise-ass because he knows he can get away with it.  If he was afraid of any consequences, he wouldn't shoot off his mouth.

And that was after he initially lied to the reporter about the noose.
When asked about the image in a telephone interview, West said he was not familiar with it, had never seen it on any document and didn’t know whether it had anything to do with the ROP team.
After putting the reporter on hold for several minutes, West came back on the line and said it has been the ROP team’s “symbol” for 20 years and that APD now plans to change it.
He lied for the same reason; no fear of consequences, no accountability.

photo Mark Bralley
There is a tone in the leadership of the APD, and apparently it doesn't include a whole lot of respect for some very important values.

There needs to be an independent investigation and fact finding on the leadership Albuquerque Police Department.

One done by someone beside Chief Ray Schultz.

Open government, the NMPED email brouhaha, and the CEO

Governor Susana Martinez, through spokesman Scott Darnell, argues that politicians and public servants can spend public power and resources, on or off the record, at their discretion.

It is politicians and public servants, she argues, who will decide when politicians and public servants will be within or out of our sight and hearing, when they spend power and resources that belong fundamentally, to we the people.

There are those who disagree, I among them.

Establishing the terms of public service, in this case the transparency with which they conduct our business, is the prerogative of we the people, not of public servants.

What business they do outside of our sight and hearing, is ours to decide, not theirs.

The time has come to revisit the issue of open government.
There is no more important nor pressing issue.

It is time to make government as transparently accountable as it will ever be. It is time for the people to tell public servants, that the terms of their employment include candor, forthrightness and honesty, in response to our every question about the public interests or about their public service.

It is time to make transparent accountability in government
an election issue, and the subject of political discourse.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I'm no expert on knots ...

There is a unit of the Albuquerque Police Department called the Repeat Offender Project; aka the ROP team. On the their internal documents, wanted posters and apparently even on the wall in the unit's office, the unit icon; a noose.

Or is it "just a piece of rope"

According to the Journal, link, when APD Cmdr. Doug West was asked about the image, his initial reaction was to question whether it was really a noose, adding, he was “not a knot expert.”

A local attorney, Shannon Kennedy, said "It’s culturally insensitive at best.” For them to say that it’s just a rope shows willful ignorance. It speaks directly to the cultural problem within this police department and encourages a gang-like, us-vs.-them mentality instead of service to the public.”

Initially, according to the Journal, West, who oversees the Repeat Offender Project, first claimed he was not familiar with it, had never seen it on any document and didn’t know whether it had anything to do with the ROP team.

Except that it was painted on the wall in the Unit's office.

Worse than having a noose for an icon, is lying about having a noose for an icon. Much worse.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Power corrupts; deal with it.

(The opportunity to abuse) power (without consequence) corrupts; absolutely.

There is nothing we can do to immunize politicians public servants against temptation. For as long as there is power to abuse, there will be those who will yield to the temptation to abuse it. It is human nature. You can't protect people from their own lack of moral courage; you can't give them more.

You can however, make it impossibly difficult to abuse power
without getting caught.

Government can be made transparent enough, to make it
virtually impossible to conceal corruption and incompetence.

Casinos and banks address thievery, not by hiring extraordinary human beings, but by hiring ordinary human beings, and then making it impossibly difficult for them to steal without getting caught.

Why do you think think security cameras are always in plain view? They're temptation eliminators.

The answer to public corruption and incompetence is transparent accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence.

Transparent accountability will be fatal to corruption;
100% accountability will be 100% fatal.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Journal exposes tip of iceberg; then sails away.

The Journal reports, link, parents at Mission Avenue Elementary School are upset because APS Supt Winston Brooks jerked their beloved Principal without their knowledge, much less their input.

What the Journal did not report is, parents (and other interest holders) all over the District, are upset because APS makes all kinds of decisions, without their input.

They chose to not report that a group called the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication carried a petition with more than 100 signatures on it, asking for standing in their effort to establish open and honest communications between the leadership of the APS and the community members they serve, and were denied due process for their petition. They asked for a place to have what Board Member Lorenzo Garcia called the "hard conversations to have"; a place where there will be candid, forthright and honest communication about the public interests, and the board rejected the idea.

Why isn't the Journal reporting on the real dirt in the leadership of the APS; administrative and executive?

Journal Editor Kent Walz
has a personal interest in
making sure that Winston
Brooks looks good.

He is caught here, explaining
at a New Mexico Foundation
for Open Government banquet,
why his buddy Brooks actually
deserves an award as a
"hero of transparency"
(for successfully hiding public
records of a cover up of public corruption in the leadership
of the APS Police force and the APS).

He has a personal interest as well, in protecting his cohort in the phony FOG award, School Board Enforcer Marty Esquivel.

Walz has a personal interest in protecting Esquivel from the consequences of his efforts to contain community input in decision making at every level; including the unlawful restraining order that he and the Chief of the APS Police Steve Tellez cooked up. They are using their publicly funded, private police force as a Praetorian Guard; denying access to public forums and any other opportunity to call them on their corruption and incompetence.

I believe, the Journal sails away from the iceberg with Kent Walz at the helm.

I will bow to controverting fact. Hell, I would bow to a candid, forthright and honest investigation of even one of the credible allegations;

  1. There is credible testimony and evidence of public corruption and incompetence, including felony criminal misconduct by APS senior administrators in APS Police and District leadership, and further, that is being hidden from the District Attorney and other interest holders in violation of the law; the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act,
  2. Statistical information on student misconduct, including criminal misconduct, bullying, and chronically disruptive students, is not adequately gathered, kept and or published by the APS.
  3. There is an ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS. The leadership of the APS has abdicated from their responsibilities as role models of the APS student standards of conduct; the Pillars of Character Counts!,
  4. More than 300 whistleblowers are being denied due process of their complaints against administrators and school board members, and
  5. The School Board is denying due process to a legitimate petition carrying more than 100 community member signatures.

frame grab and Esquivel's photo, Mark Bralley

NMPED makes time to do McCleskey's scutwork.

Politicians and public servants are required by law to surrender upon request, any public records they have in their possession, and which do not enjoy one of the specific exceptions under the law.

They are not required, under the law, to "create" records.

According to the Compliance Guide, link, published by the Attorney General's Office;

The right to inspect applies to any nonexempt public record that exists at the time of the request. A records custodian or public body is not required to compile information from the public body’s records or otherwise create a new public record in response to a request.
Yet, it appears that, that is exactly what was done by the NM PED for Governor Susana Martinez' political adviser Jay McCleskey, link, (Santa Fe New Mexican) and link, (the Journal).

NM PED PIO Larry Behrens, and who knows how many other NMPED employees with better things to do than compile mailing lists for political operatives, launched a giant research project and data crunch to create a new public record. I have asked Behrens for an estimate of the number of public employee hours that were invested in the project.

Whether the law has been broken, or merely stretched to its limits, is not as clear as the fact that this is an inappropriate use of public employees. The public trust has been betrayed.

Remaining to be seen, whether any one, any where, will receive any consequences.

The likely answer is no, which means the next time Martinez' political hatchet man needs his own research project done by government employees on government time, he will ask, and they will oblige.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What happened with the community meetings on bullying?

The Journal reported, link, that the leadership of the APS intended to have two public meetings in June, to discuss bullying in APS schools. There has been no notice in the paper or on APS' award winning website, of any scheduled meetings.

Has the leadership of the APS decided to not have the promised community meetings on bullying after all?

In the absence of any other explanation; may we assume the meetings were cancelled to prevent open and honest public discussion of student discipline in the APS, and the failure to keep full and accurate records on student discipline and the effect of chronically disruptive students?

In the absence of any other explanation; may we assume that the meetings have been cancelled because neither Winston Brooks nor Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta can figure out any plausible excuse for their refusal to put together a PowerPoint presentation on student discipline, link?

photo Mark Bralley

Charters dragging APS down

In his monthly Journal column this morning, link, APS Supt Winston Brooks argued that were it not for Charter Schools, APS' graduation rate would be higher;

This year for the first time, the graduation rate included the district’s locally authorized charter schools. Had the charter schools not been included, our rate would have improved by a couple of percentage points.
Consider for a moment those charter school students who are not graduating from their charter schools. Where would they not be not graduating from if there were no charters? They would be not graduating from APS. They would be part of APS statistics either way. It's smoke and mirrors.

Brooks' statistical slight of hand will not be challenged by the newspaper that printed it; nor will it be challenged in the newspaper that printed it.

Nor will there be any examination of the old chestnut Brooks ran out to cover dismal growth in graduation rates
The state Public Education Department, which calculates the graduation rate for school districts across the state, changed the formula.
Public Education is well known for re-norming statistics and for good reason. If statistics show no improvement year after year after year, and they do, the failure can be hidden by re-norming data. If you can't graduate enough kids in four years; add a fifth. If the numbers don't improve on their own, drop students from the cohort, link, who have previously failed the first year of high school.

Brooks hit the nail on the head when he illustrated both the failure of APS and the root-cause of the failure, by comparing his leadership to piloting a ship;
"... making changes in public education is like turning an ocean liner – it takes a long time and the shifts often are imperceptible."
APS' failure to engage students is rooted in the belief that children can be educated en masse. It is perpetuated by people who enjoy large scale spending power and resources.

APS is an ocean liner only because the leadership like the idea of standing on bridge of an ocean liner; not because an ocean liner is in any way better than a fleet of smaller and more agile runabouts carrying students more directly to their individual destinations.

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, June 11, 2012

The NMRP snubs Arnold-Jones; regular Republicans snub the NMRP.

Blogger Monahan reports this morning, link, that Rep Janice Arnold-Jones was snubbed by the New Mexico Republican Party at the Party's Quadrennial Convention Saturday.

The folks that run the Republican Party in New Mexico are some pretty nasty people, link. First among them Jay McCleskey, if I'm reading Monahan correctly. What they engage in personally, and permit to be done (to Republicans) in their presence, has distanced them from the people they supposedly represent. There seems to be no low to which they are unwilling to sink, link, in pushing their agenda.

The contrast between the NMRP and Republicans like Arnold-Jones, is illustrated by the contrast in their respect for Republicans in particular, and human beings in general.

The preamble of the Republican Party Rules includes the following statement;

It is the intent and purpose of these rules to encourage and allow the broadest possible participation of all voters in Republican Party activities at all levels and to assure that the Republican Party is open and accessible to all Americans.
The manifest record of the NMRP is one of deliberate exclusion, at their whim; whether it's Allen Weh throwing people out of meetings, or the press being denied access to their process.

I believe; Rep Janice Arnold-Jones can survive without
the NMRP, far better than the NMRP can succeed without
her and the kind of Republicans they are driving away in droves.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Audit slams NM Higher Ed Department.

The New Mexico Higher Education Department was recently audited, link.

Found; numerous material weaknesses. According to WatchDog, Jim Scarantino, link,

A material weakness in internal control over compliance is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control over compliance, such that there is a reasonable possibility that material noncompliance with a type of compliance requirement of a federal program will not be prevented, or detected and corrected, on a timely basis.
In other words, public corruption and incompetence, will not be prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis.

The leadership of the NMHED and PED claim, as per usual, problems stem from the previous administrations. PED spokesman Larry Behrens writes;
"In almost every single case, these issues were inherited by HED ..."
Taxpayers should draw no solace from that assurance.

The first legitimate use of power is to ensure that the power cannot be abused, by anyone, ever.

It is up to government to provide oversight over the spending of public power and resources. Clearly, government failed to provide that oversight "in the previous administration".

Precisely the claim the next administration will make when this administration is audited.

Journal editor's talk cheap

Journal Editors write, link,

Voters would be right to demand a serious debate on real issues...
Their premise; voters have the right to make demands.

Apparently Journal bigwigs believe voters have a right to make demands on would-be politicians and public servants; it would be silly for them to argue voters would be right to demand something they have no right to demand.

If voters have a right to make demands before election, do they have the right to make demands after elections? Obviously Journal editors believe in voters/citizens making demands before election, but when a group of citizens, the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication, went with "demands" to an already elected school board and were denied due process by that board, the Journal chose to ignore it.

Witness the "demand", a legitimate petition signed by more than a hundred people, carried by the Citizens Advisory Council on Communication to the APS School Board, and the wanton denial of due process the school board heaped upon it, link. The Journal knows about it and chooses to ignore the diss, editorially and otherwise.

So, according to the Journal, we should be making demands
on pols and public servants, but don't expect any coverage
(support) from the Journal when the demands fall on deaf ears.

Thanks for nothing, editors.

Thanks for nothing, Kent Walz.

frame grab Mark Bralley

Brace yourself, billions of dollars worth of political ads coming your way

And buried deep within them, a few bucks worth of candid, forthright and honest information for voters with the interest and inclination to sift them out.

The Journal Editors argue, link,

"Voters would be right to demand a serious debate on real issues among those who seek to represent the state in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives."
The Journal Editors stopped short of suggesting how voters might do that. Where exactly, would that demand be delivered, who would carry it, and who would care upon the delivery?

It is abundantly clear that voters don't want the ads, and do want "debates". It is at least as clear that the Democratic and Republican Parties could not care less about what voters want. Never mind the PACs and SuperPACs and their seemingly unlimited funding and equally abundant disregard for even the rudiments of honesty.

The Editors continue;
And this debate should be complete with verifiable facts and thoughtful, realistic plans.
Let's see political discussions, not "debates". Let's take an issue at a time and have candidates carry on facilitated public discussions, the objectives of which are to educate voters; on the issues and about the candidates. No more "debates" where candidates use any question as a segue into an opportunity to regurgitate carefully scripted soundbites, soundbites engineered to manipulate rather than illuminate.

In their editorial; editors identified nine issues. (Curiously, the nine issues appeared in my home edition, but not in the online version of the editorial, which listed only one; the first.)
  1. Health costs and coverage
  2. Social Security
  3. Medicare
  4. Energy
  5. Infrastructure
  6. Education
  7. Defense
  8. Immigration and
  9. Government
There is still time for 9 discussions; and no good and ethical
reason they should not take place.

Unfortunately, it is up to the people to "demand" that they
take place, and they haven't the wherewithal. Even if the
government were as advertised; of, by and for the people,
it doesn't make a whit of difference if the elections that
create governments, are none of them.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Eichenberg's timing disenfranchises regular Dems

State Senator Tim Eichenberg became the 23rd state legislator to decide to not run for re-election.

In waiting until after the Primary to step down, Eichenberg ensured that the Democratic Party insiders will choose the Party candidate, not Democrats at large.

If the Primary process is so unimportant, why don't they just abandon it altogether, and let Bernalillo County Democratic Party Central Committee members pick all the Democratic candidates, as a matter of course?

photo Mark Bralley

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Lujan Grisham agrees to "a" debate.

I submit; the electorate is sick of political commercials and bill boards, and would like to see candidates face to face, discussing issues and defending their positions on them.

Most candidates shy away from debates in order that voters
cannot see them outside of carefully manipulated circumstances.

County Commissioner and CD1 Candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham's campaign has announced that they welcome a debate with Republican Candidate Janice Arnold-Jones.

I don't think "a" debate will satisfy voters.

If I knew neither candidate and all else were equal, I would support the candidate more eager to debate; the one more eager to stand up in front of voters and respond to unscripted questions intelligently, clearly, candidly, forthrightly and honestly.

These folks are elected in the expectation that they will then go to Congress to persuade others to vote in the interests of New Mexicans; to argue our case before other Representatives arguing in favor of their states and constituents.

How can any candidate say about showing us the skill set
they will take with them to Congress;

I'll give you one quick look, and that's all.*
How is the subject of the only debate Lujan Grisham's prerogative?

I stand foursquare in support of "a" debate.
"A" debate next week, "a" debate the week after,
and the week after, until November.

Demand debates.

* “We welcome the opportunity to have a debate with
Janice Arnold-Jones about her allegiance to Republican
special interests in Washington,

photo Mark Bralley

Michele Lujan Grisham would like to be a Congresswoman

Rep Janice Arnold-Jones is ready to be a Congresswoman.

And there in lies the difference.

If you could somehow strip from this election, everything except the two candidates; their qualifications and their intentions,
Rep Janice Arnold-Jones is the hands down winner.
She is the right person at the right time.

On experience, Arnold-Jones brings 12 years of recent legislative experience. She truly can hit the ground running.

On competence, Arnold-Jones is manifestly bright, energetic, well-read, and successful. She shines in debates because she has more than sound bites and slogans to spew; she can talk knowledgeably and in depth on every issue of concern to voters.

If there were a competence test,
Janice Arnold-Jones could ace it.

She's ready to serve in Congress.

She is in touch with the people; on the road and in her political discussion group; a weekly meeting open to anyone.

I doubt there is a more accessible candidate, politician and public servant than Janice Arnold-Jones.

Manifest competence, character, and courage; Lady Sunlight, link, is the right person at the right time; a bonafide hero of transparently accountable government, link and link.

There are people to whom County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham will appeal; those who want their representative to tout and follow the Party line. She will have the support of the leadership of the Democratic Party because she will do what they want tell her to do.  That's how you get their support.

In stark contrast, the leadership of the Republican Party know they cannot tell Rep Janice Arnold-Jones what to do; she will follow her conscience before she follows the Party line.  They are snubbing her in retribution.

Congresswoman Janice Arnold-Jones in her substance and by her nature, will fight for all New Mexicans, all Americans, and in defense of the Constitution.

Lujan Grisham promises to go "fight against Republicans!"
A vote for Lujan Grisham is a vote for Party politics and
more gridlock.

A vote for Rep Janice Arnold-Jones is a vote for transparent
accountability in government, and meaningful participation
in the decision making that affects your interests.

photo Mark Bralley

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Brandenburg's math fascinating

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has a fascinating spin on the number of her subordinates running afoul of the law, link;

“I’d like to point out that with all these incidents this year, we’re talking about less than 3 percent of our employees,” Brandenburg said. “That means more than 97 percent are going above and beyond the call of duty."
No, it doesn't. It doesn't mean the other 97% are meeting even the most mediocre standards of conduct and competence. There is no mathematical correlation between the ones who've been caught red-handed and the ones who haven't been investigated.

One can't just assume that everyone who hasn't been caught, is doing nothing wrong. Everyone of the folks who were caught, were doing something wrong, without Brandenburg's notice, and until they got caught-not by any internal control or oversight of Brandenburg's, but by an investigative reporter digging in from the outside.

This is not to say that there aren't good and decent people working in Brandenburg's office; not even that some of them aren't serving above and beyond.

But, it's not the remaining 97%.

photo Mark Bralley

Monday, June 04, 2012

Governmental transparency is about what you can't see, not about what you can.

I recently heard someone extolling APS' recent success in providing transparency.   I was compelled to object; the leadership of the APS is opaque as it ever was; the truth they want to hide, is just as hard to find as it ever was. Their apparent transparency is a smoke screen, a data dump, a deluge of nearly useless information.

If you asked APS School Board Member Marty Esquivel,
APS Supt Winston Brooks, or Journal Editor Kent Walz,
if APS is "transparent" they would answer in unison;

Yes it is, just look at all the information posted on their APS' award winning website.
APS is big in every respect. Information about the administration of public power and resources is correspondingly large. The sheer number of public records generated gives the leadership of the APS a unique opportunity to publish huge amounts of information. It is very effective camouflage for their fundamental lack of honest transparency.

Their success lies in convincing the people that the total weight of the records they publish is the real measure of their transparency, the more records they publish, regardless of the of the record in holding politicians and public servants accountable in their public service, the more transparent they appear.

Transparency, like all forms of truthtelling, is as much about what isn't said or written, as it is about what is; maybe more.

The leadership of APS and Kent Walz would have stakeholders believe  that APS is transparent because you can find any employee's salary on their website.  So what?  Really, so what?

The true measure of APS' transparency is what you should be able to find on their website and cannot;
  1. the findings of any audit whose findings include incompetence or corruption in the leadership of the APS, or

  2. a candid, forthright and honest accounting of spending at 6400 Uptown Blvd, or

  3. any information about the millions of dollars APS has settled on complainants over administrative or executive corruption and incompetence, or

  4. information on the millions of dollars paid to the Modrall law firm, cost being no object-unlimited operational funds to use-  to litigate exception to the law for the leadership of the APS, and immunity for their incompetence and corruption, or

  5. statistics about student discipline and the effects of chronically disruptive students, or

  6. anything else you can think of, where the truth looks worse than the hiding of it.
Transparent my ass.

Albuquerque Public Schools; Support the potential; the video. part deux

I've been thinking about writing a piece about APS' relentless "Support the Potential" (ignore the reality) radio campaign the leadership of the APS is running in their effort to improve their public perception.  The ads run as often as political ads and the time slots are expensive.  I suppose "brought to you by the NM Broadcasters Association" means they're donating the air time (at the greatly increased rate).

Reading an old post, I couldn't help but notice that nothing has changed since I first brought it to readers attention nearly half a year ago, except number of times a day we have to hear Monica Armenta.

January 10, 2012

Not long ago, you were hearing
APS Executive Director of
Communications Monica Armenta
in radio ads, asking listeners to
support "APS' potential", link.

The plea is out in video, link;
Armenta is still the star.

The problem is still the same.
The money being spent creating
and airing these ads in the hope of
raising the public perception of the APS, could have been used instead to increase performance, which would have raised the public perception legitimately.

Instead, the warm and fuzzy will make people feel better about APS' leadership without APS doing anything to earn it.

A communications coup if ever there was one.

The as yet undisclosed cost of the ad campaign is being borne by the APS Foundation and Paula Maes' NM Broadcasters Association.

"The APS Education Foundation, link, is a non-profit organization established for promoting private support of the district and its students."
The mission of the Foundation reads;
The mission of the APS Education Foundation is to encourage, solicit, receive and administer gifts and bequests of property and funds for educational purposes for the advancement of the Albuquerque Public Schools.
What, exactly, is the educational purpose of an ad campaign,
the primary purpose of which is to make people "feel better"
about the leadership of the APS?

photo Mark Bralley

Sunday, June 03, 2012

This election over, the people lost.

The pure purpose of elections is to translate the will of the people to the government. To function as it should, election by popular vote requires levels of education, experience, intellect and information that simply don't exist.

As crippling as those are, they pale in comparison to the effect of money on the process. Anyone who who honestly believes that elections cannot be bought needs to pay closer attention.

If the next government is to be of the people, by the people and for the people, it will be so for one of only two reasons;

  1. the people will have elected representatives who restored control over government to people, or
  2. the people will take back control more directly and on their own.
If there is a third possibility to restore real control to the people, if there is some other way to at least shine the light of day on what they're doing with our power and our resources, I cannot imagine it, and to my knowledge, no one else has suggested it.

History suggests that we will not elect our saviors. It has been the goal of elections for more than two centuries to elect representatives to create a transparent and accountable government, and still the government that cannot be compelled to tell us the ethically redacted truth about how our power and resources are being spent.  What shall we do, vote harder and hope for better results?

If the people we elect, cannot or will not restore control over government to the people, we the people will do it themselves; beginning with transparency limited only by the spirit of the law, and the expressed will of the people.  The terms of public service are the prerogative of the people, not of their servants.

The executive branch isn't going to order the restoration of control to the people, the legislative branch is not going to restore it by law, and the judicial branch is not going to restore it by ruling. The people will take it back, or it will remain forever usurped.

The first step in taking back control over our power and resources is to illuminate the spending of the resources, the wielding of the power, and the public service of politicians and public servants.

The foundation upon which democracy stands, is transparency.

If there is not transparency, limited only by law and expressed will of the people, there is not Democracy. There cannot be.

We have lost the election. Those who will be elected cannot
or will not create a government as transparent as the law will allow. It has never happened before, it will not happen this election, and it will not happen the next. It will not happen the next unless you can imagine circumstances in the next election which don't include PACs and profligate spending in deliberate and concerted efforts to dishonestly manipulate the thinking of voters.

While we have lost control of the election process, there is still an opportunity to change government in order to minimize the effect of bought and paid for pols and public servants.

It is humanly possible to create executive and administrative systems that make it nearly impossibly difficult to hide corruption and incompetence.

Banks do it. Casinos do it. Everybody does it;
except government.