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 V.21 No.20 | May 17 - 23, 2012 

Primary Election Guide 2012

What Do You Know About Wiener’s Wiener?

Not much.

We got the photo of Commissioner Michael Wiener posing with four Pinay women in a sex-cation destination in the Philippines. It crossed our desks a month before other media outlets shook a titillated-yet-morally outraged finger at it. If it bleeds—or wears hot pants—it leads, right?

When the pic first came to my attention, I called the County Commission Office to see if Wiener was on the taxpayer’s dime when browsing the goods of Angeles City. He wasn’t. Then I poked around to see if the commish has ever been particularly outspoken on prostitution or human trafficking. He hasn’t.

Lungsod Ng Angeles is touted by the Filipino government as a first-class city for food, arts, culture and entertainment. It’s also “a place where men of all ages trek to find their dream date,” according to angelescity.net. Prostitution—including child prostitution—is a huge industry there, one that involves human trafficking and slavery. One Filipino senator, Ramon Revilla Jr., even begged the public in 2007 to offer info to law enforcement regarding sex slave camps in Angeles City.

Which brings us back to the photo. John Keatley was in the Philippines taking pictures for a series about sex slaves. At the end of his trip, a man approached him and asked Keatley to get a shot of him with some bar girls, according to the photographer’s blog. Later, he discovered the man was our own (unfortunately named) Bernalillo County Commissioner Wiener. That’s when a filmmaker traveling with Keatley contacted the Alibi.

Here’s the thing: There’s no proof that Wiener was in this sex tourism hotspot for sex. There are no receipts for sexual favors, no explicit photos. There’s nothing documenting that those scantily clad women work as anything other than cocktail waitresses.

And yet media’s become the judge and jury on this one. The story grabbed big headlines from the start, with no outlet pausing to point out what it didn’t know. The photo itself—at once tantalizing and incriminating—made A1 and led the nightly newscasts. For all the coverage, New Mexico didn’t see much meaningful content.

No one delved into the devastating reality of sex slavery. Instead, the story’s hook came from bigwigs rushing to judgment. Mayor Richard Berry and Gov. Susana Martinez called for Wiener’s resignation. The Journal made fun of his hair.

Two of Wiener’s fellow commissioners—Michelle Lujan Grisham and Maggie Hart Stebbins—held a special meeting to attempt a censure. KRQE got to use “Wiener Roast” in a headline, which may be the best thing to come out of the coverage so far. A few days later, on Tuesday, May 8, he was finally censured. What does that mean? Not much. Just that the commissioners don’t approve of their co-worker.

I’m no Wiener apologist, and the Alibi won’t endorse him. Even though his opponent, Lonnie Talbert, refused to come in for an interview. Talbert probably thinks he’s got this race on lockdown, so why bother telling our 178,000 readers about his beliefs and plans?

Wiener was previously in the news for making racist and sexist jokes at work. That’s a stupid thing to do. When we asked him what he thought of the sex tourism industry, he said he didn’t know anything about it. He must be pretty dumb to walk through Angeles City—and burn up in a career-ending scandal—without learning anything about the global sex trade.

Except he’s not brainless, not really. During his endorsement interview, he outlined a compelling course of action for handling overcrowding at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. That’s arguably one of the most pressing issues for the commission right now: The jail is overcrowded. It’s costing the county a ton of dough.

He said building another jail next to the existing lockup means we’ll just fill that one, too. He went on to describe how he helped launch a sewing program at MDC, where female inmates volunteer to make uniforms and repair mattresses for the jail. This curbs MDC costs, and the women learn a job skill they can use when they get out.

Wiener also said he’d like to see tilapia hydro-farming in the jail—done by volunteer inmates—to decrease food costs while improving food quality. He’d like to see hydroponic vegetable farming for the same reason.

These are humane, money-saving ideas. If Wiener loses his seat because of his terrible judgment in posing for photos and making offensive jokes, I hope his successor continues to push for those MDC programs.

I’m still not sorry the Alibi didn’t break the “news” of the photo. If you read for the facts in those stories, you’ll find little to chew on. Maybe truly damning evidence against Wiener will be uncovered. Maybe not.

Either way, look for an in-depth article on the issues lying just beyond the scandalous photo’s frame in these pages soon.

 
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