In a matter of minutes, a grim situation for public access television did a 180. On Tuesday, Dec. 8, Quote... Unquote, Inc. Executive Director Steve Ranieri announced Mayor Richard Berry was undoing an eleventh-hour deed executed by former Mayor Martin Chavez.
No one seems to know why days before leaving office Chavez pulled the rug from under the nonprofit that runs two of the city’s public access channels. "You'll have to ask Mayor Chavez," says City Attorney Bob White.
Quote... Unquote, Inc. has operated Channel 27 since 1981 and added Encantada TV on Channel 26 this year. Ranieri got an alarming letter on Nov. 17. The city was announcing it would accept applications for Quote... Unquote's job through Wednesday, Dec. 16.
To hear Ranieri tell the story, his crew was expecting to operate for another five years. The city issued a request for proposal (RFP) earlier this year and accepted Quote... Unquote's in May. "The city stalled for months in terms of getting this thing written down" and the contract was never finalized, Ranieri says.
“As far as we’re concerned, Berry is rebuking the Chavez administration.”
Quote... Unquote, Inc.’s Executive Director Steve Ranieri
But Berry ordered a reversal. The city won’t accept any new RFPs, and the mayor told Ranieri that city administration would move forward on finalizing the contract. “As far as we’re concerned, Berry is rebuking the Chavez administration,” says Ranieri.
There was some static earlier in the fall over the building Quote... Unquote occupies [“Public Access TV Seeks Shelter and Funds,” Oct. 1-7]. Bernalillo County wanted its space back, so the channels needed a new home. The City Council passed a resolution on Oct. 19 promising to find the nonprofit a building. Berry’s administration has said it will aid in that search, according to Ranieri.
City Attorney White says everything that happened is legal, and the city is not concerned about a lawsuit. "What the old administration did, they were able to do.”
Ranieri warned that if something wasn’t figured out, channels 26 and 27 would have gone dark on Jan. 1 for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Ranieri met with David Campbell, Mayor Richard Berry's choice for chief administrative officer, on Friday, Dec. 4. Campbell "seemed very sympathetic," Ranieri said. "He was asking so many questions and trying to get all of the story, all of the facts. He did say, ‘We're going to get this solved.’ ”