Alibi V.18 No.50 • Dec 10-16, 2009 

Council Watch

The New Boss

A fresh City Council got down to business Monday, Dec. 7, with Councilors Dan Lewis and Michael Cook on board. Lewis replaces Westsider Michael Cadigan, and Cook takes Sally Mayer’s Northeast Heights seat. Mayor Richard Berry briefly addressed the Council, welcoming the freshman councilors to the table, introducing members of his staff, and pitching harmony and a clean start.

Councilor Ken Sanchez takes the Council’s presidential reins from Isaac Benton. “We live in the greatest city in the country,” Sanchez said. “United as a Council, as an administration and as a city, we can and we will make a difference.”

Trudy Jones is the Council veep. Don Harris is the Council’s budget chairman. He said the upcoming year will be rough, and they may often feel like the dog that caught the car, but the city will get through it by working together.

A large chunk of the agenda was deferred to future meetings, but Councilor Lewis was able to make his first play and get $5 million moving toward finishing construction along Unser between Compass and Lyons. The bulk of the meeting dealt with confirmations of mayoral appointments of David Campbell and Darren White.

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Make It So, No. 1

David Campbell was up for the job of chief administrative officer. Campbell is a land-use and zoning attorney who often represented residents and developers statewide. His résumé includes graduating from Highland High and receiving both a master’s in public administration and a law degree from UNM. He has been city attorney, chair of several city task forces and advisory boards, and has done civic work for the United Way and the Disciplinary Board of the state Supreme Court.
Councilors expressed concern over perceptions of conflicts of interest due to Campbell’s history of representing clients who were at odds with the city over the years. Councilor Brad Winter said, “The appearance of fairness is key for the citizens. We need someone who does not have baggage.” Following Winter’s lead, new guys Lewis and Cook also dissented and questioned Campbell’s ability to be a fair and good administrator. Campbell’s annual $159,000 salary came up and split the Council on whether it's fair pay or way too much. Councilor Benton made Campbell promise he would always put the needs of the city over any former clients. He was approved on a 6 to 3 vote. Running a city takes someone sharp, polished and smart. Campbell’s background shows he has the education and experience to do the job. I have watched Campbell take on zoning departments for years, not only for big developers but for regular folks as well. This is an excellent perspective for a city boss to have, especially if he doesn’t forget what things look like for regular folks who deal with City Hall. His insight into development issues across the state give him a broad perspective that will help him guide the city.

Councilors should remember they make up a powerful body, and the buck stops with them. It is up to the Council to keep an eye on potential problems. Still, Campbell, a Democrat, is an excellent choice by Republican Mayor Berry.
The Safe Choice

Former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White was up for approval as the city’s public safety director. This position oversees police, fire, emergency management and the Safe City Task Force. Mayor Berry said White is a good choice because he is a nationally known public safety advocate with a diverse law enforcement background.

White quit his elected Sheriff’s position with about a year left in his term to take the $125,000 city position. He served as a cabinet secretary for the state Department of Public Safety under former Gov. Gary Johnson. He resigned from that position over Johnson’s outspoken position on legalizing and regulating marijuana and other drugs. He has worked as a television reporter for KRQE and did a short stint with the Torrance County Sheriff’s Department while he ran for his Bernalillo County sheriff’s position in 2002.
A handful of city residents railed against White’s appointment. Speakers claimed White covers up police misconduct and excessive force cases, fosters racial profiling and is anti-immigrant. One woman suggested White would be a better fit to work with former Vice President Dick Cheney or even the KKK. “This is a slap in the face of our human rights,” Gilbert Alejandro said about the appointment. Councilor Rey Garduño asked White some tough questions about his policies dealing with immigrants and racial profiling.

White is a practiced public speaker, and he strung together smooth words to satisfy the Council’s questions. Joey Sigala of the city’s police union said the members are OK with the appointment of White and the retention of Albuquerque Police Department Chief Ray Schultz. White was approved on an 8 to 1 vote, with Garduño dissenting.
I am skeptical about this political appointment, and I am also skeptical about the position itself. There is already a police chief, a fire chief, an emergency management coordinator and a Safe City Task Force staff. These people are competent, work with each other and report to the mayor. It might be a good idea for Albuquerque to have an additional point-person for all the public safety departments in an emergency, but right now taxpayers should question the position—and the salary expenditure. White, a Republican and seven-year sheriff (and a close colleague of Chief Schultz), is an easy choice for Mayor Berry.

What happened to Berry's campaign promises of less cronyism? This is not change, and Berry’s appointment smacks of political payback for White's campaign endorsement. Berry could have taken some time to figure out if this position is really needed. If he found it was necessary, he could have looked at bringing in someone less entrenched, someone with innovative ideas to oversee the city’s public safety departments.