Sunday, May 31, 2009

City Hall Defends Mayor's Fiscal Record After Romero Criticism

Albuquerque Mayoral Candidate Richard Romero is pounding incumbent Martin J. Chavez on the mayor's 2010 budget.

On Thursday morning, at Park Avenue and 14th Street (the site of a current city road improvement project), Romero told reporters Chavez has built a political machine that needs to be "dismantled" after three terms.

Romero says he wants the mayor to stop digging the city into a deeper financial hole. The former Senate Pro-tem was joined at his news conference by Lou Hoffman, who served as the city treasurer from 1987 to 2006.

Listen to the brief news conference here.

But, City Hall was quick to respond to the criticism.

The Mayor's long-time public information officer, Deborah James, defends Chavez' fiscal record. She says the current administration is acting prudently during tough economic times and living within their means. Listen to my one-on-one with James here.

James believes Romero and his team are out of touch and said she'd rather be critiqued by the nation's bond writers and reporting services; and, the mayor remains committed to no tax increases without voter approval.

Romero said cronyism on the 11th floor has left the city with a bloated bureaucracy and is causing the city irreparable harm. Romero says there's no need for three "deputy scapegoats."

Mr. Hoffman, a 19-year city hall veteran, added:
When the new city charter was established in 1974 there were only department heads. No Chief Administrative Officers [CAO's] and certainly no traffic czar.

Romero told reporter Marjorie Childress, at the New Mexico Independent, there is a lot of waste in city government, including two city council planners. Romero says the councilors are not allowed to use city hall planners because they are at war with each other. Romero continued by pledging to work closely with the city council if he's elected.

Romero also questioned Chavez' decision to not replace some 200 vacant jobs because of revenue shortfalls.
If they are not essential enough to fill, why were did they exist in the first place.
Hoffman told us Chavez' administration has diverted $50 million dollars from property taxes (three times in the past eight years) to basic operating services. Hoffman said the bond money should be used to repair and build streets. Hoffman estimates the total impact from the diversion could have funded more than a billion dollars worth of projects for generations to come. Hoffman believes Chavez' strategy has led to "a big capital infrastructure hit."

Hoffman also told reporters the $24 million debt service moved from the operating fund this year was likely used to cover the police and fire department pay raises, claiming it matched almost dollar for dollar.

Romero is calling for immediate action to bring "expenditures in line with revenues."


Romero's campaign says the growth of politically-appointed jobs under Chavez is unprecedented in Albuquerque's history. On Sunday, Romero told long-time KOB TV political reporter Stuart Dyson on his Sunday morning program, Eye on New Mexico, that he would cut political appointment jobs.

Hoffman says the mayor's office budget has grown 94% over the last five years while the city budget has only grown 35% and that includes $43 million from the 1/4 cent public safety tax.
That means the political infrastructure is growing three times the rate of city government itself and is harming basic operating services.

But James told us that it's "political whacky season," and that the two men (Romero and Hoffman) are flip flopping the numbers.

Chavez has qualified for the ballot, and public financing, but has not announced his campaign for an unprecedented fourth term. On Wednesday, Chavez received an endorsement from the local AFSCME union chapter.

For Pete's Sake!

At Thursday's news conference, Romero also questioned the Mayor's use of three APD police officers for his security detail, which led us to ask for his opinion on one of those officers flipping off free-lance photographer , blogger, and former APD officer, and APOA President, Mark Bralley at a recent news conference at Albuquerque High School.

Romero said it's inappropriate behavior and if he was mayor that officer would be fired. Listen to Romero's remarks on the "little birdie" incident here.

Bralley captured the officer throwing the finger on film, and has posted it on his blog, What's Wrong With This Picture. Bralley regularly contributes his photos to news outlets, like the Capital Report, and to our blog, What's the Word?

The mayor's office told us Bralley often gets to close when taking pictures and has "bumped" the mayor. We checked and there is no restraining order and there was no arrest for assault or battery.

It seems the Mayor may still be upset with Bralley, who helped defeat a "public safety" tax during a previous administration, or he may just not like some of the photos (like this one) that Bralley has snapped and posted on Ched MacQuigg's blog Diogenes' Six.

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