Monday, July 20, 2009

Opponents Characterize Chavez' Endorsement from APD Officers as "Machine Politics" At Work

Incumbent Mayor Martin J. Chavez has picked up another endorsement in his re-election bid for a record fourth term, and third straight campaign for Mayor of Albuquerque.

Just before noon today, members of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association publicly stated they're backing Chief Ray Schultz' boss. That makes it a clean sweep for Chavez. He has already won endorsements from AFSCME Council 18 and from city fire fighters in the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

The President of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association Joey Sigala said the mayor has an unmatched, proven record of being tough on crime:
He's a strong leader with a vision for our future. That's why the APOA is proud to endorse him.
Chavez said he wished everyone in Albuquerque got to see the men and women of the APD the way he gets to see them. He says one of his goals is to form power teams in each of the six area commands. Chavez said the compensation package for officers is the best in the state and one of the best in the region.

In his brief speech
, Chavez said, "I've got their back and I'm so pleased to have their back today."

The APOA has bought commercial time on 770KKOB. The union urges listeners to support the mayor's campaign because of his focus on public safety.

The endorsement does not come as a surprise. 770KKOB took this photo of the APOA banner hanging inside the mayor's campaign headquarters last Monday, a full week before today's endorsement was made public.

In March 2008, police officers received the "biggest pay raise in city history." At the time, Chavez said, "This package shows our commitment to public safety." But just one month later, veterans with the force filed a prohibited labor practices complaint with the city's labor board. It was settled this March.

In April, officers who had been moved from their coveted four ten-hour shifts were allowed to bid on them for overnight shifts again. Last week, the mayor told us that while violent crime is down, the crime rate is still "unacceptably high."

Mayor Martin Chávez with the USA's top cop U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, center, with Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske, seated left, at the June 5, 2009, Homeland Security Advisory Council Meeting at the University of New Mexico hosted by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Earlier this month, Chavez ordered APD to add another 100 officers to its 1100-member force. The announcement marked the third time Chávez has ordered the police department to increase its ranks. But in years past, the department has had a hard time reaching the new goals because of a lack of qualified applicants.

Chávez has not specified where the money to pay for the officers would come from, although he said 25 percent of the cost would be funded by the federal COPS Hiring Recovery Program. As for the rest, he said the city will leave nonpublic safety positions vacant.


Richard Romero told 770KKOB it "appears the mayor is manipulating the process" of endorsements. He said the APOA membership didn't get to vote on all three candidates, and said, "hey, this is machine politics, what else can you expect."

On Monday morning, State Representative Richard Berry who qualified for this fall's ballot said he believes voters will question the value of the APOA endorsement since he and Romero were never even questioned by union leaders on their public safety views, and because the union membership never voted on the endorsement.

Berry said he would have been more than willing to sit down and discuss his views. He said that several rank and file police officers have told him they are supporting his candidacy. Berry also said if he's elected he will likely move all APD Officers back to four 10-hour shifts after he reviews the scheduling and its effect on response times.

But, Sigala denied Berry and Romero's assertions. He says each man was contacted, but one of the candidates never responded. Sigala, said while there was not a membership vote, all officers were invited to be a part of the 10-member Political Action Committee that made endorsement recommendations to the APOA board.

Meanwhile, in Rio Rancho, the ABQ Journal reports fire, police and dispatch union members are seeking an arbitrator to resolve their pay raise issues. The dispute arose this spring when City Manager James Jimenez proposed a city budget that omitted pay increases included in a contract agreement signed by union leaders, top city administrators, and then-Mayor Michael Williams. Rio Rancho city councilors approved the contract in September 2007.

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Photo credit: MGB

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