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Thursday, May 21, 2009

'Fess Up Mayor Marty Chavez

Now that Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez has gotten his name on the ballot, qualified for public funding and pocketed $328,000 in campaign money, isn't it time for him to 'fess up and admit he's officially running for a fourth term at the helm of the City? The public funding is supposed to pay for his campaign, including ads, but instead the Mayor is apparently content to let public service TV ads featuring his smiling face be the vehicle for his campaign PR. At least for now.

RichardromeroCRRepublican RJ Berry and Democrat Richard Romero (photo right) -- both of whom have officially declared their candidacies and are in the midst of campaigning -- have called Marty out on his use of City-funded TV ads. Is it ethical or fair to sit on hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars specifically designated for the campaign and depend instead on City budget money to call attention to yourself in this way? I guess the citizens of Albuquerque will decide.

Unlike the Mayor, Romero and Berry have to dole out campaign funds if they want to get their names and faces before the public on TV in any meaningful way. Meanwhile, Mayor Chavez is getting a free ride. The other candidates will have to save up their bucks to purchase ads closer to the October election, while Chavez is the beneficiary of both regular TV news coverage typical of local media and public service ads aimed at shining up his image on the City budget's dime.

Last week, Romero and Berry appeared at a joint press conference to criticize Mayor Chavez's behavior. Romero called on the Mayor to stop using the airwaves for political purposes and start admitting he’s a candidate.

“The Mayor, through a series of TV ads, is using the City treasury to unfairly and unethically promote himself during an election year,” said Romero. “He’s qualified for public financing, but instead of announcing he’s a candidate and spending his campaign funds, he’s double-dipping on the backs of taxpayers.”

The two official candidates for Mayor urged Chavez to stop appearing in any taxpayer-funded ads from now through the municipal election on October 6. The Romero campaign points out that rather than finding ways to cut wasteful spending to deal with a $68 million deficit, Chavez instead keeps finding ways to spend taxpayer dollars to promote his political career.

Some of that will stop, regardless. At Monday's meeting, the Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously to cut the City's advertising budget, including funds for certain TV ads, billboards and a hot air balloon. Presumably, many of those ads would have featured the face of the Mayor, as they have in the past.

City Councilor Michael Cadigan said the mayor's face is on too many advertisements and there are cheaper ways to get the city's message across, rather than "spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to advertise to adopt a pet or 'be green like me.' "

Romero and Berry also challenged whether the Mayor's use of public service ads defied the spirit, if not the letter, of the City's campaign laws -- and connected his behavior this time around to questionable activities in the past. After the 1995 mayoral election, the City Charter was amended in response to what Romero characterizes as "Mayor Chavez cross-marketing his campaign materials with official city business such as road projects."

“Our new campaign laws are supposed to level the playing field,” said Romero. “But, typical of Marty, he’s skirting the rules and exploiting loopholes.”

Which brings me to another point. If Mayor Chavez is running for reelection -- officially or unofficially -- shouldn't he have a campaign office by now? What location did he use to manage and conduct his efforts to get petition signatures and $5 donations to qualify for public funding? His home? His City Hall office? Inquiring minds want to know.

What Matters
All this may seem like small potatoes to Albuquerque residents, but I think it does shed some light on how the Mayor tends to operate in the political arena -- frequently on the boundary that separates right from wrong, and often in a gray area in terms of fairness and ethical principles.

I hope that the mayoral race perks up soon. I want to see the candidates move on to discussing issues of real substance and offering their competing visions for the future of Albuquerque. This is, after all, a time of paradigm-altering change and challenge. We need a mayoral contest that does this era justice -- one that focuses on specific solutions to specific problems, as well as what we want to do to shape Albuquerque's identity as a 21st century city. I highly doubt that will happen, however, unless the sitting Mayor finally admits publicly that's he's in the race.

To support Richard Romero's mayoral campaign, join an upcoming Organizer Training on any Saturday throughout May and June. The Romero campaign is committed to building Albuquerque's largest grassroots campaign for mayor.

The next Saturday training sessions are set for May 23 and June 6 from 10 AM to 1 PM (lunch will be served). They'll be held at the Campaign Office at 4605 4th Street NW, Suite A 87107, on the west side of the street, just south of Griegos (map). To attend, contact Zach Mikelson at zach.mikelson@obamaalumni.com or 870-3873.

May 21, 2009 at 02:46 PM in 2009 Albuquerque Mayoral Race, Ethics & Campaign Reform | Permalink

Comments

Gary King and Mary Herrara should be looking into this? IMO it looks like a duck. They are going after the non profits for the same thing campaigning in improper ways

Posted by: NE Heights | May 21, 2009 4:43:23 PM

I don't care how many times I see Chavez's mug on TV on the tax payers dime, he is still corrupt and I still won't vote for him.

Posted by: VP | May 21, 2009 5:08:22 PM

Romero needs to grab onto a big idea and run with it. Chavez claims he is green but doesn't really do much on that. Romero should lay out some big plans for a really green city of the 21st century. He needs young votes and young people are into green big time.

Posted by: H. Candelaria | May 21, 2009 5:23:56 PM

Going into my third run as a challenger in NM HD 59, I can only say sure, the deck is stacked for every challenger. Incumbents get invited to speak to the Lions and other groups about what they have done (not much, in the case of my opponent). They get to preside at official functions. Etc, etc. Chavez is using the system, not gaming it.

Romero and Berry need to talk about issues that concern the residents of Albuquerque, not complain about their campaign problems. Makes them sound like whiners.

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | May 22, 2009 9:52:06 AM

Of course the incumbent has advantages, like having his name plastered over every city project billboard. This particular advantage is unfair and possibly illegal. Romero and Berry are right to speak out about this shockingly obvious malfeasance.

I agree that Romero needs to find his voice and passion. I told him so myself two months ago! However, Marty's misconduct and Richard's apparent inability to gain any traction are separate issues.

Posted by: Proud Democrat | May 22, 2009 11:23:14 AM

Sorry to say Ellen BUT, Mayor Marty "USING" the system IS of concern to at least this resident. Elected public officials malfeasance should ALWAYS be of concern. It does say a little something about integrity or in this particular case lack there of. Mr Romero and Mr Berry should be speaking out, are there NO other City Employees that are NOT running for office that could do a PSA?

Posted by: VP | May 23, 2009 8:56:34 AM

The way Mayor Chavez is operating in this election is revealing about his character. He has done some great things but they are always tainted by his stubbornness and lack of ethics. He could have done so much more if he could respect others and work with them fairly.

We need a new Mayor. Chavez has had his time and now we need a fresh approach. Let's work hard for Richard Romero.

Posted by: LR | May 23, 2009 9:19:44 AM