Sunday, July 3, 2022

Supreme Court on a Rampage - Wake Me When We Get Back to the Inquisition

It feels rotten to be a U.S. citizen.

I recall pre-Roe times. Although abortion’s normally a safe, simple procedure, I watched a female relative endure a life-threatening situation because abortions were illegal and hers couldn’t be done in a hospital. That sticks in your mind.

Last week’s supreme court decision is horrendous for many reasons. It will mean some people will die or be jailed for family-planning, it signifies, in itself and in the court’s unnecessarily broad language, a serious eclipse of personal freedoms.

These justices did this with glee, writing the decision the way someone walking off with your wallet might unnecessarily stick his finger in your eye as he left.

Much of my life, we’d seen (and helped create) an opening up: tolerance of ethnic minorities, even some recognition that nonwhite folks not only had rights but might contribute new and valuable insights; recognition that most women wanted to be more than brood mares, that while some relished marriage and child-rearing, many also wanted to be welders or doctors, and to be able to own property in their own right. (Women got the right to have credit cards without a man’s signature soon after the Court recognized their right to abort pregnancies.) Women sought equal employment rights and some protection against spousal abuse. We’ve gone from arresting folks to performing gay marriages, and have recognized that folks have the right in their intimate lives to do as they choose with other consenting adults. In 1965, in some states, a black couldn’t marry a white, and a married couple couldn’t buy birth control.

That openness has meant the world to many.

Essentially, our definition of “people” has broadened. As it broadened, we applied the Constitution more broadly. Written by Christian white men to protect their own freedom, its language applies as well to folks those men hadn’t yet contemplated as equals. (Well, it applied for a while.)

In my youth, the Supreme Court’s big controversy was Brown v. Board of Education, the groundbreaking recognition that separate-but-equal was an impossibility because if I banned you from going to school with my kids and “our kind,” that harmed you. Excluding someone, right from childhood, damaged that person by vividly demonstrating that s/he just wasn’t as good as others. (Too, in practice, your school was never as good as mine.) Brown overruled Plessy v Ferguson; Earl Warren worked hard for a unanimous court, and Brown explained in scientific detail why Plessy was wrongly decided.

The present far-right justices don’t care. They say Roe was wrongly decided, lie about history and previous decisions, and ignore a half-century’s reliance on the right to privacy.

Alito, Thomas, et al. are destroying the court. The court has no army, no police force. Just this widespread idea that it’s neutral and serious and follows something called the Law. As justices bother less and less even to pretend they’re honest or fair; and as their decisions get further out of tune with prevailing views, the court’s prestige shrinks rapidly. (We’re seeing that already in polls.)

What’s really weird is that all this restriction of personal freedom is being pushed by folks who scream “My Constitutional Right!” faster and louder than anyone if you mention gun-safety or granting others the right to live their lives on their own terms.

Those who applaud this court’s decisions may some day regret the vicious, intolerant nation the justices are turning us into.

                                            – 30 – 


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 3 July 2022, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and on KTAL (101.5 FM / and be available on both station’s websites.]

[The abortion decision is wrong on the law. Even buying into “originalism,” it’s wrong on its claims about what folks thought and meant at the time. Abortion wasn’t something you bragged about, but wasn’t some huge crime, either; and at common law, which we inherited, it was criminal only after “quickening,” which is months into the pregnancy, when the baby “kicks.”

More critically, it is a vicious and narrow understanding of what the Founders had in mind. They sought a living document. They also did not want an established religion dictating to non-adherents about their lives. Jefferson, I believe, not only stated that Christianity was not and had never been part of the common law, he said that like all religions it was built on a fable; and others stated clearly that the government was not founded on any religion. Adams said it was not a “Christian nation, any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.”]

[Meanwhile, the Court is on a rampage: with mental problems epidemic, the Court is broadening the 1988-recognized individual gun-rights and encouraging everyone to carry in public; with global weirdness already affecting us, ahead of the predictions that opponents called exaggerated, it’s wrongly weakening the EPA’s ability to regulate; and it’s diminishing Sixth Amendment (right to counsel) as sloppily as its expanding the Second. We are in serious trouble for a long time, folks.


Sunday, June 26, 2022

In Which the Dog and I Help Each Other

A loud thunderclap sends the dog scurrying under my desk.

I’m disoriented not because this desiccated desert is suddenly dripping wet from a violent rain, but because everything else is so weird.

Fifty percent of Republicans think top Democrats run a child-sex ring. (And one-fifth of Democrats do too?)

Most voters think abortions are a doctor-patient issue, but we’ll soon be sending folks to jail.

Sixty percent of U.S. citizens think Donald Trump should face criminal charges, and he’s the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

Sometimes I try to imagine contemporary events involving past political figures. Dwight David Eisenhower fawning over Vladimir Putin. George H.W. Bush or Jimmy Carter demanding a state election official find 11,000 votes, then spending the next two years trying to get Clinton’s election undone. Kennedy or Nixon, or even Ronald Reagan, inciting a bunch of angry clowns to try to scare the senate and vice-president by threats of violence, then sitting back munching gummy bears as it unfolded on TV.

The dog bumps the chair arm with her nose, to suggest a better use for hands than tapping little plastic squares on a keyboard.

The dog has a point. Imagine being a weekly newspaper columnist and trying to figure out what to write. Some weeks, everything you write is so obvious it feels stupid to put it on paper, but it’s anathema (or “lies”) to a significant minority of readers.

Talking about guns recently, some opponents of gun-safety legislation said it all came down to families not raising their kids right. I agreed that many parents don’t raise their kids right. (I did suggest that while we improve child-raising and mental health services, which will take years to affect 18-year-olds, we might want to make it harder right now for irresponsible people to get guns, to help until our other efforts solve the problem.)

But they were talking about families not raising their kids as Christians, and about defining family as a biologically male father and a biologically female mother. And about making sure kids know the rules and follow them. I’ve seen kids badly scarred by all kinds of families, including “Christian” ones; and we know religion doesn’t prevent sexual abuse of children.

I’ve also seen many families in which two men or two women raise their children with love, care, and humor. I know people who are transgender, or don’t wish to be identified by a gender, who are wonderful people.

Religion is great for some families, but it’s a horror for others. (That’s partly ‘cause folks turn it to their own purposes or needs, without adequate attention to the actual teachings.)

Ultimately, what matters is love; some amount of trust and honesty; probably mutual respect, with parents telling kids the rules (even showing them, by living those rules), but not overbearingly, maybe even discussing why they make sense. (Sadly, too many parents feel threatened by that kind of conversation.) And you also need some luck.

The dog finally lies down, having made her point. I contemplate how much I admire her for having survived some pretty tough situations, including the mental illness of the person she took care of before taking care of us. A friend recently looked into her big brown eyes and remarked, “Dogs are put here to remind us how to love – and they do a damned good job.”

When in doubt, pet a dog.

                                         – 30 --


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 26 June 2022, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and on KTAL (101.5 FM / and be available on both station’s websites.]

[I sent in this column the day before the Supreme Court announced that, as expected, it was overruling a half-century of previous cases to let states criminalize abortion. In a fit of disgust, I immediately wrote next week’s column. I grew up when the U.S. Constitution worked because it was a living document. Brown v. Board of Education, Griswold v. Connecticut, Miranda: as the world grew more complicated, as we learned (or admitted) more about human nature and the natural world, as we recognized more and more classes of people (Blacks, women, immigrants, and folks whose sexuality never appeared on Ozzie and Harriet) as fully legitimate, autonomous, and equal persons, the general language of freedom expressed in the U.S. Constitution accommodated their needs to. The Constitution didn’t mention women (and heard no women’s voices in the Constitutional Convention) or gays, and mentioned Blacks only as enslaved folks whose owners had to be compromised with. Now, that’s over – unless the subject is guns, which case the Court is discovering new and better ways to let anyone carry anywhere, or [Christian] religion, which the Court is now favoring in 85% of its decisions, as opposed to less than 50% in the Warren era and just above 50% in the Burger and Rehnquist eras. The reservation of unspecified rights to the states “OR THE PEOPLE” and the rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been informally amended to eliminate “or the people” and append “in forms of which the far-right justices approve.” ]

[The spirit of liberty our Founders nourished and filled the Constitution with is in eclipse. If Republicans prevail in 2022 and 2024, through the anti-democratic set-up of the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College, that eclipse may last a lot longer than many of us do. They were mostly good men, asserting the liberty of individual men against the historical despots they knew, kings and emperors. They obviously did not think about the rights and needs of women, per se, or of Black citizens; and if any of them thought about gay rights, they wisely kept silent. Our country has grown, and part of its success has been the contributions of its immigrants, ethnic and religious minorities, and women; and part of its appeal to the best from other lands has been our love of freedom, our tolerance of dissent. No mas!]



Sunday, June 19, 2022

We are all at fault for Amelia Baca’s death.

Yes, a cop shot her. He was not in danger. Maybe he felt he was, or that others were, and maybe reasonably so. We’ll hear his explanation eventually; but he shouldn’t have killed her. I express no opinion on whether or not criminal charges are appropriate; and I know hindsight is 20-20.

I guarantee that he did not think, as he donned his uniform and strapped on his gun, that he wanted to kill someone.

Her family bears some responsibility. They knew she had dementia and chose to keep her in her home – and I love and admire them for that. I’d have done the same in their place, if I had their patience and a large family to help. It’s incredibly hard to put a parent or other loved person away. Their decision came from love and respect, but left Amelia a possible danger to herself and perhaps others. I’m not criticizing, but acknowledging.

They called the police. The officer acted unwisely, but they (and we) helped put him in the situation. Likely he hadn’t a clue how dangerous she was to whom. Still, we should be able to trust the authorities to respond appropriately.

I fault LCPD for inadequate training/supervision.

I fault city government for refusing to set up a civilian police oversight committee, and for not having tried something like what they do in Portland, Ore.

But I also fault all of us, including myself, for our failure to demand more of our city leadership. I’ve certainly suggested an oversight board in my column, and I’ve discussed the Portland model on radio. But I didn’t do more. We didn’t make it happen. Many of us are now fighting to create a CPOC.

Why do I insist that we are all responsible?

First, attitudes. If part of what was in the shooter’s head and heart was that as a sufferer of dementia Ms. Baca was the Other, or mattered less than other citizens, he shared that with many. How we treat “mental illness” – and brain disorders, such as dementia -- played a role in this.

He immediately hollers at her in English, when hollering isn’t the way to treat folks with dementia and there’s a distinct possibility she might not understand English. He’d been nearly a decade on the force, in a largely Hispanic city. But then, Anglo society tends to disrespect an elderly Hispanic lady.

More directly, we accept living in a society where health plans and insurance companies make vast profits, while large numbers of people are un- or under-insured medically. We do not provide the medical, psychological, and legal resources to help a family (at a time of tremendous pain and confusion, with maternal respect and abuelita’s incompetence banging against each other) find the best available care. We don’t provide the guidance a wealthier or better-connected family would probably obtain. I’ve seen personally how hard it is for even the most resourceful folks to handle such situations. (Just figuring out the legalities of guardianship is a nightmare!)

If we insisted on better health care for all (a basic right in most civilized countries), and mental health care for all, that cop likely wouldn’t have been placed in a situation where he felt he had only one choice.

Watching the videos is a painful reminder of how we all failed Amelia Baca.

                                           – 30 --

[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 19 June 2022, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and on KTAL (101.5 FM / and be available on both station’s websites.]


Sunday, June 12, 2022

Thoughts on Guns

We can decrease the mass shootings – if we all get our heads out of our ideological posteriors.

Listen, Left: yes, increasing mental health services, particularly in schools, is important. Almost all mass shootings are suicides by troubled people whose self-hatred turns outward to whatever group (immigrants, blacks, women, gays, rejecting classmates or co-workers) might be responsible for their misery. (“I’ll take some of those XYZs with me!”)

Listen, Right: of course the easy availability of weapons of war is a factor, and taking steps to impede the easy flow of such weapons, while imperfect, will help.

Lefty: (1) you ain’t getting rid of guns (there are way too many, they have their uses, and the 2nd Amendment ain’t going away); and (2) racism isn’t the main focus. Some shooters make vile racist proclamations, but their trauma and self-loathing lies deeper than their racism. Plenty of racist jerks live 60-80 years without shooting anyone.

Righty: (1) most of us don’t want to take your guns, and we couldn’t anyway, so jettison that NRA fable; and (2) calling these kids terrorists or “PURE EVIL” is evading the truth. They’re troubled youths who experienced early violence, sexual abuse, or other trauma. That doesn’t excuse their conduct. But calling ‘em evil blinds us to the identifiable causes of their actions.

The day before some kid was pure evil he was another kid in class, maybe troubled, but a kid you talked to. Identifying those seething with self-loathing and anger could help cut down on these tragedies. (I mention mostly youthful mass murderers here, but the same pattern marks almost all shooters.)

We need to make serious therapy easily available to kids in schools. Identify some potential shooters early and help them find another course. Yeah, that’ll cost money, in tough times; but it’s important.

The Right is right that mental health is critical, but that’s no excuse to ignore other critical issues.

Societal problems are complex. “Cars don’t kill people, people do!” sounds absurd. We recognize that keeping drunks or folks with Alzheimer's from driving is important, that laws and insurance help diminish road deaths, and also that we should continue making cars safer.

A popular meme points out that after Jayne Mansfield died driving under a tractor trailer, laws required those vehicles to have DOT bars to prevent that; that seven fatalities from tampered-with Tylenol gave us caps you need a PhD. to open; and that one clown’s failed shoe-bomb attempt has everyone removing shoes in airports.

Guns kill 168 people every two days. (Cars kill about 250.) Our thoughts and prayers aren’t accomplishing much.

The Right is wrong to fight all safety measures, including: expanded background checks; mandatory waiting periods; banning some guns and gun features that make it absurdly easy for anyone to kill dozens of people; upping the age for purchase of some weapons to 21; red flag laws; and mandatory insurance. The facts are clear that (as logic would suggest) states with the weakest gun laws have the most gun fatalities per capita.

If we focused on this issue as on escaping the Depression or building the A-bomb, we’d lick this too, saving lives but respecting law-abiding gun-owners’ rights and needs. What if all citizens worked together?

Ain’t gonna happen. Most people on both sides are reasonably sincere; but a profits-hungry gun industry (and cynical NRA) is scaring the hell out of gun owners, and buying up politicians.

                                           – 30 --


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 12 June 2022, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and on KTAL (101.5 FM / and be available on both station’s websites.]

[Friends will chide me (and one Sun-News reader already has chided me) for being unduly kind to gun-owners in this column. Guns are not cars, and their non-murderous uses are more limited. The Second Amendment largely concerned militia’s readiness. (In fact, relatively few citizens in colonial America or the early days of the U.S. bothered to own firearms or could use them proficiently.) The Heller decision, contradicting nearly 200 years of cases and vastly increasing the scope of the Amendment, was wrongly decided; but even Heller did not take us to the level of madness the current crop of yo-yo’s called “justices” may soon take us. I keep wondering what these jackasses would say to Madison and Jefferson to justify their interpretation of the amendment, which would likely say those founders would have been fine with me putting a huge and operable cannon on my lawn, facing City Hall, with a small pile of cannonballs beside it.

But the Second Amendment ain’t goin’ anywhere. Further, we can’t reasonably expect a more accurate interpretation of it any time soon; and we can’t reasonably expect to amend the amendment, either, because small states have such outsized power in that process. The Constitution doesn’t provide for a national referendum.

So, like, what do we do? DO? Seems to me our best choice is to talk across the divide, or try. Gun owners have kids too. Some folks honestly believe we are all trying to take their guns away, ultimately. (A small minority probably are.) Most of us are not; and we couldn’t if we tried; and there are improvements that can be made without impinging on gun owners rights and preferences. We need to get enough NRA members and passionate gun owners to see that truth. Many of them are also passionate in their love for their children.

What’s the alternative, pals?

When I was young, racism was generally accepted among whites, the misguided war in Viet Nam was growing in size, and few folks I knew questioned those aspects of our lives, and those few shrugged and said nothing much could be done about it. A mass movement among youth (plus the desperate dogged resistance of the Vietnamese and the desperate courage of black U.S. citizens!) actually helped change that somewhat. Something similar should swell now, under the pressure of a deteriorating climate, the madness of letting anyone who wants one buy a gun immediately, and economic inequality, and foment change. Until it does, though, I’ll do what I can in the best way I suppose I can.]

[In writing this, I was also much influenced by this study by two professors who profiled mass shooters.  I recommend it.  Folks understandably focused on the madness of our cultural affinity for guns should not reflexively ignore the argument that the problem is really mental health.  As I tried to express above to fellow progressives, there's some reality to the suggestion.  But as I also tried to say, anti-reformists cannot fairly use that as a shield to avoid even looking at the serious issues related to the proliferation of weapons of war and kids' easy access to those.  It'd be like saying we shouldn't have DWI laws because there's a constitutional right to travel and drunks won't pay attention to laws anyway, so we should put that money into treatment and leave non-drunks free to operate their cars freely.]

from "Brothers in Arms"

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Raul Torrez and Zack Quintero

I voted for Raúl Torrez for NM Attorney-General.

Negativity is a turnoff. I’ve received a flood of slick, misleading mailers from Brian Colón’s side attacking Torrez, though none from Torrez. I hear both sides’ TV ads are vicious, Torrez saying Colón advocates defunding the police (an absurdity) and Colón hammering us with misleading statistics suggesting that Torrez, who seems quite competent, is a real Sad Sack as Bernalillo County District Attorney.

Torrez seems independent and real. I have serious questions about the way Colón and his pals (and other states’ AGs) take big bucks from big law firms, then hire those same firms to represent us, very profitably. It’s legal, but odiferous. Torrez isn’t part of that game. Colón is.

Big cases require big firms; and those firms should have expertise in the type of litigation involved. The attorney-general is like a corporation’s general counsel. S/he gives advice, does or oversees some legal tasks, and, in matters too large or specialized for the in-house legal staff, coordinates and generally directs the litigation counsel’s work. Imagine a corporate general counsel telling the CEO S/he’d selected the corporation’s lawyers for a big case because their law firm had given him/her money. That’d look strange to a CEO, and stranger still to a shareholder. General counsel has an ethical obligation to the corporation to pick the best available litigation firm for the particular lawsuit, subject perhaps to cost, geography, etc. Our Attorney-General owes that same duty to us.

These are reasonable questions to ask Brian Colón regarding his involvement in this pattern. Big out-of-state law firms donate big bucks to the AG politically, then reap bigger bucks in litigation fees. They probably do a good job. Would someone else have done better? We don’t know. It does seem odd that “the best firm” for us is so often the one that contributed to a certain campaign. As to Robles, Real, and Anaya, usually the local counsel these days, one might guess they are best firm in New Mexico; but New Mexico AGs didn’t use the firm once in the six years before Real’s law-school chum, Balderas, got elected AG. Maybe their rise was wholly unrelated to the friendship, or the firm’s political contributions. (Colón was also a pal of Real and Balderas. Balderas has just given Colón’s campaign $100,000 more.)

Colón says that’s just how it’s done, and he’ll continue. As to cozy-looking relationships with contributing law firms, Colón says Balderas and Gary King did it too. (Would he let his kid drink and drive because Joey’s dad let Joey drive drunk?)

Our water case against Texas is a “bet-the-state’s-future” case. Water law is a specialty. As usual, local counsel is Robles, Real. Name partner, Real, isn’t a water lawyer. He doesn’t have to be. But even in a case that could affect our state’s survival, should it be business-as-usual?

I also voted for Las Crucen Zack Quintero to succeed Colón as Auditor. He’s a young, dynamic Las Crucen with a plan and a passion to grapple with issues I care about, notably predatory guardianship (his grandfather was a victim) and health-care fraud. As our federal ombudsman, he’s had actual experience investigating such fraud. For years we’ve urged Colón to act on guardianship. Maybe Quintero will. We’ve long wished for a progressive southern New Mexican in such a state position. It’s been too long.

Maybe this year will bring some positive change yet.

                                     – 30 --


 [The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 5 June 2022, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and be available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[Predatory guardianship is a real problem, here and elsewhere, as I've discussed in earlier columns.  People here were disappointed by Colón in that regard; and although some of what they wanted him to do was not within his power, I’m looking forward to Quintero taking a shot at it.  More generally, Zack seems a sharp young guy who brings to the job a law degree and the right kind of investigatory experience.] 

[I mentioned last week why, with all due respect to her primary opponent, I think we should renominate Kim Stewart for Sheriff. I noticed Frietze has raised five times as much money as she. He ain’t going to get five times as many votes. (Frietze has received more money just from Oscar Andrade and PicQuik Stores than Stewart’s total contribution amount for the primary.) He probably has ten times as many signs, and bigger ones. Again, nothing negative about Mr. Frietze; but Kim’s been a superb sheriff, reviving a department two previous sheriffs had decimated, and . . . it’s not so much that she deserves four more years, but that we ought to grab four more years of good management of DASOFrietz could be a good sheriff; but let's find out about that in 2026.]

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Thanks to County Sheriff Kim Stewart

 Thanks, Sheriff Stewart!

Two consecutive Doña Ana County Sheriffs, law-enforcement veterans, listened to the wrong people and nearly destroyed DASO. I’ll spare you the details (see my columns on Todd Garrison [2014] and Kiki Vigil [2018]); but it was so extreme that numerous hardened law-enforcement veterans approached me secretly to complain.

Staff was demoralized, and fleeing. Good deputies with solid experience were retiring. At one time, a dozen DASO deputies had applied to LCPD, some taking pay cuts. LCPD’s then-chief, confirming that with me, kind of shook his head over DASO’s problems. Four years later, DASO is fully-staffed, while LCPD is having trouble recruiting enough good people.

Kim Stewart beat Vigil in the 2018 primary, then Garrison in the general.

Some of my conservative law-enforcement friends had their doubts. They had specific concerns, some sparked by campaign rhetoric against Stewart; and maybe she just didn’t seem right to them; but within a year or so, even they were praising her. Like me, they were hearing only good things about her from deputies in the trenches. When Stewart took over, 32 of the 127 deputy positions were empty.

Photo from KVIA
I’m still hearing good things. I’ve heard no complaints, except that she and County Manager Fernando Macias don’t play well together. They are both strong characters, highly capable, and progressive, with each ready to fight to see county affairs go as she or he thinks they should. Fernando’s management style isn’t universally loved at the County and wasn’t in Third Judicial District Court; and Kim has proven she’ll fight for her people. (She was treated so badly by a previous county administration that a jury awarded her compensation for her wrongful termination, so she may well be a little prickly.) Too, the historical anomaly of having county clerks, treasurers, and sheriff’s elected, but dependent on the central county administration for budgetary and personnel decisions, repeatedly engendered friction between Kim’s and Fernando’s predecessors.

Photo from LC Sun-News
Sheriff Stewart has done much that matters, that we don’t see. She’s updated policies and procedures, which is essential to holding people accountable. If DASO policies and procedures aren’t consistent, both internally and with county policies and changing laws, that creates loopholes. She’s also modernized aspects of academy training – notably, obtaining state approval to train deputies that if they see other deputies violating civil rights, they have a duty to speak up. We should all want that!

Stewart’s primary challenger, James Frietze, seems to be a good cop. Mutual friends speak well of him. During our radio interview, he said all the right things, very cogently, about how a cop should handle a mentally-troubled citizen. Stewart then pointed out that as sheriff, the challenge was to make sure all 137 deputies were capable of handling things right and trained to do so.

Stewart’s done all that, as Sheriff. Frietze hasn’t. He might be a fine candidate in four years. She’s a sure thing now, and deserves our gratitude for turning things around. She has that from deputies, along with the loyalty of most of them. On radio, Frietze was charming and homegrown; but he couldn’t articulate a reason we should replace our successful Kim Stewart with him.

I understand some folks think gender is relevant. Frietze looks more like Pat Garrett. But Sheriff Stewart’s getting it done, and then some – and is what we need in a 21st Century sheriff. (Even Pat probably knew, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”)

                                               – 30 --


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 29 May, 2022, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and be available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[It seems real simple: mismanagement (compounded, in each case, by getting kind of mesmerized by someone who wasn’t as good an influence as the sheriff imagined) made a terrible mess of DASO; underdog Stewart beat both those sheriffs in the 2018 election; then, against the odds and initially without great support, Sheriff Stewart brought DASO back from disaster to a functioning office with good morale and a full roster of deputies. Without a good reason, why oust her for someone else who would need to learn the ropes and might not do nearly as well as Stewart? Because she’s a woman? Because Fernando wants you to? Because James wants the job? The last two are reasonable for Fernando and James, but not reasons for voters to gamble.

What am I missing?]

[By the way, for those who’ve forgotten or who’ve moved here since these events: toward the end of Sheriff Todd Garrison’s second term, he was strongly influenced by a gentleman named Seeburger. Things they did were impeding actual law enforcement and driving deputies crazy. Eventually the county fired Seeburger, who then sued everyone in sight, including me. His case went so badly that although he was the plaintiff, asking for a bundle of money, he ended up being ordered to pay the U.S. District Court. (I think he later ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress in the El Paso area.) Some of that is recited in my columns / blog posts: "Questions about a Surprising Hire by the County Sheriff," 2March, 2014; "Sheriff Garrison and Mr. Seeburger," 9March2014; 4Nov2014 (“Our Republican former sheriff, Todd Garrison, seeks to regain the office he nearly destroyed during his Seeberger episode, while the thoughtful Democrat Kim Stewart has both experience and smart, modern ideas. (Allegations that Stewart would take away deputies' long rifles or disband the SWAT Team, are just plain false.) ”); "Further Thoughts on DASO," 6April2014; and "Laswuit against Many of us Crashes and Burns," 30Aug2018.

Kiki Vigil got elected in 2014. He seemed promising. I voted for him in the primary, largely because it seemed that Eddie Lerma, whom I respected, would be his undersheriff. Kiki’s term got off to an awkward start, and he was repeatedly at odds with County Manager Julia Smith and the County Commission. Deputies seemed to support him; but then he started listening to an ambitious officer who reportedly wanted mostly to settle scores with folks he didn’t care for. Vigil got rid of Eddie Lerma and installed Ken Roberts. There was also sex cases to which Kiki’s response was woefully inadequate. Soon the department was again an unbearable mess for serious law-enforcement folks. Again there was litigation. (For those sad times, search Ken Roberts or Kiki Vigil on my blog or the Sun-News site.) In 2018, Lerma seemed a promising alternative to Vigil in the Democratic Primary; and Lermas did get a few more votes than Vigil; but Kim Stewart, somewhat surprisingly, beat ‘em both. Then she whipped Garrison in the general election. ]

[I mentioned Stewart’s successful lawsuit against the County. For background, see "Jury Orders Dona Ana County to Pay $1.35 million to Kim Stewart" (17July2015) and "Counties Must Face the Music Juries Hear" (26 July 2015).]