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And The Losers Are …

And The Losers Are …

Cole abused the Chamber's reputation and the reputations of its board members. Every board member has egg on their face and the longer they do and say nothing, the more the egg starts to stink for them personally.

When the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce decided to give a new award to Mayor Richard Berry, praising him for public safety, it created a firestorm that neither Terri Cole, Chamber CEO, nor Berry expected.

This story is still developing but as of now, here are the winners, losers and in-betweens as I see them.

Losers first

Berry and Cole, or as many in Albuquerque now refer to them, King Louie and Marie Antoinette, are the big losers. This public safety award was a transparent effort for Cole to protect Berry’s legacy and his future political career. Both burst into flames when the public caught wind.

Cole, who has run the Chamber for over three decades, should be shown the door by the board of directors because of this embarrassing award and the horrible economic abyss that Albuquerque has endured. Someone needs to be accountable, and if it isn’t Cole, then who?

The Chamber’s board members have been silent regarding this entire mess and that makes them look like losers. These business owners are the movers and shakers in Albuquerque. Some of them are brilliant business people and great leaders, so why did they allow Cole and Berry to abuse the organization’s reputation?

And make no mistake, Cole abused the Chamber’s reputation and the reputations of all its board members. Every board member has egg on their face, and the longer they do and say nothing, the more the egg starts to stink for them personally.

The Albuquerque City Council is another loser, for doing what they do best, which is nothing.

The “clique,” those people who think they run this town, are losers. They are totally out of touch with everyday life in Albuquerque. It’s those people who showed up to the Albuquerque Museum and applauded when Cole gave Berry this silly award. They have lost all credibility with regular folks. They live in gated communities and carry Eden’s private cell number for when they’re scared.

The Albuquerque Journal, which after years of protecting Berry, has started to question his leadership, dropped the ball. They could have put Berry and Cole on the spot and questioned them harshly over this award, but instead their reporting was nothing more than a press release for Berry and Cole. Sad.

The In-Betweens

I give this one to Bob Clark and the 770 KKOB morning radio show. He did a call-in show where he allowed his listeners to vent their frustrations about Berry and crime. For conservative KKOB that was a big deal because Berry is their guy.

But every time Clark mentioned this public safety award he would give Berry cover by complaining about how the criminal justice system is releasing suspects, illegal immigrants, that damn CMO (case management order) and then complaining about Obama getting the Noble Peace prize. As Scott Stigler would say, “Say what?”

KOAT and KRQE both reported on this award and gave both sides an opportunity to voice their concerns, but neither had reporters who could think on their feet and ask Cole and Berry hard follow-up questions. This is what happens when reporters don’t know the story, don’t know the town and can’t think quickly and critically.

Dan Lewis, Tim Keller, Brian Colón, Michelle Garcia Holmes, Gus Pedrotty and Susan Wheeler-Deschle, candidates for Albuquerque mayor, all responded to the ABQ Free Press request for comment. While none of them said anything earth-shattering, they all took a stand and said how absurd this award for Berry was.

None mentioned the Chamber, which is concerning, but they did more than the other candidates who didn’t respond at all. Those candidates don’t get their names printed.


KOB-TV reporters Caleb James and Chris Ramirez deserve all the praise I can muster. Their interviews of Berry and Cole were top-notch journalism.

They knew this story and they hit both Cole and Berry with hard follow-up questions. When James compared the award to a “Marie Antoinette moment,” he defined Berry and Cole’s last eight years. That was good stuff.

Former mayor Marty Chavez and public safety director Pete Dinelli are big winners based upon Berry’s logic. Berry told Ramirez that in his first four years, 2010 to 2013, Albuquerque had low crime rates.

Berry admitted that the last four years crime has spiked to records levels under his time as mayor. Berry then went on to say he was receiving this award for laying the groundwork now for the next mayor to control crime. That means that Chavez and Dinelli laid the groundwork for Berry’s first four years of lower crime.

Berry is right. Although he was spinning hard, the truth came out. Albuquerque was better under Chavez and Dinelli.

Jeremy Reynolds, CEO of Joy Junction, is a winner for publicly taking a stand for his ethics. He quit the Chamber. The person in charge of a nonprofit center for the homeless has more courage than the multi-million dollar businesspersons from the Chamber’s board of directors. Good job, Mr. Reynolds!

Albuquerque police officers and the protesters who, for once, found common ground in their complaints about the Berry administration. This is what community policing is all about. Shawn Willoughby, Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association president, produced what has to be the funniest award certificate anyone has seen in years.

Folks, there is an opportunity here if we can continue to get police officers and citizens on the same page, demanding a better city. Both the protesters and cops view Berry and Cole as modern-day King Louis and Marie Antoinette. The clique should be very worried.

When even opposing groups find common ground there is reason for hope. Berry and Cole have given us that common ground, now let’s move Albuquerque forward.

Viva la Albuquerque!

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Dan Vukelich is a writer and former editor of ABQ Free Press.

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