By Art Tannenbaum
Albuquerque, New Mexico June 7, 2016-
In something of a rather shocking role reversal during the June 6 Albuquerque City Council meeting, members of the public made a strong statement that they are taking back control of our local government as City Councilors once again exhibited their lack of self restraint in public comments. Dan Lewis was running the show as council President with Klarissa Peña, Vice President, setting off well-spoken poignant anti-establishment furor expressed in Public Comments by members of the general public in no uncertain terms, surrounding crowd control with regard to a presidential candidate’s rally recently held, downtown.
The chaotic environment in the council chambers clearly was the direct result of government officials’ conduct (however deliberate or incompetent particular councilors’ actions may have been) and practically everyone knew it. General Public Comments — towards the beginning of the meeting — had a total interruption continuing in excess of 12 minutes at one point with Peña speaking twice as long as Javier Benavidez, who had signed-up as a citizen for 2-minute public comment. Lewis invited Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry to make remarks and furthermore asked Perry a second time to continue speaking in the midst of the spontaneous brouhaha. Although the Police Chief had said he had “no comment” regarding the matter during a remarkably brief and typically superficial Q&A glossing over long beforehand Lewis turned to the Administration during the General Public Comments segment of the City Council proceedings, in egregious defiance of the meeting agenda and gross overextension of any reasonable prerogative that could be afforded the Chairman.
Peña had been attempting to appear fair & balanced, straddling the fence, bouncing back & forth and failing miserably with respect to display of a modicum of self control (the city councilor chimed in twice after having disrupted Public Comments to begin with) and she exhibited a stunning lack of critical thinking ability while insisting on talking. Both Lewis and Peña failed to exercise self restraint and each had argumentative exchanges with members of the public who were seated in the gallery , in the middle of the meeting.
The only clear message coming across from Klarissa Peña was: The people and community organizers ( & activists ) are ultimately responsible for maintaining a nonviolent orderly society. Babbling about “serious repercussions” and saying, “everybody has to take responsibility,” twice claiming it’s “incumbent” upon community leaders to keep the peace, Councilor Peña threw the ball into the people’s court. In handing over the responsibility, naturally, council Vice President Peña’s bumbling gobbledygook in effect inevitably turned over authority also. Towards the end of that protracted disruption of Public Comments the councilor tried to salvage her bungling diversion of authority by claiming she didn’t think it’s “an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ situation.”
Relinquishing power – – brilliant! Ms. Peña basically said that the community leaders hold the responsibility, the authority and no one said anything in disagreement with respect to the power of the people. Authority and responsibility are inseparable.
Mr. Lewis, as usual, alternately insisted that there be no applause at times but somewhat arbitrarily permitted — and encouraged — applause at other times in the chambers, highlighting the fact that the City Council is absolutely out of control. Dan Lewis has consistently demonstrated patterns & practices of instigating frenzied, hysterical circumstances during council meetings over the years going back to the last time he had been appointed city council President by his council peers in 2013 and, before that , during his short-lived bid to run for U.S. Congress Lewis got an awful lot of media attention over a public art issue. The man thrives on controversy. Dan Lewis has a proven pattern of creating chaos and perpetuating conflict.
While Council President Lewis was repeatedly inviting members of the public to contact him personally , as though he could pull some strings or like he’s King of the Hill or something — a Muslim man made it clear the politico can come to him instead of the other way around. Many members of the public indicated they are sick & tired of ineffectual politicians and are fed up with the status quo.
Time and time again the public comments during the June 6 council meeting sent the loud & clear message: Some of the injustices that have the greatest impact on most people are committed by politicians, governmental officials, policymakers. Elected and appointed officials neglect the rights and the needs of countless people while the politicians are caught up in foolish game-playing.
One man spoke openly of a revolution saying it’s “the people against the government. ” A woman noted how ‘riots’ following sports contests are thought of in a different way as opposed to political competitions even though the two are basically the same as far as property damage may be concerned.
Peña simply couldn’t contain herself, seeming to be begging for co-operation from an activist at the end of the chaotic “General Public Comments” portion of the meeting, immediately prior to the 7:00 break and once again piped up after the final speaker had said his piece. Another ludicrous exhibition by the council Vice President, Peña asked the man a question and then tried to interrupt him in his answer (the inept councilor obviously trying to control the ‘dialog’ or the narrative). She and other city councilors were not up to the task of outsmarting their employers, the citizens of Albuquerque, this time. In feeble attempts to squelch free speech and to have the last word once or twice too often Ms. Peña fumbled, in her mixed-up attempt to regain some semblance of control she found herself at a loss for words in the face of a determined public. She wound up saying nothing. Peña caved in, saying she had lost her “train of thought.” And that’s that.
Dan Lewis and Klarissa Peña may have different intentions but the two of them have several things in common. Both want to make rules but are unwilling to follow rules to great extent, neither of them knows how to hold power truly and fundamentally when all is said & done the actions of our current city council President & Vice President (Lewis & Peña respectively) result in the council losing credibility rapidly on a grand scale.
The councilors aren’t respectable. They can’t control their own proceedings down there, much less anything else. Additionally they have obviously very little, if any, self restraint on a personal level when it comes down to it….
Talk about a leadership deficiency — those inconsiderate numbskulls down there have abdicated authority, creating an incredible power vacuum as it becomes clearer to more and more people that this body of government has become increasingly illegitimate in its nature. Nature abhors a vacuum, so, somebody is going to have to take charge.
Probably Dan Lewis in his narcissistic mind believes he will become the mayor someday and he loves the idea of a council with no credibility (nor any consistency or predictability) whatsoever.
Evidently Klarissa Peña, whether she realizes it or not, wants community leaders to be encumbered by the responsibility — while somehow managing to retain authority in municipal government. It just doesn’t work that way.