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Thursday, June 22, 2017

It's A Heat Wave But The Shivering Is Underway Over Los Alamos; Billions In Federal Funding On The Line Against A Very Iffy State Political Backdrop, Plus: Straightening Out The Simms' 

New Mexico may be baking under a heat wave but that's not stopping chills from running up the spines of anyone with a hand in Los Alamos National Labs. This multi-billion dollar bombshell dropped on the nuclear facility is behind the fear and trembling:

Even as Los Alamos National Laboratory is under orders to ramp up production of plutonium nuclear weapons triggers – a key part of a huge plan to modernize the nation’s weapons stockpile – testimony before a national oversight board here last week indicates there’s a possibility that the work and its billions in federal dollars could be moved elsewhere. Members of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board were told that an analysis is underway to consider all options for meeting the national weapons complex’s mission to manage plutonium work and produce products like the “pits” that set off nuclear bombs.

Pulling the pits and the billions that will be appropriated to make them in the decades ahead could deliver a severe body blow to the northern NM economy and perhaps lead to a permanent downsizing of the iconic facility where the first atomic bomb was developed.

We'll get to the political analysis of this in a moment, but first where would the pits be produced if not Los Alamos? No place else is equipped to do it but a top federal nuclear safety official:

. . . disclosed that NNSA is now quietly studying whether to keep plutonium pit operations at Los Alamos. Options being considered include upgrading the facilities there or “adding capabilities or leveraging existing capabilities elsewhere in the country, at other sites where plutonium is already present or has been used.” 

No question that the Labs lousy safety record is catching up with it and at the worst possible political timing.

The Department of Energy oversees the labs and former Texas Governor Rick Perry was named cabinet secretary for the agency. Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich voted against his nomination, blistering Perry as "utterly unqualified."

Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) whose job includes traveling the country condemning Trump and trying to swing the US House back to the Democrats.

Senator Udall has been one of the most outspoken Trump critics on Capitol Hill,

You can see where this leads. When it comes to billions of federal dollars at stake the long, sharp knives come out. Heinrich is seeking re-election next year and is heavily favored. Still, a "who lost the pits" argument is not what he needs dogging him on the campaign trail. Ditto for Rep. Lujan.

Following the hearings in Los Alamos another bomb was dropped--a lengthy piece from the investigative journalism group Center for Public Integrity. It called into question the continued safety of Los Alamos and its handling of plutonium. (Full report here.)

Even those of you who are not congenitally conspiratorial have to wonder what's going on here.

And one other thing. That Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board so key to the future of Los Alamos answers directly to the President of the United States. That's the fella who made two ABQ campaign visits hoping to make inroads but didn't and who was snubbed by the city's Republican mayor. And that's also the guy the sitting Republican Governor refused to endorse.

If the weight of the evidence tilts against Los Alamos, a reprieve may be hard to come by. And that's how you get shivering during a heat wave.

UPDATE ON LA

Henirch put out a statement Thursday after he questioned Energy Secretary Perry, saying he had secured "a commitment to maintain LANL's plutonium mission."

However, in the brief 90 second exchange Perry simply answered "yes" when Heinrich asked him if it was his intent to extend the mission into the future.

Well, intending and committing are two different things. We'll keep an eye open for you on this one.

THE SIMMS STORY

Gov. Simms
We, along with reader Isaac Romero, were on the wrong side of history in the first draft of the Wednesday blog. Romero, responding to our contest for Vintage ABQ tickets, said that Gov. John Simms Jr. had also served on the state Supreme Court as did Gov. Thomas Mabry. We confirmed that by reviewing a list of all Supreme Court justices but the John Simms who served on the high court was the father of Governor Sims. Armchair historian and ABQ attorney Foster Hannett straightens out the record:

Joe, You (and evidently readers Isaac Romero and Gene Henley as well) are mistaken in stating that John Simms had served on the NM Supreme Court.

The John Simms who served as Governor in the 1950's was John F. Simms, Jr. John F. Simms, Jr. was never a judge of any kind as far as I am aware.  His father, John Field Simms Sr., served a short time as a New Mexico state Supreme Court Justice (1929-1930). Incidentally, a number of years ago I was the attorney for John F. Simms, Jr.'s sister, and both she and his brother, Dr. Albert G. Simms II are both still living. As John Simms Jr. was born in December 1916, had he served on the NM Supreme Court in March 1929, he would have been only 12 years old when he took office.

Thanks for setting the record straight, Foster. And because not long ago you gave me a walking tour of ABQ's Fairview cemetery where Gov. Simms and many other NM political notables are buried and I should have known better, I am taking punishment of not just ten lashes with a wet noodle, but twenty lashes. Ouch!

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Torrez File; City Crime Wave Puts New DA On Defensive, Plus: Another Oil Price Plunge Puts State Budget On Notice, And: Ex-Guv Mabry Figures In For Our Contest Winner 

DA Torrez
Raul Torrez has taken over but is he taking responsibility? That's the question as the new Bernalillo County District Attorney runs for cover from the headlines that are shouting about how the crime wave ravaging the city has now landed us the title of "Stolen Car Capital of America."

Torrez asserts the major cause of that and other rising crime is a case management order from the NM Supreme Court that puts too tight a deadline on the DA for making his cases against the crooks in court. Thus, he argues, many cases are being dismissed by the judges and you get a crime wave conducted mainly by repeat offenders. Pretty simple, right? Well, not to the Torrez critics who are starting to pile on now that the new DA has had six months in office to show his stuff. JJ Naranjo of Santa Fe is one of them and he writes to Torrez on social media:

So how hard is it for your prosecutors or their assistants to immediately send a request for evidence as soon as a case is accepted in your office? You don't have to wait for anything since you already know that defense attorneys are winning on discovery issues. First you said you would ignore other criminal cases and just target repeat offenders and now you just can't meet deadlines? Sounds like your deflecting and just full of excuses. Take some responsibility or maybe you can place it on a panel of other DA's across the state like you did for a decision on re-trying (APD officers) Sandy and Perez in the Boyd murder case... Put your big boy pants on and do your job already!

Torrez, touted as a rising Dem Party star (the Udall Senate seat someday?), has a tar baby on his hands with this unrelenting crime wave.

In a controversial decision he earlier announced and that was referenced by Naranjo, Torrez said the resource challenged DA's office would no longer prosecute low-level crimes in favor of concentrating on violent and repeat offenders. But that got a thumbs down from many victims of property crime that is rampant throughout the city--all of which is not being conducted by "repeat offenders."

Torrez took easy street to the DA's office, failing to draw a Republican foe and winning unopposed. But now he's swimming against the rapids as he puts himself on the defensive, blaming the judges and targeting only a part of the crime wave. He may end up being right but right now he's in a very sticky place indeed.

DOWN AGAIN

Here we go again. The price of oil this week is plunging below the state's target of about $48 a barrel, threatening yet another shortfall when the budget year beings July 1st. For each dollar drop in the price it's estimated state coffers lose as much as $10 million. The price for West Texas oil on the futures market was around $43 Wednesday.

With oil down, a Republican Governor opposed to increasing revenues and her Dem opposition refusing more budget cuts, the band-aid approach to budgeting that has become the new normal seems destined to continue at least until a new Governor takes over in 2019. Or until oil goes back to a hundred bucks a barrel.

GETTING OFFICIOUS

That bid for the ABQ congressional seat by former State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones that we told you about a week or so ago is now official. She is the first Republican to announce a candidacy for a seat that is ranked "likely Dem."

MAYOR WATCH

Reader Billy Jimenez writes:

I am a local attorney and long-time reader. I want to invite you to an Albuquerque mayoral campfire this Saturday called "Warm Cookies for the Soul: A Community Campfire to Discuss Mental Health and Addiction with Albuquerque’s Mayoral Candidates." The Campfire will be held on June 24 at Rude Boy Cookies (115 Harvard Dr SE #7) from 2pm to 5pm.

In a city with an abundance of behavioral and substance abuse problems, Michael Silva (owner of Rude Boy) and I offer the community a chance to talk about solutions to these problems with the mayoral candidates. And we aim to do this in the most inviting way possible: sitting down over milk and cookies. The goal is to make the candidates accessible at a family friendly event and promote community. A portion of the proceeds from cookie sales will be donated to the Albuquerque Center for Hope and Recovery, of which I am a board member.

Good for you, Billy. One of the positive early developments in the mayoral race is the number of forums we're having. The community is rising to the occasion.

AND THE WINNER IS. . . 

Gov. Mabry
The answer was a former Governor so it was no shock that our readers were pretty much all over the question as to who was the first New Mexico politico to serve as the state's chief executive, a member of the legislature and as a NM Supreme Court Justice. That was an easy bar to hop for many readers, including Sam Thompson, John Schroeder, Mark Valdez, Valerie Kimble, Jeffrey Baker, Orlando Lucero and Manuel Tijerina. They correctly identified Gov. Thomas Mabry as the holder of the three titles as did Isaac Romero who wins the two tickets valued at $170 to this Friday's Vintage ABQ Grand Tasting.

My response to your Vintage ABQ contest question is Thomas Mabry. However, he wasn’t a native new Mexican. He was born in Kentucky and served as the supreme court Chief Justice, in the senate, and as governor. 

Another popular submission was Gov. Ed Mechem. That was the response from Joe Campos and Frank Armijo among others, but while Republican Ed served in the state House and was several times elected Governor, he later served as a federal judge and never served on the NM Supreme Court.

(Mechem) also served in the US Senate when in 1962 he stepped down as Governor and was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the death of Dem US Senator Dennis Chavez. He was defeated by Joe Montoya when he sought election to the seat in 1964.)

Finally, several readers said the answer was Gov. Jack Campbell. He was an attorney but never served on the Supreme Court, although he did serve a stint as Speaker of the NM House. Jack was elected Governor twice--in '64 and '66.

And we need to give him credit for this contest. We were thumbing through his autobiography and there on page 194 was his mention of Gov. Mabry and how he had become the first to serve in all three branches of government. Thanks for the fun, Jack. (The book is available through the UNM Press.)

Thanks to all who submitted answers and to Vintage ABQ for making two sets of free tickets available as the drumbeat of La Politica continues to beat away.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Mayoral Forum Draws A Big Crowd And Makes A Little News, Plus: Higher Ed And 1925; Looks A Lot Like 2017, And: Another Chance To Win Vintage ABQ Tickets; Can You Answer Our Question?  

With the ABQ mayoral election set to round the curve into the summer months, a candidate forum sponsored by the Bernalillo County Democratic Party last week drew the largest crowd to date for such an event--over 250 interested citizens turned out to hear from six of the eight candidates in a session moderated by NM Politics with Joe Monahan and that party officials said had over 1,400 others viewing the action via a live stream.

That high level of interest for one event doesn't necessarily foretell a big increase in voter turnout, but we can safely assume turnout this year will easily surpass the dismal 2013 number which was the lowest for a mayoral election since the 1970's.

Unlike four years ago there is no incumbent this year and there are a lot more candidates. And the issues have never been more compelling--an unchecked crime epidemic, a mostly stagnant economy, stagnant population growth and the fleeing of the professional millennials.

TAX FOR COPS?

Besides the big turnout they attracted to the Pipefitters Hall and on Facebook, the candidates made some other news. That happened when we asked if they would support an increase of a quarter cent in the city's gross receipts tax to fund an expansion of the severely understaffed ABQ police department. Candidates Tim Keller and Brian Colon, both Dems, unhesitatingly answered that they would, with both adding that they would send it to the voters. Colon predicted it would easily pass.

The other member of what we have dubbed the "Big Three" in this mayoral contest, GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis, said he would oppose a public safety tax but would find funding for putting more cops on the street by saving money from other city agencies. Independent hopeful Michelle Garcia Holmes agreed with Lewis, saying that the citizens are already "overtaxed."

Also at the forum were candidates Gus Pedrotty, 23, showing fiery political passion and support for a public safety tax if approved by voters and independent Susana Wheeler Deischel, who was the only candidate to support the controversial Central Avenue ART project. Republican candidates Wayne Johnson and Ricardo Chaves did not attend.

JOHNSON AND JAY?

The back story on BernCo Commissioner and mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson recently blasting fellow R Dan Lewis is that Johnson might be getting guidance from Gov. Martinez's well-known and controversial political adviser Jay McCleskey. At least that was the scuttlebutt at last week's Dem forum. Lewis has been at odds with the Guv's political machine for years so it would not be a surprise. But Johnson ripping Lewis could divide the GOP vote. The division within GOP ranks over Martinez and McCleskey has prompted fears that Johnson--who is running well behind Lewis--could sabotage the R's from keeping the mayor's office. But Johnson's supporters argue he is the true Republican in the race and has the ability to replace Lewis as a "Big Three" candidate. It's about the money now. Will Johnson raise enough to compete? Will he get some kind of outside PAC support with the aide of McCleskey? We'll keep you posted.

THE YEAR WAS 1925

From the time-honored category of "the more things change, the more they stay the same," we turn to this report on the 1925 budget message of Democratic Governor Arthur T. Hannett:

In his message to the legislature on the budget, he says there are too many of these (higher education) schools and he will oppose building appropriations for any of them until the people have had a chance to pass a constitutional amendment to consolidate them as to stop duplications of effort and expense. . . The Governor tells the legislature that these schools were scattered with the "pork barrel" idea by the makers of the Constitution. ..instead of with the idea of efficiency, economy and convenience.

Sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it? And with UNM reducing staffing by literally hundreds of employees on its main campus in the past year (why was that news so late in getting out?) the time for the consolidation of higher ed is still with us all these decades after. Gov. Hannett's plea fell on deaf ears.

New Mexico is changing irrevocably in many ways. But rather than a consolidation and downsizing, we are getting a drip, drip, drip as witnessed by the UNM layoffs and another tuition increase at NMSU. It seems it's as politically difficult in 2017 to right the errors of the portion of our state Constitution dealing with higher education as it was in 1925.

ANOTHER CHANCE TO WIN

Michael Wiener
Before we get to today's contest for free tickers to this Friday's Vintage ABQ Grand Tasting, let's recap last week's contest. First, the winner was ABQ businessman Mark Fidel. He correctly guessed that it was ABQ's Michael Wiener who was the only modern day politician to serve on the ABQ City Council, the Bernalillo County Commission and in the state Senate. ABQ attorney David Buchholz and Gerald Levine also got it right, but Fidel, son of the late Grants area state Senator Joe Fidel, was first and he gets the tickets (a $170 value).

One interesting twist: Reader Miguel Navrot guessed that it was Steve Gallegos. Well, Gallegos was indeed elected to the ABQ City Council and the BernCo Commission and he "served" in the state Senate as an appointed sergeant-at-arms. Clever try, Miguel, but serving in the Senate means you are elected to that body. By the way, Wiener, 62, continues to work as a business consultant in ABQ.

Now for today's contest and your chance to win two tickets to the Vintage ABQ Grand tasting. We may have used this one a few years ago, but that's a long time and it's a tough one:

Who was the first New Mexican to serve in all three branches of government--as Governor,  a Supreme Court Justice and state Senator?

Good luck!

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pearce And Heinrich Have Memorable Weeks And Prompt Thoughts Of NM's DC Role, Plus: More From The ABQ Crime Front, And: Your Chance To Win Vintage ABQ Tickets 

Heinrich and Pearce
What a week for Steve Pearce and Martin Heinrich. Pearce was among US House  Republicans at that park where a gunman fired round after round Wednesday, critically wounding a GOP congressional leader and sending Pearce to Facebook to describe what had to be one of the most traumatic events he's ever been involved with.  Pearce flew supply missions during the Vietnam war and must have thought he left the threat of bullets far behind. Not so in today's troubled USA.

Senator Heinrich had another solid week at Senate Intelligence Committee hearings. His declaration that Attorney General Sessions "was impeding" the investigation into Russian ties to the administration went viral and made him a hero for the day among the left.

Pearce and Heinrich's foray into the national spotlight was a bit unusual for them, but New Mexicans are used to seeing their DC representatives there. Former Senator Pete Domenici was a constant national presence on budget matters. Astronaut turned NM Senator Jack Schmitt was a national figure even before being elected in 1976. More recently northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has made a national splash, appearing on various media in his role as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And former NM Gov. and Congressman Bill Richardson was again on national TV this week discussing the latest on North Korea.

But fame doesn't necessarily equal power. And that's the modern day problem for our state. Federal funding that began to plunge with the onset of the Great Recession has not recovered. Sandia Labs in ABQ, a key economic driver, grows slowly. And a new funding threat to Los Alamos National Labs funding has just emerged. Then there's the proposal to downsize the federal/state Medicaid program, the expansion of which has provided one of the few economic bright spots here.

With the Senate seniority of Domenci and Jeff Bingaman long gone and congressional earmarks too, federal funding, which built this place into a modern state, is pretty much in a "what you see is what you get" mode. New Mexico will always be a key player in national security with its labs and military bases but the days of steady and assured growth are probably gone forever.

Pearce and Heinrich reminded us this week that we have an able and dedicated congressional delegation, but it was also a reminder that that the overwhelming federal role here and our congressional power have been greatly diminished.

CRIME TIME

It seems just about everyone in ABQ has a crime tale to tell, and that includes reader Elaine Romero:

Speaking of car thefts and organized crime: my second vehicle was stolen from an elementary school - middle of the day - children in the classrooms! It was recovered 30 days later at a casino filled with stolen ID's including passports, government checks, and a counterfeit money-making machine. I was told that I had 24 hours to pick it up or I would be responsible for the storage yard charges. I was told everything in it now belonged to me. Of course I refused to touch it and demanded police deal with the contents. I met them there the following day where one officer told me their warehouse was overflowing with confiscated items and they had no staff or budgets to catalog items. He also said, "there's something about this case that I just can't put my finger on". Enchanting, right?

Soon there will be a new mayor in charge of this mess. Speaking of which. . .

MAYORAL FORUM TONIGHT 

The Bernalillo County Democratic Party will sponsor an ABQ mayoral forum tonight and we'll be the moderator so stop by and say hello. It will be at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Hall 510 San Pedro Dr SE from 5:45pm - 7:00 pm. And don't worry Republicans, at least one of your hopefuls will be there. The election is October 3.

YOUR CHANCE TO WIN

We've got a wonderful night in store for some lucky blog readers.

Courtesy of Vintage ABQ, we're giving away two free tickets to the June 23rd Grand Tasting at the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. These tickets go for $85 each and no wonder: "More than 30 wineries pour over 100 wines with local restaurants cooking up perfect complements for your culinary pleasure, truly a mouthwatering culinary extravaganza!"

So how to attend this night to remember free of charge? Well, we can't make it too easy, given the level of this prize. So answer this question first and you will be the lucky winner:

What Bernalillo County politician since the 1970's was the only one to serve on the ABQ city council, the Bernalilo County commission and in the NM state Senate? And what was that politician's party affiliation while serving in each capacity?

Good luck with that. Email your answers. Relatives, friends and Alligators associated with the politico are obviously ineligible. You know who you are. If that question turns out to be too tough, don't worry. We'll have another pair of tickets to give away next week.

Of course, feel free to buy your tickets at Vintage ABQ for the Grand Tasting or the other fine dinner and wine events that kick off June 21. Your purchase will benefit this:

Vintage Albuquerque is an independent 501C3 non-profit charitable organization chartered to raise money to support arts education for New Mexico students. Vintage Albuquerque has raised money for the Albuquerque Museum Foundation, Albuquerque Youth Symphony, Arts in the School, APS Fine Arts Program, New Mexico Jazz Workshop, New Mexico Philharmonic, Popejoy Hall, NDI-New Mexico, and others.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Politicos Kicking Up '18 Campaign Trail Dust; What Will John Do? Plus: Readers Pull Us Back To ABQ's Crowded Crime Beat 

Here's the dust from the the '18 campaign trail we're tracking for you. . .

Lt. Governor John Sanchez is burnishing his foreign policy credentials ahead of what is expected to be a run for the US Senate or a congressional seat. He's heading up a local delegation that is visiting China to promote trade. Sanchez has been openly criticizing Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich at public events and looks to be preparing to join ABQ businessman Mick Rich in seeking the GOP nomination to take on Heinrich who is seeking his second, six year term.

However, if Sanchez gets nervous over a senate bid (and he might be) he could make a play for the GOP nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Dem Rep. Lujan Grisham who is running for Governor. Then there is a bit of strange talk about Sanchez running for the southern congressional seat if Rep. Pearce vacates the seat and runs for Governor. But Sanchez doesn't even live in the district. He lives in ABQ. Oh well, after seven years with Susana, you can forgive John if he seems beside himself on what to do with his political future--if he has one.

LAND OFFICE CLASH 

A possible Sanchez challenge isn't making Heinrich shy. As we blogged recently he is a big supporter of Dem land commissioner candidate Garret VeneKlasen and was expected to advocate for him. But Heinrich has taken it a step further and publicly endorsed VeneKlasen who is locked in a primary battle with former Dem Land Commissioner Ray Powell, Jr. Says Heinrich:

There is no one I would trust more to be the steward of our state trust lands and to make smart and sustainable contributions to New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund. Most importantly, at this critical time for our state, Garrett knows that investing in early childhood education is not a luxury, but rather a necessity. This is why I am endorsing Garrett VeneKlasen for Commissioner of Public Lands. I trust Garrett to do the right thing for our land, our kids and our future.

Powell recently told us he is switching his position on the proposed constitutional amendment to fund very early childhood education. He has previously been skeptical of the proposal to tap the $16 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education but is now in favor. Sen. Heinrich and VeneKlasen are longtime backers of the amendment which if approved by the Legislature would be put to the voters.

The Heinrich endorsement is going to mean cash for VeneKlasen's campaign coffers and will vault him from being an unknown to a known quantity in Dem circles. With Heinrich putting his nose under the tent, the VeneKlasen-Powell face-off is going to be a race to watch.

WHAT IF?

So if Rep. Steve Pearce decides not to run for the '18 GOP Guv nod, who will? That's the question keeping the GOP up at night. Party insiders are now floating the name of Steve McKee, the ABQ advertising executive who last year toyed with the idea of running for mayor but took a pass. They're now saying McKee could be a possible if Pearce declines. The others on the party radar for a Guv run include PRC Commissioner Pat Lyons and Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn. Lujan Grisham and Jeff Apodaca are the two announced Dem hopefuls.

THE CRIME BEAT

We're always pleased to strike a chord or two when we blog, and so it was the case with Tuesday's entry about the ABQ crime epidemic and our city's newly infamous title of "Stolen Car Capital of America." Reader Mike Santullo writes:

Your blog was succinct, introspective and right to the point. You hit on all cylinders and made the most salient points you could possibly make. Glad to see you spared no one. It's about time we hear some outrage! Everyone in power in this town is asleep at the switch and more concerned with preserving their so-called legacies and political agendas, not the welfare and safety of the people. It is embarrassing, humiliating and totally unacceptable and must stop immediately. The Albuquerque Journal needs to take the bull by the horns and start naming names and stop being the house organ for the entrenched GOP in this state. Enough of the pussy footing. It needs to start writing strong editorials condemning the lack of leadership and action in this city. Enough is enough.

Reader Ron Nelson came with this:

Outstanding, Joe, way to drive the nail home. I took an upper level criminology class my senior year in 1975. We talked about the local crime and car thefts, as they dominated the scenario back in those days also. Your reader has hit the nail on the head--there is organized crime driving these issues. A profound point from my professor was, if law enforcement can’t seem to put a dent in the statistics, perhaps they are part of the problem?

The crime wave is personal and painful for thousands of city residents. We hear them, as in this missive from a Huning-Highland resident who has suffered repeated financial and emotional loss. She writes of having a trailer stolen from her front drive:

My husband and I have lived in our home for 30 years and never before have I been afraid in my own home as I have been the past couple of years. There are so many reasons Albuquerque has such high crime statistics and in my opinion almost all of them can be attributed to Mayor Berry and his administration. His "hands off" way of running or not running our city has caused Albuquerque to become a place I am not familiar with anymore.

You cannot run a city if you're not in touch with what's really going on. I have a great deal of respect for the police, but they can only do so much with what they have to work with. I really miss the Albuquerque I fell in love with.

By the way, this is the 3rd vehicle stolen from us this year. We have a business that requires delivering product and we have always thought is was safer to park them at our home in our safe neighborhood!

"I really miss the Albuquerque I fell in love with." What more needs to be said? Or can be said?

VINTAGE ABQ

Don't forget Vintage ABQ this year. The annual fine food and wine event raises funds for arts education in the ABQ schools and is always a big hit. It features the best in epicurean delights from the city's top restaurants and wineries.  Click on the ad for more info on the many events available for your enjoyment. And join us here tomorrow when we give you the chance to win tickets to the Vintage ABQ Grand Tasting. Hey, we're here to serve. . .

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Welcome To The Stolen Car Capital Of America; Why Is The City Still Asleep At The Wheel? Plus: Martinez Ship Jumping Gets Underway  

Berry and Eden
Forget about the economy. Forget about that sick leave ordinance. Forget about ART.

There is one and only one issue in the 2017 race for mayor of Albuquerque--the lawlessness that has beset the city and the continuing destruction of its police force. The crime wave here is jarring, relentless and long ago scotched any hopes for major economic development in the foreseeable future. The latest:

More than 27 vehicles a day. More than 10,000 for the year. That’s how many vehicles were reported stolen from Albuquerque and neighboring counties in 2016, according to a recent report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The bureau reported the Albuquerque area had the highest per-capita rate of auto thefts in the country.


Worst in the nation for auto theft and the city in second place isn't even close! The shock is that the citizenry is still not yelling from their rooftops over the colossal failure and incompetence of the city's leadership to reign in the thieves, murderers, drag racers and meth heads that have made the city something akin to a dusty border town with a corrupt police department and a puppet mayor and city council.

The soaring murder rate, the auto theft epidemic, the freeways run amok, the constant break-ins at area businesses and homes and the widespread vandalism have given this city a damnable reputation.

The blame is everywhere but still there is no accountability for:

---The mayoral administration of Richard Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry presiding over the mayhem while evading responsibility for the disintegration of law and order.

--The police department led by an ineffectual Gorden Eden and cordoned off by an upper command staff at war with its own citizenry and stifling accountability to the bitter end.

--The flaccid, fearful and forlorn nine member city council which has not a member on it that has stepped forward to lead the way out of this jungle, even as the mayor has abdicated.

--The see-no-evil business community represented by the Economic Forum, the ABQ Chamber of Commerce, NAIOP and the like which join with the agenda driven newspaper to prop up the Republican mayor at all costs--no matter the cost to the welfare of this once on-the-go metropolis.

Newsman Dan Rather opined over the bizarre politics in DC: "We are failing to be outraged by the outrageous." That could be the bumper sticker for the current state of politics in our state's largest city. It's as if everyone is overdosing on Xanax.

In about 90 days early voting will get underway in the ABQ mayoral election. It will be our last, best chance to turn this city around, but only if the candidates are subjected to the accountability that we have so maddeningly allowed to elude those currently in power.

WHERE THEY GOING?

In the wake of the news that we are the stolen car capital of the USA, a comment from James Uberman on Facebook scolding the media stood out:

This is reporting?? Where are all these cars going. This is not a few individuals, this is an industrial operation. Are the Mexican Cartels involved? Notice the #2 city is just up I-25. There is a major organized crime ring behind this but no reporting on that.

Good question, James. Maybe the media, along with the district attorney, mayor and police chief might want to start asking the same?

The relationship between APD and the various oversight panels watching over the troubled agency continues to plumb new lows with police stonewalling the order of the day. And APD's war room mentality now extends to the media. Take a look:

An important editor's note: Ordinarily, KOB would reach out to APD for comment on this sort of story prior to a newscast, or prior to publishing on KOB.com. However, in recent months, that courtesy has resulted in KOB content being distributed to other news outlets by the Albuquerque Police Department. To maintain the integrity of our content, our management has decided to reach out to APD for comment at the first opportunity on Saturday. We will share the department's response with you then.

What in the name of Harry Kinney is going on in this town? If any of the eight mayoral candidates refuses to pledge to oust the current chief and all of the APD upper command staff, they ought to be taken over to Old Town Plaza where spectators could throw leftover enchiladas at them.

SHIP JUMPING

Sanchez
Watch for the splashes from the ship jumpers to get even bigger. NM Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, who lost out recently on a high level job in the federal education department, announces that she's resigning from the Martinez administration this month. She's joined by the Governor's press aide Chris Sanchez. Martinez's term doesn't conclude until the end of next year but with the news ahead looking bleak, the ship jumping seems to be starting earlier than usual.

Skandera will be remembered as contentious, abrasive, bullying and an ideologue. The same goes for Sanchez but worse. He debased the communications office and the political dialogue by calling legislators "disgusting" and other such niceties as he refused to talk to news organizations critical of the Governor. At least Skandera took public policy seriously. For Sanchez, the campaign never ended as Jay created an attack dog with only one switch: attack and vilify. Sanchez says he's moving out of state but the media did not report where. Yeah, spread that joy around.

THAT WAS HANNA

Skandera is getting some credit for increasing graduation rates in the state but the weight of the evidence goes against her, asserts reader Phil Parker:

Skandera prioritized (politically useful) data over kids' basic needs, and told teachers who asked for her help that they were wrong about their own students. When teachers told her about problems they faced in their classrooms - kids who were hungry, or pregnant, or on drugs, or skipping school because they felt degraded for many different reasons - her responses were always pure weaselspeak. She never gave a straight answer in public, and I think that's because she was prioritizing the interests of private education companies. There was always something to hide, some issue her department wouldn't comment on. She was a pure ice-cold politician, and possibly a profiteer, and her kind is taking over everything.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Former ABQ State Rep, Rick Miera makes it official and becomes a candidate for the '18 Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. More on his campaign here. Taos educator Jeff Carr is the other announced lt. gov. candidate. ABQ State Senator Michael Padilla is also expected to run. There are no announced GOP lt. governor hopefuls. . .

The NM Republican Party was jolted Monday when it learned of the death of party spokesman--25 year old W. Tucker Keene. Said GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi:

He was a brilliant writer, tenacious promoter of our cause, keen political communicator and most importantly, a wonderful person. Tucker approached his work with great passion, enthusiasm and with a witty sense of humor.

Keene, a Massachusetts native, was found dead in his ABQ apartment. The cause is being determined by the medical examiner.

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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Time For Another Edition Of Vox Populi As Readers Weigh In On The Major Issues Of The Day In La Politica 

It's time for another edition of the always popular reader Vox Populi, where the readers weigh in on the pressing and maybe not so pressing issues of our beloved La Politica:

Let's kick it off with former State Land Commissioner Ray Powell who is seeking the '18 Dem nomination for that office. He informs us that he has changed his mind about supporting a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to tap a portion of the state's $16 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to finance very early childhood programs. He had previously opposed the amendment:

The most important investment we can make is in our children’s education. And in a short fifteen years, today’s children will be adults pursuing their dreams. The majority of New Mexico’s children are in dire need. Their future and that of our state depends on bold and decisive action. As an important part of my commitment to our children’s health and success, I support the additional increase in funding from the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) for early childhood education. The issues that have concerned me about protecting the integrity of the LGPF, accountability, and measuring programmatic success have been addressed in the most recent proposed legislation. I fully and enthusiastically support this action to help our children and our State.

LAGGING LOTTERY

Reader Doug Echols comments on the state's decision to reduce funding for the state lottery scholarships for higher education from 90 percent of tuition to 70 percent:

Looks like the state just raised taxes by $700 a year on every hard working New Mexico family who rely on the Lottery Scholarship.

Meantime, former state Rep. Dick Minzner comes with the controversial idea of ending the lottery scholarships whose funding has become unreliable and force the legislature to deal directly with the problem.

OUR 21ST CENTURY

Reader John Ingram reacted to our blog this week that said New Mexico's great mistake of this century is austerity politics--(tax cuts, etc.) instead of investment in human capital in the aftermath of the Great Recession:

Joe:  New Mexico's first great mistake occurred in 1980, when legislators passed and our governor signed the 'Big Mac' tax cut. Big Mac effectively removed property tax revenues as public education's primary funding source. Our lawmakers then voted to fund schools, colleges and universities with revenues gained from gross receipts taxes, sales taxes, and state income taxes. Since 1980,  lawmakers have doubled-down on those first two mistakes with a third one: passing hundreds of gross receipts tax exemptions, as well as corporate tax loopholes, corporate tax cuts/credits/giveaways, film tax credits, and personal state income tax cuts. Over time, these anti-tax measures resulted in fewer state budget revenues. The tax cuts also caused too many years of either public education cuts, freezes, or stagnation. New Mexico's economy, good jobs and higher standards of living are dependent upon sufficient and adequate investment in our public education systems.  The dire conditions which you so clearly detailed in your blog document the failure to provide that investment.

CRIME SCENERY

A while back reader Frank Haley wondered what ABQ westside City Council Candidate Cynthia Borrego meant when she said the environment can be a crime-fighting tool. We asked her to explain:

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPED) is to influence new development and redevelopment relying upon the ability to influence offender behavior. Specifically, altering the physical design of communities to deter criminal activity. . . and influencing the amount of opportunity for "eyes on the street."  Some strategies include: Limiting access to buildings and subdivisions; encouraging a mix of  land uses to promote walkability and pedestrian activity; encouraging natural surveillance such as better lighting, landscaping that allows for improving sight lines and developing policies related to security that allow for fostering a sense of common place and purpose. . . Research into criminal behavior shows that the decision to offend or not to offend is more influenced by the perceived risk of being caught than the reward or ease of entry.

Borrego is a former city planner. She is a Democrat seeking the District 5 seat being vacated by GOP Councilor Dan Lewis who is running for mayor. We will have the final list of all city council candidates shortly after June 28, when the hopefuls must file the necessary petition signatures with the city clerk. Borrego's most prominent foe is GOP attorney Robert Aragon. Five of the nine council seats are up for election this fall.

DUMPING ON DAVIS

Dem ABQ City Councilor and congressional hopeful Pat Davis was scorched this week for playing budget ball with Republican Mayor Berry and refusing to join his Democratic colleagues in overriding the mayor's budget veto. Among those blasting Davis as a faux progressive were former Dem City Councilors Greg Payne and Pete Dinelli. Davis responds:

Albuquerque has very real and concerning budget issues. On the Albuquerque City Council, I’ve fought to increase funding for first responders, community programs, the arts, sidewalks, and for investment in our local economy to create jobs. I voted the way I did because I refuse to hurt hundreds of New Mexico families by furloughing vital city workers to score cheap political points.

For 6 years, I’ve been the most vocal and active critic in our state against Susana Martinez, RJ Berry and Donald Trump as the head of ProgressNow New Mexico. We need progressive champions in Congress now more than ever to stand up for working families, to create jobs from the bottom up and to hold the Trump administration accountable. That’s why I’m running for Congress.

MORE VOTERS NEEDED

Reader Bob Perls of NM Open Primaries opines about the possibility of there being as many as eight or more Democrats seeking next year's nomination for the ABQ U.S. House seat:

Hi Joe, If we end up with 8 or more candidates in the Dem. primary, it is a stunning example of how and why we need election reform. A candidate could move on to the general with less than 20 percent of the primary vote and walk right through the general. 

Since we have a closed primary, only the hardcore party base is going to turn out, so you have a fraction of the people registered and a fraction of those will actually vote and those who vote will not be representative of most New Mexicans. Since this is a strongly leaning Dem seat, there is a good chance that fewer than 1 percent of New Mexicans in CD-1, and fewer than 5 percent of the registered voters will actually decide who goes to Congress. 

Open primaries or ranked choice voting could take care of these problems leading to electing a person that has a mandate and actually had to reach out to the full spectrum of political beliefs to get through the first round elections. Instead we will see Dem. candidates doing the usual shuffle to the left in the primary and a shuffle to the center in the general perpetuating the view that politicians will do and say whatever they want to get elected and stay in office. And that damages our democracy.

TRUMP AND SUSANA

Bannon
A reader writes of a similarity they see between the Trump White House and Gov. Martinez's office:

Steve Bannon is to Trump as political adviser Jay McCleskey is to Gov. Martinez--a nation and a state run entirely by political handlers:

"Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough repeatedly called Steve Bannon "President Bannon" on his show recently: "TIME magazine was right: Steve Bannon is the president of the United States."

"He has gone in. Donald Trump doesn't know anything about policy. Donald Trump doesn't know anything about politics. Donald Trump doesn't know anything about anything. He can get up and give a good speech. You listen to him talk about any topic and he wanders from sentence to sentence to sentence. So Steve Bannon is now the President of the United States."

Reader Dennis Martinez also isn't happy with the Santa Fe administration:

Governor Martinez hides behind her crime bills because she is unwilling to face reality. She will leave state government in worse financial shape than it was when she was elected and the state’s economy in decline and declining. She realizes (too late) that she has run out of time to make any improvements. She never overcame her dependence on her experience as a district attorney and she never grew into her job as governor. She was vindictive, unwilling to compromise and a believer in failed economic policies.

SHE'S ENDORSED

Finally, the campaign of ABQ Dem congressional hopeful Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez writes:

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez announced that her campaign had received endorsements from former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid, Albuquerque State Senator Bill Tallman, Albuquerque State Rep. Miguel Garcia and PRC Commissioner Cynthia Hall.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Mayor Berry Approval Rating Plunges To New Lows; Insider Polling Has Nearly 60% Of Voters Disapproving, Plus: Liberal Councilor Davis Plays With The R's And Pays A Steep Political Price  

It appears the bottom has dropped out of ABQ Mayor Richard Berry's political support. Insider polling conducted last month shows nearly 60 percent of voters surveyed disapprove of his job performance--58 percent to be precise.

The survey was conducted by landlines among about 300 registered voters. It was done for a third party with an interest in city politics. We were given the numbers in exchange for anonymity but we can say the polling firm that did the survey has in the past been a very reliable source.

That Berry has apparently plummeted into the polling cellar is not a bolt out of the blue. The hyper-controversial ART transit project on Central Avenue, the continuing crime wave that sees more victims daily and a plodding city economy have all likely contributed to voter dissatisfaction with the two-term incumbent.  For example, here's a comment from Facebook reacting to the recent news of the city's soaring murder rate. It amplifies the Mayor's problems:

He's such an epic failure of a mayor. He will go down as one of the major reasons for the increase in crime, departure of many college grads, loss of jobs, poor infrastructure, businesses leaving, and dilapidation of the city. October can't come soon enough!

Berry will be out of office December 1. The political chatter over him possibly seeking the '18 GOP Guv nomination has long ceased, although the media still give it a pro forma mention when listing potential candidates.

One insider close to the administration says Berry would be more likely now to look at the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Dem. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grsham who is running for governor. But with numbers like his, Berry appears to already have a leg in the political graveyard.

So, does Berry's unpopularity mean a Democrat is a shoo-in to replace him in this year's city election, the first round of which is October 3? Not necessarily. There is no Dem contender who is known exceptionally well citywide and dominating the field. Dem State Auditor Tim Keller is in the early polling lead but GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis is not far behind and continues to try to position himself as an opponent of Berry. How they and the other candidates conduct their campaigns will be critical as voters don't yet seem to have deep-seated feelings about any of the hopefuls.

DAVIS PLAYS--AND PAYS

One Democratic congressional hopeful who has been running into a buzzsaw of criticism over his alleged switch from liberal to something more moderate made life even more difficult for himself when he again made nice with the very unpopular Berry.

City Councilor Pat Davis suffered a humiliating defeat this week when a budget compromise he attempted to craft with two conservative Republican Councilors--Brad Winter and Trudy Jones--blew up in his face. How badly was he injured? Well, for the first time since he took office nearly eight years ago, the city council overrode a Berry veto. And Davis was the only Democrat not to join in that rebuke of Berry's budget which was widely celebrated by his party brethren.

Davis, head of the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow NM, has for years positioned himself as a vociferous critic of both Berry and Gov. Martinez, but since he has joined the council he's donned less liberal stripes and has been very accommodating toward the Republican mayor. That is exactly the opposite of what Dems expected when he was elected from his liberal Southeast Heights district. And for that he is being subjected to blistering criticism by fellow D's. Among them is former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne:

After this latest cave-in to Berry, it's clear that electing Pat Davis to Congress to supposedly take on Donald Trump would be tantamount to sending Barney Fife to fight ISIS. If Davis can't stand up to a political wimp like R. J. Berry, what does anyone think he will do against a bona fide bully like Trump?

As for the "cave-ins" that Payne finds offensive, they are chronicled in detail by another former Dem City Councilor, Pete Dinelli, who was also a '13 mayoral candidate:

--Davis refused to put the ART Bus project on the ballot, voted to fund and support ART and saying there was nothing he could do.

--When he served on a task force to overhaul our public finance laws, Davis declined to advocate meaningful changes that would make it easier for candidates to qualify for public finance.

--Davis has done nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and has never challenged the APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms.

And that's just for starters.

All of this is making Davis' bid for the Dem nomination for the US House seat much more complicated. As his progressive credentials get tarnished, the reason for his candidacy diminishes. In other words, having a bromance with the Republican mayor doesn't set aflutter the hearts of the nominating wing of the Democratic Party.

HAALAND AND HARRIS

Coincidentally or not, the day after Davis was plowed under by his council colleagues in that 6 to 3 vote to override Berry's budget veto, Deb Haaland, one of his rivals for the Dem congressional nomination, came with an endorsement of her candidacy from former US Senator Fred Harris, one of the state's leading progressives:

As a former U.S. Senator, national chair of the Democratic Party, presidential candidate, and political science professor, I am proud to announce my support for Deb Haaland. Deb was an outstanding student of mine at the University of New Mexico. She knows firsthand what it means to work for a living, because she's had to work all her life - including working her way through the university and law school.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Spring Of Our Discontent: Poll Shows A Record Number Of NewMexicans Believe State Is On The Wrong Track; How It Happened, Plus:Polling Pearce Versus Grisham As '18 Guv Dance Continues 

"Before this period of history in New Mexico is resolved you are going to see and hear things you thought were simply not possible."

We've said that many times since the Great Recession took hold here in 2009 and has yet to release its grip. Unfortunately, we're not done saying it. Today's entry into the previously thought impossible is how New Mexicans feel about the direction of their state.

In a May 20-23 poll of 605 registered voters an off-the-charts 73 percent of respondents say the state is on "the wrong track." Correct us if we're wrong, but we believe that is the highest level of New Mexican discontent ever recorded in a public survey.

The Tarrance Group, a firm that works for GOP candidates and organizations, stated in a poll commissioned by GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce:

The vast majority of New Mexico voters are not happy with the direction in which the state is headed. Only 15% say things are going in the right direction, while fully 73% of New Mexico voters say things are going down the wrong track. This is not a lightly held opinion, as a 54% majority feel strongly that things are “wrong track.

The existential crisis that is New Mexico today demands powerful and courageous leadership if the state is to resume the role it once relished and prospered under:

A growing Sunbelt state, albeit with long term economic and social problems, but one that was fighting to keep its head above water and more often than not succeeding.

Veteran TV journalist, longtime political observer and Taos native Rodger Beimer rightly points out that the state's descent into economic darkness has been hastened by global events beyond our control---trade, technology etc. But he joins the chorus in singing a lament over the apathetic, ineffectual and weak leadership at the state and local levels during this prolonged period of crisis (and that includes both parties).

The Great Recession here was followed by what might be called the Great Withdrawal. Instead of fighting to save the state, many left for nearby greener pastures and many who stayed looked inward at their own personal standing as the economic storm raged. And it became a perfect storm for the decline when the state opted for laissez-faire leadership in Santa Fe and ABQ.

Those who have stayed around have witnessed child well-being and poverty rankings become the worst or near worst in the nation; the state suffering a downgrade to its bonding status; the fleeing of the educated millennials; a historic low in workforce participation; employers unable to find skilled and drug-free employees; the highest unemployment rate in the nation and a tidal wave of lawlessness in the state and its largest city fueled by a ferocious drug epidemic and feckless leadership. Thousands of New Mexicans have been dumped at the side of the road by this economic calamity, as have thousands more in places like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For many it will be the end of the road and a life buffered by Medicaid and food stamps.

The great, historic mistake New Mexico made in this century was the pivot to austerity politics when the circumstances demanded stimulus and massive investment in human capital. So here we sit with the mess we made and now 73 percent of the state fully recognizing that we took a very wrong turn. But recognizing it and doing something about it are concepts still far apart in the minds of voters and have not been connected for them by our political leadership.

New Mexico has a Grand Canyon to dig out of, but before the digging can commence the descent must be halted. That is a tall order even if we are someday blessed with dynamic leadership. To once again paraphrase the late great singer Marty Robbins, "Lord, this time you gave us a mountain, a mountain we may never climb. It isn't a hill any longer. You gave us a mountain this time."

Before this period finally ends, those lyrics may become the official state song.

POLLING PEARCE

Pearce
That same poll from the Tarrance Group measuring the right track/wrong track in the state also conducted a hypothetical match-up for the '18 gubernatorial race between GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce and ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. She's already announced her candidacy for her party's nomination and Pearce is thinking about doing the same. The survey showed Grisham leading Pearce 47% to 43% with 10% undecided.

The Pearce forces took heart from the survey, boasting they were only four points behind But other operatives looked at it quite differently, pointing out that Pearce has been on the state scene for over twenty years and can't break out of territory that represents the base Republican vote. Meanwhile, they pointed out that Grisham, who is not yet know statewide is just a few points from 50% in the head-to-head match.

Some R's fear a debacle if the very conservative Pearce is their nominee, citing his landslide defeat in 2008 by Senator Tom Udall. Pearce then managed only 39% of the statewide vote. But a debacle may be awaiting the party even if Pearce doesn't run because they have no other candidates of stature in their bullpen. Pat Lyons, Aubrey Dunnpp or anyone else flying under the R banner will face a cycle with the wind blowing in their face.

RISING IN VALUE

Lujan Grisham
That Democratic Guv nomination is becoming more valuable by the day. But with a full year to go before the primary some Dems are getting antsy over the spin that the nomination is closed out and that Grisham is the default winner. That doesn't sit well with ABQ businessman Jeff Apodaca who is also vying for the Dem nod and, of course, it rankles the political junkies who always ache for a spirited debate.

Given that background, it was no wonder that a mini-frenzy developed in La Politica when last week we mentioned that businessman and foreign affairs expert Joshua Cooper Ramo made some phone calls to top Dem politicos wondering aloud about running for Governor. A Dem operative reports he lives in NYC but also has a place in Santa Fe and is registered to vote there.

He is not running, a family member and numerous others near his circle assure us. But the stir caused by the possible entry of Ramo, a native of the ABQ metro with well-known parents and who has had a star-studded career back East, reminded everyone that we have a long way to go and that a Coronation Day for Rep. Grisham is still a bit premature.

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Thursday, June 01, 2017

ABQ Congressional Candidates Multiplying Fast, Gators Feed On Ramo Guv Rumor And "The NM Inquisition" Laughs At La Politica 

Will we reach double digits? That's the question for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep Michelle Lujan Grisham who is seeking her party's '18 Guv nomination. A year before the primary we already are up to six congressional contenders. They are:

Former NM Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland, attorney Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis, ABQ physicist Dennis Dinge, attorney Damian Lara and Edgewood town councilor John Abrams.

And there are two more waiting in the wings, including former US attorney Damon Martinez and possibly a former aide to US Senator Jeff Bingaman. That would take us to eight.

But expect the sorting out to be fast and furious. Given the low name ID of these candidates, party insiders peg the cost of a successful run for the nomination will run at least $1 million and up to $1.5 million. Not many will be able to reach that bar.

GATORING RAMO

The Alligators came climbing out of Tingley Beach when they read our report about businessman and foreign affairs consultant Joshua Cooper Ramo making some phone calls to top politicos in which he wondered about running for the '18 Dem Guv nomination. Never mind that it's a longshot Ramo would actually run. Behind every possible political move, the Gators dig deep. For example,

Joe, You didn't mention that Joshua Cooper Ramo is the cousin of Amanda Cooper, the step-daughter of Senator Tom Udall and longtime state political consultant. Amanda's mother, Jill Cooper Udall, is related to Joshua's mother, Roberta Cooper Ramo. And remember how Sen. Udall was considering a run for Governor before Michelle Lujan Grisham decided to run. Just sayin'.

Hmm. Joshua as the stalking horse for Tom Udall? Well, that's what you get when you tell the Alligators that it's all over for the Dem nomination and that a Grisham win is a done deal. That's like taking fresh meat from their jagged teeth.

By week's end the Ramo family and a variety of others were making mince meat of the Ramo rumor, saying emphatically he was not running for Governor. Considering he lives mainly in New York, (although he does have a place in Santa Fe as well) you would not expect him to make a bid.

NOT AS EXPECTED

A newspaper report said the stunning drop for state funding of lottery scholarships--from 90 to 60 percent of tuition--was "as expected." Say what? How many of the 26,000 higher ed students getting lottery funding were expecting a drop that will add over $700 a year to their tuition? We're they all eagle-eyed and watching the legislative session?  Of course not. Their jaws are dropping over the news and some of them may not be able to go to classes because of the massive drop in lottery aid.

The scholarship program is rapidly fading away in a state besieged by austerity. But that's New Mexico these days. News that should have folks up in arms and demanding change and accountability is treated "as expected." And that's how you get an economic death spiral in which the the young lead the pack in leaving the state.

THE NM INQUISITION

Thankfully, not all of the talented youth are leaving. We ran into a couple of them who are among the best and brightest--and funniest. Danger Varoz (he swears that's his real name), Sheridan Kay Johnson and a large supporting cast have been garnering plenty of attention and accolades for their new political satire series "The New Mexico Inquisition" or "NMINQ."  The program airs on their Facebook and other social media like YouTube as well as public access TV.

Danger and Sheridan throw piles of comedy and satire at the state's top politicos, fake news, the "real" news doled out by the NM mainstream media and much more. As NMIQ says, "Laugh at the headlines, stay for the Fake News!"

It's sharp writing and quick wit for those who like their La Politica a bit on the wild side. And if you're reading this, that's you. Enjoy.

OFF HIS ROCKER

Gary, what do you mean you're "finally" off your rocker?

In June, Gary Johnson will embark on what he calls his greatest physical challenge yet: riding the Continental Divide from Banff, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies to Antelope Wells in the desert of Southern New Mexico. The former two-term Republican governor and two-time Libertarian presidential candidate is taking part in the Tour Divide, a nearly 2,800-mile race. Johnson, 64, said that he may be “finally, completely off my rocker.” He said he expects to be on his mountain bike for eight to nine hours a day for something like 40 days.

Gary has been "off his rocker" for as long as we can remember, but we've got to give it to him. No one is going to put this peripatetic senior athlete in a rocking chair.

THE BOTTOM LINES

On our big Wednesday blog we called Ray Powell the state land commissioner. He, of course, is the former commissioner. The current commissioner is Republican Aubrey Dunn. . . And we said in the first draft that there are two women on the ABQ city council. There are three--Councilors Gibson, Pena and Jones.

WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR

Calling all New Mexicans! New Mexico First invites you to THE policy event of the year on June 7th. U.S. Senators Tom Daschle and Trent Lott will headline the event and highlight important issues facing our state! Bipartisanship awards will be given to Rep. James Smith, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richards, Rep. Jim Dines and Sherman McCorkle. Buy tickets here.

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