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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Rebooting The Race For Governor: Udall Out, Lujan Grisham Getting Ready To Dive In; Balderas On The Fence, Plus: Never Too Soon; List of Possible Dem Replacements For ABQ House Seat Circulates, And: Say What, PNM? Another Rate Increase? 

Sen. Udall
The race for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination was reset Wednesday as Senator Tom Udall decided to stay put and ended his flirtation with a candidacy. (His full statement here). Here's what his decision means:

--Udall's exit will likely hasten the entrance of ABQ Dem US Rep Michelle Lujan Grisham who has been all but saying she is going to run. With Udall gone it is that much easier.

---Lujan Grisham, coming off a 65 percent re-elect win in November, is the front-runner but she would have to share that status with Attorney General Hector Balderas if he decided to opt in. So far, the signals are mixed. The statement on his behalf in the aftermath of Udall's announcement: “The attorney general is seriously considering a run for governor and has deep concerns about the future of our state. He’ll make a determination in the near future.”

--Balderas could be reluctant because he would probably have an easy AG re-election in '18. At 43, he might want to wait, but an open seat for Governor doesn't happen everyday and he could take the plunge.

--Without Balderas in the race the challenge to Lujan Grisham would fall to lesser known possibles that include businessman Jeff Apodaca, son of former Governor Jerry Apodaca, Alan Webber, a 2014 Dem guv hopeful, Las Cruces state Senator Joe Cervantes who is taking a peek as well as Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales.

--Lujan Grisham can be expected to act fast so she can start raising money and discourage others from getting in. She was recently named chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, giving her access to donors throughout the nation. Also, as first out of the gate she could begin the criticism of the Martinez administration and position herself as the alternative.

--Attacks from behind-the-scenes on Lujan Grisham have already begun with critics calling her "disorganized" having an "over the top" personality and lacking any significant congressional accomplishments to run on.

--Udall's decision makes GOP Congressman Steve Pearce again look seriously at a run for the Republican nomination. But his conservative profile is good for getting the nomination, but a hindrance in a statewide race. Lt. Gov. Sanchez is very likely to go. ABQ Mayor Berry could, but he is not a fave of the nominating wing of the GOP.

--Udall said he wasn't running for governor because he was better positioned to "fight" for New Mexico as a US Senator, but insiders speculate he was also not gunning for a fight for the nomination against Lujan Grisham. She might have gotten out if he had gotten in, but he could not be sure. Most of Udall's races have been lay-ups with little opposition. Did Udall poll the race before making his decision? Hmm...

--The fire in the belly factor. The grind of the governorship with its constant infighting with the opposition party and presiding over a state with such deep-seated problems probably in the end did not appeal to the laid back Udall. Ultimately, his wife Jill and daughter Amanda, a political consultant, may have had more interest in it than him. The Senate suits him just fine.

NAME GAME

And the name game continues. If, as expected, Lujan Grisham gives up her congressional seat for a Guv run, who would line up to take her place? The seat appears solidly Blue so it's the possible Dem candidates that insiders are most focused on. The Dem nominee would be the odds-on favorite to take the win. So, using as our guide the slogan "it's never too early," the Alligators offer the potential D field in no particular order:

State Rep. Javier Martinez, State Senator Jacob Candelaria, State Senator Michael Padilla, NM Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland, State Rep. Debbie Armstrong, BernCo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis, Regional USDA Director Terry Brunner and BernCo Assessor Tanya Giddings.

There's a little something for everyone on that list.

SAY WHAT?

What is with PNM? Is Gordon Gekko running the electric company? First, residential customers are hammered with a 9 percent rate boost approved in October and now the monopoly utility is back at the feeding trough asking for an outrageous rate increase of 13 percent.

PNM is in trouble because it its serving a stagnating, declining state where electricity demand is falling. Add in the downsizing of Intel in Rio Rancho--a huge industrial user--and you see their problem. But it is their problem, not ours.

Businesses across the board have been taking a hit because of the lousy economy while PNM tries to exempt itself from the new reality of doing business here. It seeks to keep its return on equity (its profit) above 10 percent. Why aren't they sharing the pain with the consumers?

The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) ought to reject any rate increase, and PNM should realize it's serving a market where many are struggling economically and which many are leaving.

13 percent?! Come on, man.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Udall Won't Run For Governor, NM Again Ranks As Worst Run State In The USA, Another Funeral For Proposed Ethics Commission? And A History Lesson 

Senator Tom Udall decided today not to seek the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2018. His decision is likely to prompt ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham to get into the race. Here is Udall's statement:

"I am very grateful for the support of so many New Mexicans who have personally urged me to run for governor in 2018. Under the current governor, our state has fallen behind in education and jobs. We have failed to take full advantage of our abundant natural resources and our potential for developing a renewable energy industry. While I firmly believe that I have the backing and the experience to properly address all these issues, I have determined, after consulting with my family, colleagues and constituents, that New Mexico will be better served by my remaining in the United States Senate. . . 

"This is not the time to weaken our position in Washington. President-elect Trump has proposed policies with respect to health care, constitutional rights, immigration, privatizing public lands, and foreign policy that could be devastating to the citizens of New Mexico. When I was elected to the Senate, I committed to standing up in Washington for New Mexico families to ensure everyone has an opportunity to get ahead and their needs never take a back seat to wealthy special interests. I believe that pledge is even more important now."

Other possible Dem Guv candidates are Attorney General Hector Balderas, businessman Jeff Apodaca, Las Cruces area state Senator Joe Cervantes and Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber. There likely will be more.

For the Republicans, Lt. Governor John Sanchez, Congressman Steve Pearce and ABQ Mayor Berry are all mentioned as possible candidates.

STILL STUCK

How far have we sunk? Too far. In 2010 when 24/7 Wall St first ranked the best and worst run states in the nation New Mexico came in 37th. Not great but not all that bad considering our longstanding challenges. Where are we today? Dead last--50th-and for the second year in a row.

New Mexico ranks as the worst run state by 24/7 Wall St. for the second consecutive year. Following a large. . . shortfall in the state’s fiscal 2016 and 2017 budgets, Moody’s downgraded the state’s credit rating and outlook. . The likelihood of living in poverty is very high for individuals without a high school diploma. In New Mexico, fewer than 85% of adults have a high school diploma, nearly the lowest high school attainment rate, and more than 20% of state residents live in poverty, the second highest rate of all states. Like most poorly-run states, New Mexico’s labor market is struggling. The state’s labor force declined over the last five years, and 6.5% of workers were unemployed as of October, the highest October jobless rate of all states.

The long decline in the rankings coincides with the administration of Gov. Martinez who was sworn in January 1, 2011. Certainly her supporters would argue that there were events beyond the control of any governor that have led to the death spiral in the state's economic and social conditions. But her denial of reality can hardly be disputed. For years, Martinez has refused to even acknowledge the state's decline. And in the rare instances when she has she blamed "Senate Democrats" for our many ills.

Willful ignorance and not really caring--a malignant neglect--are the two great political sins of this administration. History will dutifully record that there were events beyond any one person's control that contributed to our diminishment, but it will not wash away those sins that have cost us so dearly.

ETHICS R.I.P.

A bill to establish a state ethics commission will be back in the legislative session in January for the umpteenth time and it looks like another funeral is taking shape for this legislation. Here's soon-to-be state House Speaker Brian Egolf:

I don’t know that it’s top-of-the-mind with voters. I do think there are a good number of members who want to see something like this happen.

Not exactly a burst of enthusiasm there. Well, after all it is a funeral.

ART'S CLASS

From Bernalillo County we get this:

Over 400 students will get an early holiday gift on Wednesday, Dec. 7, when Bernalillo County District 2 Commissioner Art De La Cruz will present them with free books to read over the winter break. The children, from both county and city community centers in District 2, have been invited to be a part of this special event.

And the first book on the list that Art will read "The Magic of The Kingdom of Santolina." Enjoy that, kiddos.

HISTORY LESSONS

Bill Redmond
In a first draft Tuesday we blogged that Gov. Ed Mechem appointed himself to the US senate upon the death of Senator Dennis Chavez in 1962. Actually, Mechem arranged his appointment by resigning the governorship and then was officially appointed to fill the vacancy by Lt. Gov. Tom Bolack.

Reader Gian Travers was prompted by our blogging of congressional vacancies to recall that not only did the ABQ experience a vacancy in the 1990's but so did the northern district:

You may recall what happened when a vacancy occurred in the Third Congressional District after Bill Richardson resigned to become Ambassador to the United Nations—appointed by Bill Clinton in 1997 after Bill won reelection in 1996 (defeating Bill Redmond in the general election).

The Democratic State Central Committee members from the counties included in the Third District met and choose the ethically-challenged Eric Serna as the party’s nominee—old time Democratic machine politics at work and the party rank-in-file were incensed. The Republicans chose Bill Redmond as their nominee to succeed Richardson.

The Green Party nominated Carol Miller and numerous Democrats (outraged over their party elders’ nomination of Serna) voted for Miller in the special election. Consequently Serna’s support was substantially diminished with those defections to the Green Party and Redmond was elected to serve out the remainder of Richardson’s term.

Redmond ran for reelection in 1998, but was defeated by Democrat (and then Attorney General) Tom Udall, whom those dissident/anti-Serna/rank-in-file Democrats supported in the primary election that year.

Thanks, Gian. We recall that upheaval as one of the more entertaining chapters in our beloved La Politica.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

ABQ Crime Wave Washes Over City's Wealthy Neighborhoods, State Budget Debacle Goes On And On, And: At The Alligator Pond Talking Up '18 Scenarios 

Clutch your jewelry tight all you denizens of affluent Sandia Heights, Tanoan and Four Hills. The ABQ crime wave is washing up on your shores:

Albuquerque police say three children were killed and their mother is in critical condition after a gunman shot them when they arrived home Monday night. Investigators believe the 45-year-old man forced his way into the home and waited for the mother and the children. The victims included a 5-year-old boy, a 6-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. The gunman was taken to the hospital with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and later died. Authorities believe the man had a short relationship with the mother. 

It has gotten so bad in the tony Sandia Heights subdivision in the foothills that residents of the gated community are talking about hiring their own private police force. What does that tell you about the police officer shortage? By the way, Mayor Berry lives in Four Hills where a number of high-profile crimes have rocked the once sedate, wealthy enclave. Keep those bars on your windows, Mr. Mayor.

All this will soon be fodder for the '17 mayoral campaign. We're surprised there already isn't a strong law and order candidate out there banging the drum. It won't be long.

BUDGET DEBACLE (CONT.)

Republicans tried to turn the October special session of the legislature into an "all crime all the time" event, even as the state budget continued to hemorrhage. Lawmakers finally managed to put a band-aid on the bleeding budget, but now the deep wound is gushing again, giving us what we believe to be the worst and longest budget debacle in modern state history. The latest:

New Mexico expects to collect far less revenue this budget year and next than previously forecast as employment, wages and economic growth lag, a group of state economists said Monday. The economists from three executive agencies and the Legislature said the state will collect $109 million less during the current budget year than last year. The forecast indicates spending is likely to eat through all the state's reserve funds and require another $69 million if changes are not made.

And those are probably low ball numbers, as the Santa Fe economists have been about as accurate as the pollsters in the Trump Clinton race.

Yes, the energy price crash is brutal but don't forget a decade of over zealous tax cutting that also helped crash state revenue.

This epic political mismanagement (by both parties but more recently by the Governor and her fellow Republicans) has led to a downgrade in the state's bond rating, employee layoffs and disruption of state services. But as we wrote Monday, it will apparently have to get a lot worse before the public takes much notice. Meanwhile, Santa Fe will continue to wander in the fiscal wilderness with no way out in sight.

THE ALLIGATOR POND

Now to the Alligator pond where we first find self-described "(Drained) Swamp Gator." He says (correctly) that a reader post here Monday left the impression that a US House seat could be filled by gubernatorial appointment. It cannot. A member of the US House--the people's House--must always be elected. Which brings us back to the original plot line. . .

If Senator Tom Udall were to run and become Governor in 2018, he would appoint a successor to fill out the unexpired two years of his Senate term. If he chose ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham for that job that would leave a vacancy in her ABQ House seat (assuming she ran successfully for election in 2018). The Grisham vacancy would be filled at a special election within 90 days of her resignation. As (Drained) Swamp Gator points out:

This is what happened when ABQ Congressman Steve Schiff passed away in 1998. It  created a vacancy during the run up to the scheduled 1998 race between Republican Heather Wilson and Dem state Senator Phil Maloof. We actually had two overlapping campaigns and elections that year, one to fill the vacancy for the remaining months of Schiff's term and another for the succeeding two year term to start in January of 1999. The special election for the remaining months on Schiff's term was held in June of 1998 and Republican Wilson won. And she beat Maloof again in the November election to earn a full two year term. 

All of this is not to say that Udall and Grisham are about to cut a deal to trade off his Senate seat in exchange for her staying out of the Guv's race. Far from it. There is reason to believe there is plenty of tension between the two, (Just look at that photo we ran of the pair Monday.)

So when was the last time a New Mexico US Senator was appointed? It was in 1962 when Democratic Sen. Dennis Chavez died. Gov. Edwin Mechem (R) resigned and then was appointed by lis lieutenant governor to the vacant Senate seat but Mechem lost the 1964 election. The winner of that election? Democrat Joe Montoya who served until his defeat by Republican Harrison "Jack" Schmitt in 1976.

Now comes the self-described "Crockagator." He's not the first to give himself that title, only the latest. In any event, Crockagator has this to say about the surprise appointment of former Republican US Senator Pete Domenici to an advisory position under State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn:

Joe. I have been contemplating why Sen. Domenici would want to even think of working for Aubrey Dunn. I believe that Aubrey Dunn wants to be elected Governor and he needs someone of Domenici’s stature to get the deal done. Democrats helped elect Domenici and the Senator still has a lot of stroke in the north. I was a supporter of Aubrey Dunn's father when he ran for Governor as a Democrat and was upset when the senior Aubrey became a Republican. But I bet that young Aubrey wants to fulfill his dad's dream of a Governorship. 

Thanks, Crockagator. Recently, Commissioner Dunn told us that he was running for re-election to the land office in 2018 and not taking a run at the governor's office. But if not this cycle maybe the next one?

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Monday, December 05, 2016

What Susana Is Really Saying About State Budget Debacle, A Zombie And Hyenas At UNM, Move The State Fair, Berry's Crime Wave And Michelle's Consolation Prize  

We don't want to put words in the mouth of Gov. Martinez so we'll let Farmington state Rep. Rod Montoya do it:

While Democrats are looking for a revenue increase, Montoya views the problem as a state government that spends too much. "Trying to find common ground may be more difficult than ever," he said.

And there you have what the Governor has to be thinking, if not saying. By ruling out any revenue raising measures to resolve the state's budget crisis she is telegraphing that Montoya, the new House minority whip, has it right--the way out of the budget debacle is to cut, cut and cut some more. Kind of like what the GOP governor in Kansas has done, to the great chagrin of many of that state's residents.

But Rep. Montoya is far from alone, far from it. Until the budget crisis knocks directly on their doors, many New Mexicans are going to look away as lawmakers hack away at the budget. They see Santa Fe as a bloated, decadent do-nothing preserve for the well-off.

Unless there is a bombshell--like the public schools being closed for a couple of weeks or the courts reducing the hours they are open, the Governor's bet that the public will stomach even more cuts doesn't seem farfetched. But will she be able to keep Senate Republicans at the betting window with her? That's the question with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line.

A ZOMBIE AND HYENAS

Now the UNM Regents want to fire UNM President Bob Frank? After he's already resigned after five years on the job? When he announced his resignation earlier this year, effective in May, Frank was promised a $350,000 gig at the UNM Health Sciences Center. Maybe the Guv and her Machine is out to ruin that deal for him? The late assault on Frank which will play out at a special UNM Regents meeting this Wednesday is being led by Machine approved Regent Rob Doughty. He's the attorney whose law firm gets hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal contracts from the Martinez administration:

Doughty and his law firm have had deep ties with state government since Martinez’s inauguration. Since 2011, the year Martinez became governor, his law firm has contracted with the state General Services Department for more than $1.3 million, mostly in the department’s Risk Management Division, according to the state’s Sunshine Portal.

The $350,000 gig for Frank is out of line and the salary option should be reduced, but canning him this late in the game? Frank is a zombie, a dead man walking. But the Regents look like a pack of hyenas hunting for fresh prey, led by the hunting captains on the Fourth and Fifth Floors.

MOVE THE FAIR

Reader James McClure doesn't cotton to the idea of building a brand new Tingley coliseum on the state fairgrounds to replace the dilapidated structure that still tries to pass itself off as an appropriate concert venue:

Joe, what’s the point of investing more taxpayer money in an obsolete fairgrounds complex by rebuilding Tingley Coliseum? The fairgrounds is an eyesore that wastes a prime piece of real estate and contributes to the blight of the surrounding area. Instead, let’s move the State Fair to a new location outside the city and open the current fairgrounds site to development. 

Think of the possibilities for commercial and residential development of such a large tract in the middle of the city. A well-planned development could stimulate the entire southeast side and generate new riders for the Berry Bus.

Thanks, Jim. That "Berry Bus" needs all the help it can get.

And speaking of ABQ Mayor Berry, here's an Alligator with the latest on the mayor and crime wave:

Thanks for your blogs about Berry & crime in ABQ. You are the only writer who has even touched on the ridiculousness of Berry's recent announcements about crime in ABQ. 

At his big announcement to the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce a few months ago, he produced a bar chart that purported to show that the crime rate has been lower during his two terms than under any other mayor. However, on the very same page he had the graph you published that showed the crime rate falling until 2010, then steadily climbing since he took office. Funny that no one in the mainstream media noticed that. It's lower under Berry only because of the work of his predecessors.

Then, Berry tried to blame the reduced jail population for the increase in car thefts - a claim that was quickly debunked by everyone who knows anything about statistics. It is actually laughable when you look at how Berry's "expert" Peter Winograd chose a very tiny slice of the data to make that claim. 

THE PLOT THICKENS

Grisham And Udall
Reader George Richmond goes Machiavellian on us as we await word this month whether Dem US Senator Tom Udall will seek his party's 2018 Dem Guv nomination:

When Senator Udall runs for Gov in 2018, and wins, he will appoint his Senate successor. That person could be a D who works hard for him and also could do the job, say Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. No guarantees from this crystal ball, and way early, of course, to speculate.

Too early to speculate? That's like saying it's too early to feed the Alligators. Keep it coming, George.

Meanwhile, if Udall gets in the race (which seems likely) it seems unlikely that Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham would give up her ABQ congressional seat to take him on. If so, this will be a nice consolation prize:

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham was elected as the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She will serve a two-year term, succeeding U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez, as the leader of the prominent group of Hispanic members of Congress.

Looking back at this blog today we gotta say there's just not question about it. . . 

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Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday Clips On The '17 Legislative Session 

Some thoughts on the 2017 legislative session that we also shared with readers of the ABQ Free Press.

Will the 60 day session of the NM Legislature beginning in mid-January be known as the "The Constitutional Amendment Session? With Gov. Martinez promising to wield her veto pen on pet Democratic proposals, the D's might consider an end run. How?

Lawmakers have the power to place constitutional amendments on the ballot for voter approval. For example, they have the votes to approve a bill substantially increasing the state's low $7.50 an hour minimum wage, but can't get the Governor to go along. If they put that raise in the form of a constitutional amendment it would easily win voter approval. But there's a catch .

Any constitutional amendments approved during the session would not go before voters until November of 2018 and take effect the following year. With the Dems having a good chance of recapturing the governorship in '18, they might want to ditch the amendment maneuver and send their minimum wage bills and the like to the Governor and force her to make unpopular vetoes. One other angle: If the Democrats did place popular legislation like the minimum wage boost on the '18 ballot it could serve to increase Democratic turnout and improve their chances of winning the governorship.

For those of you wondering about a possible constitutional amendment to legalize recreational use of marijuana in New Mexico, even with Democratic control of the Legislature it seems problematic. A number of Democrats have raised concerns about the impact of legal marijuana in our state which is already saddled with a myriad of substance abuse problems. The day of legalized marijuana here may be on the way but its arrival is best measured in years.

And what about the money? People are starting to really believe Gov. Martinez when she says that no matter how bad things get she will not agree to a tax increase. With the state's budget still under immense pressure because of falling energy prices, it appears Martinez could be the first Governor to preside over widespread state government layoffs. An improving state economy has to be at the top of the Christmas wish list for state employees. Otherwise, the grinch could soon be staring at them.

Perhaps the most significant election fallout will be simply what we talk about. Instead of the "all crime all the time" agenda the Republicans focused on, the newly empowered Democrats will switch the narrative. Now the subjects will be the high jobless rate, the ongoing depopulation and vanishing millennials and the social conditions crisis that worsened the crime wave the GOP unsuccessfully tried to use to keep their legislative power. There are no easy solutions to the state's deep-seated problems but identifying what they are is a start.

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Domenici's Long Goodbye: An Odd Odyssey Indeed; Moving Back To NM And Role At Land Office, Plus: The New SOS Is An Early Bird 

Pete Domenici
What the Grateful Dead famously uttered certainly holds true for the post US Senate years of Pete Domenici: "What a long strange trip it's been."

Beginning in 1973 and running through 2008, Domenici accumulated respect, seniority and power as New Mexico's senior US senator. But if Domenici were a bond and Moody's was rating him, he would have suffered a couple of downgrades since his retirement announcement in 2007.

Around the time of that announcement it was disclosed that the then 75 year old Domenici was retiring because of a brain disease that impaired his cognitive abilities, but a year later a "miracle" (or more likely a misdiagnosis) occurred and Domenici was found to be free of the disease. That had the tongues wagging that Pete's "medical problems" were more of a political nature--that the US Senate Ethics Committee was about to lower the boom on him for his involvement in the US attorney scandal and that he was looking for a way out of Dodge. Here's our report on that from March of '07.

Then came the shocker that in the 1970's the then 46 year old Senator Domenici had fathered a love child with the  24 year old lobbyist daughter of Pete's fellow GOP Senator Paul Laxalt. That scandal cost Domenici dearly in the respect department but he trudged onward, sponsoring his yearly Domenici public affairs conference in Las Cruces and staying active in support of GOP candidates.

Now, at 84, Domenici's long goodbye gets more odd. Take a look:

Former Sen. Pete Domenici, a powerhouse of modern New Mexico politics, is moving back to New Mexico and will take on a new role as an advisor to state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn. Domenici, 84, has lived with his wife, Nancy, in the Washington D.C.-area for years, but they will be returning permanently to New Mexico in mid-January. Once back, Domenici will join the State Land Office as a senior advisor to Dunn, a first-term Republican. In the role, Domenici will provide advice on energy, natural resource and other policy issues, and will also help push a State Land Office proposal to create a new permanent fund for early childhood education.

Apparently the octogenarian Domenici is not going to donate his time to his home state. We asked the state land office about Pete's salary:

His role will mainly focus on education issues and land and water conservation. The details of the Senior Advisor role are still being determined.

In advance of his 2018 re-elect Dunn has been trying to position himself as a more moderate Republican. In that regard, Domenici can't hurt. But why the longest serving US Senator in state history would choose to play out his final act in a relatively minor office is, well, odd. Maybe if we play some Grateful Dead records backwards we'll be able to figure it out. For now, color us perplexed.

EARLY BIRD

Toulouse Oliver
The new secretary of state won't have to wait until the usual January 1 to take office. Maggie Toulouse Oliver will be sworn in soon, explains the SOS:

Secretary of State elect Maggie Toulouse Oliver will take the oath of office on December 9, 2016, at 4:00 pm in Santa Fe and will immediately assume the office. Current Secretary of State Brad Winter has served since he was appointed by Governor Martinez on December 15, 2015, due to the resignation of Dianna Duran.

Secretary Winter was appointed in accordance with Article V, Section 5 of the New Mexico Constitution, which provides that “…[s]hould a vacancy occur in any state office…the governor shall fill such office by appointment, and such appointee shall hold office until the next general election, when his successor shall be chosen for the unexpired term.” On November 8, 2016, Secretary elect Toulouse Oliver won the general election to fill the unexpired term, which ends on December 31, 2018.

Winter did everyone a favor as he headed for the exits. He knocked down any speculation that there could have been widespread voter fraud in the recent state election cycle. Coming from a Republican SOS it was a heads-up moment since his own party has used voter fraud allegations in in effort to discredit Democrats. The sanctity of our election process trumps wild-eyed and nonsensical allegations. The problem in New Mexico is not voter fraud but getting people to vote. Winter got that. As for Maggie, we think she'll do fine as long as she stays away from the poker and craps tables.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Elton John And Tingley, State's Fiscal "Freefall" Continues, Liquor License Debate And Berry And Crime 

The news that baby boomer pop icon Elton John will stop in ABQ for a March concert at Tingley Coliseum a couple of days before this 70th birthday gives rise yet again to the question of why in the world Tingley is still standing?

The Coliseum was built in 1957 and its heyday was decades ago. More recently critics have called the outdated and sometimes dilapidated structure an embarrassment and worse. With interest rates still low (but for how long?) now would be the time to tear down Tingley and construct a new large multi-purpose arena that would draw the acts of the future and send a signal to our fleeing millennial population that we are serious about providing quality of life amenities available in out of state cities only hours away.

Here's a plan: How about holding off on issuing the scads of senior citizen facility bonds for a couple of years and instead float a statewide bond issue to begin a rebuild of Tingley that is aimed at the young of today and future generations? The city and BernCo could devote some of their bonding capacity as well.

Clyde Tingley was a great ABQ mayor who helped build modern Albuquerque. He would be proud to have his name carry on into the new country but not atop what has become a symbol of a stagnant state that has stopped planning for its future. Will just one of the 112 legislators publicly declare it's time for a new Tingley and begin to tackle the financing? We mean sometime before Elton John turns 80?

FISCAL "FREEFALL"

“We don’t know where the bottom is yet on the freefall that we’re in." So declared Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith in reacting to the latest grim news over the state budget:

Revenue streams declined by more than 9 percent during the first quarter of the current fiscal year, state fiscal analysts announced.  The Legislative Finance Committee released figures that show general fund revenues fell to $1.3 billion for the three-month period ending in September--down 9.4 percent compared with the same period last year. Revenues for the month of September were down nearly 12 percent from a year ago.

The energy price crash remains the main culprit but the overall lethargic economy--as evidenced by lower personal income and gross receipts tax collections--is also to blame.

Sen. Smith calls it a fiscal freefall. Others call it an economic death spiral. The Legislature completed a special session in early October where the state budget was whacked with across the board budget cuts of five percent or more. But they left town still facing a deficit for the current budget year that began July 1 and ends June 30:

The solvency package, a mix of spending cuts and one-time fixes, will generate an estimated $370.8 million in savings for the current fiscal year. . . But it appears to not be enough to fully solve the state’s financial woes, as New Mexico is facing a projected $458 million shortfall for the budget year that started in July.

Now when they go back into session In January it will be even worse--by tens of millions of dollars.

We appear to be on the road from turning a crisis into a calamity with layoffs of hundreds of state employees a possibility. Already, the state Cultural Affairs Department has let workers go.

LIQUOR DEBATE

A reader suggested here that the state buy back the valuable liquor licenses out there and reset the rules so more small businesses can afford the licenses. James O'Neill of O'Neill consulting says not so fast:

The price of liquor licenses have soared here because of the overall cap on the number of licenses. The state could lower the free market price of licenses by eliminating or significantly raising the cap. The state does not need to buy the licenses back; in fact in might be unconstitutional for the state to try to do so. See 1981's Chronis v. State
ex rel Rodriquez. The licenses already belong to the state.

STATE OF THE CITY

In lieu of analyzing or commenting on ABQ Mayor Berry's annual state of the city speech this week, we instead offer this graphic of the city's crime rate. That about covers the state of the city for 2016.

Ya think?

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Argument Accelerates Over State's Big $15 Billion Permanent Fund, Plus: Other Voices And Ideas On Improving The State's Anemic Economy 

That was fast. We blogged a number of months ago that we expected in the years ahead a knock-down, drag out battle over taking more money out of the state's huge $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to replenish the state's sagging general fund budget. Well, we're not going to have to wait years for the debate. Gov. Martinez is already fighting off Democrats who as a result of the election are in full command of the House and Senate. They are looking for revenue as she refuses to approve a tax hike under any circumstances:

Martinez wants incoming state lawmakers to know that the state’s permanent investment fund should be off limits from efforts to resolve a state budget deficit. Martinez and other members of the State Investment Council that oversees two sovereign wealth funds and $20.8 billion in assets discussed ways to tell newly elected legislators that the largest of its accounts - the State Land Grant Permanent Fund - should be managed as an endowment and not a rainy-day fund to be tapped in lean budget years.

Unless the state starts collecting enough revenue to stop the cutting and properly fund its public schools that $20 billion pot of money is going to prove irresistible and essential in keeping the state's doors open. Don't say we didn't tell you.

(By the way, a Constitutional Amendment to tap the $15 billion permanent fund requires only the approval of a simple majority of the House and Senate. It is then placed on the general election ballot for voter approval. The Governor is dealt out. Her approval is not required).

On the economy, a reader writes:

Hi Joe. I've moved from NM but still enjoy reading your blog. I didn't see you pick up on this article from the NY Times, so I figured I'd share it. NM is surrounded by states in the southwest that retain and attract college graduates. I left NM after many years as a professor at UNM. I now teach very similar students in another state. My current students aren't significantly different from UNM students, yet they are able to obtain much better opportunities upon graduation. The NM lottery scholarship has helped encourage more people to attend college within their home state, but they simply aren't able to find good opportunities upon graduation. Thanks for keeping us all informed. It makes me sad to see NM's economy go from bad to worse, but it is still valuable to follow what is going on.

OTHER VOICES AND IDEAS

Former Dona Ana County Dem state Senator Steve Fischmann writes with a different take on the lottery scholarship:

Repeal and replace the lottery scholarship. The average lottery ticket buyer has a family income of $40,000 or less. The average lottery scholarship recipient has a family income of $80,000 or more. Lottery ticket buyers pay $140 million annually to create just $40 million in scholarships for people who are less needy than they are. An efficiently funded, needs-based scholarship program is what New Mexico truly requires.

A reader writes:

Joe, I've been a loyal reader for many years. I read with much interest the article about the need for reforming the liquor license allocations and what a hindrance it is to small businesses that simply cannot afford them. They are at a distinct disadvantage to larger companies that can pay as much as $400,000 for a license. I understand that those who paid for these licenses are fiercely protective of their value, and who can blame them? But the system of quotas is terribly outdated and simply should be changed so that small businesses and owner operated establishments can compete. 

One solution would be to levy a tax of about 10% on liquor by the drink and use that money to buy up the existing licenses and cancel them, replacing the system with a license that is accessible to any responsible business no matter what their size. This would compensate those who invested in these licenses, and the tax could be canceled as soon as the existing licenses were purchased back from the owners. 

This may seem like a small thing to many readers, but it is actually one of many small things that leave us in a competitive disadvantage to our neighbors. We have to start somewhere. I for one would love to see many small chef owned restaurants and bars that can be on an equal footing with the big guys….Just like the many places I frequent in Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Source: Skandera Education Era Set To End; Controversial Cabinet Secretary Expected To Depart By Year's End, Plus: Zeroing In On The Zia Poll  

Hanna Skandera
One of the more polarizing figures in the recent history of state government appears to be headed toward the exits. Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera could be gone by the end of December, according to one of our Senior Alligators monitoring developments inside the education department. "She could leave as soon as Dec. 18th," he reports.

The word comes in the wake of President-elect Trump's appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos, an outspoken advocate for charter schools, has close connections to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who Skandera served as Deputy Commissioner of Education.

The DeVos appointment would seem to clear the path for Skandera to get a job in DC. It would be a return trip for her. She was Deputy Chief of Staff to Education Secretary Margaret Spelling in the George W. Bush administration.

Skandera has been the highest profile cabinet member of the Governor's administration, aggressively pushing a reform agenda that has faced strident opposition from the education community, especially her move to implement teacher evaluations, third grade retention and the grading of the public schools.

Third grade retention has failed to pass the legislature, but the school grading made it through. The teacher evaluations adopted by Skandera continue to be challenged in the courts.

While Skandera's foes have cast her as the boogie man, she drew wide encouragement and praise from the GOP base and the business community where her popularity remains intact. Her supporters argue much of the blame for the state's failure to advance in the rankings is due to a reform-resistant Democratic-controlled state Senate.

The six year run of the Martinez-Skandera agenda appears to have had limited impact on the state's traditionally poor performing public schools. In the most recent WalletHub national rankings of "School System Quality" New Mexico placed 50th.

The state ranked 49th in the nation in Quality Counts 2016, the annual report from the Education Week Research Center. However, while still suffering from a low high school graduation rate, New Mexico has seen some improvement in the category.

At 43, Skandera is in the middle of her career but she will no doubt look back at her New Mexico stint as one of her most challenging. As she does the curse of former NM Territorial Governor Lew Wallace may come to mind: "All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico."

Hasta luego, Hanna.

PRESIDENTIAL POLLING

A number of readers have asked about that new polling outfit that popped up in the middle of the election. One of the common inquiries is whether the Zia Poll is independent or partisan? Well, we have some details.

The parent company of the Zia Poll is Dialing Services LLC out of Roswell. That is the same company that owns GOP Calls and has the same physical address in Roswell. The team listed on the Zia Poll is identical to the team on GOP Calls which says on its website:

We have provided automated calls and political calling solutions for prominent political leaders and advocacy groups including: Romney for President, The 2000 & 2004 Bush/Cheney campaigns, the 2000 & 2004 Texas Victory campaigns, Senator Pete Domenici, Congressmen Pete Sessions, Heather Wilson, and countless others. Our track record and experience speaks for itself.

The Zia Poll is open about its association with Dialing Services. The poll primarily uses robo calls to landlines and tries to reach cellphone users--who can't legally be contacted by robo calls--to get them to volunteer to take the poll.

In its last poll of the season Zia boasted of surveying over 8,000 voters the Sunday before the election. That poll was was released the next day--the Monday before the election. Despite the large sample the poll missed the mark, giving Clinton 45.9 percent to Trump's 43.9 and Johnson with 6 percent. Zia Poll then posed the question: "Could New Mexico be a toss-up?" No, it never was.

Clinton beat Trump here 48.26% to 40.04% and Johnson received 9.34%. The Zia Poll's margin of error was put at only 1.8 percent so the miss was notable.

Meanwhile, the ABQ Journal's Research and Polling survey conducted Nov 1-3 and released the Sunday before the election had Clinton leading Trump 45 to 40 percent, with Johnson at 11 percent. Pollster Brian Sanderoff did not wonder if the race was a toss-up:

New Mexico has been solidly blue in the past two elections, and it appears Clinton is maintaining her lead here this election cycle, unlike in some battleground states, such as Ohio or Nevada, where she is either trailing or in a dead heat.

The Journal polled only 504 likely voters but about half the calls were to voters with cellphones and half to landlines. The poll's margin of error was 4.4%

This is not to say the Zia Poll and Dialing Services LLC are trying to put one over on anyone but in the media reporting of their poll findings there was no mention of their deep ties to the GOP or much comment on their over dependence on landlines in the cellphone era. Both are significant facts to know in analyzing their results, and now they have been mentioned.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Contests Develop For Leadership Of State's Major Political Parties, Shrapnel From Latest APD Bombshell Sprays; Should FBI Take The Case? And: Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico  

Ryan Cangiolosi
Both major parties will be getting new leadership for the '18 campaign cycle. Let's look first at the GOP. . .

The race for the chairmanship of the New Mexico Republican Party has quickly ramped up with political veteran Ryan Cangiolosi facing off against grassroots-oriented John Rockwell. The victor will usher in the party's post Martinez-McCleskey era and face high political hurdles in the '18 cycle which will feature an open race for governor, a contest for US senate and yet another battle for control of the NM House.

Cangiolosi has the pole position, winning early endorsements from former Congressman Manuel Lujan and his brother Edward, both stalwarts of the Republican business establishment. In addition, he has worked very closely with oilman Harvey Yates, a former chair of the state GOP who last year ousted Martinez-backed GOP National Committeeman Pat Rogers. Cangiolosi served as business manager for Yates' Jalapeno corporation.

But Rockwell is not seen as pushover and viewed as more Trump friendly than Cangiolosi. The owner of two manufacturing businesses that employ about 100, he touts his "organization and leadership abilities" as he works to influence the 537 members of the GOP Central Committee who meet in ABQ December 11 to name a replacement for Debbie Maestas who is wrapping up a two year term.

Cangiolosi, 45, is a former deputy chief of staff for Gov. Martinez but he had a falling out with political guru McCleskey and quickly fastened himself to the Yates wing of the party which also parted ways with Jay. He is currently a project director for the UNM Health Sciences Center.

Cangiolosi, a Lt. Commander in the navy reserve, is a former chairman of the BernCo GOP. He is also getting important backing from Congressman Steve Pearce and Lt, Governor John Sanchez, both possible '18 GOP gubernatorial candidates.

John Rockwell
Rockwell is appealing to the Trump brigades in an effort to outflank Cangiolosi, saying in a recent email to supporters:

We need to seize this opportunity to help the nation and our state move toward conservative values, respect for the law and those who enforce it, respect for each other, respect for life, toward capitalism, and for job creation.

He also bemoans Trump's NM loss as well as the Dems recapturing the state House from the GOP

We watched as divisions within our own party tore us apart and lack of a comprehensive plan will set us back for years. Our party cannot accept losses like this again. That's why we need bold leadership.

Cangiolosi supported the GOP ticket, but  did not specifically endorse Trump. His focus was on the legislative races where he helped ABQ GOP Rep. Maestas Barnes quash a strong Dem challenge. He references the need for unity in his candidacy announcement:

As State Chairman I will build and execute a strong, sound strategy for victory in races statewide, work with county party leadership to achieve a vibrant network across the state, including an effective statewide voter registration program within the county party operations. I will also continue to unify our party in preparation for 2018.

History say after eight years of GOP rule the state will be looking for a change in the next cycle. Whoever leads the GOP--unified or not--is going to have the wind in their face.

DEM DUEL 

Ellenberg
The Democratic Party got back on its feet in this year's election, taking back the state House and winning the state for Hillary Clinton. Now they are looking for a new leader to replace outgoing Chairwoman Deb Haaland who gets some of the credit for the party's rebound.

Haaland is not seeking another term and is said by friends to be mulling over a possible run for Lt. Gov in '18. Remember, she was the Dem lieutenant governor candidate in '14 when she and running mate Gary King were defeated by Gov. Martinez.

Attorney and former longtime Santa Fe County Dem Party Chair Richard Ellenberg, 69, who Haaland defeated for for party chair in 2015, is said by insiders to be the front-runner for the post when the Dem Central Committee makes its decision next spring.

Also in the running is current Dem Vice-Chair Juan Sanchez III and he's not to be underestimated, according to party watchers. He offers a younger perspective (he's 24) and helped guide the party to recent success.

Juan Sanchez 
Haaland took heat from critics who thought she was being too out front for Hillary Clinton and to the detriment of Bernie Sanders who narrowly lost the '16 NM presidential primary to Clinton. Ellenberg stated neutral in the race but he is from Santa Fe, a hotbed of support for Bernie and Sanchez is aligned with Haaland.

The Dems can't afford to flub the governorship in '18. If they do, a Republican governor will preside over legislative redistricting and that could put the Dems on the defensive when it comes to controlling the House in the next decade.

APD SHRAPNEL

The shrapnel from the latest APD bombshell continues to spray. Now this:

City Attorney Jessica Hernandez plans to hire an independent investigator to examine allegations that Albuquerque police tampered with officers’ lapel camera videos to conceal damaging information from the public.

How can the investigator be "independent" when he or she is hired by the city attorney who is up to her neck in police affairs? Nope. What they need is a criminal investigation by the FBI that subjects the city's leadership to critical questioning on what they knew and when they knew it. That leadership includes Hernandez, Mayor Berry, Chief Eden. Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry and the upper command of APD. Where is the US attorney, anyway?

FREEWAY MANIA

We blogged Tuesday on how the freeways of ABQ have become race courses and are essentially going unpatrolled, perhaps leading to tragedies like the recent death of a ten year old girl. Here's reader reaction:

It's not only the freeways, Joe. Recently my wife and I were driving east on Montano at about 2:00 PM when we were passed by two pick up trucks racing at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, and weaving in and out of traffic lanes. The posted speed limit along that stretch of Montano is 40 mph. The scary thing about this scenario is that there is an elementary school on Montano, and lots of people use the thoroughfare for walking, biking and running, as well as side road traffic that wouldn't have a chance if they pulled out onto Montano during one of these maniacal frenzies. One wonders "where are police when we need them," but this is a tough situation. Maybe we the citizens of this community need to be more responsible in reporting such incidents.

HOLIDAY MOVIES

Reader Eric Lucero will spend some of this Thanksgiving holiday at the local cinema. He has some film reviews if you're thinking about doing the same.

Arrival (PG-13) Science-Fiction/Drama **** Stars out of 5 This well written, presented, and imaginative story of an Alien First Contact boasts a great cast and adequate effects. And while Arrival is not based on an original concept, the classified linguistic team’s technical response to a pending world crisis is. Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner & Forrest Whitaker, et al, must race against time to prevent Armageddon.

Rules Don’t Apply (PG-13) Drama/Romantic-Comedy *** Stars out of 5 Actor/Director Warren Beatty (Reds, 1981) returns to continue where fellow director Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004) left off, but on a budget. “Rules…” taps into the Hollywood nostalgia of 1958 LA. The story revolves around the bizarre world of billionaire Howard Hughes (Beatty) and the intersecting lives of two employees; an aspiring actress (Lilly Collins), and a driven personal driver (Alden Ehrenreich). A great ensemble cast, plus the Collins and Ehrenreich performances, save this comic splash of absurdity.

Allied (R) Drama/WWII Espionage Thriller **1/2 Stars out of 5 Director Robert Zemickis has brought us his share of spectacular films; but Allied is not one of them. Seems Zemickis and scripter Steven Knight tried to channel Bridge of Spies (2015), and shamelessly copy Casablanca (1946). Worse, Brad Pitt and  Marion Cotillard fail to sizzle on screen.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Do enjoy the holiday and accept our thanks for your continued attention and support of our efforts. We remain deeply grateful for that. And we are grateful for the resiliency of New Mexicans many of whom have faced difficult times in recent years and continue to do so. This very special state still has many places to go and much to give to you and yours.

Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico!

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