Friday, January 30, 2015

APD Crisis In Yet Another National Mag As Rolling Stone Rolls Into Town, Smooth Sailing So Far For Santa Fe R's, SunZia Still Shining Hot And More On PNM And You 

The APD crisis is the subject of ceaseless fascination from the national media who are gravitating here like bees to honey. Only for us the honey is rancid.

Rolling Stone follows on the heels of that New Yorker piece (8,000 words) with  nearly 7,000 words on our troubles. The APD crisis may be costing the city millions in lawsuits and lost economic opportunities, but it sure sells magazines.

One of the angles in the RS piece deserves some attention. It's the notion that ABQ as a whole--despite all the fatal police shootings and the constant fallout--is still not ready for a big change:

The problem isn't policies, it's people, says state Sen. Ortiz y Pino. He thinks the only solution is to clear out generations of bad cops. "Let's get them out of here, let's really start out with a new mentality," he says. "We're gonna be plagued with these guys for years to come. They know this is all fake. They can hunker down until the Department of Justice goes away, and then it will be back to business as usual."

Of course, to truly change the culture of the APD would require a police chief committed to that project. Such a chief would have to be appointed by a mayor who made it a priority. And as the anger that flared after the release of the Boyd video has subsided, many doubt that Albuquerque voters care enough about the issue to demand a mayor who will make police reform a priority.

"We have the police that the people of Albuquerque want," says Ortiz y Pino. "You've got 25 percent who really are concerned about the violence and the direction we're going in. But if you put it to a vote, I shudder to think how it would be."

There may be only 25% concerned but isn't that in part because Senator Pino's Democratic Party has been AWOL when it comes to explaining the matter--and offering an alternative to Mayor Berry?

What if a well-known, charismatic Democrat began to rally the public--including the business community--to the idea that the police problem is linked to the economic problem? And did so relentlessly. Would that 25% grow quickly? Most surely it would.


From a political standpoint you have to hand it to the Guv's Machine, state House Speaker Don Tripp and Majority Leader Gentry. They are executing well. No major mistakes and soon they will be putting the heat on the Senate Dems. Controversial right to work legislation has already passed its first House Committee, along with the repeal of driver's licenses for undocumented workers. Both will soon be sent to the Dem controlled Senate. That will give the R's weeks and weeks to force action on these measures and build public support for them.


The R's are playing a new angle on SunZia. In case you missed it GOP state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has joined forces with southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce in an effort to at least delay the transmission line for renewable energy that just won final approval from the Feds:

Just days after the Secretary of the Interior held a major press conference to say the SunZia transmission project can go forward, Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn issued a 60-day right-of-entry suspension on the endeavor. The commissioner said he wanted to review the line's route, some of which has been planned for six years.

Dunn also pointed out that he was not invited to that weekend news conference with the Secretary where final Fed approval of SunZia was announced. It's a valid point as the transmission line runs across state trust land Dunn is responsible for. He must give his go ahead.

Dunn's move is a somewhat unexpected curve ball, raising the question of why Sen. Martin Heinrich, the chief backer of the line, did not get him on board. Dunn, our expert sources say, could conceivably delay SunZia for his term in office. Not that he is necessarily gung-ho to do that. Dunn is a rancher and many ranchers would benefit financially from SunZia for the use of their lands for the project (as would the state trust fund).

Heinrich is in the middle of this story as the chief backer of the line that will run near a portion of White Sands Missile Range. Ironically, while the ABQ newspaper is damning him--the  Las Cruces Sun-News in the south and home to Pearce--is praising the project which will mean a lot of temporary and permanent jobs:

Pearce has also apparently developed a newfound respect for cultural artifacts that has never been evident before during his decade in office. He complained the federal government was lax in ensuring the transmission line will not disrupt ancient Pueblo sites. Would he have those same concerns if it were oil rigs instead of a renewable energy line being planned for the area?

The SunZia tussle is a prime example of the consequence of the disarray of state Democrats. They lost the land commissioner race last November by less than a thousand votes. Now that's coming home to roost here and in Washington. Maybe Dunn's move will prompt the Dems in the state's congressional delegation to think harder about Republican power in statewide offices and what, if anything, they're going to do about it.


Here's PNM's Pahl Shipley responding to the comments on Thursday's blog from the executive director of New Energy Economy:

I’d like to set the record straight regarding the hearing on  PNM’s plan for the San Juan Generating Station and about the rate request filed with the NMPRC.

The record in the San Juan case is clear and refutes the claims of errors causing $1 billion in increased costs to customers. It’s a sexy number, but it’s not true. There was one error in an assumption estimate used to compare scenarios, which we corrected well before the hearing started. . . 

 . . . The facts show that PNM’s plan is still the most cost effective for customers. It. . .  balances keeping the lights on, cost, environmental protection, and the risks associated with relying too much on any one generation source. And here’s the truth--PNM’s plan proposes a significant net reduction in coal--about a 50 percent cut for the plant and 30 percent for PNM. . .

As for the PNM request for a price increase. . . the proposed overall increase across all customer groups is approximately 7 percent, while the proposed average residential bill impact is about 12 percent. The proposal is designed to more fairly allocate costs to customer based on how they actually use electricity. Even if the proposal is approved, PNM’s rates would still be competitive both regionally and nationally. . . 

. . .92 percent of our request is based on the $545 million the company committed to investing in the electric system since our last formal increase. It pays for the critical infrastructure necessary to keep the lights on and fulfill our primary mission--serving our customers.


Here's the full video of the Thursday news conference by Attorney General Balderas where he released the full audit--with some light redactions--of the Martinez administration's audit of the state's behavioral health providers. The full audit is here. And a news account is here.

From Facebook:

For those who knew Terrie Q. Sayre, there will be a Memorial for her this coming Saturday, January 31st, at 5pm at the Anderson Abruzzo Balloon Museum at 5pm. This memorial is open to the public, so come early if you want to sit.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

SunZia Heat: Heinrich Targeted For Supporting, Pearce Blasted For Opposing, Plus: More On PNM, Coal And The Enviros 

We joked recently about Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich sending out a fund-raising email for his 2018 re-election in which he said, "It's never too early." Well, it looks as though he had it right. Believe it or not, the newspaper is already calling for Heinrich's ouster--nearly four years before the election. And why? In another believe it or not moment, it's over federal approval of the SunZia transmission line--an important but not exactly a do or die issue, or is it? Take a look:

Heinrich, a Democrat, has been equally adamant in his support for SunZia – opting to side with its eco-friendly potential over tangible concerns over national security and current economic reality. Heinrich, of course, is a darling of environmental groups and collects big campaign dollars from them. . .If New Mexico voters don’t share Heinrich’s rather utopian view, they should take note that they can and should express their displeasure at the voting booth in 2018.

We touched upon the paper's sharp swerve to the right this week in discussing the naming of the new publisher at the Journal. That it's now telling voters to dump Heinrich so far ahead of his re-election campaign and without even knowing who is running against him tells the tale. At this juncture Mark Twain's comments on the matter seem apt:

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. 

Of course, if the paper and its GOP allies wage an all-out campaign against Heinrich,  it might be a good thing for the Dems. Remember, the Governor's political machine avoided targeting Senator Udall last year because a competitive Senate race would drive up Democratic turnout and perhaps hurt Gov. Martinez's re-election prospects. '18 is the next gubernatorial contest. But we'll stop there. Anyone talking this early about Campaign '18 should be fined.

UPDATE: GOP State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is getting in on the SunZia act:

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has put the brakes on a $2 billion transmission project that would carry electricity generated by renewable resources in New Mexico and Arizona to markets across the West. Dunn announced that he was issuing a 60-day suspension after meeting with the developers. That time period will give his office more time to review the project before any further development affects state trust lands, he said.


Readers continue to right in about the SunZia project on White Sands Missile Range. This is from environmental engineer Bruce Thomson:

I can't decide if it's irony or hypocrisy that has led Rep. Steve Pearce, one of the most ardent supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline, to so vehemently oppose the SunZia transmission line. This project has a construction budget of around $2 billion much of which will be spent in Pearce's district. Once completed it will allow transmission of 3,000 MW of power from wind and solar projects, virtually all of which will be located in his district. The economic impact to New Mexico is projected to be $275 million in wages and salaries, and $65 million  in state local taxes during construction of the project and $2 million a year in wages and salaries during operation

As for impacts on landowners along the route, I'm sure they are all looking forward to nice licensing fees for the transmission line easements and their property used for wind and solar power generation. In contrast to the XL pipeline, these are benefits that will last forever. Near as I can tell, impacts to White Sands Missile Range's operations will be totally mitigated by burying the line across its property, hence I cannot for the life of me figure out why Rep. Pearce is opposed to this project.

Good points, Bruce. We also wonder why the opposition of Pearce and the newspaper to SunZia is so vehement when both the Secretary of Defense and White Sands say the project is no threat to national security.


We've been getting some momentum in tourism visits, says the state, but this won't help:

The state tourism department had planned to seek an additional $3.5 million for marketing next fiscal year--money that would extend the New Mexico True advertising campaign to San Francisco--but budget realities have tempered expectations. Rebecca Latham, recently appointed to head the state tourism department, said the request laid out in Gov. Martinez’s budget is for an additional $1.5 million instead. The extra $1.5 million, if approved by the Legislature, would boost the department’s overall marketing budget to $10.1 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

When it comes to tourism there is no better truism than "it takes money to make money." But even with the smaller increase, the administration and the legislature have done a pretty good job in recent years of getting that ad budget increased. A lot of small biz owners have benefited.


Mariel Nanasi
Back on the energy beat, Mariel Nanasi, executive director of the New Energy Economy, has comments on our blog this week on PNM:

Joe, you are absolutely right that PNM needs to come up with a better plan that replaces coal with more coal. However it's not quite right to say that enviro's are split on PNM's coal power replacement plan before the PRC. In the plan PNM submitted to the PRC they have now admitted to errors and omissions that total more than a billion dollars - and that's money ratepayers could be largely expected to cover.

In light of those financial risks, instability in the ownership partners of the San Juan Generating Station and coal supply and coal price uncertainty, three conservation and trade groups have pulled their support from PNM's plan: Western Resource Advocates, New Mexico Independent Power Producers, and Renewable Energy Industries Association. There are 8 parties in opposition to PNM's plan and only 3 remaining parties that have agreed with PNM: PRC Staff, the Attorney General (it was Gary King who originally signed on) and the New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers. 

PNM has lost its "broad" support, and all enviros are opposing PNM's plan, and even the remaining utilities at San Juan voted against investing in further capital upgrades at San Juan coal. The San Juan plant isn't reliable and a Wall St. analyst just downgraded PNM stock because their economic analysis shows that PNM will be stuck with unwanted coal shares.

PNM's side of the story is here.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Around The Roundhouse, Berry Reacts To Magazine Hit, APD And The Biz Community And PNM And You  

Let's kick off this Wednesday with the latest scuttlebutt from the Roundhouse. There, the wall-leaners are expecting Republican backed bills on right to work and repealing driver's licenses for undocumented workers to get brisk treatment in the GOP controlled House. That way they can send them over to the Dem controlled Senate and put it under pressure to vote on the controversial measures. House committee hearings on the bills start Thursday. . .

Here In River City, Mayor Richard Berry sat for a TV news interview about that New Yorker magazine article on APD that we blogged Monday and that shook the rafters at City Hall. Berry insisted the city is making progress in reforming the troubled department. He also said that excluding the office of Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg from a recent fatal police shooting was not retaliation against her for charging two police officers with murder in another fatal police shooting:

First of all, that’s nothing like retaliation. The city attorney had a concern … brought that up and we’re asking for a third party to mediate that. That’s nothing like retaliation.

Berry's quote to the magazine that he was not going to engage in the "blame game" over APD fired up his critics, but he stated it again in the TV interview.

The APD crisis has become to Berry what Vietnam was to Lyndon Johnson--it's sucking all the oxygen out of the room. A reader came with this on the Berry interview:

The first thing out of his mouth is blaming the prior administration. Does this guy not accept that he has been mayor the last five years and that he kept Ray Schultz as APD chief? When he blames the prior administration he is blaming Ray Schultz, yet Berry kept Ray Schultz. The majority of police shootings happened under Berry! Did I say that Berry kept Schultz?

Berry repeated that he is sticking by his "self-imposed" term limits and will not seek a third term in 2017.

Berry has been described as being in the bunker but gets credit for facing the music--or his version of it--in recent media exchanges.

The full nearly 15 minute interview can be seen here.


A reader of the Democratic persuasion comes with more reaction to that New Yorker  piece and how the business community fits into the picture:

The business community does not fully understand how the city's violent crime reputation and APD's reputation is affecting economic development. The predominantly Republican business community do not want an activist mayor and do not hold Berry responsible in any manner for Albuquerque's failing economy. 

The business community has bought into Berry's rhetoric and policies, and will always support him so long as he advocates "right to work", opposes increases in the minimum wage, continues his union busting and opposes any and all tax increases. 

Berry's support of the reduction in state corporate tax rates two years ago and the repeal of the "hold harmless" tax provision will soon have a major impact on Albuquerque's gross receipt tax revenues, but Berry's answer to replace lost gross receipts revenue will again be to cut city services, and the business community will agree and support his efforts.


A major rate increase proposed, the city of Santa Fe talks about starting its own electric company and the clean-up plan for the controversial San Juan coal-fired generation plant. All are matters that have been much in the news in recent months so the electric utility at the center of them--PNM--has come with a website devoted to them and the company's perspective.

The rate case is before the state Public Regulation Commission (PRC) and will likely be decided early next year. The overall increase is about 12% (14% for residential users). Our view: That's way too much in a state that is struggling economically. 

The Santa Fe plan to have taxpayers buy out PNM and create a city owned utility will also be around for many months. Our view: A bad idea. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales has plenty of other things to keep him busy. Changing the light bulbs is as close to electricity as the politicos ought to get.

The agreement on reducing coal emissions at the San Juan generation station has met with split views in the environmental community. Our view: It seems we need something tougher but we want to hear more debate. 


Back to the Santa Fe scene for a minute. The debate over reinstating the state tax on food is getting a lot of attention, even though Gov. Martinez put the measure in an early grave when she indicated she would veto any such bill. Now Fred Nathan of Think NM, the leading opponent of the reinstatement drive, informs that the ABQ Chamber of Commerce also opposes the food tax. Someone call a priest. The Last Rites are in order for this one. . .

For those who can't live a moment without the Legislature, there are two new blogs covering the action. The NM Political Report--funded by liberal advocacy group ProgressNow NM--is up and running. And from the right of the spectrum and pushing the Martinez agenda is the NM Political Journal with former Roswell state Senator Rod Adair who recently left the Secretary of State's office.


Pearce & Blogger
GOP Congressman Steve Pearce's office says the insider who said here that Pearce no longer attends meetings of the state's congressional delegation had it wrong. There have been no delegation meetings for "several years," according to Pearce's office. We go back to the Sen. Domenici days when delegation meetings were common. Things change but we're not sure that this change is all for the better.

And Steve's office and I are communicating once again--just like the old days when this photo was taken on Capitol Hill. What a pair. . .

The customary ten lashes with a wet noodle will be administered for that erroneous insider report which isn't too bad considering this:

A high-powered group of U.S. senators is demanding that Saudi Arabia cancel the "barbaric punishment" of a blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for criticizing the country's clerics, saying the floggings are particularly troubling in the wake of terror attacks driven by "religious intolerance." Blogger Raif Badawi has been ordered to endure 20 weekly sets of 50 lashes until he is whipped 1,000 times.

Needless to say, Saudi Arabia has just been scratched from your blog's bucket list.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Another Punch To An Already Blackened Eye: National Magazine Digs Into Sordid APD Culture; Mayor Says He Won't Play Blame Game, Plus: Meet The New Boss At The ABQ Journal; Same As The Old Boss? 

Once again the national media has landed here with a big thud. This time it's the New Yorker magazine stringing together the numerous institutional failures that collectively have given us what we refer to as "the APD crisis." The article is compelling as it implicitly indicts those institutions and the major players in them. It lets the sweeping dysfunction speak for itself.

The article is pegged to the fatal police shooting of Christopher Torres--who battled schizophrenia--and the details of how that shooting fell through the cracks of justice. For over 8,000 words the "Letter From ABQ" marches on, with regular diversions into the nasty culture that overtook the department and that led to the calamity that has needlessly cost lives, shamed the city and arguably lengthened the economic downturn here.

For readers of a political bent it was Mayor Berry's continued public aloofness from the plight that was of interest and the cause for further exasperation. From the piece:

Mayor Berry. . . told me he hoped that the department, by implementing the required (Dept. of Justice) reforms, would make Albuquerque a model for the rest of the nation. He traced the number of fatal shootings to the lack of mental-health services in the city, but declined to speculate about other factors that had led the department to its current state. “I just don’t spend any of my time or energy worrying about who did what, why, and when,” he said. “The last thing I want to do as mayor is play the blame game.”

Does that sound like a chief executive who wants to solve problems? National business leaders--who Berry is courting to come here--might be perplexed.

Berry's foes were quick to pounce on that quote. One emailed:

Berry's quote is an admission that he refuses to hold people within his administration accountable for their actions, even when their actions are negligent. Berry should have spent some time figuring out who was doing what wrong at APD and why during his first term and just maybe a few lives could have been spared. All Berry did for nine months during the last election was play the "blame game", saying that APD's problems were the fault of the previous administration and he still plays the "blame game" to this day.

This was not a hit piece on Berry. Former Democratic ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez was not spared for his manic push to have APD achieve a staffing level of 1000 officers:

The department accepted officers from other police forces, even if they had been disciplined or fired, and it sometimes waived the psychological exam. Steve Tate, the director of training at the Albuquerque Police Academy, said that, after the hiring push, he noticed new cadets “exhibiting some characteristics that I thought were a little strange.” “They were not in charge of their emotions,” he told me. “People were breaking down into tears.”

And there was this national punch to our already blackened eye:

Gilbert Najar, the director of the police academy in Silver City, New Mexico, who worked for the Albuquerque Police Department for twenty-five years, told me that the department “did policing one way in the South Valley, where there were a lot of immigrant families and people of lower socioeconomic status, and we knew we could violate their rights. But we did not dare commit those tactics in the affluent neighborhoods, where we knew they would file complaints on us.”


The entire sordid, nasty (and deadly) culture that infected our APD is summarized in this paragraph quoting a former officer:

Morrison said that officers were socialized to be cynical about civilians. “We’re taught to almost dehumanize them,” she said. “It just got to the point where it’s, like, they’re a piece of shit. We don’t care if they raped a baby or were speeding in traffic—everybody’s a piece of shit.” Early in her career, she was often injured, because she fought with people while arresting them. Then she took a forty-hour course offered by the department in crisis-intervention training. . . She never got injured on duty again. She became a senior instructor in the class, but it was held in low regard by many of her colleagues. By 2007, fewer than thirty officers were taking the course each year.

The systemic rot revealed in that recounting can only exist when a community at large refuses to engage in what the mayor terms the "blame game" but in reality is the "accountability game."

Reader Rick Allan says he was blown away by the article:

One would think the entire political and civic establishment in this state would cry out in pain, anguish, embarrassment, and outrage at this ongoing unspeakable stain caused by the APD and all those complicit with sustaining it. I don't think I've read a more devastating piece on a public institution so out of control in every imaginable way. Maybe Mayor Berry will be less likely in the future to be a featured talking head for Republican mayors on subjects having to do with such subjects as how well some cities are doing in innovation and economic development. I think they need to go looking elsewhere. I would also think the Department of Justice needs to reevaluate its "pussyfooting around" approach before it becomes complicit and part of the problem.

Mayor Berry says he doesn't want to know the "who, why and when" of this sad saga. He must be the only fella who puts the book down when the killer is about to be revealed.


William Lang
A new publisher for the ABQ Journal does not appear to foretell a change in its journalistic direction. The paper announced that William Lang, president and CEO since 2012, will now be publisher, taking over from his brother Tom who held the title since 1971. The paper did not explain the reason for the change. Insiders say Tom Lang has battled health problems in recent years.

There are few bright spots for newspapers these days, but the new publisher found one:

We continue to evolve with the times and the technology. At the same time we have continued to improve the graphic look and content of our print products, we have upgraded our digital products. That has resulted in significant growth in our traffic with more than 7 million unique visitors last year and more than 7 million page views in a single month.

The problem, of course, is all those page views don't make up for the tremendous loss of revenue the paper has suffered--along with most newspapers--as print ads continue to vanish, along with print subscribers. If the Journal, owned by the Lang family since 1926, is making a significant profit as a stand-alone enterprise and not being subsidized by the company's ample real estate interests, it would surprise most everyone.

Back on the journalistic side, the current editor appears to have quite a long leash with the Langs--much longer than his predecessors--and has taken the paper markedly to the conservative side. But the widespread frustration with that is expressed not only over the paper's obvious ideology but more seriously about its coverage of actual news.

The lengthy New Yorker piece, for example, strings together the stunning institutional failure ABQ has experienced in the fatal police shootings. The Journal will argue--as one of its editors did when the National Journal scooped it on the power of Governor Martinez's political adviser Jay McCleskey--that they have covered the story. Maybe. . .

It has been a Republican governor and Republican mayor who the Journal heartily and repeatedly endorse on its editorial pages who have benefited from the Journal's argument that it has covered the basic facts, even if it has not offered the perspective, context and analysis that has the national media drooling when they come here. It is this bifurcation in the journalism that the public is reading that has put the Journal's credibility on the line.

It's always muddy water when a blogger takes a critical look at the local newspaper but we don't have an axe to grind. We've praised the paper for its investigative reports and its unabashed championing of government openness that has served the state well. We often admire its coverage. But now seems the right time for the new publisher to make the Journal itself more open to new ideas and perspectives and more relevant to a wide swath of the community that sees in its pages little reflection of itself.


It was state Rep. Rudy Martinez who John Zimmerman defeated in the November election. In our first draft Monday we had an incorrect name.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Great Recession Pattern Persists, Pearce Goes Ballistic Over Heinrich And SunZia, A New Guy On The Legislative Block And Pithy Reader Comments 

Do you think there's a pattern here? The state budget is getting blown up by crashing oil prices, Bernalillo County is pleading poverty and is about to raise taxes, the city of ABQ  is announcing a $14 million hole in its budget for next year because of the APD crisis and sluggish growth and as we blogged recently even wealthy Los Alamos County is wrestling with budget woes. It seems that elsewhere the Great Recession has melted away like a spring snowfall but is acting like super glue around here. . .

In another sign of the times the city is going to clear out a large tent city for the homeless that has sprouted up downtown. Neighbors are upset about the problems it's causing. Hey, maybe as the homeless population grows Mayor Berry can divide them up by zip code so no neighborhood gets too offended?. . .

Finding a good paying job is a perennial New Mexico challenge and it can get more difficult when you take on the Governor and her political machine. Hard charging ABQ School Board member Kathy Korte and her husband Tim are finding that out:

The husband of one of the most outspoken critics of Gov. Martinez’s education policies is . . .soon to be fired. . . The Martinez administration denied, however, that Tim Korte’s firing is related to his wife’s vocal views. Korte, the public information officer for the Department of Finance did not want to leave the job, according to his wife, Kathy Korte. 

. . . Last year she lost her job as a spokeswoman at UNM Hospital after using social media to call ABQ GOP  Rep. Paul Pacheco a “traitor” for supporting Martinez’s education-reform agenda. She contends in a lawsuit filed against the university that she was forced to leave her job over her outspoken views.

Korte is seeking re-election in the February 3 ABQ School Board election but unfortunately for her, it isn't a paying position. She tells us both she and her husband are job hunting.


Southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce is absolutely pummelling Dem Senator Martin Heinrich and northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan over their support for the SunZia transmission line that will run through White Sands Missile Range.

Heinrich has taken the lead on the project and over the weekend Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was in ABQ (video) with Heinrich and Lujan to make the approval announcement of the multi-state transmission line. It will feed wind and solar power to neighboring states. Pearce, who has been on the losing side of this one all the way, came uncorked:

Pearce blasted Heinrich and Luján, saying he is "extremely surprised" the two elected leaders "would agree with the destruction of sites fundamental to New Mexico's history and heritage. Regardless of our different views on national security and the role of the military, I am taken aback by their support for crony corporate welfare at the expense of our culture." Pearce said of Sec. Jewell:  "Green-lighting the completion of SunZia along the chosen route is a reckless rush to judgment without thorough examination."

Them there are fightin' words for sure and did not go unnoticed by the Alligators lazing along the banks of the Potomac. One of them struck back with this rejoinder:

We’ve been in the environmental review for 6.5-years--how’s that for a ‘rush to judgment?’ He purports to worry about the effects of placing the transmission line underground but that was the condition of the Department of Defense (DOD) to make the project acceptable. Since Steve doesn’t attend delegation meetings, I reckon his broadside against Heinrich and Lujan shouldn’t damage its comity. 

Steve refuses to believe that DOD has protected its mission in a way that also can create a brand new industry in a part of the state that needs it. I have no idea what he means by ‘crony capitalism.’ How he arrives at the position is a mystery. Maybe he’s trying to revive the "Know Nothing Party."

There's a little bit of news in that Gator strike. Why does Rep. Pearce--the only Republican in the five member state congressional delegation--not attend meetings of the delegation? That's pretty much unheard of. Cooperation among the delegation is more urgent than ever as Federal dollars continue to be squeezed. Pearce won't comment to us about his boycott. Perhaps one of the reporters he does talk to can ask him. Inquiring minds would like to know.

(By the way, an agreement has been signed that would require the preparation of a Historic Treatment Preservation Plan that would minimize impacts to cultural resources along the entire length of the project.)


Zimmerman, Hamilton & Morales
Here's a pic of a little known guy who rocked New Mexico politics on election night when he defeated Dem state Rep. Rudy Martinez 53% to 47%, giving the R's an unexpected pick-up that broadened their majority.

Newly elected GOP State Rep. John Zimmerman of Las Cruces smiles with fellow southern lawmakers--Rep. Dianne Hamilton of Silver City and State Sen. Howie Morales also of Silver City.

The question now is can the GOP keep Zimmerman smiling?  He's a retired US Naval Reserve commander as well as a retired missile engineer from White Sands who will  be atop the target list of the Dems when they try to reclaim the House in 2016.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman, who represents portions of  Dona Ana, Grant and Sierra counties, will serve on the House Appropriations Committee which isn't a bad start.


Dem reader Stephanie DuBois comes with some pithy opinions on the state House Republicans dropping the Voters and Elections Committee and the proposal for parental notification for minors seeking an abortion:

Getting rid of the Voters and Elections Committee, must mean there is no need to look for "voter fraud" anymore. Ladies and Gentlemen voter fraud is officially over! I always knew the Republicans had all the answers. . . As for parental notification for an abortion in the case of a minor, I am concerned that the parent or guardian is the one that got her pregnant. Where does she go for permission to get a possible abortion? 

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

Looks like the state House Dems have gotten a crumb from the R's. One of the Dem House committee chairs told us that there was concern that the former Dem chairs would not be allowed to sit on their committees now that the R's have taken over. But in the committee assignments released by the House leadership the former chairs were not banished. . .

Farmington area GOP Senate Bill Sharer, a regular sponsor of anti-abortion bills, is taking a break this year, saying he will be a "support guy" but will not carry a bill to ban late term abortions. How the state GOP handles abortion--an issue of importance to its base voters--is proving to be interesting. The Guv and her political advisers don't want happening here what happened this week to the House Republicans in DC, but it isn't easy to avoid when you have so much emotion behind an issue.

Well-known ABQ Pastor Dewey Moede fires the first shots at Gov. Martinez over abortion:

 Governor Susana Martinez MIA: It’s a very sad day in New Mexico, when a Republican Governor who says she is pro-life does not show for the once a year pro-life rally at the State Capital, but will show up for every photo opportunity to open any kind of business or new highway project, what is Governor Martinez afraid of? I am tired of reading comments that Martinez is a “great Governor”, what makes her great? Skipping a rally that is held to encourage support to stop the killing of babies? I say again, what is the Governor afraid of?

Feeling the heat, the Guv's office says:

Gov. Susana Martinez would support a bill to place restrictions on late-term abortions, her spokesman said Thursday. The state's three Roman Catholic bishops say the anti-abortion measure is their top priority for the legislative session, and they hope a lawmaker or lawmakers will step forward to sponsor it. "As the governor has said many times, she is pro-life, which would of course include opposition to late-term abortions," Martinez's spokesman said in a statement.

Interesting stuff and we are on it for you.


It's not over yet:

A dozen high-powered attorneys are beginning to wage a pitched legal battle in federal court involving Gov. Susana Martinez and her most outspoken critics. To the casual observer, the lawsuit might appear unrelated to the state’s highest elected official. Its plaintiffs are two former state workers and two others and its defendants are behind-the-scenes politicos. But the civil filing is the next chapter in an email scandal that rocked the Martinez administration and sent her first campaign manager to federal prison.


It's one of the richest counties in the USA thanks to the federal funds flowing into Los Alamos Labs, but that doesn't mean the Great Bear is passing it by:

Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne presented the Los Alamos County Council with grim news. Gross receipts tax revenue is projected to be $3.6 million lower than expected in FY 2015 and $2.1 million lower in FY 2016.  The change is largely due to lower than anticipated spending and tax rates for Los Alamos National Laboratory. According to Lynne, LANL spending bottomed out at a figure lower than anticipated and the spending recovery after the government shutdown has been slower than projected.The lab has also refined its tax management policies so it is paying less tax. 


Karl Mofffat of White Rock, NM writes of the APD crisis:

Regarding police shootings and the fight between APD and the District Attorney, where do our state lawmakers stand? For instance shouldn't we be talking about a possible state law governing the policy and procedures by which these kind of cases are handled? Should there be a special prosecutor automatically assigned to oversee them? Should the public defender's office be involved, the law enforcement academy or state attorney general? Should these cases automatically be going before a judge for an open hearing so the public can see and hear evidence in these cases? Because many people right now don't seem to trust the current legal system. And whether that's because of a lack of transparency, accountability or immunity from the kind of political chicanery we're seeing in Albuquerque, it obviously needs to be addressed and our state lawmakers should be weighing in on it.

There has been a bill introduced in Santa Fe that would turn over the investigations of police shootings to the state attorney general. Bernalillo County DA Kari Brandenburg says she supports the measure,


Terrie Q. Sayre
KKOB-AM radio talk show host Terrie Q. Sayre has died. Friends say she had been suffering from the flu for a month.

Sayre held forth behind the microphone on weekend mornings from 7 to 10 at the conservative talk outlet and had been doing so for some 8 years.

She served as program director, news director and news anchor for radio stations in Nevada before coming to ABQ. She was also a well-known animal rights activist.

Rio Rancho GOP State Senator Craig Brandt was among those posting condolences on her Facebook page.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blasters Beware: Senate Leader Says Right To Work Will Not Get A Free Ride To The Floor, Plus: Big Pro-Life Demonstration Puts R's On The Spot, And: Monitoring The New APD Monitor 

Sens. Smith & Sanchez
To blast or not to blast? The 2015 legislative session is much focused on that question. And as far as we can tell--and to invoke Shakespeare again--Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is not wavering ala Hamlet. No blasts, says he, and that's big.

Supporters of the controversial right to work law (RTW) have the Republican House in the bag but need RTW to bypass the Senate committees where it will most likely be killed in the crib. They want it before the entire Senate for a vote. That's where the "blast" comes in.

The 17 R's would vote to blast RTW from a committee and directly onto the floor. If 4 Democrats would join them they would have what they need--a 21 to 21 tie that would be broken in favor of RTW by GOP LT. Governor John Sanchez. Susana would then cheerfully get out her pen and sign on the line.

But the odds appear to be growing longer for the blast, and if it doesn't happen RTW will have a much tougher path.  RTW bills could be stuck in Senate committees where they will RIP.

Our sourcing tells us that at the recent caucus of Senate Democrats all agreed not to take part in blasting legislation because it would pretty much make the committee system a sham. We're told just about every Dem Senator was at that meeting.

Insiders further report that Leader Sanchez has been diligently working Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith and Senate President Pro Tem May Kay Papen--two Dems who often lean conservative--not to be blasters, or from a Democratic perspective--bastards.

Sanchez's public statements have been firm. He is saying that no bills have been blasted in the Senate in 10 years and it's going to stay that way.

Still, that does not mean RTW advocates are out of the game. There are other parliamentary maneuvers that could still be employed to get the bill through. And there's the wheeling and dealing and horse trading with the Governor and that has yet to unfold that could create a path for passage.

Former ABQ Dem State Senator Richard Romero--who served as president pro tem over a decade ago--told public broadcasting's Gene Grant that he believes Sanchez will prevail. He said blasting of bills occurred when he was there and resulted in chaos and the decimation of the cherished committee system that gives a number of Senators significant power. They lose that power when blasters bring out the dynamite. . .

Speaking of committees, GOP House Speaker Don Tripp has announced the chairs of all the standing committees in the House. Some of the committee names are going to be changed and some committees will be abolished including the House Voters and Elections panel. Said one Democratic wall-leaner embittered about that: "You don't need a voters committee when you don't want people to vote."


In her state-of-the-state speech, Governor Martinez made no mention of hot button social issues that excite GOP base voters. Neither has the GOP House leadership yet. But a big pro-life rally sponsored by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Wednesday had to get the attention of those Republicans who do not want to mess with abortion or other high voltage issues. The GOP embraces pro-life positions but they are at odds with a majority of voters.

This report on the rally expresses optimism that a number of anti-abortion bills will sail through the newly controlled GOP House. We're not so sure:

. . .Bills that would require minors to get parental notification before obtaining abortions, call on doctors to distribute information on medical risks and alternatives to the procedure to women seeking abortion and banning all late-term abortions. Each measure has been introduced as a bill in recent years, yet none of them have ever cleared House committees. The bills haven't been formally introduced this session yet, but with a new Republican-controlled House, they're expected to at least clear the House. They'll likely face a tougher time in a state Senate still controlled by Democrats, who usually lean in favor of abortion rights.

Parental notification is the easiest of the bunch and has the best odds of making it through the House, but a ban on late-term abortions? That could put the Governor on the spot and give Dems a major social issue against the R's in the '16 election, especially in the swing ABQ seats. At the ABQ special election in November of '13, over 55 percent of the voters rejected a late term ban.

It's a slippery slope for the Governor--who has shown little zeal for the pro-life cause--and the House. They've dodged the bullet in the weeks leading up to the session. They'll have to keep bobbing and weaving as the GOP base comes to collect on promises made.


The selection of James Ginger as the federal monitor to oversee Department of Justice ordered reforms of the troubled ABQ APD seems to be getting a pretty warm welcome by most parties involved. But much trust has been lost. Some critics of the department say they haven't much faith that Ginger and company will be effective. Chuck McCoy, writing in the newspaper's comment section, summed it up this way:

Expecting the current APD officers to voluntarily "buy in" to policies that restrict their authority to do as they damned well please is about like expecting toddlers to "buy in" to an earlier bedtime. This fellow says his job is to identify areas in which the APD is found wanting and to leave it to them to figure out how to improve. We've already identified the areas where the APD needs improvement, and expecting them to improve themselves on their own with academics looking over their shoulders periodically saying "That's not quite good enough, and you'll have to guess how to do better" doesn't seem particularly bright. At the end of the day nothing much is going to change in the nasty attitudes of the APD officers on the street who are going to sit through all the yadda-yadda-yadda from these consultants and then go do as they please. We're paying millions for suits to nag them into better behavior, and I don't think it's going to have much effect.

We're going to have a long time to see if it has any effect. The monitor could be here four years or more.

And City Hall appears to have met its match in Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg. Here she comes:

The four-term DA said she has no plans to step aside from the prosecution of officers Dominique Perez and former detective Keith Sandy (in the killing of homeless camper James Boyd), or any other police shooting case, despite an aggressively worded letter from ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry calling on her to appoint a special prosecutor. Perry claims Brandenburg and her entire office have a conflict of interest in the case — and in all other police shooting cases. She disagrees. “At this point, we don’t see any legal reason to appoint a special prosecutor. Neither has anyone given us a reason up to this point … We think we’re following the law and, for doing that, we’re getting push back from the brass at APD and from the Mayor’s Office.”

Maybe the Justice Dept. should have made DA Brandenburg the federal monitor for APD?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

State Of Euphoria: Governor Kicks Off Session As Cheerleader In Chief, Plus: Pete's Fingerprints On House, And: Heinrich Says Its Never Too Early, But Is It? 

We didn't see Governor Martinez crossing her fingers for good luck as she gave her State of the State address Tuesday but that seems to be the strategy when it comes to dealing with what is shaping up as a severe budget pinch.

The crashing price of oil--the proverbial elephant in the room and the one costing the state millions in tax revenue--did not even earn a mention. Nothing could interrupt the Governor's state of euphoria. . .

(Full text and video here.)

She sported a confidence more noticeable than in such speeches of the past. And why not? She won re-election in a landslide and the state House is now under her wing with the GOP in charge. For this Governor it's a Sally Field moment: "You like me, you really like me!"

The growth in this governorship has been in cosmetics and symbolism. The speech was well-delivered--one of her better efforts--and the optics just right. She looked fit and engaged. The ubiquitous school kids were brought directly to the podium this year. But the content was like summer TV--heavy on the reruns.

For example, making their annual appearances on Susana's greatest hits list was holding back third graders who don't perform and repealing driver's licenses for undocumented workers.

Right to work might be called a new idea, but it was an original series back in the 80's when it passed the Legislature twice only to be vetoed. In a rebuttal to Martinez following her nearly 50 minute speech, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez predicted that the Democratic Senate will kill the right to work bill. He sounded convincing.

(For you policy nerds, 2014 Dem Guv candidate Alan Webber came with an in-depth study of RTW).

Applause in the chamber for Martinez was as modest as her initiatives. Seasoned lawmakers know they have a budget crisis on their hands and are already looking past the gubernatorial rhetoric and grappling with the new reality. Against that backdrop her desire for targeted tax cuts seems out of sync.

The Governor got the emphasis she wanted from the speech--education and right-to-work. That was the easy part. The hard part has only been postponed--not eliminated.


The enmity between Governor Martinez and her predecessor is so deep that it led her to break with protocol and actually attack Bill Richardson by name, ripping him with this:

We have recovered over $29 million in taxpayer money that was squandered in the Richardson-era pay-to-play scandals. But there’s more to do.

We had her getting an "A" for rhetoric, but that took her down to a B. It revealed what Mother Jones magazine and others have called her "petty and vindictive" side.

It also conjured up what could go awry in her own second term. Remember the racino lease for the ABQ Downs? The behavioral health upheaval?  The NCIC license plate checks?


The new House hierarchy has the stamp of former GOP Senator Pete Domenici. Majority Leader Nate Gentry once worked in his DC office as did newly elected House Clerk Denise Ramonas.

Seated behind Gentry during Tuesday's opening session was none other than Steve Bell, the former chief of staff to Domenici who engineered many of the senator's political movidas. Domenici was also on hand for the session opener, receiving rousing applause when introduced in the House chamber.

Meanwhile, Gentry was working hard to push back against speculation that he could try to usurp newly elected House Speaker Don Tripp. Gentry is tied to the Governor's hip. Tripp not as much. On his Facebook page Gentry said of Tripp's election as Speaker:

Very happy for and proud of my Boss.

Okay, Nate. But are you sure you're talking about Don and not Jay?


Out with the old and in with the new. Here's a shot for the books--Democratic Speaker Ken Martinez welcoming new Speaker Tripp to the House rostrum. The peaceful transfer of power is a given here, but not for much of the world. . .

One of our Roundhouse watchers predicts a more easy going environment in the state House now that the R's--believers in minimalist government--have taken the reins of power:

Expect a much slower and easy going schedule. They have an agenda but it is not lengthy. Committees are expected to meet from 8:30 to 10:30 followed by a floor session, lunch at noon and committee hearings in the afternoon. There are skeptics that the committees will actually meet on time and that all of this will not take, but the R's are much more regimented than the Dems so the House leadership might not have that hard of a time.

Time will tell but it was nearly 2 p.m Tuesday before Susana started her speech slated for 1 p.m. In fairness, the House had to vote on a Speaker as well as a new clerk before hearing from the Guv and that slowed things down. 


Reader Steve Dick comments on the drop in the oil price as he preps for the legislative session and passes along sentiments that should draw unanimous consent in both legislative chambers:

Perhaps this can serve as a shock that blindly relying on natural resources to be your major economic driver year after year is a lazy way of life to pass along. New Mexico needs to wake up and smell the coffee. If it is going to get out of the doldrums it has to work its way out. And that includes making sure that kids go to school, learn something while there, and actually graduate. Given the current state of things, New Mexico is going to be hurting for the rest of the decade unless something changes.


Maria Bautista writes of  recent events in the APD crisis in ABQ:

The city attorney resigns. The city PR agent resigns. A police officer discharges his weapon and shoots a neighbor. A police officer was shot. A police officer shoots himself. A police officer shot another police officer. The DA charged two officers with murder. The police turn against the DA. Another shoot out last night, another death. The Mayor in hiding.

The city and Department of Justice announced Tuesday that they have agreed on a Federal Monitor to oversee APD reforms.


From Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich on his 2018 re-election bid (yes, 2018):

One rule I have always followed in politics is that it is never too early to get your campaign started. As I watched the election returns this past November, then saw Senator McConnell sworn in as Majority Leader last week, I knew that rule was as important today as it ever has been. That is why we set a goal of raising $7,500 online this month. Can I count on your early support?

Never too early? What's next? Susana announcing that she's taking on Heinrich in '18?

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Opening Day Memo: 2015 Session Won't End State's Stagnation But There's Plenty To Talk About; The Barebones Budget, The New Speaker And The Insider Info, Also: Times Of Tijerina And Other Notable Passings 

As the 2015 session of the New Mexico Legislature opens today the state has settled into a long-term stagnation that hardly anyone expects to be turned around by whatever comes out of the 60 day confab. . .

Flat to declining federal spending combined with a crash in energy prices will ensure that this year will mimic the others since the Great Recession tagged us its favorite place to hang out. . .

Governor Martinez now owns whatever one thinks of today's circumstances. She wasn't punished for it at the November polls. She will continue to put a smiley face on matters, proposing itty bitty solutions to a macro problem. . .

Democrats will spar some with the R's but will have their hands full simply trying to put a finger in the dike as conservative economic legislation floods into the state Senate from the newly GOP controlled state House. . .

Dem Senator Carlos Cisneros is first out of the gate with a specific budget prediction. He's saying that because of the bear market in oil prices Santa Fe will be "lucky" if there's even $40 million in new money to spend for the budget year that begins July 1. . .

That's essentially no growth for the budget. If lawmakers and the Governor are going to get to the $6.3 billion number they propose, they may have to eat further into the state's cash reserves. . .

Our legislative Alligators are already reporting that a budget proposal of $6.1 billion will soon be making the rounds. . .

Most of our legislators are comfortably middle or upper class so the world of many of their constituents--especially those who don't vote--can be unfamiliar. The separation of the haves and have nots permeates politics everywhere:

The richest 1 percent of the population will own more than half the world's wealth by 2016, Oxfam International (a charity group) said in a report. . .Oxfam said the world's richest people saw their share of global wealth jump to 48 percent last year from 44 percent in 2009. Rising inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty. . .

Governor Martinez will deliver her State of the State speech early this afternoon. Tonight President Obama gives the State of the Union. He has started to tack to the center-left on the key economic issues, proposing, for example, a hike in the capital gains tax for high-income households. . .

Obama is hamstrung by a Congress now completely controlled by the R's. State House Minority leader Brian Egolf and his freshly defrocked flock know how the Prez feels.


We're going to get a new House Speaker today. For the first time in decades he will be Republican and hail from south of I-40.

GOP Rep. Don Tripp of Socorro is not only smack dab in the middle of the power game but also in the middle of the downturn that has ravaged his district. The news:

In business since 1963, Monette Ford in Socorro closed its showroom and doors last week. The action was necessitated due to the economic climate, according to Danny Monette. . . Owner Chuck Monette was quoted as saying that business had already been tough for the dealership since 2008, and “if a dealer wasn’t making it, they had no one to sell it to, so they would simply shut down.

It will be interesting to see if Tripp tips the Speaker's gavel towards assisting his embattled rural compatriots and what form that assistance might take.


Will new ABQ Dem state Senator Mimi Stewart--who chaired the House Education Committee before running for the Senate--get a seat on the Senate Education Committee? The answer is no. You can ask Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen why. . .

Will four Democratic state Senators join with the 17 Senate Republicans and "blast" bills out of Senate committees and force floor votes on them? Bills like "right-to-work?" Insiders say no, but they are not absolutely positive. How's that for clarity?. . .

Will this be the session that finally sees the Senate vote on the nomination of Hanna Skandera as state education chief? Yes. The deal has been cut, say the insiders, and she will be approved.


Joe Monahan blogs New Mexico
Few give much of a chance for the GOP House and Governor to support a reinstatement of the food tax, but that isn't stopping the NM Municipal League from charging ahead. The group has set up a website to make its arguments which have widespread support from their irked membership. Local governments are getting hit now that Santa Fe will no longer reimburse them for the funds they lose through the food tax repeal.


Here's the special events calender for the 60 day session, ranging from tonight's annual legislative dinners by both the D's and R's to American Indian Day later in the session.


That decision by Mayor Berry's administration to exclude the Bernalillo County District Attorney from the scene of last Tuesday's fatal police shooting is drawing national attention--and outrage. The WaPo's criminal justice blogger came with this scorcher

. . . This is really reprehensible behavior. . . It’s also just the latest example of law enforcement officers and their supporters demonstrating incredible petulance in retaliation for public scrutiny or the rare attempt to hold rogue cops accountable for their actions. Keep in mind, this is all occurring in a city that has a long history of questionable police shootings, that recently entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice after an investigation found a pattern of unconstitutional use-of-force incidents, that seems to have a problematic shoot-first culture within the police department, and that has a history of law enforcement officials retaliating against whistleblowers.


Tijerina in 1969 (Bralley)
Reies Lopez Tijerina drew sharply divergent opinions but his reach across NM history is not in dispute. He died Monday at 88, ending a life that was lived large.

Veteran photographer and blogger Mark Bralley is one of the few media figures still around who covered the heyday of the land grant activist. He posted this obit on his blog. . .And retired (and legendary) ABQ Journal reporter Larry Calloway--who as a wire service reporter was taken prisoner during Tijerina's '67 raid on the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse--posted on his blog a remembrance of that historic event.

And tragic news has come to us. The 31 year old daughter of Robert and Peggy Muller Aragon, Amberlee, died in an early Sunday morning auto accident on ABQ's westside, family members confirm on social media. Robert Aragon, an ABQ attorney, is a member of the State Board of Finance and was the 2014 GOP state auditor candidate. Peggy Muller Aragon is a candidate for ABQ School Board in the Feb. 3 election. . .

And oldtimers will remember Eric McCrossen, for many years the editorial page editor of the ABQ Journal. McCrossen, 83, died Sunday. We first met him in '74 when we covered our first NM Guv's race and when McCrossen's columns on the subject were a must read. In '76, we met up with him on the campaign trail, covering Senator Joe Montoya's unsuccessful re-election bid. (Reporters actually went out on the trail back then. Today the trail is a TV studio).

That day we shared some of the hard stuff with McCrossen, "Little Joe" and his hangers-on and then did some hard news. As retired political reporter Rodger Beimer often says: "Those were the best of times."

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