Thursday, March 05, 2015

Hillary's Emailgate Conjures Memories Of Susana's, Plus: The Media Beat: Kirtland Tangles With Radio And Dem Party Attacks TV Reporter, Also: Agreeing On Gross Receipts 

Emailgate is back. Not the one starring Susana from her first term but Hillary's:

A House committee investigating the Benghazi, Libya, attacks issued subpoenas Wednesday for the emails of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who used a private account exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state - and also used a computer email server now traced back to her family's New York home.

Let's call one of the Senior Alligators off the bench for his take:

Republicans go after Hillary for having a private email account for herself and her staff that allowed her to conduct official business through back channels. At the same time they promote Susana Martinez as a possible VP candidate knowing Martinez also had a private email account for herself and her staff that allowed her to conduct official business through back channels. The big question: will Hillary be able to push charges against the Email-gate whistle blower and have them sent to jail the way Martinez did?

Maybe we flushed Susana out when we noted on the blog that there had been no on-camera interviews with her over the PARCC exam, despite widespread student protests.  She defended the test at a news conference Wednesday, one of her first in quite a while. Keith, Jay and Enrique: We'll let you know when it's time for the next one.


On the media beat for you this Thursday we find this dust-up between Kirtland Air Force Base and ABQ public radio station KUNM-FM:

Kirtland’s Objection: The reporter should have known better than to include the information about Kirtland’s lead discharges in his story, because Kirtland officials provided interviews, a tour of base facilities and information about the base’s discharges. Kirtland officials may not respond to KUNM requests for information or interviews “if all [they] can expect is an unwarranted cheap-shot in return.”

Station Response: We are a news organization and our responsibility is to the public. We do not produce news content “in return” for access to public officials—or any sources for that matter.

It's not often seen publicly, but that's the way the game is often played; you don't write nice stuff about us and you don't get the interview or access. . .


And more from the media beat. The state Democratic Party is scorching KOB-TV reporter Chris Ramirez, saying the former communications director for ABQ GOP Mayor RJ Berry is "a Republican operative masquerading as a reporter."

The attack on Ramirez was triggered by his reporting this week over a tiff between Republican and House Majority Leader Nate Gentry and Democratic Senator and Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. Gentry protested Sanchez's treatment of House-passed legislation. The party asserts Ramirez favored Gentry in that report and in addition "cherry picks" stories to cast Democrats in "a bad light."

Ramirez responded on Facebook:

. . . Your social media posts don't intimidate me and I'll continue to cover the stories that are important to New Mexicans, even if that means offending a political party. During this important legislative session, it's troublesome that the Democratic Party of New Mexico is using its resources and persuasion to try to intimidate reporters instead of really working on behalf of the people it serves.

For those who watch such things, the news that there are quasi-journalists populating the mainstream media and carrying water for the Guv and her political machine is about as surprising to learn that the Roundhouse is, well, round. . .

But there is pride in the profession. A KOB-TV videographer recently declared his intent to be taken to jail when an ABQ personnel hearing over an APD officer's firing was about to get underway with TV cameras banned. And KOAT recently ran a report protesting APD's refusal to hand over public records it has repeatedly requested.

The more aggressive posture comes in the wake of  New Yorker magazine and Rolling Stone articles that simply ran circles around the local media with their depth and insight into the APD crisis. It was this particular quip in the New Yorker that indicted the local media before the nation for its AWOL coverage of the APD shootings and turmoil:

After an article on investigative grand juries in the Albuquerque Journal, by a reporter named Jeff Proctor—one of the few local journalists who consistently questioned the police department’s narrative about its shootings.

That's basically shaming the local media into stepping up its game or appearing foolish and/or blind to the rest of the nation. The media here passed up its opportunity to win a Pulitzer for investigating one of the biggest stories in city history (as it was occurring). Perhaps they can redeem themselves in the months ahead. As for Proctor, he left the Journal and is now a producer at KRQE-TV where he continues to investigate the APD story.


It looks as though the state Senate is going to be the burial ground for the major legislation approved by the GOP House so why shouldn't the senators win the annual charity basketball game this year? From court side:

The “Hoops 4 Hope” Legislative Basketball Game took place Wednesday evening. The charity game raised $22,350 for the University of New Mexico Cancer Center in its fight against cancer throughout the state. The Senate “Lobos” team, coached by Bob Davie, won the game with a score of 35, with the House “Aggies” team, coached by Lou Henson, ending the game with a score of 29.

The game raised over $22,000 for the UNM Cancer Center.


Rep. Harper
Hope Garcia writes from Rio Rancho:

Can you stand one more comment on your “Big Picture” column? You said, “If the biz community wants to make history they could support dropping various tax incentives and in exchange lower the job-inhibiting gross receipts tax.” 

Glad to hear you are in support of State Rep. Jason Harper’s (R-Sandoval County) tax ideas:  Rep. Harper wants to decrease the state GRT from its current 8% to about 2%, by—to start with—removing all 370 GRT exemptions to businesses. A great step to reigning in the tax insanity in this state!

Harper's bill is House Bill 491. It proposes to lower the gross receipts tax to about 2 percent. It is now over 8 percent in some NM cities. Harper would eliminate all 370 GRT exemptions to businesses and also remove exemptions for charities and non-profits.

We're not sure the exemptions for charities and non-profits need to be repealed and we differ with Harper on lowering even further the corporate income tax and repealing the tax on wealthy estates. But the exemptions is a place to start the talking. Harper says that's his point. He does not expect action this year.

Harper joins former ABQ Dem state Senator Tim Keller--now state auditor--who also pushed for a serious look at the exemptions. Some might think reform is impossible as there is probably a lobbyist for each of the 370 exemptions. Still, with Democrats and Republicans agreeing that the too-high gross receipts tax is a big problem when it comes to attracting jobs, you might say hope springs eternal.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Governing By The Polls, The Obamacare Boon, Big Student PARCC Protests But No Susana Comment And Back In The Lobbyists Payday Loan Lair 

Republicans are calling state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez an obstructionist for not giving controversial measures like third grade retention and repealing driver's license for undocumented immigrants a fast path to the full Senate Floor. They cite as a main reason public opinion polls that show a large majority of the public supports the bills. But hold on. The public also by a wide margin supports a sizable increase in the minimum wage and also a constitutional amendment that would tap the state's vast Permanent Fund for very early childhood programs. We don't see the R's agreeing with the polls on those two items and urging immediate passage. . .

If we want to run the government via public opinion poll why not just disband the Legislature and have a mass gathering at the Pit where the public could give thumbs up or thumbs down to bills posted on the scoreboard?. . .

Thousands of students across the state cut class and march in protest of the new PARCC exam--making national news--and Gov. Martinez is not interviewed for a reaction by the press or TV media? Gosh, back in the day we would have camped out at the Mansion until we got our direct quote. Well, maybe like KOB-TV's Tom Joles we just don't fit into the "modern newsroom.". . .

A reader writes of the news broken here this week that Beverlee McClure, head of the NM Association of Commerce and Industry, is looking to leave the state and become chancellor for the Saint Louis Community College:

She is leaving because of the economy? Really? You don't think the ACI board may have been embarrassed by her publishing an online, soft porn novel has anything to do with this being an opportune time for her to leave?

You mean Obamacare has been a boon for our state?

The Affordable Care Act has not only resulted in lower rates of uninsured people in New Mexico, but has also boosted the state's health care industry. According to a new Gallup report, New Mexico's rate of uninsured people dropped by 4.9 percent last year — to 15.3 percent from 20.2 percent in 2013.


From the Roundhouse, we get this from a Senior Alligator on the GOP proposal to move the state's primary election from June to March:

Joe, In discussing the desire to change the date of the primary election so the Governor can be more relevant in the national scene, your column reveals an interesting trend among the modern Republican leadership. When the Democrats wanted to raise Gov.  Richardson’s star, they created a process where the party could opt out of the publicly-financed primary and hold their own, privately-funded presidential caucus system. When the modern Republican leadership of this state wants to raise Susana Martinez’s star, they put forward a proposal for the public coffers to pay for it, and worry not about the chaos they hoist on the rest of the political process.

Chances of the Legislature approving a new primary date? You've heard this one: slim to none, and slim just left town.


We wondered yesterday about all those high-powered lobbyists (over a dozen) hired to defend the payday loan industry and whether their work was all done for this session now that bills to rein in the interest rates the industry charges have been left for dead. Well, it seems their work is not quote done. Reader Karen Meyers has this eye-opener on what the lobbying corp now has its eyes on:

Joe: While the 3 bills to limit interest rates at 36% for consumer loans have all been killed in committee, there are 2 industry bills that would allow interest rates up to 330% for installment loans and over 1200% for refund anticipation loans. These bills are still making their way through the Legislature. The refund anticipation loan bill would make it legal to charge over 1200% interest on a short term loan secured by a borrower’s tax refund. Both bills are intended to undermine the New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision in the State of New Mexico v. B& B Investment Group ruling that excessive interest rates and loan origination practices violate New Mexico public policy. In that case, the Supreme Court struck down loan interest rates of 1100% to 1500% and applied a default rate of 15% and ordered restitution for consumers. As a result, the industry has mounted a well-funded effort to enact laws that will protect them against legal challenges in the future.

1200 percent on a loan! If that gets through, the lobbyists responsible will be hired by the Mob.


Mikey Weinstein--who has often been in the news for his national group--the Military Religious Freedom Foundation--says he's having a hard time getting on conservative radio talker KKOB-AM to promote a speaking engagement. He and his PR firm say a talk show host has dubbed Republican Weinstein "anti-Christian." The PR firm says:

Mikey Weinstein is not "anti-Christian.” Indeed, half of his own family are practicing Christians. . . Weinstein's presentation at the Jewish Community Center of ABQ on Thursday, March 12 will cover the dangers. . . of religious extremism and anti-semitism in the US Military. Mikey will be speaking on the role of Dominionists in the Armed Forces. Dominionists are fundamentalist Christians whose beliefs and practices threaten the separation of church and state embedded in the Constitution. Moreover, their beliefs and practices present a threat to U.S. foreign policy objectives in regions where service members operate.

Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson is listed by Weinstein's foundation as a member of its advisory board.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A Boa Constrictor In Santa Fe, TV News Ratings Out As Joles Returns, The DC Money Tree, More From PARCC Place And Toney Phone Home 

House Majority Leader Nate Gentry is asking Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez to step on the gas when it comes to considering legislation passed by the GOP controlled House. Isn't that like asking a boa constrictor to hurry up and eat?

Sanchez--of the Dem-controlled Senate--has referred the third grade retention bill and the one to repeal driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants to three Senate committees. The House approved right-to-work bill may get similar treatment. Like the boa does to its prey, the hot-button bills will be slowly choked to death--just as they have every year since Susana became Guv.

(For your amusement, the Gentry letter to Sanchez is here and the Sanchez response letter to Gentry is here). And onward we go. . .

After getting dethroned by KOAT-TV in November, KRQE-TV says it's back on the throne after the February ratings period:

KRQE News 13 at 10:00 PM is the #1 late news program, gaining 5% from November 2014. Our late news has won 36 of the last 37 survey periods, taking our winning streak back to 2005. CBS Prime was #1 in every hour. Our average prime rating was 24% higher than November 2014, and 21% higher than a year ago February.

The ratings during sweeps periods are used to determine local advertising rates over the next several months. Channel 13's November 10 p.m. loss to KOAT was attributed by the media mavens in part to the departure from 13 of longtime anchor Dick Knipfing. . ,

Speaking of anchors, Tom Joles is back in the saddle at KOB after being given a "cooling down" period by management following a newsroom shouting match with reporter Stuart Dyson. Joles issued this apology to his newsroom brethren but said he believes his punishment was not fair, perhaps signaling more rocky roads ahead for the earnest journalist. (Remember, the news director slammed Joles for not being able to fit into "a modern newsroom.") The Joles-Dyson argument got going when, according to newsroom sources, Joles started chewing out a cub reporter and Dyson came to her defense.

Whatever the case, Joles has a lot of work to do. KOB has been mired in third place for years in that 10 p.m news battle.


He's in the minority now, making it all the harder to shake the DC money tree, but Dem US Sen. Tom Udall can appeal to the White House:

Tuesday Udall will question U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx at a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee. Udall will press administration officials on resources to expand trade and commerce at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, continuing economic development investments in groups like Innovate Albuquerque, and his ongoing efforts to support the creation of an Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute in the Albuquerque area.


A reader writes of continued student protests around the state over the new PARCC exam:

Joe, Just one question: where are the parents? Adults are really letting their children take the lead here and publicly protest the screwing over of their children? Parents--not their kids--need to be the ones involved in these protests. Here's a question: what would the effect be if only half the parents in a school or school district kept their kids home for one day to protest these tests? What's (Sec. of Education Hanna) Skandera gonna do? Fail half of an entire school district? Doubtful. Parents need to have some courage and stand up for their own children.

In Santa Fe, reader Judith Podmore defends Gov. Martinez's education policies:

Santa Fe looks clean and once spring comes the Plaza will be cheerful and full of tourists. But education here is tragic. Freshmen in high school cannot write a sentence and barely a paragraph--never mind a paper. The teachers need to be weeded out but the union is too strong. It's this union that is destroying our education system. Our Governor is trying but her hands are tied. If I had a family, I certainly wouldn't live here. Respect and discipline seem to be severely lacking in this community. Parents need to be responsible for teaching values and following up with teachers. Tests are important but learning respect and discipline along with the value of hard work are more important.


Toney Anaya
The newspaper did a report showing that Gov. Martinez traveled out of state for nearly 300 days during her first four year term--most of it for political purposes. That draws this observation from a self-described veteran "wall-leaner":

Remember the “Toney Phone Home” bumper stickers the Republicans used to mock then-Gov. Toney Anaya, the ambitious Hispanic New Mexico governor of the 1980's for his out-of-state travels? It was a play on words from E.T., a blockbuster movie of the time, and his national political activities seemed to get New Mexico’s conservative media and right wingers into a tizzy. Democrats appear to lack the creativity and stomach to take on Susana, and of course the conservative media never would attack the ambitious Hispanic New Mexico female governor being out of the state so often on political business. Ironic, isn’t it?


Hey, does this mean the more than dozen high-powered lobbyists who labored furiously to kill this bill are now off the payroll for the rest of the session?

Sen. Bill Soules says attempts to regulate New Mexico's storefront lending industry appear dead for at least another year. Soules, D-Las Cruces, is sponsoring one of the three reform bills to cap interest rates on loans at 36 percent. Currently, storefront lenders often charge rates of 400 percent or more. Impoverished people in need of a fast infusion of cash sign contracts with lending companies for these high-interest loans, Soules said. Many can't meet the repayment schedule, so they end up eventually paying thousands of dollars on an original loan of a few hundred dollars. His bill was tabled in the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee on a bipartisan vote. 

400 percent! Warren Buffett, you don't know what you're missing down here in New Mexico,

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Monday, March 02, 2015

Top State Biz Leader Eyes Exits, The Move To Move NM Primary, PARCC Protests Ramp Up, And Reaction To Our Big Picture Take 

Here's an eyebrow raiser to start the week: Even the head of the NM Association of Commerce and Industry--a major business cheerleading group--wants to join the U-Haul crowd out of here:

St. Louis Community College announced four finalists in its national search for a new chancellor. The candidates are Richard Dawe, president of Ozarka College; Jeff Pittman, vice provost for online education at Ivy Tech Community College; Beverlee McClure, CEO of the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry; and Rod Nunn, interim president of St. Louis Community College’s Forest Park campus.

McClure served as president of Clovis Community College before being recruited by the Richardson administration as Secretary of Higher Education. In July of last year she clashed with the Martinez administration over whether enough state contract money was going to local businesses, but she soon pulled in her horns and has been a Martinez team player this legislative session.

The rush to the exits has been heavy in New Mexico. In 2014, we again made the United Van Lines list of states that folks are fleeing. See our Friday column for some of the reasons.


Backers of a legislative bill that would move the state's primary election to mid-March from early June assert it will make New Mexico a "national player" in the presidential sweepstakes. To which thousands of New Mexicans reply--in an effective imitation of Allen Weh--"So what?" New Mexico is already known for being a national player--for annually being in the cellar for its poverty rate, its poor rate of job growth, the low high school graduation rate and the high suicide and drug addiction rate.

The primary proposal is an obvious bid to advance the national political ambitions of Gov. Martinez. How about we first advance our standing in the national social conditions rankings before we get giddy over the prospect of a couple of presidential candidates spending a night at a Tucumcari hotel? In other words, get serious Santa Fe. . .


One of our readers first raised the question of APS considering cutting elective classes as it looks at budget cuts. Here's the follow-up:

Parents (are) concerned their children would be losing some classes because of the cost of implementing the controversial PARCC exam in APS. They heard the district was thinking about eliminating courses, including the arts, in order to cut costs next year. APS school board President Analee Maestas said no electives will be cut next year. "We're not going to allow that to happen because we do value the fine arts," she said. But, she say students' schedules could be changing. Right now, APS has what's called a block schedule. "With the block schedule, students meet twice a week, and if you miss one class in a block schedule, you've basically missed half a week of instruction," said Maestas.

Meanwhile, student protests over the PARCC test, which started in Santa Fe and are spreading today to ABQ, have also been seen in Carlsbad where hundreds of students skipped classes Friday to protest the exam.


Our Friday blog on New Mexico's big picture--which also is running in the current edition of the ABQ Free Press--struck a nerve with many readers and filled our email bag.

Reader Joe Craig writes:

Great column, great blog. Somewhere Albuquerquean's and New Mexican's have to start asking why we a failing on so many levels and start pointing fingers at the Governor and the Mayor. Wall Street would not have put up with any corporation run as poorly as New Mexico has been run and is running.

Reader Stan Fitch writes:

Regarding your financial summary in Friday's blog: "Hear! Hear!"

Rick Allan writes from Anthony, NM:

I was very pleasantly surprised (no, more like ecstatic) when I went to your blog and read such a wonderfully concise and on the mark statement about what ails NM and the need for much more than irresponsible and destructive denial by demonstrably failed leadership. Your essay should be mandatory reading for all elected officials and the media--every reporter/journalist/editorial board/news station in the state should now pose the rather simple question to state leadership: Have you read Joe Monahan's article? What is your response?  No one should be let off the hook. This would be an effective way to start the public narrative that needs to be held around what has to be done to staunch the state-wide bleeding where life-support monitors are beeping loudly and everyone seems to be listening but sitting on their hands (at best) and then how to restore vitality and sustainable health to NM. 

Bette Brodsky writes;

Hi Joe, One of your statements especially struck me: "The NM populace doesn’t have the will to change things. It’s true. Many of us actually like NM the way it is. We like the Third World, Billy the Kid, Wild West, lawless corruption and the Santa Fe Ring. We love our shared history as a conglomerate of Mexicans, Indians, hippies, vatos, white ranchers, farmers, Penitentes, Spanish villagers, Mayordomos, descendants of Conquistadores, Sikhs, artists, craftsmen, Okies, Texas oil interests, movie stars and entertainers. In short, we’re a hell-of-a mixture that likes to do it our own way and who often admire the blustery windbags who roll into town promising the miracles of glorified snake-oil peddlers.

We are proud of our state, even just the way it is, feisty and authentic and are secretly glad when we hear that people are deserting the state. Go elsewhere to join the rat race and do things like everybody else does. We enjoy our beautiful, under-populated landscape and open spaces.

As we have shown at the polls, our tolerance for outrageous police behavior, our cinematic romanticism of poverty and lawlessness, our support of a silent/cooperative news media, our safe-haven for the nuclear weapons machine and the toxic waste it generates, we like our state to be backward and slow and we turn away from the ugly realities that these somewhat lazy attitudes engender. Sorry for the rant! I’ve been reading too much Joe Monahan!


Scott LeFevre writes:

Mr. Monahan, Wow! Somebody gets it and calls it! Thank you. I appreciate your blog. Any chance for the GOP and Governor being mandated to read it and implement it?

An ABQ reader writes:

Tears came to my eyes as you described what has happened to our beloved state. The mountains and blue sky are still there but our people can't see them with their heads hanging down in worry and fear of what the future is bringing as they search for work. The majestic desert and rock formations are still there to admire but as rural NM towns become desert there is no one there to notice. Yet as you pointed out there is this glimmer of hope that calls for investment in our youngest populations only if we found the courage. Please, Joe, continue to challenge our leaders to find the courage. I know it is there if they can just get past the fantasy of the next election.

Reader Chris writes:

An excellent column! One of your best. Leadership? Who and where? "We"? To what community are you referring? I see very little evidence of any real leadership in ABQ or NM, nor do I detect any sense of community here. What a political culture we have!

Maureen Luna of ABQ writes:

Your column really defined the many issues facing this state we love. I've been here 50 years, have served on the APS Board and the TVI (CNM) Governing Board (twice), the board of New Mexico First, as well as a number of other community groups. Never have I felt so down about the welfare of the state and the city. The police issue has been toxic, the education community is disheartened by the "reform" agenda being forced on them, and the business leaders seem to be re-hashing the same old ideas.

I recently had lunch with a friend, a native New Mexican, who had returned after a number of years out of state. She commented that she felt that people in the state seemed to have a very insular view, not acknowledging that other states have been doing things differently, and maybe better. I call it the "he's not from here" mentality. It used to amuse me to hear this--not so much any more.

Governor/President Carruthers was prescient in his evaluation in 2006. Let's hope some of our young leaders will get involved in attempting to effect the change we need. But the first step has to be the acknowledgement that there is a problem. That is why your column struck a chord with me. The ABQ Journal, the happy-talk mayor, and our nationally ambitious governor would rather pretend that all is well. And that is not going to make us better.

Viki Farrar writes:

The creation of a public-owned bank would be a good solution to help New Mexicans. I wish the Democratic politicians would put such a proposal together. Any Republicans out there who would work on that? A bi-partisan effort to truly support New Mexican citizens who need funding for their businesses and for state infrastructure projects would go a long way in healing our economy and ending the growing social and economic divide in this state. The NM Permanent Fund is a possible source for start-up funds for a New Mexico state bank.

Reader Ron Nelson writes:

Mr. Monahan, I am so happy to finally find someone that has accumulated the same view point about this state as I have. After living here for almost 30 years, I woke up a few years ago, and starting asking, What is going on here? I’ve accomplished many hours of reading and research, using my expertise and schooling in healthcare and business to try to put a finger on the issues.

I’m a numbers person. The first set that struck me odd, was that New Mexico has only gained 1.6 million people in population over the past hundred years, since it has become a state. Compared to other states that surround us that entered statehood about the same time, their populations have more than sextupled. The other is that the major employer in this state is government. Between, federal, state, and local municipal, they outnumber our struggling private businesses. Then there’s the number who pay or file for taxes. Almost 50%.

I’m in total agreement, that among those who seek to leave this state, it is because of the crime. I have heard it from more than one source, that New Mexico, has one of the worst criminal codes in the 50 states. Any attempt to strengthen it is met by resistance by the trial lawyer lobby. Magnified, by political partisanship, corruptness, cronyism, favoritism, laziness, poor understanding of issues and a total lack of any financial transparency ( I have a few juicy stories about this one). Many, including myself are just throwing up their hands and plan on relocating out of state.

Reader Charlotte Lipson writes:

This column is brilliant and am urging all my friends to read it. Thank you!

Thanks, Charlotte, and to all who responded.

We welcome high praise, low praise, brickbats as well as plaintive or joyous cries over the state of our beloved La Politica.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

A Pause For A Look At New Mexico's Big Picture 

Here's my latest column for the ABQ Free Press on newsstands now. . .

If the biz community wants to make history they could support dropping various tax incentives and in exchange lower the job-inhibiting gross receipts tax. They could support the formation of a state bank to get money flowing in this capital-starved economy in which bankers shiver at the thought of loan risk. They could support the constitutional amendment to fund very early childhood programs from the state's vast Permanent Fund to begin resolving the state's social conditions crisis.

You see, many business people don't want to move here (particularly the ABQ metro) because the place is riddled with crime, poor schools and social pathologies that are portrayed as fictional on TV shows like  "Better Call Saul" and "Breaking Bad" but are far too real. You can't sell New Mexico by telling business people they will want to live in gated communities and send their kids--and those of their employees--to private schools.

Right-to-work and failing third graders are simply not serious solutions to resolve what's facing us. They are wedge issues designed to advance a political agenda--not a true reform agenda that would pull New Mexico up and begin the very demanding task of competing with the quality of life and business conditions found in states only a couple hundred miles away.

The business community--or at least its leadership--is locked in a paradigm of the past; cut taxes, give companies cash to come here and do right-to-work. Those measures are the cherry on the dessert. But what's missing here is the dessert--a secure and safe quality of live, a lower poverty rate so new residents don't feel like their stranded in a third-world outpost and a state that cares enough about its sliding standing that it begins investing in the population that is disenfranchised.

But who really wants to confront the still deepening crisis the state faces? Confronting it means taking ownership. From the Governor to the Legislature to the congressional delegation to the mainstream media, there is little discussion of how systemic, how deep and how long it is going to take New Mexico to recover not only from the recession but from decades of neglect of its social problems that are killing business.

We simply don't see the political will or the will among the populace to make the leap. It is much easier to move on, which so many do. NM now regularly ranks among the top states residents are leaving. As we've noted with shock and chagrin, this once booming Sunbelt state has actually lost population.

New Mexico has not been dealt a strong hand for this new century. Declining federal spending and what appears to be the end of the energy bull market are going to continue to keep up the pressure. This is an historic shift that has laid bare the "other economy" in which hundreds of thousands toil for low wages or withdraw from the workforce and become wards of the government. Its always been there but the federal cash and energy boom lessened its effect and visibility. Now the seismic shift has exacerbated the low-income trend and there's no hiding it.

We face a state with a lesser educated populace and an increasingly older one. Nearly ten years ago, in 2006, former GOP Governor Garrey Carruthers, now president of New Mexico State University, wrote:

Over the next 15 years, vast numbers of white workers will reach retirement age in New Mexico, while the state's Native-American and, even more so, its Hispanic population will expand dramatically. As a result, by the year 2020, 47 percent of New Mexico's working-age adults (people 25 to 64 years old) will be Latino. ... The gaps in education between New Mexico's white population and its Hispanic and Native-American populations are great enough to turn these demographic shifts into a real statewide decline.

"A statewide decline." And that's precisely what's happened (not to imply that Carruthers endorses any of our views).

This is not your granddad's boom and bust cycle. It's obvious now after so many years of downturn that short-term economic development is not in the cards for New Mexico.

Decades of sweeping problems under the rug mean we will have to spend that much more on early childhood education, workforce development, homelessness, crime prevention and substance abuse--if we care to do so.

None of this is music to the ears of fiscal conservatives. Unfortunately, the band in New Mexico has begun packing up. If we want to keep the music playing, we're going to have to pay the piper.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Camera Shy: City Of ABQ And Hanna Too, Plus: PARCC Protests, Susana A Cheesehead? Sanchez Orders Embalming Fluid For RTW And A Trifecta Update 

Here's another one from the bizarro world of the city of  ABQ and its police department. Officer Jeremy Dear was busted for not turning on his lapel camera when he shot and killed 19 year old Mary Hawkes last year. So what happens at his public personnel hearing Wednesday where Dear was asking to be reinstated? Well, the hearing officer told the media they could not use their cameras to videotape the proceedings. Say what? The hearing was called off when journalists stood their ground. Such is the upside down logic that has infuriated the critics of APD and Mayor Berry. (A 15 minute video of the hearing is here).

And then there's those very public protests by Santa Fe students over PARCC testing. The coverage has flooded the airwaves, but when asked to go on camera Public Education Secretary Hana Skandera suddenly gets camera shy.

The state's electronic media has for years been browbeaten into submission by the Guv's political machine as Martinez and Mayor Berry conduct photo-op governance. Will the spell be broken in this second term?

On that PARCC testing, a parent of an APS student writes:

My son was told that APS is weighing cutting electives and the number of classes high schools students take down to six instead of seven. The reasoning behind it is to save on teacher pay. Teachers are telling students that much of the APS budget shortfall is due to PAARC or as it is now referred to as CRAAP. While former APS Superintendent Winston Brooks had personal issues that ultimately caused him to lose his job, unlike current Superintendent Brad Winter, he at least fought for the district. Gov. Martinez has succeeded in siphoning away more and more money each year from districts and forcing them to spend money whose sole purpose is to enhance her VP chances with Jeb Bush.

Well, Martinez might want to spread her love around when it comes to the GOP prez candidates. Right now the polls have Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker leading the pack in Iowa. Does that mean Susana is about to become a cheesehead?

More national coverage of the APD crisis with Government Executive magazine asking if it is is costing the city economically. ABQ economic consultant Mark Lautman thinks so:

Economic development has become as much about growing, attracting and retaining talent as it is about growing, retaining and attracting employers. Communities vying for new job creation projects are increasingly having to prove to senior management and their site selection consultants that they can grow, attract and retain talent faster and better than the other places they are competing with. Recent national publicity about Albuquerque’s police problems last year surely hurt the city’s quality profile for recruiting companies—and talent. Those problems need to get fixed—and I hope they do.


We all know how the crash in oil prices is slamming the state budget, which makes this all the more timely:

More than $4.4 million was generated from taxes on wind production across Wyoming in the last fiscal year, according to the state Department of Revenue. . .

Another reason for us to have this.


What was Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez doing on the phone with Berardinelli Funeral Home following last night's House passage of the right-to-work (RTW) bill? Why, he was ordering up embalming fluid which he will use generously when the bill comes over to him.

RTW passed the House on vote of 37 to 30 with three reps not voting. The R's included in RTW a fifty cent increase in the state minimum wage that had raised objections from SE GOP conservatives. They were brought around by inclusion of a weird amendment regarding the wage.

Sanchez has named Senators Wirth, Padilla and Stewart as the Senate's official delegation to the RTW funeral which will be held in a committee room to be determined.


This one flew right under our radar. A state Senate committee has dealt what appears to be a death blow to Gov. Martinez's third grade retention bill. It easily passed the GOP House but Senate Public Affairs has already voted to block the measure.

Third grade retention is one of three bills we collectively refer to as the Guv's trifecta of wedge issues this legislative session. The other two being right-to-work and repealing driver's licenses for undocumented workers.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Angry Anchor Makes Newsroom Splash; Joles-Dyson Clash Gets Top Billing In La Politica, Plus: Lujan Grisham And the Childhood Amendment; She Says She's For It 

Too bad KOB-TV didn't have the cameras rolling when anchorman Tom Joles and veteran reporter Stuart Dyson blew up at one another in the newsroom this week. The station's news broadcasts have been in third (or even fourth) place so long, the fracas might have juiced the ratings. Well, at least it was a welcome relief from the doldrums in Santa Fe. . .

One outlet reported that the KOB news director told staffers after the outburst that Joles--a 25 year veteran of the anchor desk--was having trouble "fitting in" at a modern newsroom. Well, given the state of TV news, that's like saying Tom would be out of place in an insane asylum. . .

The face-off was apparently sparked when Joles dressed down newbie reporter Stephanie Claytor. That--reported fight reporter Dennis Dormzalski--prompted Dyson to offer his support to the cub which prompted Joles to chew out Dyson. The two got into a good old fashioned newsroom screaming match replete with F-bombs but, Dennis sadly reported, in the end no fists flew. It reminded one of two aging dinosaurs--Dyson over 60 and Joles fast approaching it--arguing thunderously as the hatchlings gasped in amazement.

Joles, who station management says is off the air for a "cool down period," may have had reason for leaning on the cub. The back story is the turmoil in that newsroom. For example, the station recently had to run a correction relating to an uncomplicated story out of the NM attorney general's office. Insiders say Joles was none too happy about it, but when you are the highest paid anchor in the ABQ market, sometimes you got to swallow hard.

In any event, the bookies are giving Dyson the edge over Joles in any rematch. Even though he's older he has more combat experience and gets more sleep because he covers the Legislature. But Tom may decide some things--like trying to make sense out of TV news--just aren't worth fighting for. We're sure Dick Knipfing can tell him where he can get a good buy on a rocking chair and Brian Williams can show him some nice lunch spots in NYC. . .

Things like the Dyson-Joles bout used to happen with regularity at the Roundhouse. But now that Guv Martinez Chief of Staff Keith Gardner is minding his manners and not pinning anyone against the Roundhouse walls (we miss you, Keith) our only hope is that House Republicans Nate Gentry and Dennis Roch decide to get physical. (And that hope may not be that far fetched, given their infighting over a right-to-work bill).

As for the betting in Santa Fe, those who pretend to know are doubling down on the '15 trifecta. That would be death for right-to-work, third grade retention and repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. We are in about our fifth rematch between the Governor and state Senate on two of the three. Right-to-work is the newcomer, but already looking as battered as a '57 Chevy up on cinder blocks in an Española driveway.


Put ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham down in favor of the constitutional amendment to use a portion of the state's $14 billion Permanent Fund to finance very early childhood programs. Her office says:

Yes, she supports the constitutional amendment. (ABQ Dem) Sen. Michael Padilla has the current version in this year's legislative session.

The amendment, which would require the approval of both chambers of the Legislature to get placed before the voters, was killed last year in the Senate Finance Committee. The proposal was approved in the state House when Dems had control.

We blogged Tuesday that the amendment is dead now that the GOP controls the state House, but with Senators Udall and Heinrich and US Reps Lujan and Grisham all now publicly supporting the amendment, perhaps there could be some movement?


Attorney Steve Suttle's argument here Tuesday that the state Constitution is too easy to amend drew a number of reactions. One reader points out that while most constitutional amendments require a simple majority of both houses of the Legislature and then voter approval, that is not the case for all amendments:

Article XIX, Section 1 states: "No amendment shall restrict the rights created by Sections One and Three of Article VII hereof, on elective franchise, and Sections Eight and Ten of Article XII hereof, on education, unless it be proposed by vote of three-fourths of the members elected to each house and be ratified by a vote of the people of this state in an election at which at least three-fourths of the electors voting on the amendment vote in favor of that amendment."

 The people of New Mexico do not simply vote Yes on every proposed amendment to the state's Constitution that comes before them, and getting a proposed amendment to the people is a rare thing. This study shows the numbers through the 2012 general election:

Mr. Suttle's parade of horribles -- "constitutional amendments to ban abortion, prohibit same-sex marriage, or to authorize state-sponsored prayer in schools" -- would perhaps be of concern to some if it were not for the fact that all three are patently unconstitutional, and have been so declared by the US Supreme Court. If the Legislature were to put those proposals on the ballot (very unlikely), and were the people of the state to approve them (also very unlikely), the Federal courts would take about 10 seconds to invalidate them.

Not to say that Mr. Suttle's overall point, that the state Constitution should not be amended lightly, is invalid. The numbers show, however, that the Legislature and the people of the state take this responsibility seriously.

Thanks for that. We ran into the higher requirement to approve certain constitutional amendments last November when a proposal to change the date for school board elections failed to pass because it did not garner 75% of the vote as required. 58% of the voters supported the amendment.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First Take On Dem State Chair Race, Tracking Congress Support For Early Childhood And The Bear Again Mauls The Four Corners  

We've got the first take from the Alligators on that three way race for chairman of the NM Democratic Party. The contenders are '14 Dem lieutenant governor nominee Deb Haaland, Santa Fe County Dem Party Chair Richard Ellenberg and Chaves County Dem Party Chair Fred Moran. And the front runner is:

I would rate it about 55% for Deb Haaland, 30% for Ellenberg and 15% for Moran. Moran has very little name recognition in the central and northern areas. Ellenberg will do well in the north, and will get a decent amount of support from Bernalillo County, mostly because he’s been a fixture on the scene for so long. But Haaland is more widely known across the state than either of the other two.  

Democratic party State Central Committee members will meet in April to select a chair for the next two years. Sam Bregman is the outgoing chairman.


Northern Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is on the record in favor of that constitutional amendment that would ask voters to allow the state's big Permanent Fund (over $14 billion) to be tapped to finance very early childhood education (ages 0 to 5). We pointed out Monday that both of the state's US Senators now support the amendment.

ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has not taken a position and we haven't seen anything from southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce.

In a recent speech Rep Ben Ray Lujan declared:

With our children ranking near the top of every bad list, we must do something to break this cycle. The Land Grant Permanent Fund was created to invest in New Mexico, to help create wealth, to pave the way for positive education. What better place than in our children’s future to invest?

The amendment is opposed by state House Republicans and as long as they control that chamber the amendment is stalled. It requires approval from the House and Senate, but would not need the signature of the governor but would instead go directly to the voters.


Reader and attorney Steve Suttle says amending the state Constitution is too easy. He writes:

(ABQ Dem state) Sen. Ortiz y Pino’s proposal to use the amendment process to legalize marijuana is a dangerous path. Constitutions are intended to be charters and the amendment process is not a proper way to frame ordinary legislation. This is especially true when the bare-faced motive is to bypass a governor who would surely veto such a measure. 

What is really needed in New Mexico is a constitutional amendment making it more difficult to amend the constitution. At present, a simple majority of the Legislature and a simple majority of the voters can approve any amendment. By contrast, a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress is required to refer a proposed Federal constitutional amendment to the state legislatures or to individual state conventions where three-fourths of them must concur. The Framers deliberately made this a cumbersome process. Amending the state constitution should likewise be more difficult than it currently is.

“Progressive” Democrats would be well advised to consider the specter of a future Republican-controlled Legislature using this vehicle to refer constitutional amendments to ban abortion, prohibit same-sex marriage, or to authorize state-sponsored prayer in schools. One need only look to the recent history of the abuse of the initiative and referendum process in Oklahoma to see how well founded these concerns are.


At a memorial service Monday at the Roundhouse Rotunda for the late Lieutenant Governor Mike Runnels former NM House Speaker Raymond Sanchez had the honor of introducing current Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez. Said Raymond:

He (John Sanchez) rose to power after kicking my butt.

It was in 2000 when Republican John Sanchez ousted Raymond from his ABQ North Valley House seat and thus the speakership of the state House. After 15 years it appears the pair have buried the hatchet but we still wouldn't look for Raymond to endorse John for Governor in 2018.


That didn't take long. Former Dem State Rep. Rudy Martinez, ousted from his Las Cruces area seat in an upset in November by Republican John Zimmerman, is already out on the campaign trail trying to unseat Zimmerman in 2016. Maybe that's why Zimmerman was cozying up to Dem Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith at the Rio Chama. He needs some goodies to keep Rudy at bay.


The great energy Bear is back and again mauling the Four Corners:

Local contractors in the oil and gas industry are facing severe cuts in the wake of fallen oil prices. One industry leader in the San Juan Basin, WPX Energy, has asked its contractors for a 20 percent price cut on goods and services. . . One of WPX's vendors is Farmington's Calder Services Inc. Shannon Calder Monk said. . . the cuts would be damaging to her family business. "I understand their point of view but I am not making a 20 percent profit," Monk said. "Did (WPX) take a 20 percent cut? I just don't have it to cut it."

If you represent the Farmington area in the Legislature, are you pounding the table for more capital outlay projects for the region? You ought to be.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Out Of The Wilderness? Udall, Grisham Speeches Have Sharper Edge, Plus: ABQ Is More Than APD And Session Reaches Halfway Mark 

Grisham & Udall
Maybe NM Dems are hitting bottom. When you hear ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham urge the Legislature to declare a "war on poverty" ala Lyndon Johnson and Sen. Tom Udall joining Sen. Heinrich in supporting a constitutional amendment to tap the state's vast Permanent Fund for very early childhood, something is up.

Grisham has never been a fave of the party's liberal wing and she still has not given the nod to that amendment--which is turning into a litmus test of sorts for for the party's progressives--but her speech to the Legislature signaled that Dems may finally be realizing that unless they shake something up, they are going to cede even more ground to the R's.

In Grisham's case, she needs to curry favor with base Democratic voters who will be showing up in the far away 2018 Dem Guv primary--if she chooses to go that route. Whatever the case, we think Dem attorney general and possible Guv contender Hector Balderas is paying close attention.

For Udall, safely re-elected in '14 to a second six year term, pressure has been growing. The dead-end NM economy has meant even more poverty--especially among children--and the shocking depopulation of the state that is occurring under his watch--screamed out for attention from a senator considered a leading liberal light. His shout-out before the Legislature was acknowledgement of that.

Are the Udall and Grisham speeches precursors to a change in the political narrative from wedge issues like repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants to the more fundamental issues facing the state? We'll see. . .


Halfway through the 60 day legislative session now. It appears it's going to be another minimalist gathering, with approval of an essentially flat $6.2 billion state budget and the state Senate again looking like a graveyard for the Governor's perennial wedge issues (with the addition this year of right-to-work). Martinez is going to need a hat trick if she is going to get a headline grabber at the end of this gathering


With the ABQ police department being roiled like never before in the national media, the city's image has taken a severe hit. But what about the 5,000 or so city employees who labor outside of APD?

Since the recession/stagnation took hold here in 2010 they have seen pay cuts, been subjected to furloughs and seen vacant positions go unfilled. Most of them earn a middle-class salary and are not getting rich. If the national spotlight shined on them, they would come out looking pretty darn good. For example. . .

City bus drivers zip along, providing competent, courteous service. The ABQ fire department has a new chief and a commitment to modern firefighting. It makes for a safer city.

The ABQ Sunport, as we've mentioned before, is simply one of the best in the USA. Excellent customer service combine with a great terminal to create a friendly experience. Don't blame them that the recession has made getting a flight trickier.

The Animal Welfare Department never has a slow day, yet it routinely goes about the business of attending to the needs of thousands of abandoned pets, providing a service near and dear to the hearts of city residents.

The ABQ Museum is about to unveil a $4 million update to its permanent exhibit explaining the intriguing history of ABQ, with all the 21st century technology that entails.

While money has become tighter, major city street repairs seem to be getting done. The recent paving of the intersection of University and Central, where cars were subjected to severe wash boarding, is a prime example.

The Solid Waste Department is another agency that has a solid record of delivering on its promises. Over the decades garbage collection in ABQ has been modernized, sanitized and made more user-friendly.

There are many other departments and employees who go about their business, competently and diligently. We see it in our everyday lives as we take advantage of a well-conceived park system, well-maintained libraries and a zoo that has built a strong following.

We've hit the wall economically in recent years but the legacy of past leaders and citizens of building a strong, modern government lives on. To preserve and enhance it, today's city leaders need to act with more urgency to put APD back on the path of progress.


Rick Lass writes of reader Jim McClure's suggestion that we do away with low voter turnout school board elections and have the mayor appoint the board members:

I just don't think it is workable. Very few school board district boundaries would coincide with municipality boundaries, for one. Plus, I still like the idea of electing governing bodies. One idea would be to include school board members on general election ballots--when people are already going to the polls. Of course, naysayers will worry about "too long" ballots. There is a bill introduced this year to move them to the fall of odd-number years, but I don't see how that would help. My suggestion would be that school elections be conducted by mail. Naysayers will be concerned about fraud and ID, etc. But really, it is no different than the absentee ballot system allowed for all other elections, and works very well.

Good idea, Rick. Moving the school board elections to November and/or a mail-in ballot would seem the logical way to raise interest.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

While the Democrats in Santa Fe play defense, the Governor's political machine continues its march in key swing districts.

Here's a slick flyer mailed out for ABQ GOP State Rep. Conrad James, whose election to his swing seat last year was key to the GOP's historic takeover of the House.

As blogged earlier in the week, Dem state Sen. John Sapien was targeted by the Guv's political arm recently, with canvassers going door-to-door to pressure him on the controversial right-to-work bill.

Democrats have done little since getting waxed at the polls in November. They have no infrastructure compared to the Governor's. For them 2016 seems a far away event, but for Martinez and company it's an advancing target. It's that attitude that has reshaped the state's political landscape.

Given the districts, a GOP takeover of the state Senate in '16 seems highly unlikely. But if Dems continue their laid back ways, who knows?


A pundit with time on his hands comes with a list of 11 Democrats who could "help themselves" by challenging Hillary Clinton for the '16 presidential nomination. On the list is none other than former NM Guv Bill Richardson who once ran for the top job:

The former New Mexico governor "is Hispanic, the Clintons already hate him because he went with Obama in 2008, and he likes the limelight," says the Republican strategist. "What does he have to lose?"

Well, he does have a lot of leftover bumper stickers.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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