Thursday, April 20, 2017

Another Edition Of Vox Populi; Readers Opine On Lack Of Leadership, Mayor's Race And Racist Politics  

Time for another edition of reader Vox Populi where our very informed readers opine on the issues of the day in our beloved Land of Enchantment.

Martinez administration critic Michael Corwin writes with his latest thoughts:

New Mexico lacks leaders and that's the main reason for the dire straights that we are in. At a time when so many other states have managed to not just come out of the Great Recession, but to thrive, we are plummeting to depths never seen.

APS middle school athletics being cut and the number of instruction days being reduced are among detrimental actions to our kids that are now very real possibilities. Yet, no one is challenging how Susana Martinez and Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera have redistributed the way education dollars are spent, siphoning money from school districts to be handed out by PED to entities with connections to Skandera. 

Although always partisan, the ABQ Journal used to take seriously its role of holding public officials accountable. But no more. It has devolved into nothing more than providing cover for Martinez no matter how wrong her actions. The business community, which is supposed to be pushing for a better economy, are lap dogs only.

The Democrats. How many regular New Mexicans can identify by name our Democratic elected officials? Who among them regularly takes their message straight to the public? And where are the ideas? The Republicans. Who among them in the state House voted to override Martinez's veto of teacher sick leave? Staying in office has become the goal, when what we need are those in office using the office to make New Mexico better. The bottom line is that New Mexico needs true leaders. Ones willing to speak out for what is best for our state and our future. We're waiting


Mayoral candidate Brian Colón slammed the Berry administration for losing out when tech giant Hulu chose San Antonio over ABQ for a customer service center. An anonymous reader responded:

Brian Colón may think he's taking a stand by poking the Berry Administration over the loss of the Hulu call center to San Antonio, but what he actually did was admit that he supports the tired old strategy of attracting more call centers as an economic development plan for our City. Those low-benefit, low-paying jobs have never advanced New Mexico's economy as promised. The corporations running those call centers look for the cheapest place to do business and will pack up and move away from your town the moment it gets expensive for them. Hey, Brian, will you grow a spine and fire the city's failed economic development salesman, Gary Oppedahl, when you're mayor or will you sit down with him for tea and cookies like you plan to do with APD Chief Gorden Eden?

This mayoral race is going to be a lot of fun, no?


Reader Levi Fetty writes of something he's watching when it comes to the '18 Guv race:

I wouldn't count out a wealthy Republican candidate announcing their candidacy for Governor of New Mexico. He or she may look at the Dem front-runner and decide the monies raised to date by Rep. Lujan Grisham are paltry in comparison to their own personal wealth.

Reader Jamie Estrada sends this newspaper clip where former NM Gov. Bill Richardson is said to have his nose under the tent in New Hampshire when it comes to the 2020 presidential race. Not that he's running, but. . .

Democratic State Senator Lou D’Allesandroro said he has also been in contact with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who ran for president in 2008.


We published a reader comment April 13 that argued the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Dem Rep, Michelle Lujan Grisham would best be served by "a person of color." It came in response to the entry into the race of Dem ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis and brought vigorous push back, including from longtime Dem Fred Moran:

Geez Joe, The references to race and gender in that piece is just amazing. No less than 6-7 times in the first paragraph was "person of color" or "woman" touted as the ideal candidate for the CD1 congressional seat being vacated by Michelle Lujan Grisham. These terms have become buzz words in the State's Democratic Party. So now lets throw "progressive" into the mix and run it up the flag pole. In my honest opinion, if you voted for Hillary in the primary, you are neoliberal not progressive.

Since when do Americans choose their leaders based on gender or race? I thought that by now we would have, as a political party, matured and stopped baiting those demographics. We should choose candidates based on their qualifications for the position period. Have we learned nothing from 2016?

And former Dem State Rep. Bob Perls chimed in:

Joe, I found the e-mail you posted regarding CD-1 to be not only offensive, but so wrong on so many levels. The reader seems to believe that a white male is inherently unable to represent CD-1. I don’t know Pat Davis and this is not about him, this is about racist politics in its worst form. How about we nominate and elect a smart, honest person who grew up and spent most of their life in the Albuquerque area? Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell are so hyper-partisan that they have come to be the poster children for all that is wrong in DC. And we are supposed to nominate a person who will fit in with and be a supplicant for Nancy Pelosi? How did that work out for all the Bernie supporters? The Democratic Party is for diversity only when it suits leadership’s needs. They are about power, not equal representation. Same goes for the Republican Party.

How about a really thoughtful, independent-minded New Mexican who will simply do the right thing all the time for all of New Mexico? Being mired in partisan politics in DC seems to make that all but impossible. That is what progressives and all New Mexicans should be fighting for. 

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Some PR Tips For APS As They Battle With Guv Over Education Cuts And Our Report On Damron Eyeing UNM Presidency Is Confirmed 

If the ABQ Public Schools want to prevail in its bitter political battle with the Martinez administration over school funding, it might want to head to the sacrificial altar. That's the takeaway after an extensive viewing of social media and conversations with political observers.

In the wake of the controversial decision by APS that all middle school sports will be eliminated in anticipation of state budget cuts that would take effect July 1, both sides have been pedaling fast to win the public opinion battle. APS points to Gov. Martinez and her fervor for budget cutting--and zero revenue enhancement--that is causing the funding crisis. The Governor and her education department take the populist route and decry high APS administrator salaries and the money spent on lobbying and PR.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy says administrators who are paid six figures have already taken a hit:

For starters, there was a furlough day for executive management in January, a hiring freeze for non-school personnel, and a close review of all administrative funding. 

But that doesn't seem to be enough to quiet the populist outcry and keep the attention squarely on Martinez and her budget cutting. Comments like these from Howard Glen Martinez on Facebook are widespread:

35 administrators make $100,000.00 or more a year which adds up to more than $4,000,000.00 a year. APS is very top heavy. The only person who should be making this kind of money is the APS Superintendent.

If Reedy wants to keep the focus on where it needs to be--the Governor and Legislature adequately funding public schools--she may want to consider these steps:

--A one year 10 percent salary cut for those making over six figures
--A similar cut in the lobbying and legal affairs budgets
--A pledge to reduce the number of administrators from 35
--A 10 percent cut in Reedy's own $240,000 salary and a challenge to the Governor and her staff to do the same.

The cuts would be symbolic, saving only several hundred thousand in a budget Reedy says could be as much as $29 million short when the Legislature finalizes the numbers at a soon-to-be called special session.

But the symbolic cuts would mean real pain for the highly paid administrators and could put APS on higher moral ground with a public outraged that their kids are being deprived of school sports and perhaps facing even more cuts that will spark even more emotion.

Most important, the austerity steps would take away the demagogic argument being used against APS by the administration and its public education department as it desperately labors to deflect the heat their years of budget cutting have generated.


Meanwhile, the Governor appears to be getting nervous over the intense criticism of her veto of the entire $750 million higher education budget. By her own admission it was a political move to get the Legislature to give her a budget with no tax increases and was not intended to actually take effect.

But tell that to those impacted and to a public that does not pay attention to process arguments. What they hear is that the universities and colleges could shut down--and there's a good chance that's going to send Martinez's approval rating below its already anemic 42 percent. More seriously, it makes New Mexico appear politically unstable and further pushes away talent and business. But you already knew that. . . .


Our exclusive report from a Senior Alligator back in December that NM Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron was going to be in the running to become the next president of UNM has been confirmed:

New Mexico Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron said she has submitted her curriculum vitae and cover letter to Isaacson, Miller, the search firm the University of New Mexico has hired to help find its 22nd president.

Damron's interest raises political questions: How beholden would she be to the Martinez administration if she were head of UNM? The administration's meddling in the UNM Health Sciences Center--with the help of the Board of Regents--has left a bad taste.

What about UNM executive vice-president David Harris, the Svengali-like presidential adviser who has exercised political power at UNM through several administrations by warming to whoever has the power in Santa Fe? Would Damron end the Harris reign? Or embrace it?

Damron follows Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera in moving to get out of the Martinez administration as it nears its end. A Senior Alligator broke the Skandera story which was later confirmed by Politico. However, her move was thwarted by conservative US Senators who reportedly blocked her from a high level position in the US Education Department. As a result Hanna is still here and mired in one of the most unpleasant and divisive fights over public education funding in state history.


NM political consultant Brian Miller has passed away at the age of 36. His friends send this:

Its been said that political operatives come to New Mexico to get their Ph.D. in the art of politics, and that was true for Brian. Brian headed to NM in 2004 to take charge of congressional candidate Richard Romero's field operations. He marshaled the resources he could in that nationally targeted CD1 race, but of course the challenge came up short. 

He went on to establish himself as a go-to operative in ABQ politics. From mayor to city council to state senate to Hector Balderas' re-election as State Auditor, Brian was there, running the numbers and bringing resources to bear. He'll be remembered by the many friends he made along the way as loyal, hilarious and possessing a keen and sharp mind Brian wanted to make the world a better place. For those who knew him, the world certainly is.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Lt. Gov. Sanchez Publicly Attacks Sen. Heinrich And Appears Poised For A Senate Bid, Plus: First Mayoral Money Reports Out; Where Does The Race Stand Now? We Have Analysis And Answers  

John Sanchez
Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez is publicly attacking Democratic US Senator Martin Heinrich and appears poised to enter the 2018 US Senate race.

Heinrich is on guard, already raising $2.5 million in campaign funds for his re-election bid while Sanchez's fellow R's are scurrying to find an '18 gubernatorial nominee now that Sanchez appears out of the running.

Speaking to a Rio Rancho Republican group last week, Sanchez, according to one of our Alligators at the meeting, scored Heinrich for voting against the nomination of former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, criticized the Senator's support of the SunZia solar transmission project in southern NM for interfering with the mission of White Sands Missile Range and accused the freshman lawmaker of being out of touch with the state he represents because he now lives in Washington.

This would not be the first time Sanchez, 54, launched an uphill battle for the Senate. In 2012 he had a short-lived run for the GOP Senate nomination, only to withdraw and let Heather Wilson have the prize. She went on to lose to Heinrich. Sanchez's campaign was criticized for being unprepared and amateurish.

At that GOP meeting Sanchez said that he recently visited in DC with Senators Rubio, McCain and Cruz, all of whom ran against Trump in the GOP presidential primaries. He also said he consulted with White House aide and pollster Kellyanne Conway. She has done political work for Sanchez in the past.

Considering New Mexico voters have not defeated an incumbent Senator since Jeff Bingaman accomplished the feat against GOP Senator Jack Schmitt in 1982, Sanchez can ill-afford any false starts this time around. National pundits appear unanimous in ranking the Heinrich seat "safe Democratic."

The Sanchez camp sees Heinrich, 45, as vulnerable because his approval rating is at 48 percent in the recent Morning Consult poll and also below 50 in other surveys. Heinrich supporters are confident of his chances for another six year term but some have told us they want to see more of him on local TV news.

Sanchez's foremost problem would be his ties to unpopular Gov. Susana Martinez who is polling at 42 percent approval in PPP and at 43 percent in Morning Consult. The state Democratic Party is now labeling the current chaos in Santa Fe a result of the "Martinez-Sanchez administration."

Sen. Heinrich
Separating himself from Martinez and launching an effective attack on Heinrich at the same time is a tall order indeed. But Sanchez's confidantes say his high name ID and Hispanic heritage help him to at least get out of the starting gate.

ABQ businessman Mick Rich has been an announced GOP Senate candidate for the past year. He has kept a low profile and a Sanchez entry would appear to doom his hopes. Maybe Rich can take a look at running for Governor as it appears the R's need someone and fast.

Rep. Steve Pearce is expected to forego a GOP Guv run and ABQ Mayor Richard Berry, who's popularity has sunk in the wake of the ART project, a lousy city economy and a deeply troubled APD, is staying quiet about his intentions. So far the Dems have the momentum for the '18 race with Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham actively campaigning and a couple of other Dems expected to join the fray in the weeks ahead.


Who is Ricardo (Richard) Chaves and why did he put up $300,000 in personal cash in his just opened ABQ mayoral campaign account? And what impact will the political unknown have on the race? That's the question that went viral over the smart phones of the city's political operatives this weekend as they devoured the first campaign finance reports for the mayoral candidates. We have some answers.

(All mayoral campaign reports are here.)

Chaves, 81, is a Republican whose family accumulated significant wealth in the parking business. They own a large lot near the ABQ Sunport and other parking facilities around the nation. Here's more from the Chaves PR arm:

Parking Company of America Management. . . While you travel by plane, Parking Company of America Management (PCA) will be glad to look after your car. PCA owns and manages parking facilities at more than 15 US airports, including several of the nation's largest. The company manages another 200 parking lots and garages at hotels, medical facilities, shopping centers, and other facilities throughout the US. . . The company, which began in 1960s is run by Chaves children today.

Chaves operatives, who include veteran campaign consultant Steve Cabiedes, say Chaves is especially upset with the fiscal policies of Mayor Berry, citing his plans to build a multi-million downtown parking structure that Chaves, an expert in such matters, sees as a taxpayer ripoff. He also has good reason to make crime a top priority. He was also a recent victim of the city's car theft crime wave when thieves took off with his upscale Bentley.

Chaves, getting a late start, is working furiously to get the necessary 3,000 petition signatures of registered voters by the April 28 deadline that would win him a spot on the October 3 ballot. If he makes it the question will be how much of that $300,000 will he start spending and will he add even more? Or will the cash deposit turn out to be a head fake and go unspent?


Whether Chaves is in the final field or not, there is no question that the GOP is in for  bloodletting that could hurt its chances to retain the mayoral digs on the 11th floor of Government Center.

In their first finance reports GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis shows a cash balance of $146,000 compared to $88,000 for GOP County Commissioner Wayne Johnson. Lewis has raised about $250,000 since the start of his effort. The Lewis forces desperately tried to persuade Johnson not to run but their failure to do so could now hurt his chances.

With no candidate expected to capture the 50 percent of the vote necessary to win the mayor's office outright on October 3, the two top vote-getters will head to a run-off election a month later. Which two candidates will get in that run-off? Lewis would be a no-brainer if he were the only solid R in the race, but with Johnson and possibly Ricardo Chaves on his tail, the GOP outcome is much more unpredictable.


Brian Colón  
Former NM Democratic Party Chair Brian Colón has a reputation as a solid fundraiser so it was no shock that he led the list of mayoral hopefuls in the cash derby. He has raised $389,000 since the start of his campaign and showed $308,000 cash on hand.

Former Dem BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta announced her candidacy last May but showed a perhaps disappointing fund-raising total of $141,000 with $93,000 in cash on hand.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham tried to give Archuleta a needed boost in the wake of her money report, endorsing her candidacy and saying:

Deanna Archuleta is without question the most-qualified candidate to be our next mayor. . .  From a single mom and PTA president to two-term county commissioner and chair of the Albuquerque Bernalillo Water Utility Authority, Deanna has never backed away from a problem. She’s gotten into the fight and won big for our community.

Technically, the mayor's race is nonpartisan. No party labels appear on the ballot. Grisham can argue that she is not deserting the other Dem candidates, even if that might not erase their ire over her involvement in their race as she seeks the '18 Dem Guv nod.

Grisham is the lone female contender in that Guv contest and probably figures an endorsement of Archuleta will help her with the Guv run and is worth any alienation it might cause among Archuleta's rivals. The congresswoman also came with $4,100 in personal funds for Archuleta.

Independent candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes managed to get the necessary petition signatures to get on the ballot but she is still in danger of falling off the mayoral radar, showing only $5,500 in cash on hand. Her mother is Rosemary Garcia, who served decades ago as chief of staff to Dem Gov. Bruce King. Gary King, son of Bruce, and Gary's wife Yolanda, both came with small donations for Garcia Holmes.

Watching all this from the sidelines is Dem State Auditor Tim Keller, the only hopeful to successfully pursue publicly financing and who will have about $380,000 (minus seed money he raised) to run his campaign.

That total is looking somewhat more credible because the early fund-raising reveals the top campaigns may fall short of the nearly $1 million raised by Mayor Berry when he sought re-election in 2013. That means Keller's $380k will not look like a bump on a log. Combined with any PAC that emerges to support him, that should be enough to keep him competitive with the privately financed hopefuls. And, he doesn't have to answer any tough questions about how his campaign money would influence his City Hall decision-making.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Price Of A Dem Guv Run Just Went Up, Berry Starts Coming Under Fire In Mayoral Campaign, Some Congress Watching And Readers Opine On The Economy, Eden And More 

The price is going up, Joe. We speak of Las Cruces area Dem state Senator Joe Cervantes who says he's "all in" for the '18 Dem Guv nomination, but with Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham posting a cash haul of $900,000 and $741,000 in cash on hand in her first fund-raising report, attorney Cervantes is going to have to dig deep--quite deep--into his own ample wallet.

Cervantes is starting off with $190,000 in personal money, bringing his campaign kitty to $245,000. Political pros are saying the 56 year old, whose family has long ties to the agricultural and real estate biz in Dona Ana County, will now need at least $1.5 million to give Grisham a run for the money.

He may be encouraged to do so by the lack of players on the field. Only Grisham has officially announced, certainly leaving room for one strong alternative. With AG Balderas perhaps looking less likely to jump in, that challenge may fall to Cervantes. To meet it, he will need to keep his check book handy.

The Republicans still don't have an announced '18 gubernatorial candidate on the field. GOP southern Rep. Steve Pearce is telling those interested he will make up his mind  around Memorial Day. The betting money is against Pearce giving up the congressional seat he cherishes for a long-shot Guv bid in a year when the cycle appears to favor the Dems.


The political winds are indeed shifting when mayoral candidate Brian Colón--who has been trying to appeal to both Dems and R's--begins attacking GOP Mayor Berry:

The current leadership in the Mayor’s Office has let down the people of Albuquerque once more. It was announced that Hulu, a streaming service expected to generate $2.4 billion in 2017, has selected San Antonio (over ABQ) as the location for its new customer service center. Now more than ever, we need a Mayor that will commit to taking Albuquerque to new levels in economic development, public safety and education to create an environment for growth. It's time the City's elected public servants dedicate attention to attracting company investment in our beautiful city

In other mayoral news, congrats are due to candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes who says she has made the October ballot by gathering 3,000 valid petition signatures from registered ABQ voters and getting them certified by the city clerk. Candidate petition signatures are due April 28. We expect six or seven contenders to make the final field.


Pat Davis
ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis has made official his candidacy for the '18 Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who is seeking the '18 gubernatorial nomination. That immediately sent flares up. From the email:

In DC, the Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus carry a lot of weight in the Democratic Caucus. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wants to see more people of color and women in positions of leadership, and she walks the walk. Electing a person of color in NM CD1 will help New Mexico advance our agenda in the U.S. House. Progressives need to fight for diversity, and they have the opportunity to nominate a progressive person of color for CD1 to increase the odds that a progressive wins that seat. In addition, we need members of Congress in those Caucuses to act as surrogates for minority communities and get people of color out to vote in 2020 to remove Trump from office.  Nominating a person of color for CD1 will drive turnout in the South and North Valley in 2018 general election. That will increase the chances of keeping the state House in Democratic hands and electing a Democratic Governor.

Dem Chairwoman Deb Haaland and attorney Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez are among those also expected to run for the seat. Our Dem insiders say BernCo Commissioner Maggie Stebbins is a no-go. No R's have announced yet. The ABQ congressional seat is rated safe Dem, all the more reason for the Dems to fight vigorously among themselves for that nomination.


That photo we posted Wednesday of APD Chief Gorden Eden at the New Beginnings Church raising his hands in prayer while wearing his uniform and armed with a pistol holstered to his side, brought this from  reader Bruce Thomson:

The photo of police chief Eden speaking from the pulpit at Albuquerque's New Beginnings Church in uniform and wearing a gun is deeply offensive on many levels. Being in uniform implies he's there on official business. Carrying a gun makes one question the safety of the event. And the image of a senior politically appointed official in uniform with hand raised, head bowed, and speaking into a microphone from the pulpit raises fundamental questions regarding separation of church and state. I find that picture frightening.

In our Wednesday blog we incorrectly said Eden made his appearance at Legacy Church.

Our satire on Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales over cancelling a taco giveaway for folks voting for the sugary drink tax he's proposing to finance early childhood programs, brought this rib-tickling video in the email. It's titled:"When You Look White But You're Really Mexican."

By the way, early voting has begun in the soda and sugary drink vote. Election Day is May 2. In a first draft yesterday, we had another date.

Reader Stan Fitch says this state needs to disembark from the "Austerity Train:"

My great-grandfather Asa Fitch was cofounder of the New Mexico School of Mines (now New Mexico Tech). . . My wife is a scientist and I am a nuclear engineer. . . New Mexico is flat on its back with high crime and the nation's worst economy. There will always be political wrangling, nonetheless the best course of action would be for Governor Martinez and Senator John Arthur Smith (Chairman of Senate Finance) to loosen the purse strings so that the state can leverage itself out of the hole. We will not have a knight-in-shining-armor come save us. Funding for public works, increased funds for schools and colleges, and hiring more police to appropriate staffing levels would be a start. Yes, increasing taxes and using the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund will have to be a part of the mix. It will take a few years but New Mexico can eventually improve its status and look more appealing to external investors. Let’s get New Mexico off of this stalled political austerity train and start moving forward again.

Thanks, Stan. That reminds us of the great jazz standard "The A Train" sung by the indomitable Anita O'Day. Yeah, now we're bloggin'. . . and boogieing.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Praying For APD, Susana Sinks In Another Poll, And: Bribery By Taco? Santa Fe Mayor Cancels Giveaway; We've Got Expert Advice For Him  

APD Chief Garden Eden
It's down to prayer for the ABQ Police Department and its beleaguered Chief Gorden Eden. Here he is recently asking for divine guidance before the congregation at ABQ's New Beginnings Church. And, boy, could he use some.

There's that Federal grand jury looking at whether APD illegally tampered with police lapel camera video; the continued severe under-staffing of the department; the ongoing Dept. of Justice consent decree mandating reforms and the department's continued sparring with the civilian oversight board and last but not least the crime wave that has seen the city rank among the worst in the nation for both violent crime and property crime.

Eden's tenure as APD chief is likely to end December 1 when a new mayor takes over. Several of the major candidates say they intend to replace him. The rumor mill has Eden, a Republican and former US Marshal for NM, perhaps again applying for that position in the Trump administration. After his troubled tenure at APD that seems a stretch--even if he has the good Lord on his side.


Another poll confirms what others have shown in recent months: Gov. Martinez is no longer a popular Governor. In fact, she ranks 42nd in popularity among the nation's governors in a Morning Consult poll conducted over a multi-month period and released this week. Martinez's approval rating is 43 percent and 48 percent disapprove.

Meanwhile, Sen. Martin Heinrich's approval rating remains slightly below the important 50 percent mark as he embarks on his '18 re-election bid. He scored a 48 percent positive rating. Sen. Udall's approval rating was 53 percent. In days of yore New Mexico senators routinely won approval ratings of 60 percent or more. The public of today is more cynical about politics and politicians of all stripes. Still, Heinrich's campaign reports:

Martin is on track to file record-breaking fundraising numbers this quarter, reporting more than $1.3 million raised and $2.5 million cash on hand in his re-election bid for the U.S. Senate.


There's a glimmer of hope that we might get a new arena for the 21st century at the NM State Fairgrounds (Expo NM). Expo Manager Dan Mourning says a study has been commissioned from arena designer Populous to finally look at replacing dilapidated Tingley Coliseum which can no longer host major concerts like Garth Brooks and the like.

Mourning says the study will be under $100,000 and look at building a multi-purpose arena for a wide array of events including concerts, sports and more. He expects it to be completed by summer. Financing a new arena is an expensive proposition but if the city, BernCo and the state come with bonding capacity and Mourning is able to attract private investors, as he says he hopes to, it might have a shot. Tingley is over 60 years old, ancient by building standards, particularly in the digital age.

"The cities in our region are passing us by and I'm getting tired of it. We deserve this, especially the next generation that we want to keep here," declared Mourning.

Chief Eden and I will pray over it, Dan.


What do you mean you can't buy New Mexico votes with tacos? Who made that one up? The news:

A political action committee offering tacos for votes during an early-voting event Wednesday with Mayor Javier Gonzales have quashed the idea. The decision to stop the taco giveaway comes amid bribery accusations against Pre-K for Santa Fe by the spokesman of another political group that has called the mayor's proposed tax on sodas and other sugary drinks to fund pre-K unfair.

Bribery? Ye Gads! New Mexico voters have been lining up for free political chow since Coronado bit into his first Navajo Taco. So how will the taking of the tacos impact the May 2 vote on the sugary drinks tax? Only analysis from the top experts can provide the answers.. . .

Veteran Democratic political consultants Alan Packman and Scott Forrester report that their in-depth study of taco consumption patterns in the City Different--gathered through in-person surveys at various taco stands and smart phone users ordering take-out--say the cancellation of the taco giveaway has several shadings:

Joe, it's important what kind of tacos we're talking about and how the Mayor explains this. If we're talking top-of-the-line steak tacos in a soft shell, our study shows the sugar tax would lose approximately 274 votes because of the taking of the tacos. Folks really go for those.

Now if we look at chicken taco vote buying, the impact is slightly less for Mayor Gonzales. Voters denied free chicken tacos (with a nice homemade, hot salsa) are put off by the cancellation, but not as bad as the steak taco eaters. We estimate the loss at 149 votes.

Then there's the lowly Taco Bell taco. You know, the one with the kind of low-rent meat that Santa Feans only eat in a pinch. If the tacos being served by the mayor were to be similar to Taco Bell tacos, then he'll lose only about 42 votes for the sugary tax.

After digesting the Dem consultants taco report, we turned to Gov. Martinez's longtime political operative Jay McCleskey and asked him what advice he would offer Mayor Gonzales:

If I were him I would immediately produce TV spots suggesting the tacos were poisoned and the giveaway had to be canceled to save lives. Of course, the inference being that the nefarious opposition was behind the poisoning. This would shore up the shell-shattered taco vote. 

McCleskey has sent his advice to the Dem consultants along with his standard fee of $16,844 per paragraph.

Steve Fitzer, a consultant to Sen. Heinrich who says he fears all could be lost for Mayor Gonzales, came with a Hail Mary plan:

Joe, in order to reverse this Mayor Gonzales needs to push forward and hold a free chicharrones giveaway on the downtown Plaza the Sunday before the election. Get away from the tacos and really put some buying power on voters' plates. He could recoup the lost taco voters and the event would be so close to the election that bad PR would be too late to force him to cancel. You can never go wrong with chicharrones. 

It was near fatal mistake for the mayor, but thanks to New Mexico's top political consultants--and chicharrones--he may still pull this one out.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

State Budget Wrangling Comes Amid More Damning Economic News. Plus: Lujan Grisham And Balderas Eye Each Other's Fresh Money Reports 

Amid the budget chaos in Santa Fe comes news that illustrates the slow and painful economic death spiral that has enveloped the state. Intel in Rio Rancho has finally confirmed that the plant shed 700 workers in 2016 and employment there now stands at only 1,200, compared to 7,000 in its heyday. It was little solace that rumors had current employment levels there even lower. The bottom line is, like so many others, Intel is pulling out of here.

The state suffers the highest jobless rate in the nation as well as a long-term stagnant economy. Bekin's moving company remains one of ABQ's larger advertisers and the state's largest city, its "economic engine," looks increasingly like a low-end border town, checkered with payday loan and dollar stores and afflicted by a maddening crime wave that authorities refuse to take responsibility for.

Compared to all that, the wrangling over a $6.1 billion state budget (the same amount as it was 10 years ago) is small potatoes. Gov. Martinez's over-the-top veto of the entire higher education budget in an effort to get her way with the Legislature is only going to worsen the perception that New Mexico is a place best left to its own devices.

While ABQ takes on border town status, Santa Fe looks more and more like a banana republic, with a Governor who seems to be reciting lines from The Madness of King George.

Martinez's approval rating is an anemic 42 percent and probably sinking further as we speak. The doors to any political future for her closed long ago. But she refuses to march quietly or cooperatively into her political oblivion that will begin January 1, 2019.

Only a radicalized pocket of state House Republicans prevent a total repudiation of this governorship. Most Senate Republicans have already abandoned her as shown by the recent override of one of her vetoes. And even many House R's are stunned by her refusal to sign portions of the budget that even they supported.

In 2002, both Republicans and Democrats banded together to pull the state back from the brink when GOP Governor Johnson's stubborn authoritarianism had him performing his version of the aforementioned King George. They did so by calling an "extraordinary session" of the Legislature for the first time in state history and passing a veto proof budget and going home.

Johnson, never one to take governing too seriously, laughed off the historic rebuke and went on to enjoy the fortune he made in his pre-gubernatorial years from doing deals with Intel. Back then the wreckage of a governorship stood out. Today's repeat performance by Martinez just seems like another piece of litter on a battered economic and social landscape.


Here's a sign that Martinez is sensing that she is looking into the abyss after her veto party, including that tax hike package:

Martinez told reporters Monday she could support extending the state’s gross receipts tax to Internet sales — closing a loophole, not raising taxes, per se — but would not support other proposals increasing taxes on sales of gas, or new or used vehicles.


If the race for the '18 Dem nomination for Governor were between ABQ US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Hector Balderas it would already be pretty close--at least when in it comes to the money race. In the first finance reports of the Guv contest in reports covering mid-December through early April, Grisham reports $741,000 in cash on hand and Balderas reports $683,000 in the bank. Grisham announced her candidacy in December. Balderas is on the fence, contemplating whether seek re-election as AG or make the Guv run. He could use his money for either bid.

Grisham raised $892,000 in the reporting period and spent $151,000. Her big donors included ABQ's Marble Brewery which came with $5,500; ABQ's Radiology Associates came with $5,500 for the '18 primary and another maximum donation of $5,500 for the '18 general. The Ft. Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, which hopes someday to open a casino in southern NM, gave $5,500. ABQ Dem state Sen. Bill O'Neill, a possible Dem Lt Governor candidate, donated $1,000. Grisham's big expense was for online communications and consulting to Ann Lewis Strategies in DC.

Balderas raised the lion's share of his money from major law firms and attorneys, including $5,500 for the primary and $5,500 for the general from Baron and Budd out of Dallas. The AG had expenditures of only $20,000 for the period. His campaign manager said:

If the Attorney General decides to run for Governor he is confident he will have the resources to secure the Democratic nomination. Attorney General Balderas remains focused on protecting the health and safety of New Mexico's families, businesses and environment.

Grisham said of her fund-raising:

We have tapped into a groundswell of support from New Mexicans who want real leadership in the Governor’s Office. I was the first to jump in the race because I recognized the energy and hunger for change in our state.

The Grisham camp also pointed out that she raised all her $892k in the three month period, while Balderas started the period with $400,000 and added $211k during that time.

Whatever the spin, if the race included both Balderas and Grisham neither would have to go to the local payday loan store to make campaign ends meet.

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Thursday, April 06, 2017

A "What If" Question Surfaces For State GOP As Pearce And Sanchez Weigh Guv Bids; On Dem Side It's Grisham Vs. Balderas Jockeying In Spotlight, And: Angst In The Lobo Lair 

How about this for a jaw dropper making the rounds? What if Rep. Steve Pearce and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez both decide to forgo bids for the '18 GOP gubernatorial nomination? Does that mean ABQ Mayor Richard Berry, not exactly the most popular fella within his own party, would become the default nominee? The Dems probably wouldn't mind that.

And what if Berry joined Sanchez and Pearce in passing on a Guv run? Who would the R's turn to then? Beats us. . .


And the chatter about John Sanchez perhaps challenging Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich next year instead of seeking the Guv slot continues to grow. And with reason. For the second time in recent days the state Democratic Party has included Sanchez in its criticism of Gov. Martinez. That's new.

In their latest attack the Dems score Martinez for taking a trip to Tennessee this week while the state budget and a bundle of other legislation is on her desk and she still has not told the state what she will do. Lt. Gov. Sanchez was Governor when Martinez was in Tennessee and the Dems said he could have acted on legislation in her absence. Fat chance of that. (Martinez never did make it to Tennessee to speak to a law enforcement conference because she was delayed by weather in Dallas).

But the attack on Sanchez underscores the point that the state Dem Party these days is largely under the wing of Sen. Heinrich and the attacks on Sanchez could signal that Heinrich's forces think Sanchez is looking their way.


The early positioning can be treated as a pastime of sorts when assessing Heinrich's race since he is heavily favored no matter who runs against him, but the early jockeying in the Dem Guv race is very critical. ABQ Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is working furiously to clear the field of major challengers--mostly any challenge by Attorney General Hector Balderas. Her latest effort is to roll out an endorsement from the New Mexico Professional Firefighters Association. The Association represents affiliates of the International Fire Fighters Association in the state. That endorsement comes on the heels of former Senator Jeff Bingaman giving Grisham his blessing and an earlier endorsement from Emily's List, an advocacy group for women candidates.

The next phase of the psychological warfare will be the state finance reports due this month. The Balderas camp will closely watch how much Grisham has raised and she will be watching his report just as closely.


The talk of the town has been yet another expensive buyout of a UNM Lobo basketball coach. Reader Michael Lamb shows how the controversy has put the spotlight as much on the athletic director as the now former coach:

Joe, regarding the $1 million buyout for UNM basketball coach Craig Neal. The media states: "This is the fourth big payout during University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs’ 11 years on the job. He has sent basketball coach Ritchie McKay packing, along with football coaches Rocky Long and Mike Locksley, who was a Krebs hire. They cost more than $2 million combined to buy out.”

As of 2014 UNM Athletics VP Paul Krebs had the highest salary of any vice president, at $319,262. what’s he making these days? Krebs has been UNM's AD for 11 years. Is it time someone bought him out--or to state is less elegantly--kick him out?"


In our first take Wednesday, we said the public schools bill introduced in the Territorial Legislature happened in 1892. The correct date is 1882. And we blogged that a flight into space courtesy of Virgin Galactic from the NM Spaceport is going for $200,000 but it's actually 200,000 British Pounds. That translates to about $250,000. We wouldn't want you making any mistakes when you're writing your check to Sir Richard. . . .

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

New Mexico 135 Years Ago: The Problem Then Is The Problem Now, Plus: Cattle Country News, More Spaceport Promises And Our License Plates Don't Peel 

Talk about the more things change the more they stay the same. . .Way back in 1882 when New Mexico was a territory and not yet a state, the condition of public education was a major worry--as it is today. And that brings us to Sister Blandina Segale, the missionary who became known for her work on the American Frontier, especially in our state.

Among her many works was assisting in passing a bill out of the 1882 Territorial Legislature that established the first public schools in New Mexico. 135 years later, supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would tap the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood education, have dug up the language of that bill, and its relevance to today is a bit eerie:

Whereas, The advancement and property of this Territory are largely dependent upon the education of its people; and, Whereas, There are within its limits numerous orphans and other indigent children without home, influence or moral protection and destitute of the means of education and decent livelihood; and, Whereas, The same children, who, if left to ignorance, destitution and misery, would become elements of serious evil in our midst and entail great public expense in the prevention and suppression of crime, will, if protected and fostered. become a source of wealth, intelligence and moral support to the commonwealth, therefore, Be it Enacted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of New Mexico: There shall be created a Board of Charities and Industrial Schools in this territory. . .

This year the state House approved the constitutional amendment that would let voters decide if they wanted to use a portion of the Permanent Fund for very early childhood (about $140 million a year for 10 years), but it again stalled in the state Senate. In the 2015 Quality Counts rankings New Mexico ranked 49th in the nation In the quality of its public education.

As for Sister Blandina, she will soon become more widely known. Filming has begun of a television series telling the story of her life. The Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe has begun the process to canonize Segale.


Reader Mark Padilla writes:

Joe, My family has been in the cattle business since the late 1700s. The cattle industry plays a key role in the New Mexico economy and the recent discussions on trade pose a risk to our economy if poorly negotiated. I have attached a short column for your publishing consideration to raise awareness of the upcoming trade talks.


Here we go again:

Richard Branson has announced plans to launch people into space in 2018, with the first test flights beginning this year. The Virgin Galactic boss said he would be 'very disappointed' not to go into space himself in 2018 and hopes his space tourism programme will be up and running in the same year.

The NM Spaceport has been waiting for Virgin to launch for well over a decade, with past deadlines falling by the wayside. Maybe this time is different? Well, don't buy your $225,000 ticket quite yet.


Geez, what has to happen before Santa Fe gets serious and starts cutting down or consolidating these broken and expensive campuses:

State Auditor Tim Keller released a caustic audit of Northern New Mexico College, whose former president took off 40 days to attend conferences and then used 45 more days for vacations, even though only nine days were approved. These findings followed Keller’s recent conclusion that Northern is lax in accounting practices for handling cash and that $200,000 probably was stolen from the college by a former employee.


A reader from Texas complained here that our state's relatively new turquoise colored license plates are peeling. We haven't seen any signs of that and neither has reader Peter Ives:

Haven't seen any quality problems with my beautiful turquoise NM plate yet and I've put 79k miles on my car in lots of sun. And by the way, they got a design award back in 2010 from a plate collectors organization. The balloon license plates are the ones in deteriorating condition. They are really frying under the sun--many are quite faded and barely legible. The state should offer free replacements. The "patriot" plate is the ugliest with swirling US and NM flags and black alphanumerics over. Someone's cousin at MVD probably did that one--totally amateur.


When President Trump made one of his New Mexico stops as a candidate, he referred to ABQ's Kirtland Air Force Base as "Kirkland." Maybe it's catching on, or we missed the renaming, because we saw this in the newspaper the other day:

Wilson also told Heinrich she strongly supports moving directed energy and laser systems, some of which are being developed at Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico, onto “the war fighter.”

Well, Costco would like that.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

"Big Three" Emerge From Crowded ABQ Mayoral Field, BernCo Credibility Questioned And The Late Lobbyist Bob Gold  

Tim Keller
The Alligators and insiders who predicted early on that Tim Keller would be the only ABQ mayoral candidate to qualify for public financing and were proven right over the weekend, now have another take on the fast approaching October 3 contest. They are now saying of the 14 candidates in the contest, a "Big Three" has emerged and chances are good that one of them will be your next mayor.

They are: Dem State Auditor Keller, ABQ GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis and former NM Dem Party Chairman and attorney Brian Colón.

Keller managed to collect 6,000, five dollar individual contributions to qualify for $380,000 in public financing for the race, far surpassing the needed 3,802 donations.  Only Lewis and Colón are expected to be able to match that $380,000 with private fund-raising. And that's the major reason why they are the Big Three.

Former BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta and GOP BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson are in the next tier in the 14 person field. Questions remain about most of the other candidates being able to garner the necessary 3,000 petition signatures to qualify for the ballot. They are due April 28. Many of them will certainly not file enough valid signatures and the Big Three will then loom even larger as we head into the month of May.


First the Bernalillo County Commission tells us they need (and approved) a $30 million gross receipts tax increase to plug a projected deficit. But the deficit turns out to be only $8 million. Then they tell us they got a heckuva deal on the Alvarado Square downtown property, paying $4.1 million, but only later do they tell us that the remodeling will cost another $33 million way up from the $15 million it first said in 2015.. Why this drip, drip from the county commission and county manager that only serves to damage their credibility?

That widely opposed three sixteenths of a cent gross receipts tax hike that takes the city rate to 7.5 percent comes amid an historic slowing in BernCo population growth. In April 2010, the Census estimated county population at 662,564. In July of 2016 Census said the population was 676,593. That's very little growth and that's why the county is having trouble managing the now oversized government it constructed in the go-go years. Sometimes the austerity hawks are needed to swoop down and reorder the agenda.  


Here's high impact news for ABQ and APD:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.

APD and the Berry administration entered a consent decree with Justice in 2014. Now it appears that the leash they're on could get looser. That's going to be cause for worry as APD has already been seen as stalling reforms.


Politicians in New Mexico often have very interesting backgrounds, like this one:

Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz talked about growing up picking onions in the summer near Hatch. He said when he was 9, he worked from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., picking the vegetables on his knees in 100-degree heat without breaks.

Democrat De La Cruz served two terms on the BernCo Commission, You might call him one "tough hombre."


Self-described "independent reader" John Ingram writes:

Joe: Apparently, "conservative reader" McClure (whom you quote way too often in our humble opinion) has conveniently forgotten that the overwhelming majority of New Mexican voters cast their ballots against this NYC oligarch, tweeter-in-chief who now occupies the people's White House. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has demonstrated repeatedly the courage of her convictions. As such, she reflects the political will of New Mexico's voters. Michelle will make an excellent governor.

McClure wrote that Grisham's heavy attacks on Trump could hurt NM if she were elected Governor. One reason we quote him, John, is it often kick-starts the conversation.


This one didn't receive much attention but Bob Gold was a major player on the Santa Fe scene, perhaps most notably as the longtime lobbyist for the NM Retail Association. He was also a noted broadcaster and was a member of the NM Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. Here's more on his death:

Robert L. "Bob Gold" Goldsborough Sr., age 86, of Santa Fe passed away peacefully surrounded by his family March 23. With a golden voice to last the ages, Bob had an early start in broadcasting that led to a career in politics and consulting. His personal efforts led to the passage of the first New Mexico Lottery Bill and he had a run for Governor which he cynically referred to as more of a "walk." He spent his retirement enjoying the backyard birds with his favorite bird of 65 years, Doris, and enjoying the best tastes of everything Santa Fe had to offer.

In 1990, when he made that short-lived run for the Democratic Guv nomination, his slogan, as we recall, was: "Good as Gold."

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Lujan Grisham Snags Early Endorsement From Ex-Senator Bingaman As StateAwaits Balderas Decision, Plus: Very Healthy In Los Alamos, And:Retiring In Cruces 

Sen. Bingaman
An important early endorsement in the 2018 race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination had the eyebrows raised in La Politica as the week ended. Former US Senator Jeff Bingaman gave his blessing to the candidacy of US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the only officially announced candidate, and he did it a full 14 months before the Democratic primary:

In my 30 years in the United Stated Senate, I saw some excellent leadership. It was clear who was in politics for personal gain and who was really there for their constituents. So I can tell you with certainty: Michelle Lujan Grisham is a true leader who fights tooth and nail for New Mexicans in Washington. That is why I proudly support her for Governor. New Mexicans know how important it is to have a Governor who will work with New Mexico legislators to move our state forward. Michelle will be that kind of Governor. She is a fierce advocate for women, kids, working families, underrepresented communities – anybody and everybody who needs a voice.

Quite the development as we await word from Attorney General Hector Balderas, the heavyweight waiting in the wings, on whether he will get in the contest. But the Bingaman endorsement may signal that Hector is going to sit this one out. Dem Senator Martin Heinrich will lead the 2018 ticket when he seeks re-election and one has to think he was consulted and comfortable with Bingaman's move. If Hector gets in now the party will find itself deeply divided.

Bingaman is a former state attorney general who might have been expected to hold his fire if Balderas was seriously weighing a bid, but we'll see soon enough.

The endorsement is sure to help Grisham with her fund-raising and attracting older establishment Dems who have been loyal to Bingaman, 73, for decades. She reacted by saying:

Sen. Bingaman’s endorsement, especially this early in the campaign, means the world to me because he is so respected as a statesman who spent a career putting New Mexico families first.  The Senator is a role model who exemplifies everything I was taught about public service and fighting relentlessly for the people who put their trust in you to be a leader.

Bingaman's endorsement is not going to clear the field. Businessman Jeff Apodaca and State Senator Joe Cervantes say they have decided to take the plunge, but it puts the field on notice that a sitting congresswoman starts this campaign with a strong and perhaps an upper hand.


Northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan comes with this clip:

Los Alamos County ranks healthiest in New Mexico, according to the 2017 County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Do you suppose the immense government spending at Los Alamos National Labs has something to do with all those healthy scientists jogging around up there to their hearts' content--and benefit. The answer is "Duh?" In 2015, Los Alamos was the fifth wealthiest county in the nation:

The median household income was $112,115. Around half the county’s population of 18,000 is employed by the National Laboratory. With the laboratory having an annual budget of $2.2 billion it is not difficult to see why the area is so affluent.

Affluent and healthy. Now if we could just get the rest of the state to catch  up.

Down in Dona Ana County, maybe it will be retirees who add to the affluence. A reader writes from there:

In Las Cruces, the retiree migration appears to be building. This last week I met a retiree from Chicago, loves it here, just made this his home. Biggest draws for him are the weather and bike friendly roads and trails. I randomly met two different retired couples, from Chicago and San Antonio. They are visiting southern New Mexico and Tucson to make a choice. Weather, small city and outdoor activities are the attraction for them. Wasn't there a suggestion on your blog about making NM more retiree friendly?
Bankrate has NM rated at #30, with healthcare and crime rate dragging the state lower.
Looks like a win-win situation to me, increase healthcare education/jobs and more law enforcement.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

We'll see you Tuesday as we begin our Spring/Summer blogging schedule.

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