Friday, May 24, 2019

At The Movies  

Time to take a break this holiday weekend and take in a movie? Reader Eric Lucero, our resident reviewer, takes a look at a trio of films.

Tolkien (PG-13) ****Stars out of 5 

This well-acted biographical dramatization of the late J. R. R. Tolkien provides the inspirational clues that allowed this towering literary giant of such works as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Ring’s Trilogy and The Silmarillion to remain universally recognized and read throughout the world.

“Tolkien” depicts his formative years as a teenager, his friendships, his mastery of languages, his romance of Edith Bratt and finally, his horrific experience as a young British officer in the Battle of the Somme-France (1914) during the “War to End All Wars.”

Gifted British actor Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, 2013) plays the iconic Tolkien with verve and emotive sobriety. The supporting cast is inspired and memorable.

Tolkien’s legacy lives today. He is considered the father of modern fantasy literature, having climbed that vaunted throne long before George R. R. Martin’s noted series—Game of Thrones—arrived on the scene.

There has been criticism of the film for failing to clearly depict Tolkien’s Christian religious beliefs as a central pillar to his life and literary works (I am in this camp).

Tolkien’s life and works extol the timeless values of virtue, honesty, loyalty, friendship and sacrifice. “Tolkien” is a fair and sobering portrayal of that as well as his genius.

Long Shot (R) **1/2 Stars out of 5

“Long Shot” tries hard to be a semi-comedy/romance, with a dash of political satire thrown in; it fails in both regards. 

Seth Rogen’s (Flarsky) raunchy film antics are legendary to his fans, but don’t mesh believably with his contrived love interest; the always striking Charlize Theron, who plays a sophisticated and accomplished politico yet has a wacko, wild side. 

In short, this pair could never have seriously been a past item, much less years later. Nor would Rogen’s character be hired as a speechwriter for the likes of Theron’s character, Field. 

If you like adolescent humor as doled out by this Jonathan Levine fantasy story then this romp is for you. Otherwise, rent “The Front Runner” (2018***1/2 Stars).

Wandering Earth (PG-13) ***Stars out of 5

This visually extravagant, audacious sci-fi/disaster film was produced and financed by the Chinese government via various state-owned companies.

“Wandering Earth” borrows, purloins and outright steals dialogue, scenes and story lines from classic American films. It reeks of intellectual property theft. But isn’t “imitation the sincerest form of flattery?”

With that said, there is a viable plot. Our sun is dying out and a united world government responds by building giant, planet moving thruster “engines” to move the Earth out of orbit and into a new star system.
Of course this 2,500-year journey will be fraught with peril and the usual suspects will save all of humanity. The only question is how!

“Wandering Earth,” will not become a genre classic, but its fast and furious pace, eye popping visuals, state of the art effects and heart tugging, multifaceted personal stories is watchable escapist fare.

I’d like to see this film on the big screen. If it keeps making money we might see a limited North American run. For now, Wandering Earth is available via Netflix and Amazon. Enjoy!

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

New Mexico's Two Horse Economy Doing Some Heavy Lifting, Plus: More On APD Staffing And Some "Burque Bashing"  

The workhorses of New Mexico's economy are working overtime.

We all know about the SE Permian Basin oil boom and the billions in state revenue it's bringing in, now add a boost from federally funded Sandia National Labs (SNL).

SNL says it is in the process of hiring1,900 employees this year, 1,100 new positions and another 800 to fill vacant positions. They say the number is unprecedented and many of the new hires are coming from NM. The new jobs are specialized and pay into the six figures, resulting in a notable economic boost for the ABQ metro. A spokeswoman for Sandia tells us:

By Sept. 30, 2019, Sandia expects to have more than 13,000 employees. This includes all regular employees, post-doctoral students and limited-term employees at NM, California and other sites. This  also includes employees who are students.

That’s a good opportunity for our college students who have been leaving the state in search of jobs elsewhere.

About 11,000 of the 13,000 Sandia employees will be based in ABQ.

So is Trump "Making New Mexico Great Again" with his pro fossil fuel policies and commitment to outsized nuclear weapons budgets for Sandia?

Some Dems would rather point to fossil fuels as the cause of climate change and warn of the danger of nuclear weapons designed at Sandia. But these two sectors have been the foundation of the modern New Mexican economy for decades and will remain so.

Despite the regular chatter of "diversifying" away from oil and the feds, lately oil and the feds are only getting bigger.

The SNL FY 2020 budget is over $3.6 billion. Energy royalties and taxes regularly comprise a third or more of the state's General Fund, currently at $7 billion. Diversify? Not in this lifetime.

It's not all gravy. That program to add billions to the Los Alamos National Labs budget to manufacture "pits" for nuclear weapons appears to be hitting the wall. Still, recent budgets for LA don't have much pain.


We quoted a newsletter from ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis Wednesday, saying that under the recently approved city budget there would be 1,059 APD officers beginning July 1. Davis clarifies.

He says the actual number is about 985 starting this July and adds that the correct number for July 2020 is actually1,053, if hiring goals are met.

We speculated that the increased police presence could give us an idea by the end of the year whether more officers will cut the rate of crime significantly. Davis said he believed so since 985 officers will, among other things, improve response times. Says Davis:

APD is fully-funded budget is for 1,053 officers by the end of FY20 (June 30, 2020). ( I erroneously said 1,059 which included some new PSA positions, but those aren't sworn). APD's staffing plan calls for 80 of those new 100 officers to go directly into what we call "neighborhood policing," aka patrol and 911 calls in area commands. The remainder will go to fill vacancies in overburdened detective units including crimes against children, homicide and other specialized jobs. 

Meanwhile the Governor says she is pleased with the deployment of about 50 state police officers in Albuquerque to help fight crime. Her office reports:

The roughly 50 state police officers temporarily assigned to targeted areas of Albuquerque. . .have generated, to date, more than 257 total arrests, including several dozen felony arrests and 13 DWI arrests. State Police have also seized meth, heroin, firearms, ammunition and stolen license plates, among other evidence. 


It's probably a generational thing but we never cared for calling ABQ "Burque" so we don't. 91 year old reader Frank Gilmer doesn't like it either. Maybe we're curmudgeons but he writes:

I'm with you, Joe. As a native Albuquerquean, I dislike the gangsta connotation of "Burque." I also don't like to hear "Isleta" pronounced with three syllables "Is-a-leta" as the casino does in their own commercials. On the other hand, "BernCo" seems real digital for the county, and distances us from the Town of Bernalillo. It seems "Bernalillo" is translated "Little Bernal." Bernal is said to be the name of a community named for a Spanish family.

Maybe this explanation from the Urban Dictionary will help old timers come to adopt "Burque" and "Burquenos," slap on a T shirt and go to a heavy metal concert with Mayor Keller:

While many uneducated YOLOs claim the origin is unknown, the original gente knows. The word is short for the original spelling of the city "Alburquerque," in which you find the word burque. This is the original name of the founders and the original city in Spain.

Okay, that helps. Instead of thinking of the Los Padillas gang each time we hear "Burque," we'll latch on to that historical explanation. Mayor, I think Frank and I are ready for that metal concert.

Join us for some holiday film reviews tomorrow.

Reporting from Albuquerque. . . er. . . Burque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

BernCo DA Again Dives Into Bail Reform And Takes More Flak, Plus; Second Half Of Year Could Be Fateful For Future Of Crime Fight 

BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez is again diving into the debate over bail reform, announcing he wants a state constitutional amendment that would undo one approved by voters in 2016.

His amendment would make certain violent offenders prove that they should not be jailed.

The amendment has little chance of passing and Torrez did not announce what lawmaker (s) would be carrying the measure at the next legislative session that would have to approve it before sending it to voters in 2020.

Dem Torrez is up for election the same year and if crime remains high, the chances increase for a strong foe to emerge.

A legislator supportive of the DA told us sponsorship of the amendment is "to be determined."

Social media blasted away at the DA's proposal, with a number of critics saying he is again trying to get off the hook by blaming the judges and not doing his job which is to prove to the judges why someone needs to be behind bars.

Attorney A. Blair Dunn, a Republican turned Libertarian, came with this:

. . . I get that prosecutors want to put the bad guys in jail, but we have a system of justice that presumes that you are innocent until proven guilty not that you are guilty until you are proven innocent. That is precisely why the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution says "Excessive bail shall not be required. . . ." 

You are wrong to blame the lower court judges for a system that was messed up not by the Constitutional Amendment but by the Supreme Court rules. Put aside the liberal agenda, the politicking and do your job, Albuquerque is being torn apart by crime that starts with low level offenders that are being caught and released . . . Enough BS. Grow a spine and start figuring out how to get convictions on the backlog of crimes that are in warrant status because they were set free with no bond.

Attorney Pete Dinelli, a Dem, and a former BernCo Chief Deputy District Attorney, also panned the proposal:

This is really back ass backwards and embarrassing when it comes to our constitutional rights of presumption of innocence until proven guilty by the prosecution. DA Torrez wants to shift the burden of proof to the accused with a presumption that a person who is merely charged with a violent crime is therefore violent and the accused must prove they are not an immediate danger to the public or be held in jail until trial. The questions that needs to be answered is where did this guy get his law degree and did he fail constitutional law?

Others argue that the crime epidemic has persisted for a number of years, both when we had the old bail system and the new system under the constitutional amendment.

Others say that Torrez has it right, that judges have been too hard on his office and under the amendment are letting repeat offenders flood the streets.


As we've often noted, the stubborn crime wave has created thin ice for both Torrez and his fellow fortysomething Dem, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller. It may not be that they won't be able to keep their current jobs if this issue isn't resolved, it's their prospects of going on to higher office that could be in jeopardy.

It should be noted that it was under the eight year run of Republican ABQ Mayor Richard Berry that crime began to soar and when the public (especially the business community) and the media failed to hold him accountable. It's safe to say that Berry wiil never again hold public office, but his sour legacy continues to make him part of the political future.


APD Chief Geier
The second half of this year could be critical in determining the course of the crime wave that officials assert has has subsided somewhat but still persists.

City Councilor Pat Davis says in a campaign newsletter for his re-election that under the  budget approved by the council this week, that beginning July 1 APD will have about 985 officers. That's up from the department's low point in the 840 area. And by July 2020 Davis says the department should have 1,053 officers, if hiring goals are met.

(Davis has one election opponent--attorney Gina Naomi Dennis.)

Will that be enough to determine by year's end whether simply adding more police will make a major dent in crime, including the outbreak of shooting violence?

The Mayor and Council believe the extra cops will finally deliver results. If so, it will be a cause for celebration. If not there will be much hand-wringing over city policy and policing.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

City Election '19: Will Ike Dodge The Bullet? Says He Has Qualified For Public Financing While Rivals Scramble, Plus: Promising Term Limits  

Councilor Benton
The one ABQ city councilor who appeared most promising to be upset at the November 5 election may dodge the bullet.

That's because the campaign of incumbent Dem Councilor Ike Benton says he has qualified for $43,000 in public financing while his two main rivals--twentysomethings Zach Quintero and Joseph Griego--are struggling to get the necessary 433 $5 contributions to also get $43,000.

Without public funds there would appear little chance of taking out Benton who has been on the council since 2005 and is under the gun for his all out support of the failed ART project on Central Ave. and for not doing enough to halt the ABQ crime wave.

His downtown, Barelas, North Valley and near UNM district is heavily Hispanic and ripe for the picking by a candidate of that ethnicity. But Quintero has been forced to hire people to help him try to get the required donations before the May 31 deadline. Griego and friends are also busy going to door to door.

Benton had an easy time qualifying. He has deep ties to the district and his progressive politics are beloved by his followers who say he has been on the job when it comes to crime. They point to the failure of Mayor Berry under whose watch crime soared. As for ART, they still hold out hope that someday it will be a functioning bus route and they applaud Benton's dedication to public transit.

Quintero and Griego are both promising contenders but if they don't qualify for public financing there will be little chance they will be financially competitive through private donations. Their only remaining hope would be keeping Benton below 50 percent and forcing a run-off election. 

Quintero supporters say his last days push will put him over the top and public financing will be obtained. 

There are three lesser known contenders in the race, none of whom are expected to qualify for public financing. If that trio qualifies for the ballot by collecting enough petition signatures (500) that would give the young hotshots some hope that a crowded race could help keep Benton below 50.

There won't be any holiday barbecues for Quintero and Griego as they race to the wire to qualify. Not that they need to be around any heat this Memorial Day. Benton has already given them plenty.


Well, isn't this special:

A company plans to capitalize on the crime in Albuquerque. BioOne specializes in cleaning up after a crime scene. “We've got full respirators that you clean out tear gas, you need 'cause it's going to make you sick, if you don't,” said Sunny Cowart, who manages the clean-up process at BioOne. “Things like dried blood, body fluids, even if it's just vomit. Things like that."

So who says businesses doesn't want to come to ABQ because of the crime? Welcome aboard, BioOne. We've been waiting for you.

(By the way that headline above is the first and probably only time we will ever refer to Albuquerque as "Burque.")


Gavin Clarkson 
It must be nice to be able to make promises you never have to keep. Take, for example, this one made by Republican US Senate candidate Gavin Clarkson of Las Cruces, a longshot candidate if there ever was one:

U.S. Term Limits (USTL), the leader in the non-partisan national movement to limit terms for elected officials, praises New Mexico U.S. Senate candidate Gavin Clarkson for signing the pledge for a term limits on Congress amendment. Currently, U.S. Term Limits has received support from nearly 70 pledge signers in Congress.

Well, at least you got a bit of good press, Gavin

We have to add that term limits in the US Senate would be a disaster for New Mexico. It has been the seniority system that for decades has played into the hands of New Mexico lawmakers who have brought home the bacon. In fact, our noticeable lack of seniority with our current two Senators is viewed as one of the state's economic problems.

Sen. Heinrich is only now in his second term. Sen. Udall is also in his second term but is leaving at the end of next year and will be replaced by a new Senator with very little seniority. That lack of seniority is not a plus for a state that is among the top recipients of federal money. In other words, New Mexicans need their Senators carried out of the chamber in a pine box--not because of term limits.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

From Rags To Riches; Oil Boys Report State Stands To Be In Black For Years As Permian Gusher Grows, Plus: State Cops In ABQ Fire And That Backfires  

From rags to riches. So goes the story of the New Mexico treasury.

We're going from years of austerity to what will be years of plenitude that could conceivably change the long-term outlook for our perennially last placing state. The news:

ExxonMobil investments in New Mexico could kick up a $64 billion tidal wave of benefits for the state over the next 40 years, according to a new study by the oil giant. "The Permian Basin is the engine of America’s energy renaissance and New Mexico residents will see direct economic benefits and opportunities from our planned investments,” ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods said. "We will be a significant, long-term economic contributor to the state of New Mexico and will work hard to be a trusted member of the community.”

The state is already seeing billion dollar surpluses and the challenge of effectively spending that cash haul now confronts lawmakers. For example, the notoriously ineffective method of doling out billions in capital outlay for construction projects such as dams, roads and bridges is not prepared to handle this cash tsunami and needs reform. The dormant idea of a state capital outlay planning commission to take the politics out of the process now has a new sense of urgency.

And the Legislative Finance Committee reports we are still not getting the construction money put to work efficiently because of flaws in the system:

. . . As of March, the state had $737 million outstanding for more than 1,600 projects. More than half of that funding--$480 million--was authorized last year, but $174 million dates back to 2017 and about $66 million is older than that.

The Exxon study is based on an average oil price of only $40 a barrel. If it goes higher (it is currently over $60) the cash coming into the state soars, not only from Exxon but other companies fracking the Permian.

This study should once and for all bring down for a landing the austerity hawks circling the Roundhouse as it is evident our fortunes have turned for the better and for the foreseeable future. The time for investment--not retrenchment--is finally here.

One no-brainier now is to ask voters to finally approve a one percent annual drawdown of  the state's $18 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education to attack the underlying generational problems causing New Mexico to languish. That fund, along with the state's General Fund for annual expenses, is set to explode to new heights in the years ahead as the Permian oil boom roars.


Another no-brainer as the fates smile on the state is to once and for all end the endless debate over whether the pension funds for state government workers (including educators) have enough cash in the bank. We think they do, but the bean counters on Wall Street (who love those investment dollars) don't think so. One of the solutions offered is to have a cash infusion of up to $200 million into the funds, instead of cutting cost of living adjustments for retirees. That can easily be done now, even if it is over a four or five year period. So do it (or a bit less) and stop the needless gnashing of teeth over the funds being depleted in the year 2055 or something.


The old adage "look before you leap" certainly comes into play in the wake of the Governor's decision last week to send 50 state police officers to ABQ to help quell the crime epidemic. Already they have fired shots at two suspects in apparent violation of the federal consent decree regarding the use of force by APD.

The state cops don't fall under that decree so you get two different law enforcement standards--and a bunch of confusion. The decision to send the NMSP in without further preparing them now looks rash.

But once they figure it out they will be more than welcome. Meanwhile, welcome Governor to the political sinkhole known as the ABQ crime wave. Uh. . .watch your step.


This in 2019? Really?

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority typically connects from 400 to 450 homes a year, chipping away at the 15,000 scattered, rural homes without power on the 27,000-square-mile (43,000-square-kilometer) reservation that lies in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. At that rate, it will take the tribal utility about 35 more years to get electricity to the 60,000 of the reservation’s 180,000 residents who don’t have it.

Hooking up a single home to electric power can run $40,000 on the far flung Rez. It's crazy. If Senator Udall is looking for something consequential to do while he prepares for the exits there's an idea in there somewhere. Ya think?

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Puppy Dogs And The ABQ Crime Wave Plus Feeling Forgotten In The Bootheel 

Mayor Keller (Sorber, Journal)
ABQ Mayor Tim Keller found a welcome diversion from the crime epidemic this week in a visit to the Animal Welfare Department where he heard of the department's success in improving response time to calls. But escaping the crime wave that now shadows his administration is always a short reprieve--in this case an extremely short one.

It was last Friday that Keller held a major news conference to announce, among other things, that 50 state police officers would aid ABQ cops in patrolling the streets and that the city's Nob Hill area, where a UNM baseball player was recently shot to death, would receive more police attention. So what happens next? Well. . .

Hours after those announcements Nob Hill experienced one of its largest robberies in memory, with $30,000 worth of jewelry ripped off from the Lilly Barrack store.

Owner Jaime Leeds says she's fed up with the crime and is calling for a change. "We need more officers, the mayor needs to quit saying crime has dropped. I have been in this location for 14 years, but only within the last three has it been so bad. I can't keep up, small businesses can't thrive in this." Neighboring businesses in Nob Hill agree. They want the city to get more boots on the ground. "The bike patrol as it currently stands is insufficient," said Robert Steinberg, owner of Stone Mountain Bead Gallery. "That's a lot of territory for two guys. There should be eight guys, ten guys, a lot more than two. 

Much like former Mayor Berry's spin team, this Mayor's PR mavens have him doing all sorts of photo ops that have nothing to do with crime, hoping he will not be overwhelmed by the #1 issue. That's a losing battle until the brazen break-ins and murder are halted for good at places like Nob Hill. Even the puppy dogs know that.


Republicans who were hoping that former GOP State Rep. Jimmie Hall, defeated in an upset in 2018 by Dem Melanie Stansbury, might try for a comeback in 2020 will be disappointed. The 71 year old, who had held the ABQ NE Heights seat since 2005, told a group of R's recently he is out of politics and out of the state. He says he is moving to Oklahoma to spend more time with his grandchildren.

Freshman Stansbury has become a symbol of how the far reaches of ABQ's once deep red NE Heights have taken on a bluer hue. With Hall opting out of a retry, the odds improve that she takes a second term.


“New Mexico has the nation’s highest combined percentage of residents covered by Medicaid and Medicare,” said HSD Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D.


ABQ Attorney Jody Neal-Post, who wrote favorably here Wednesday of the constitutional amendment regarding bail, clarifies:

I did not support nor vote for the bail amendment. I felt the Brown court decision was sufficient and I do not prefer to constitutionalize every point of law. However, the bail amendment is our law now, and I do strongly support following the existing law.


A reader writes:

Greetings from the Bootheel, Joe.

Has Santa Fe forgotten about us? Rural communities are struggling with a lot of the same problems you are, but unlike with Albuquerque, nobody's paying attention. We're facing crime down here too, our unemployment rate is higher than it should be, we're losing important industries, and we get almost none of the aid and attention lavished on the two major cities. Where is our help? Politicians here have viewed rural communities the way Australians viewed the Outback: go in only if you must, only briefly, and never go alone. How do we get Santa Fe's attention? 

The last we looked State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, probably the most powerful lawmaker in the legislature, represented the Bootheel area. What say you, John Arthur?

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Bail Amendment Backers Hit Back; Defend Judges; Argue It's The DA's Ways Causing Criminals To Stay On The Street  

DA Torrez
More today on the intense debate over that constitutional amendment that reset bail standards and is being blamed by some for abetting the ABQ metro crime epidemic, including BernCO District Attorney Raul Torrez.

An anonymous reader/attorney wrote in Tuesday agreeing with the DA's argument and called the measure approved by voters in 2016 a "catch and release" program for criminals. We expressed some sympathy for that view and that brought in the email from other attorney/readers who disagreed vigorously.

Those concerned about the amendment, including the DA, have had plenty of media time to make their case so let's go to the rebuttals. The first is an anonymous offering from an attorney who practices in the BernCO district:

Joe, there is some context behind the application of the bail reform amendment in Bernalillo County that doesn't make it into the media narrative being driven by District Attorney Torrez.

First, Mr. Torrez has decided to make the issue political rather than crafting a practical approach to use pretrial detention to combat violent crime. For example, his office uses a set of rigid criteria to determine whether to file for preventative detention that is divorced from the reality of whether the defendant is actually dangerous.

By way of illustration, if you were stopped in Bernalillo County and you had 2 ounces of marijuana you purchased legally in Colorado and you happened to have a legal firearm, the DA's office would move to detain you pending trial despite the lack of criminal history or any allegation of violence. This is plainly ridiculous. Meanwhile, while a judge would probably order you released, you would sit in jail for up to 5 business days before the hearing. I suspect the policy is designed to provide political cover and shift the blame to the judiciary.

The policy has further effects that negatively impact the administration of justice and the overall crime rate. Mr. Torrez files so many of the motions that his office is often ill prepared for the hearings. His attorneys are forced to argue numerous petty motions that reduces the time they have to prepare for cases that might actually support a "dangerousness" finding. 

Let's look at the numbers. In 2018 the Second District Attorney's office filed 1,345 motions for pretrial detention. The success rate was an abysmal 39.3%. Looking deeper into the numbers, the office filed 481 cases that the Arnold Foundation Public Safety Assessment flagged as non-violent. To illustrate, 42 motions to detain were filed on a case where the underlying charge was possession of a controlled substance: a 4th degree felony.

The issue with pretrial detention only scratches the surface of the problems with the Second District Attorney's Office. He has implemented a strategy that virtually deprives his attorneys of any discretion in the disposition of their cases. Nearly all resolutions must be approved by a supervisor and often 2 supervisors. This creates a situation where cases are backlogged and burdening the attorneys with unworkable case loads they are unable to resolve because of the backlog. This has cascading effects where motion responses are not filed, interviews are not conducted, and judges are forced to dismiss cases.

The examples are legion but Mr. Torrez has shown that his political strategy and approach to crime is to shift blame and avoid any culpability. The media has become his unwitting enabler. Before we discuss changing the rules, Mr. Torrez should have to explain to the public why he has chosen to pursue a crime strategy that maximizes his political cover rather than the safety of the community.


Jody Neal-Post
ABQ defense attorney Jody Neal-Post goes long and deep on why the public may be confused as to whether the bail amendment is working for them or against them:

I am the attorney, along with co-counsel, Jeff Rein (currently the Albuquerque District Defender), who litigated State v. Walter Brown, which led to the ‘”bail amendment.” I was also the House Judiciary Committee attorney who did the legal analysis on the amendment at the legislative session following the Supreme Court decision in Brown.

I can tell you what is going on. The judges are following the law to require clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness to detain. The prosecutors in Albuquerque are simply dug in, refusing to bring that evidence before the court in an ill-advised power struggle with our judges.

. . . Take the tragic case of the slain UNM baseball player. The alleged suspect in that case is reported to have been indicted for shooting someone in the stomach before this newest allegation. Then the alleged suspect was arraigned in a shooting where no one was injured. Now the allegations in the latest tragedy, a third set of allegations.

In the alleged stomach shooting, the case was dismissed without prejudice for the District Attorney’s failure to meet court deadlines. The District Attorney could have re-indicted the very next day. He did not. Prosecutorial discretion as to what charges to bring and when is absolute. No judge or defense counsel can affect that decision-making. So, the District Attorney made his lawful decision not to prioritize that first shooting case via prosecution.

Then the second set of allegations. The State tries to detain the defendant but because they failed to maintain the first prosecution, the defendant on the 2nd set of charges has no ongoing conditions of release he can be alleged to have violated because he is not on any conditions, thanks to the dismissed initial case. . . Then, in the detention hearing on the second case, the District Attorney continued his pattern since the bail amendment went into effect--that he almost categorically refuses to put on live witness testimony in a detention hearing.

What the District Attorney does put on is the criminal complaint or indictment on paper. Both of those documents establish probable cause for the state to proceed to prosecute. Probable cause is akin to a 35% certainty of criminal wrongdoing. Our bail amendment requires clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness to detain, akin to a 75% or so certainty. Thirty-five percent simply never equals 75 percent. Period. The District Attorney must put on more proof, and in our present example, a significant part of that proof would have come from either a conviction on the first case or violation of conditions of release on the first case, which the District Attorney did not have because he failed to meet his deadlines and successfully prosecute that first case or failed to immediately re-indict it.

The Second Judicial District District Attorney litigated whether live witness testimony is required to succeed in a detention hearing. Our Supreme Court said “no,” in a trilogy of cases decided in January 2018. But the Court also said the clear and convincing evidentiary standard is high. The court let practitioners know that merely reiterating the indictment is 35% certainty and will rarely ever meet the clear and convincing standard of 75% certainty. The prosecutor proceeds at their own risk, hence the risk to the public every time prosecutors ignore the directives of the Supreme Court in detention hearings. . .

Our judges are doing their jobs. Criminal defense attorneys have almost no role in detention hearings, other than to say the District Attorney has not put on clear and convincing evidence when that is the case. Complete control of what evidence is put on in detention hearings rests in the absolute discretion of the prosecutor and the prosecutors are refusing to put the required evidence in their possession before the courts to establish clear and convincing evidence of dangerousness.

The bail amendment has never been tested to gauge its impact on public safety because of the power struggle the District Attorneys have taken against the judges in refusing to just put on the evidence and see what results. When the public demands the prosecutors participate as partners in the criminal justice system’s role in public safety, and the prosecutors give in and bring the courts the necessary evidence, then we will know if the bail amendment can meet the voters’ expectations in the detentions of the most dangerous defendants. Only then.

BernCo DA Torrez says he is going to go back to the legislature seeking remedies to issues he has with the courts. Whether all this enters the political arena will be determined by whether Torrez--who is expected to seek re-election--receives a primary challenge next June for the Democratic nomination. No Democrat or Republican has yet announced a 2020 DA candidacy.


State Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth was the chief sponsor of the bail amendment. He was asked on the Richard Eeds show on KTRC radio in Santa Fe about the criticism it was getting on the Tuesday blog. He defended the amendment, pointing out it had both Dem and GOP sponsors from ABQ. That full interview is here.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Judge Seats Get Hotter As ABQ Crime Wave Stokes Anger, Plus: APD Chief And Keller Aides Reap Big Pay Raises 

There was something missing at that high-profile news conference conducted by Mayor Tim Keller to announce even more crime fighting measures--there wasn't a judge in sight. Well, conflict of interest and that sorta thing, but. . .

It is the judges who are engaged in catch and release with much of the criminal element in part because of a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2016 that reset the standards for keeping someone behind bars and that are now a focal point of the crime discussion. One of our attorney readers picks up on the point:

What is not being discussed is the real story behind the "reform" of the bail system by a couple of legislative leaders and a Supreme Court justice. Well intended perhaps, but in application has created the catch and release system that criminals exploit and brings crime to us and backlogs the courts and prosecutors. Someday, somebody has to discuss how voters were led to passing a constitutional amendment that voters and the press were told was a crackdown on crime. It was the opposite, but progressive proponents cloaked the agenda by creating a fictitious diversion and the appearance of being tougher on crime.

With the ABQ metro soaked in a crime wave unlike anything seen in its modern history, it is obvious  to even those of us who mistakenly supported the measure that we were wrong--and for many of our fellow citizens dead wrong.

The legislature will be asked to revisit the issue. Whether that means asking voters to repeal the measure remains to be seen. but it's now clear that the amendment has had the opposite effect than anticipated.

The amendment is just one pice of the puzzle and while the Mayor and BernCo DA seem to be using it as a crutch to explain the failure to rein in crime, don't forget that the crime spike was well underway before the amendment took effect. The elected officials have the ultimate reasonability.


There are plenty of reasons to believe the dangerous crime will continue, not the least of which is that we have already been in an epidemic for several years. Another reason is so many teens joining gangs in the metro. Presumably many of them are making a lot of money dealing drugs. Given the troubled backgrounds of the young gangsters and the call center economy that has little appeal to them, it's yet another reason we may be in this for the very long haul--not withstanding placing 50 state troopers on the street and hiring a couple hundred more city cops.


Is raising the police chief's pay by $20,000 a year to $187,000 and giving hefty hikes to other top aides the right step when the violence epidemic rattles the city? The folks on Nob Hill, who say they have been getting the short end of the law enforcement stick, don't think so.

Republican Mayor Berry gave big raises to his staff while other city workers had their pay frozen for years because of a bad economy. Now Keller is hiking pay for Chief Geier and his other top aides in another case of bad timing. But then the APD PIO pulled down nearly $200,000 in one year by drawing questionable overtime and got away with no discipline. Nice work, if you can get it.

And the reason for giving top administrator Lawrence Rael a fat pay raise ($19,000)? The Mayor's office says it's afraid he will be lured away. Lawrence, lured away? The guy is in his 60's and wrapping up his career. Even by the standards of 11th floor spin, that is over the top.

At the upper echelon of City Hall it's happy days are here again. For Albuquerque, not so much.


A reader writes in response to the Monday blog on the northern congressional race:

You are correct that Plame might have the Anglo vote in Santa Fe in her corner but that's not nearly enough to even get close to winning to the Democratic nomination. She has zero connection to the Norteno vote. CD 3 is about connecting con la gente. The district is not for sale so money is not a guarantee of victory. I have never seen her at a Hispano or union event.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Lujan Works To Stay Ahead Of The Progressive Curve; Rejects Corporate PAC Money, Plus: Northern Congress Race Gets National Treatment As Plame Makes It Official And Her Ex Offers An Endorsement 

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is trying to stay ahead of the progressive curve as he wards off Democratic US Senate challenger Maggie Toulouse Oliver. Lujan has announced he will no longer accept corporate PAC money. That's one of three key issues for the Dem progressive wing and one MTO would like to use against him, but which now may be neutralized. Said Lujan:

My campaign. . . will not accept corporate PAC money. At the start of the last Congress, one of the first votes House Republicans took was on a bill designed to unravel protections for workers exposed to chemicals like beryllium. Beryllium is one of the chemicals that poisoned my father’s lungs and caused his cancer. Watching House Republicans vote against the health and safety needs of people like my father in order to placate special interests left me sick. . . This decision is at the core of the kind of campaign I’m running. A campaign run on New Mexican values that is built by the people, not corporations.

But MTO found a bit of wiggle room in the northern congressman's declaration, coming with this:

We’re excited to see the Congressman following Maggie’s lead and finally saying no to corporate PAC money. We think it would be a show of genuine commitment to these progressive values if the Congressman would return the nearly $200,000 he has already accepted from oil & gas, pharmaceutical companies, telecomm and other big corporations since the beginning of the year.

Lujan's rejection of corporate PAC money is not expected to hurt his fund-raising. With his national connections he is capable of raising from individuals the $3 million observers say the Senate primary will cost him.

The other two touchstones of the progressives are Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Lujan has embraced the Green New Deal but he is not supporting a Medicare for All bill that would establish a single payer system and essentially eliminate the insurance companies. But he is advocating for a public option--a bill that would allow people to buy into state Medicaid programs. MTO has said she supports both Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.


Meanwhile, in the race to replace Lujan in his northern congressional seat, outed CIA spy Valerie Plame, as expected, has made her bid for the Dem nomination official, joining what is turning into a crowded field. But unlike the other hopefuls Plame's entry generated national publicity and in turn can be expected to generate national donations. How much is key.

Plame has a base of progressive Anglos in Santa Fe County where she lives but will need to reach out to Hispanic and Native Americans in the sprawling district. But so far she has one corner of the vote to herself. In a crowded primary that could be won with a low percentage of the overall vote, that is significant.

Now that she is a candidate Plame's critics have amped up their attacks. citing in particular a past tweet she made--and later apologized for--that was viewed as anti-Semitic:

In September 2017, she tweeted out an article from the anti-Semitic conspiracy site Unz, which was titled, "America's Jews Are Driving America's Wars." The story was rife with overt Jew hatred.

Plame later apologized for the tweet:

I'm not perfect and make mistakes. This was a doozy. All I can do is admit them, try to be better and read more history next time. Ugh.

Plame, 55, has not tweeted lately and her account at last check was not active.

The anti-Semitic meme could be an issue for Plame's fund-raising but won't directly impact Jewish votes in the district because there are few. However, the Jewish faith has deep roots there as a result of the Spanish Inquisition when Jews who publicly rejected their fate secretly clung to it. From  the NM Jewish Historical Society:

Some of these conversos accepted baptism sincerely, but others converted in name only. . . Life became very difficult for these crypto-Jews, or secret Jews. Ultimately, the Inquisition became established in the Spanish colonies, and sporadic campaigns against Mexican crypto-Jews in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries stimulated a migration of these people to the far northern frontier of Mexico, including New Mexico. Inquisition trial records show clearly that. . . crypto-Jews (could) be found among the New Mexico colonists in the mid-1600s. . . Today in New Mexico vestiges of this crypto-Jewish heritage can still be found among the Hispano community. 


While they are now divorced, the ex-husband of Plame, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson who she became famous with, harbors no ill-will toward his former spouse. In fact, in an email to us he endorses her candidacy:

I don’t do politics anymore but I do want to offer my wholehearted support and endorsement of Valerie Plame’s candidacy. Her love of New Mexico and her participation in local community activities is well known, as is her support of progressive causes. She is a natural leader who knows how to get things done, and with her prior time in Washington, she will hit the ground running on behalf of her constituents. She will be a worthy successor to Ben Ray.

Wilson, 69, and Plame are the parents of twin boys now in their late teens,

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Thursday, May 09, 2019

Yvette Says This Time She's Ready To Debate Xochitl, Plus: ABQ Crime Spree Shakes State Senator; Now He Has Questions For Bernco DA  

Not that she had much choice, but southern GOP congressional candidate Yvette Herrell is changing her tune about debating Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. Herrell now says that if she is again the GOP nominee next year she will take on Torres Small in a TV debate, something she declined to do in her losing bid last year. But then who says Torres Small will agree to debate her? Well, she likely will, but if the polling shows the incumbent comfortably ahead there might be very few Yvette vs. Xochitl TV nights.

There is another candidate seeking the southern GOP congressional nod. He's Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys who has loaned his campaign over $75,000 but is being shunned by the GOP establishment in favor of Herrell. Still, he knows how to prey on Herrell's weakness, letting this loose in the Hobbs newspaper:

I like Yvette, but frankly she wasn’t strong as our nominee. She wouldn’t debate anyone. Yvette, to be candid, she had her shot. Guess what, she didn’t make it and a lot of it had to do with just not being accessible and not working hard. I think voters need someone that’s going to work hard because if you work hard to get elected, you’re going to apply that same work ethic once you are elected.

The national GOP thinks they can push Herrell to victory in 2020 but Dems think Torres Small is dodging a bullet because it is rare for a defeated congressional candidate in NM to make a comeback.

Meanwhile, the northern congressional race is kind of slow. How slow? Well, the news is that an unknown candidate who was in the race for the Democratic congressional nomination for several weeks, Mark McDonald of Raton, is getting out of the race and endorsing Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna who is not yet an official candidate. Serna is expected to toss his hat into the ring by month's end. Yep, that's pretty slow going.


The ABQ crime crisis is impacting one state lawmaker personally. Take a look at this Facebook post from ABQ Dem State Senator Jacob Candelaria:

When are we going to see an improvement in public safety in this city? (I was) almost the victim of a potentially life threatening road rage incident Tuesday afternoon. A driver pulled a gun (after almost hitting me as he was driving way over the speed limit on Academy Blvd) he then changed lanes to try and pull next to me. I had to duck into a residential area to get away. 

Two years ago the legislature appropriated millions to the District Attorney for a safer ABQ. I helped fight for that money in the Senate. When are we going to see the results? Gun crime is on the rise. UNM student killed. Postal worker killed. Time to demand results. This three days before my wedding. This week I’ve gotten three calls from constituents feeling that ABQ is becoming a more dangerous city. I know the feeling.

Candelaria, who said he reported the incident to APD, is a new member of the important Senate Finance Committee. In 2018 that committee and the legislature approved a big budget increase for the office of BernCo DA Raul Torrez to improve crime fighting efforts. As the crime wave continues, Candelaria says he intends on grilling Torrez on how that money is being employed and why the city seems to be getting more dangerous, not less.

Tillery and Candelaria
As for his wedding, Candelaria, 32, is marrying Kory Tillery, 27, the son of Glen Tillery, president of Tillery Chevrolet in Moriarty. Kory Tillery is graduating from the UNM School of Medicine Friday.

The wedding is Saturday at Santa Fe's Eldorado Hotel and will be quite the social event with Governor Lujan Grisham officiating.

Candelaria won't be putting more heat on ABQ officials over the crime wave right away. Following the wedding he says the newlyweds will be honeymooning in the British Virgin Islands for two weeks.

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