Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

There's a lot of discontent over the presidential choices being offered up this year by both political parties. It's captured nicely in this political cartoon from Derrick Lee, a student at the ABQ branch of the the Southwest University of Visual Arts.

Derrick's caption is "We picked them?" as he wonders how voters could have picked this Final Four.

The cartoon also reminds us that the choices offered this presidential cycle could mean lower turnout from dissatisfied voters. ABQ pollster Bruce Donisthorpe is already predicting that NM turnout in November is likely to fall below the level of the 2012 election. How much lower he says will become more clear closer to the election.

Thanks for sending that in, Derrick. We have a feeling we'll be seeing more of your work in the future.


Is it possible that NM has more payday loan stores than it does fast food chain restaurants? We have plenty of both but a group arguing for a rate cap on loans the payday industry can charge says payday loaners do indeed outnumber McDonalds and the rest of them. They say the interest rates charged--mainly to low income consumers--can soar to as much as 2,700 percent. That doesn't leave much left over for a Big Mac. Rate cap legislation has yet to take hold in Santa Fe.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a  town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.


The June 7th NM primary is sneaking up on us and activity is starting to pick up. From Los Lunas:

On Friday, April 29th at 3:00PM, the NM Federation of Labor’s 2nd Annual Gracias Bus Tour will make its third stop, in Los Lunas, for a 2016 Election Public Forum. The goal of the five day, five city tour is to host thank you events for legislators who stopped bad bills for working families and educate voters on the importance of the 2016 election. Attendees will be able to register to vote, talk about issues and meet local political leaders. The Community Ice Cream Social and Election Forum will be at Smith’s Grocery, 2580 Main Street, Los Lunas. More information can be found at NM Working Families.


House Majority Leader Nate Gentry is off and running--but not just for re-election to his ABQ NE Heights State House seat:

Gentry swapped loafers for running shoes earlier this month when he took part in the prestigious Boston Marathon. Gentry finished the 26.2-mile race on April 18 with a time of just over 3 hours and 16 minutes. He said Tuesday hot and humid conditions weren’t ideal for him and other New Mexico-based runners. “I didn’t run as quickly as I’d hoped, but it was a cool experience,” Gentry said.

Republican Gentry's Boston Marathon run remained us of 1978 when then-NM Democratic Gov. Jerry Apodaca entered and finished the grueling race. Like Nate, Jerry was not happy with his performance and said he "barely" finished. Gentry is about 40 and Apodaca was about 43 when he made the run,

We don't know how this year's election will turn out, but when it comes to the Boston Marathon, it took a while but the state's R's have finally tied the D's.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why NM Doesn't Swing Anymore, Susana Bringing GOP Governors Here For "Summit," And A Look At The Medicaid Mess 

We wish we were but we aren't--a swing state, that is. The NM GOP seems to be longing for the good old days in a recent news release:

. . .We believe that every campaign should fight to win in New Mexico, because whoever our nominee is, the experience of campaigning in and organizing in a swing state like New Mexico would help defeat Hillary Clinton here in November.

The last time NM went R in the prez race was in 2004, we haven't selected a Republican US Senator since Saint Pete was re-elected in 2002 and after 40 years under R control, the  ABQ congressional seat went Dem in 2008 and hasn't looked back.

 If you want some swinging around here, your best bet is the dance floor--not national politics.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a  town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.


One of our Gators reports in with this:

Did you know that Gov. Martinez is hosting her fellow governors at the Corporate Policy Summit #1 on May 17th and 18th at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort in Bernalillo? Corporate Policy Summit #2 will be held in Boston on September 13-14. She's going to be busy lady and out of state most of the year until after the election. Here's part of her schedule which doesn't include campaigning for GOP governors up for re-election.

Martinez is chair of the Republican Governors Association and some of her schedule was posted on the RGA site.


How mismanaged is state government? Try this one on for size. The state may let well over $300 million in Medicaid money slip from its fingers, even though it only has to find $86 million to get the $300 million from the Feds:

Faced with limited dollars and skyrocketing Medicaid enrollment, the New Mexico Human Services Department. . . plans to generate as much as $33.5 million in savings by cutting provider rates for doctors, hospitals and dentists around the state. . .

New Mexico is seeking to close an $86 million state funding gap for Medicaid services between now and mid-2017, under budget restrictions linked to a downturn in energy markets and other spending priorities. The state budget shortfall means New Mexico is likely to forgo well over $300 million in federal matching funds for Medicaid.

The twist here is that the Martinez administration is putting the screws to the UNM Health Sciences Center to try and pry loose at least $50 million in cash for Medicaid from a stockpile of $220 million set aside mainly for a new hospital, says ABQ Dem State Senator Jerry Oriz Y Pino. He points out the administration's Medicaid cuts would be most severe for UNM Health.

The administration previously asked UNM Heath Sciences for that money but were rebuffed. Soon after the UNM Regents restructured the goverance of Health Sciences make it more answerable to the main campus. This latest move seems aimed at getting that $50 million back on the table.

The administration is not misguided in going after more UNM money for Medicaid (UNM Health contributes each year) and UNM Health is not amiss in wanting it eventually paid back like it has been in the past when the Federal matching funds come in. But the administration would not give the payback pledge when it went for the $50 million. The adults in the room need to craft a compromise and secure the hundreds of millions in federal funding rather than posturing. Or how about this. . .

Tens of millions in dollars of capital outlay funds just sit there unspent. That could be a source of onetime money to plug the $86 million hole that would then turn into well over $300 million, thanks to the federal match.

If we do see Medicaid payments slashed, one reader says look for this:

Under paid doctors will flee the state for more lucrative grounds, especially the high income medical specialists.

The doctors better not leave too soon. Thousands of New Mexicans getting sick to their stomachs over the lack of leadership around here are going to need them.


UNM Health stockpiled its $220 million so it can pay cash for a new UNM hospital. But is that really wise? Interest rates are at historic lows. We could build that hospital by floating bonds at these great rates and free up cash for Medicaid and other needs.

UNM Health also gets $90 million in taxes for its indigent fund, even in the aftermath of Obamacare which is aimed at providing everyone with private health insurance or through Medicaid.

From this perch it looks as if Bernalillo County property owners may be over taxed when it comes to the health complex.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Intel Layoffs Get Political As Dems Push Them In The Lap Of GOP, Plus: Yates Vs. Rogers And Another Letter Bomb: GOP Infighting Features Some Media Bashing 

The layoffs at Intel are coming with political recriminations this time around and the Democrats are hoping that leads to political consequences.

Reports Tuesday pegged the number of layoffs at the Rio Rancho chip plant at 215, shrinking the workforce from 1,900 to 1,685 and delivering another body blow to the metro economy. Soon, it seems, there will be little more than a skeleton crew out there, barring a surprise.

The layoffs here are part of 12,000 the company is making worldwide.

Perhaps the layoffs will finally spark a long overdue debate about the dreary area job market, especially about good paying jobs like those being lost and not being created. From the state Dems:

The job cuts at Intel just add to a long history of lost jobs under (Gov, Martinez's) watch. Democrats have been working to invest in early childhood education, job training programs, and college education in an effort to build long-term economic security in our state and ensure New Mexicans have the skills needed to get ahead in this economy, while Martinez and state Republicans continue to focus on their all-crime, all the time agenda. 

The lack of focus from Governor Martinez and Republicans in the state is having a damaging effect on New Mexico’s economic future.

Dem attorney Daymon Ely, seeking the state House seat where Intel is located and currently held by GOP State Rep. Paul Pacheco, joined in the hit. He called on Pacheco to address the "job crisis."

I challenge my opponent, Paul Pacheco, who represents this district and has done nothing to address these critical issues, to meet with me in an open forum so that we can hear his plans on how to save our community.

A call to Pacheco for a response was not returned. He was in the fore at the last legislative session in the effort to repeal driver's licenses for undocumented workers which finally passed with a compromise. But Pacheco has been quiet on the jobs and economy front as a portion of his district is devastated by the Intel retreat. The seat leans R but Ely has raised a lot of money.

The Dems will have to pound hard and consistently to switch the political agenda from  the "all crime all the time" campaign that is coming from the R's and that was their central focus in the recent legislative session. One news release won't do it.


Current Senior Alligator odds on control of the House next year: The odds currently favor the R's keeping the House but it's close--6 to 5 in favor of the R's. The odds on the R's taking control of the state Senate are 20 to 1. We'll revisit the odds as develops warrant.


There was some media talk circulating that the loss of the Intel workers is actually an opportunity because many of them are highly trained and creative. That went over like a lead balloon with many of our readers, including reader Kathryn Carrol:

The real brain power now working at the plant will be moved to other Intel locations - those remaining are beyond their prime and will be interested only in a buyout or an enhancement to boost their pension. Went through that with a then-60-year old husband with 30 years of service when IBM devastated the manufacturing plant in Tucson back in the late '80s. The enhanced pension and free medical coverage for life for both employee and spouse was a nice sweetener.

There was a good job growth report released about the ABQ metro Tuesday but it appears most of the jobs being created remain on the low-paying side and not the kind that are going to keep talented younger people from fleeing for greener pastures.


Rogers (Bralley)
Pat Rogers is using some media bashing to try to prevent a loss in his race for NM GOP National Committeeman to former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates. He released his response to Yates' recent delegate letter that said its time for Rogers to go, saying the Republican Governor and state House have squandered their years in power by doing little to create jobs.

The Rogers letter (here) runs 1,700 words and contains a lengthy passage about "Democrat dominated newspapers and bloggers." Said Rogers of Yates:

We also have very different means of communicating. That is why I am writing to you and other Republican delegates and leaders directly, personally, and privately. I would never choose to communicate with you about Republican Party internal debates through the statewide media or through Democrat-dominated newspapers and bloggers’ so that our discussion becomes, as Harvey has chosen to try to make it, a public airing of perceived
injuries and grievances. I don’t see that as effective in moving our Party or our Country forward.

Actually, it's this "blogger" Pat is talking about since we're the only one covering the race. The notorious Rogers has given us great copy for 13 years and his thin skin regarding us is legendary.

He did not mention that the liberal New Mexican actually endorsed Governor Martinez for re-election in 2014.

Rogers accuses Yates of making his announcement for committeeman in the New Mexican which he says in the bag for the D's. The story was actually first reported here (yeah, we still chase an ambulance once in a while) and did not come from Yates--but from readers who informed us of his candidate letter. He also formally announced--with Rogers present--at the recent BernCo GOP County Convention.

Rogers, long a fixer for the Martinez political Machine (remember the state racino lease for the Downs at ABQ?), has had the committeeman slot for eight years, but this contest to be decided at the state GOP convention in May looks close as we draw nearer to the post-Martinez era. Maybe that's why he spent 1,700 words on the attack.


The CNN political analysis team said last night that it expects Donald Trump to get "a few more delegates" than Cruz and Kasich from the NM June 7th GOP presidential primary. We take that as a prediction that Trump will carry the state which would surprise no one, given the momentum Trump picked up from the primaries back East last night.


We mentioned that Bernie Sanders plans to put several staffers on the ground here for the Dem presidential primary. And so is Hillary:

Hillary for New Mexico campaign will be led by State Director Scott Forrester. Rich Thuma will serve as Organizing Director and Victor Reyes will serve as Communications Director. . .Hillary for New Mexico will open offices throughout the state in the coming weeks. . .Forrester served as political director for her 2008 New Mexico operation. From 2009-2013, he served as the Executive Director of the state Democratic Party. Scott is the co-founder of Bosque Strategies, a political consulting firm. Supporters in New Mexico who want to get involved and join Hillary for New Mexico should visit.


New Mexico First, a bipartisan public policy organization is hosting a  town hall on the state's economy. Help create recommendations for New Mexico's leaders. Click here to register.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How Will Cruz-Kasich Pact Play Out? Cruz Walks To Let Kasich Trot But Trump Holds The High Cards, Plus: The Daze Of Darren; From Painkillers To Pot  

The anti-Trump forces want it to be Kasich vs. Trump in the New Mexico June 7th GOP presidential primary as Cruz and Kasich form a pact to stop Trump from getting the magic number of national GOP delegates and capturing the party's  nomination. That has Cruz taking a pass on active campaigning in the state and Kasich having the field to himself and The Donald.

But Texas Senator Cruz is a much better fit for the state and was ahead of Trump by one point in the February ABQ Journal poll. Veteran pollster Brian Sanderoff tells me it's a good bet that Cruz will still finish ahead of Kasich here, pact or no pact:

This pact seems to help Cruz the most since if he peels off some Kasich supporters in Indiana he could possibly win the state and get all the delegates. Kasich stands no chance in Indiana, so it's OK for him to say he will stop focusing there. In New Mexico where Trump and Cruz are doing well, it doesn't matter if Cruz deemphasizes NM thereby losing NM by a few points because he will still get some delegates due to our proportional allocation of delegates at both the state and congressional district level.

The pact was already in danger of unraveling soon after it was announced. It also sounded desperate. From the WaPo:

If Donald Trump could have engineered a scenario that would fire up his anti-establishment base any more than it already is, the public announcement of a Cruz-Kasich alliance would be how he would have done it. Now it's not just hard-to-understand delegate math where the GOP establishment is plotting against Trump but a high-profile handshake agreement between a sitting senator and governor.

New Mexico has only 24 delegates to the national convention. New Mexico will decide 21 delegates on June 7th. Three others go to party insiders. A candidate has to get at least 15% of the statewide vote to qualify for delegates. The state GOP has put out a delegate primer here.

Kasich should run his best in ABQ and its suburbs and maybe make a move in the Hispanic North. Trump will fight it out with Cruz in the conservative south and southeast. Trump will be the favorite for the overall win. There are simply not enough "moderate R's" like Kasich who will be voting in the NM primary to propel him into the victory circle or close to it and conservative Cruz supporters will be loathe to cross over and vote for Kasich.

Maybe Gov. Martinez can help fellow Governor Kasich here, but after her problems in this contest (endorsing Rubio who shortly after dropped out and bad mouthing Trump at a private lunch which was leaked to the press) she might want to do it on the down low.

As it stands New Mexico won't matte much, but that it matters at all is welcome. At least we get some national publicity that for a change isn't negative.


Darren White, former Bernalillo County Sheriff, former director of the public safety divisions for the state and ABQ and a longtime Gov. Martinez political operative, continues to get scorched on social media for his flip on marijuana.

After years of opposing legalizing use of the weed White is now cashing in on the medical marijuana business. And new details have emerged about the once outspoken anti-drug crusader.

White, his son Darren Jr.  and two other investors are reported to be investing $1 million in the medical marijuana business PurLife. White is the company's CEO and security director. Of course, that business was given a license to operate by. . . drum roll please. . . the Department of Health of the state of New Mexico that is controlled by. . .second drum roll. . . Gov. Martinez (and her powerful political consultant and Darren BFF Jay McCleskey.)

The report also has White disclosing being on a steady diet of narcotic pain killers for back and knee jury pain. That's how he says he came across medical marijuana whose side effects are not as powerful. He is now a medical marijuana user. Here's his quote:

A steady diet of consuming painkillers is not quality of life. The narcotic painkillers, they knock you out.

You mean Darren apparently was under the influence of narcotics during his erratic episodes in state and ABQ government and while posting numerous hate tweets on social media against Martinez critics in and outside of the media? Hmm...that explains things.

What really kills the pain of injury--or of plain old life--for Darren and company is cold hard cash. Another of his BFF's--House Majority Leader Nate Gentry--is scooping up campaign cash from medical marijuana producers as the tea leaves predict eventual legalization or decriminalization of the drug in New Mexico.

(The "nonprofit" label that has been assigned to the medical marijuana producers in the state was proven to be a sham by investigate reporter Peter St. Cyr.)

Who else deeply connected to the Martinez administration is investing in the marijuana business (with the help of the Department of Health?) And did Darren and his son really invest as much as the others in their medical marijuana business? Or were their shares of the investment much, much lower because of White's "experience with state government?"

As they say, you cant make this stuff up--well, not unless you're popping pain killers, smoking dope or getting smashed at a pizza party.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Warning For John Sanchez: Don't Mess With The Machine; Light Guv Hit On Use Of Campaign Cash And Intel's Reprieve May Not Be Much Of One  

Lt. Gov. Sanchez
Hey, John Sanchez. Don't mess with the Machine! That seems to be the none too subtle message the lieutenant governor  is getting as he grapples with headlines accusing him of possibly unethical behavior. Here's the gist:

. . . Sanchez is under fire for using more than $40,000 in campaign funds during the 2014 election to pay himself rent for an office in an Albuquerque warehouse that he owns. The building. . . is also used by Sanchez’s Right Way Roofing company. Beginning in January 2013, Sanchez used the office as headquarters for his campaign as he ran unopposed for re-election in the 2014 Republican primary and in the general election on a ticket with Gov. Martinez, who won. . . over Democrat Gary King. “If I was trying to hide something, I wouldn’t have reported it,” Sanchez said. . . Democrats as well as a group that has pushed campaign reforms in the state blasted Sanchez.

The rent story was dug up from Sanchez's recent campaign finance report. You can't prove that it was the Governor's political Machine that was behind this one, but it was eerily similar to an attack leveled by Martinez against Dem foe King in the '14 Guv race. Here's the TV ad from then:

Politician Gary King. Insider deals. While in the statehouse, Gary King wrote legislation for the state to lease an office building in Moriarty. But King never mentioned who owned that building he was asking the state to lease — Gary King. He used his elected position to push a state contract to himself. Gary King pocketed $192,000 from taxpayers. Politician Gary King: insider deals for him, a bad deal for us.

The context of all this is simple: Sanchez is seeking the '18 GOP gubernatorial nomination. ABQ Mayor Richard Berry is expected to seek the same nomination. Berry is backed by Martinez political consultant and Machine leader Jay McCleskey. Sanchez is their enemy.

But why now? Wouldn't the Sanchez rent story be more effective closer to that still far off Guv campaign? Probably. But as readers of this space know, Sanchez has been conducting an "Operation Separation" when it comes to fellow Republican and Governor Martinez.

He has twice taken to Facebook in recent weeks. First, on March 21 he questioned the Governor-appointed UNM Regents on how they revamped the governing structure of the UNM Health Sciences Center.  Second, on April 1 he veered further to the right on abortion than Martinez, questioning UNM's role in a fetal tissue controversy. This, in part, because he does not want to be strangled by Martinez's possible unpopularity as happened to Diane Denish, Light Guv under Dem Guv Richardson, who was defeated by Martinez in 2010. And Sanchez also wants to keep social conservatives disgruntled with Martinez and Berry under his roof. They are important in a GOP nominating contest.


Naughty John appears to have gotten the Guv's goat so it was payback time now. Not later. And never mind that the story might be better used down the road. That's how the Machine rolls.

As for the political impact of the report, Sanchez handled it well in his on camera interview and it will strike some as a campaign process story. But it did have some sting and reminded you of how the Machine has poisoned so many Hispanic Dems over the years over ethical issues. Berry could move to lump Sanchez in with that crowd as he faces an uphill battle to take the Guv nomination away from Sanchez. Sanchez is not naive and blamed the rent report, if vaguely, on his "political opponents."

Sanchez has tried to soften his separation operation by dumping his breaks with the Fourth and Fifth Floors on Friday afternoons on Facebook. Now he's finding out that you can't negotiate with machines. You either fight or die.


It's not certain how much of a reprieve it will be, but for now Intel says--contrary to speculation--it will not close its giant computer chip plant in Rio Rancho. But that doesn't mean it will ever return to being the once robust operation it was. The new speculation has Intel laying off employees there again this week--along with thousands of others worldwide--but keeping the plant open on a caretaker basis. If that's the case the current 1,900 workforce could shrink into the hundreds over the next few years.

The slow and agonizing downsizing of one of the state's major employers has given rise to discussion about the hundreds of millions in ongoing tax breaks and incentives Intel received for locating here over 30 years ago.

Tom Cafcas of Good Jobs First (an outfit that tracks the impact of tax subsides) says companies are increasingly focusing on education and infrastructure, and if New Mexico wants a takeaway from Intel, it is to spend money not on tax incentives, but on investments in public amenities.

“Focus on basic investments in workforce training or transportation assets or education … in this case. . .Those are the things driving where companies locate,” he said. “This is an important moment to step back and notice.”

Once again it appears an expert is anyone from out of town. Santa Fe, operating under an umbrella of austerity for the entirety of this decade, isn't listening.

It makes you wonder what Gov. Martinez and the traveling Amigos--a high-roller group that each year travels to different cities to promote business in the state--is telling New Yorkers and South Carolinians--this year's destinations. Maybe they're trying to sell them a plant in Rio Rancho.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Photo Blog 

El Rito Fiesta 1981
The NYT comes with this photo series documenting life here in the early 80's.

The images in "A Loving Look at Hispanic New Mexican Life" were taken by Kevin Bubriski on his first trip here. Enjoy. . .
And we snapped this fella crossing the street fearlessly and with purpose in Glenwood Hills in the far ABQ NE Heights. Nothing like a spring time walk with a little spring in your step.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Back On The Bursting Econ Beat: Top Analysts Say Intel Closure In View. Santa Fe Policy Makers Get Candid On Economy But Where's The Plan? And Readers Offer Big Ideas For A "Failed State." 

The prospect of 1,900 lost jobs and the shuttering of the big Intel plant at Rio Rancho appears closer than most in the general public may believe. A look at the views of those who get paid to follow the chip maker is a very loud wake-up call:

Jim McGregor, a principal analyst with TIRIAS Research who follows Intel, says it's most likely that Intel will close the Rio Rancho plant: "Rio Rancho has several things going against it — it is an older fab, it is landlocked and it is not tied to a major engineering center."

Analyst Dean McCarron of Mercury Research had a similar take: "Given Intel's cutbacks on factories and the obvious lack of upgrades to Rio Rancho and the specific statement about head count reduction through combining facilities, I would say that Rio Rancho's prospects to benefit from the [Internet of things] and data center shift are very slim."

Analysts think the chance of luring a replacement computer chip company are slim.

A closure would not only mean 1,900 employees out of work but would also impact the many contractors who do business there, worsening the economic blow.

Even though the company has already shed thousands of employees, given the number still there a shuttering of Intel would be one of the most dramatic and damaging economic stories in the metro's modern history.


It's not that Santa Fe doesn't know what's going on. They do. It's just that there is no macro economic plan for New Mexico. And given the challenges the state faces there never may be. Look at the latest economic summary from the Legislative Council Service and the Legislative Finance Committee. The policy wonks seem more like your blog--writing more directly and forcefully about the grave condition of things:

New Mexicans, especially those who are younger and better educated, are leaving the state for better-paying and more available jobs — and an equally attractive quality of life that includes natural beauty and outdoor recreation — in surrounding states. These young, educated persons are the foundation of a workforce that attracts employers, drives the economy with their spending and helps create a vibrant socioeconomic synergy, all of which is important to a strong economy.

And the bean counters have this update on the state's depopulation:

"People are moving out of here. The economy has rebounded faster elsewhere, and they're leaving", (said) Robert Rhatigan of the Geospatial and Population Studies Program at UNM. He reported that the state's natural expansion is about the same as the rest of the United States, but the outmigration of residents has caused the population to remain flat or decline. 

New Mexico's population, which grew by more than 20% between 1990 and 2000, and by more than 13% between 2000 and 2010, is now projected to grow by just 6% between 2010 and 2020. Total non farm employment grew by just 300 jobs between February 2015 and February 2016, according to the Workforce Solutions Department. Higher-paying jobs across nearly every field in surrounding states continue to lure New Mexicans away from the Land of Enchantment, according to an analysis by the Legislative Council Service. . . 

As we've said time and again the future New Mexico will be a much different place than your father's New Mexico.


Reader Jim McClure is always ready to hop on the economic bandwagon and offer a pithy comment or two. We thought at first this suggestion was tongue-in-cheek but it's not:

Joe, your recent post about New Mexico being a failed state was right on target. Let’s get to the root of the problem. I’m talking statehood. Statehood probably looked like a good idea in 1912, but after 104 years New Mexico still is not making it as a full-fledged state. We have seen significantly less economic and population growth than neighboring states. Our population is shrinking as productive citizens leave the state. We depend on the federal government for support, and are so isolated that most Americans think New Mexico is a foreign country. We’re like Puerto Rico with less debt.

New Mexicans have consistently elected leaders who have failed to perform the core functions of government: public safety, education and economic development. It’s obvious that self-government is not working for us. So let’s vote to dissolve New Mexico and invite neighboring states to divvy up the territory. Our citizens would see an immediate benefit from the growing economies and rule of law in Texas, Arizona and Colorado. And Northerners would get legalized marijuana. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Sure, it’s a big step. Congress would have to approve it and remove a star from the flag. But since statehood is not working, it’s worth a shot.

History shows New Mexico got the dirty end of the stick when it was finally granted statehood. We were unable to come into the Union with Arizona as originally planned. Now 104 years later folks like McClure are starting to talk about another try. Incredible.


Former New Mexico politico Chris Cervini is another reader who has chimed in about the woes of the state in an articulate way. He's now the Director of External Affairs Outreach for Austin Community College and wants to react to our "failed state" posting:

Joe --Juxtapose the grim economic news with the vision of ABQ Mayor Berry touting the "Albuquerque economic miracle" here at an Austin conference last month and you wonder where's the outrage?

Maybe it's because there has been no mainstream media outlets looking critically at the economic policies of Gov. Martinez/Berry for the more than half decade they've been running the show. They and the impotent leadership in the state business community have shrouded themselves in tax cuts as a panacea to all our economic woes. Guess what? It hasn't worked. 

New Mexico needs it's own New Deal -- it needs large scale job retraining and adult basic education so people can have the skills to compete for jobs and support their families. It needs to completely rethink pre-K-20 education to give our kids pathways to careers. It needs an economic plan that plays to the state's strengths -- of which it has many. It needs to support (both financial and education) home-grown entrepreneurship and building the economy from the ground up. Only then, when we start making our own "scene" of innovation and can-do spirit will we be able to start attracting the outside companies looking to invest here.

This is not a two-year fix. This is a decades-long proposition. That's the challenge.

Reader Larry has more from Las Cruces:

Hi Joe, Your Monday blog only touched on education as among the many downward trends in our economy. NMSU is hemorrhaging good people as they try cover a $10.6 million cut in state funding. The good people who can find jobs elsewhere are leaving. This leaves a staff reduced in capability and thus less able cope effectively with the downturn.

A couple of weeks ago Troy Tudor, the head of the local Chamber of Commerce, argued that a good educational system is critical to reviving the states economy but then bemoaned the fact that once our kids get a good education they will leave the state for better opportunities elsewhere; a loss on our investment. The Republican mind-set.


Reader Susan Bradley, VP of ABQ'S Media Strategies/Marketing Solutions, was one of several bemoaning the departure of longtime KOB-TV political reporter Stuart Dyson which we reported on Wednesday.

I’m so sorry to see that Stuart Dyson is retiring. I worked with him for several years both in radio and at channel 4. He is a first-rate journalist and has managed to maintain his sense of humor along the way, taking his job seriously but not himself. One of my fondest memories of Stuart is when he was still in radio and had the “Metro Murder Meter” report accompanied by the sounds of machine gun fire and chain saws. It was classic Stuart! New Mexico’s news coverage will suffer with his departure and frankly, I was looking forward to his political coverage as we approach the general election. . . 

Aah, the good old "Murder Meter from over 30 years ago. Well, the more things change. .

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"For Sale" Sign Seems Planted On Intel's Giant Rio Rancho Plant As More Layoffs Loom; Governor Still Talking Crime As Intel Unwinds, And: Harvey The Heretic; Yates To Challenge Rogers For GOP Post, Also: TV Reporting Legend Dyson Says Adios 

So what's to be done with the giant Intel manufacturing plant perched on the hill in Rio Rancho? How about "The Largest Country Western Dance Hall and Brew Pub West of the Mississippi?" Those are things New Mexicans know pretty well. Or, with the R's in charge around here and blaming all of the state's woes on the criminals--not the economy--how about we put another state penitentiary out there?

You might want to get your own proposal ready because Tuesday Intel all but put a "For Sale" sign out in its front yard, announcing 12,000 worldwide layoffs among its workforce of 107,000. No one is thinking Rio Rancho which had 5,000 employees a decade ago and is now down to 1,900 will be spared. In fact, most business observers say this is it--turn out the lights, the Rio Rancho party is over.

Intel now says "attrition" (retirements etc.) not layoffs has taken the number of employees from the previously reported 2,300 to 1,900. They didn't say why they let the higher number hang out there but as they say no news is good news. . .

Intel announced the layoffs will take place over the course of a year but the slow death of the chip plant continues to take its toll on once booming Rio Rancho where population soared to 90,000 during the boom years but is now hitting the wall. Just this week Albertson's announced it is closing a grocery store there. And what about the many contractors for Intel who are often handsomely paid? They will all be out too, if the plant closes. Rio Rancho will be plunged into a recession. ABQ will also take a major hit.

No one wants ownership of the economic disaster in Rio Rancho or the rest of the state. How much don't they want it? On the day Intel was announcing its layoffs Gov. Martinez was talking about...you guessed it....crime:

. . . People facing DWI charges in five New Mexico counties are expected to have their case outcomes put on social media in real time by the state’s Department of Transportation. It is part of Gov. Martinez's anti-DWI plan to hire civilians to try to keep track of how judges handle DWI cases. She announced that a contract to start the program has been signed with Mother’s Against Drunk Driving. It’s time to “hold the justice system accountable for failing to punish DWI criminals,” she said

The governor wants the justice system held accountable. Okay, how about we do that and then hold the Governor accountable for her drunken and vindictive behavior at her holiday party? And for her completely ignoring the pain of lost jobs and the economic crisis to the point of never mentioning it?

Who lost Intel? The answer for what passes as the economic and political elite here seems to be "Who cares?"


The quiet as a mouse Dems stayed quiet on this latest dreary economic episode, although Dave Simon, a Dem state senate candidate for the Sandoval County area district that includes Intel, did nibble on the cheese put out by Intel. But the cat still has the tongue of the Dems. Can they take back the state House from the R's by keep hitting the mute button?


Rather than dealing with the yucky, persistent and depressing problems of New Mexico Martinez, chair of the Republican Governors Association, continues to play way over her head as she dances around the national stage. Her dance card is filled with missteps. Like her announcement that she would no longer make a visit to North Carolina and its GOP Governor. She weakly said the visit was canceled because of a scheduling conflict, not because of that state's controversial embrace of an anti-LGBT law governing the use of public restrooms. Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino has the strike:

Amazing, isn't it? I don't know what's worse, Susana's lack of loyalty to a fellow GOP governor in trouble or her patently fake excuse for not being able to help out: a scheduling conflict. She should either stand by him or speak boldly about why she won't. This is her characteristic flight-from-reality response to all tough decisions and it helps explain her continuing ostrich approach to her home state's economic meltdown: Let's pretend it isn't happening and maybe it will go away. A leader she is not.

And another reader points out:

Sooner or later she is going to have to visit the controversy head-on because Governor Pat McCrory is up for re-election this year and by all accounts it was considered a toss-up before this controversy. The Republicans are certainly not going to want to lose that governorship, so she is probably going to have to campaign for him sooner or later, making an appearance in NC. She took on the big job of chairing the governors association, but apparently wants only the perks of the job.

And then Martinez comes with this:

Gov. Martinez strongly supports Gov. McCrory and looks forward to campaigning for him later this year,” Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez said Tuesday.

Say what?

It doesn't stop there. After saying on Saturday in New York that she is staying neutral in the GOP presidential race, the WaPo reports she let loose on Trump at a Sunday lunch for GOP donors held at a Florida mansion owned by the Koch Brothers. First, she's for Rubio, then she's neutral and now she isn't so neutral. What will it be next week?


Not all Republicans are worshipping at the Martinez/McCleskey altar and Harvey Yates is going to try to bring them out of the closet. The former NM GOP chairman confirms he is running against Pat Rogers, the notorious attorney for the Martinez political machine, for the position of GOP National Committeeman, a post Rogers has held for eight long years.

Yates' distaste for Martinez and Company is long-standing but now he gets to make his case and if he succeeds he could begin dismantling the machine that so many R's feel repressed under, but also are so fearful of.

Yates wrote to the delegates (full letter here) who will decide his race with Rogers at the May state GOP convention. He candidly detailed how the GOP frittered away the power it worked so hard to achieve:

. . . We had campaigned on our capacity to work with interested Democrats to move New Mexico out of the economic doldrums. Yet, job creation between 2010 and 2014 (the last year for which complete data are available) was one-half to one-third that of surrounding states.. . There. . . has been virtually no job creation in New Mexico since 2010. . .It was our job to work with moderate to conservative Democrats in a bipartisan way to change the direction of the state so jobs would be created. Yet, instead, a remarkable lack of civility as well as impolitic choices made by some, both undermined our capacity to work with formerly willing Democrats and unnecessarily divided our party. 

Yates is tricky for the machine to handle. His oil business gives him plenty of "F You" money so he doesn't have to worry about the machine's vindictiveness but clearly the machine has to worry about him.

 By the way, the vote for committeeman is done by secret ballot. Maybe that will give some of those fearful R's the courage of their real convictions.


Monahan & Dyson (2008)
If there's a legend in local TV news reporting it's KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson. The 64 year old has been on the political beat (and many others) for 40 years. That long and productive run came to an end this week as Dyson retired from KOB-TV by simply saying "it's time."

Dyson, whose punchy writing style, brilliant sense of humor and premature gray hair made him stand out from the crowd, covered NM gubernatorial campaigns going back to Jerry Apodaca in '74 when we shared the newsroom with him at KUNM-FM. He told us:

The most memorable campaign for me was 1994 when Republican Gary Johnson faced incumbent Governor Bruce King. Not only did Gary not air one negative ad but as I recall he never even mentioned King by name. Johnson's on-camera admission to me that he had smoked marijuana and inhaled was a shock back then and really shook things up.

Johnson went on to win two gubernatorial terms. Dyson himself got a taste of insider politics when he served for three years as a spokesman for NM Senate Democrats, but the lure of the newsroom was powerful and he was soon back on the beat.

Unlike most TV reporters who use medium-sized ABQ as a stepping stone, Dyson settled in, watching his fame grow as he presented quirky stories on "killer bees" and the like. He accepted an offer to work in Minneapolis--a much larger TVmarket than ABQ--but the brutal cold was no match for New Mexico and he was quick taking the return trip.

Dyson, who we teamed up with to provide years of political analysis for KOB, says New Mexico has changed dramatically over the course of his career.

The politics, the economy and the TV industry--all of it. And it is not as much fun. TV reporters are expected to do much more with less these days and I respect the younger ones who are really churning it out.

That frustration with the business, he said, was partly the cause of what led to a near physical confrontation with KOB-TV anchor Tom Joles last year and that made front page headlines. "That was a signal that it was probably time to go." He said.

So off goes Stuart Dyson but not without having written his own and very colorful chapter in the never ending book of La Politica.¡Hasta luego! Stu.


Several readers pointed out that in a passage we quoted from a 2014 Santa Fe Reporter article Randy Briggs was identified as an opthamologist . He is an optometrist. There's a big difference between the two. Among them: opthamologists are required to have medical degrees and optometrists are not.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Latest Political Chatter On State's Congressional Delegation, More On Nora Vs. Maggie In SOS Contest, And: A Potpourri On Pot 

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan
Here are the questions our Alligators are asking about  the state's congressional delegation this spring. . .

Is Democratic US Senator Tom Udall really serious about running for governor in 2018? The answer is like the weather--it changes a lot.

Would Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich really leave his senate seat to accept an appointment as Secretary of Interior under a President Hillary Clinton, leaving Republican Governor Susana Martinez to name his replacement? The answer is maybe.

Will ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham run for governor in '18? It all depends on the answer to today's first question.

Will northern Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, oversee a takeover of the House from the R's this year because of the unpopularity of the GOP's presidential candidate? The answer is no, but the Dems could pick up some seats.


Nora's old look
More today on what could be a hot and heavy race for secretary of
state. We blogged last week of how Republican SOS hopeful Nora Espinoza has shed her showy hats, undergone a makeover and raised enough money to make her competitive with Dem SOS hopeful Maggie Toulouse Oliver, at least in the early going. Toulouse Oliver campaign consultant Alan Parkman isn't buying the new package:

Espinoza has only recently developed an "interest" in campaign laws and ethics reforms. Over her more than nine years in the New Mexico House, Espinoza introduced exactly zero bills on these issues until after her last-minute effort to get her name on the ballot. 
Newer Nora

It's going to take more than a wardrobe change for New Mexicans to think that Nora Espinoza is anything more than a far-right puppet of the Martinez Administration. (Former State Senator Rod Adair is her campaign manager? Really? Not the best choice given that the last secretary of state candidate he worked for ended up in prison.)

The fact is voters. . . want an experienced leader with integrity who can right the ship and ensure transparency and accountability. . . For the same nine years that Nora Espinoza was spending all of her time trying to ban books and outlaw same-sex marriage, Maggie Toulouse Oliver was modernizing voter systems, expanding access to the ballot and making Bernalillo County elections processes a national model. The choice is clear.

Meanwhile, the Espinoza campaign continues to try to frame the race as in play, even though the Dems say higher voter turnout in the presidential election year will guarantee a victory:

Nora Espinoza raised $101,234.48 through last weekend. While Maggie Toulouse Oliver reported contributions of $189,931.20, Espinoza. . . has only been running for 8 weeks, while Oliver has been campaigning for 6 months. 

“My opponent began taking contributions on October 6,” Espinoza said, “I did not  even gather a single signature till January 25, and didn’t begin my campaign till February 9. That makes a big difference.”  

Espinoza reported raising a total of $78,274.48 on her first report, but stated: “We got another $23,000 during the week following the cutoff for the 1st Report, and those funds can’t be reported till May. We are getting great support from individual donors.” Toulouse Oliver currently shows $106,682.61 on hand, compared with Espinoza’s $101,537.68. 

The Secretary of State's race is the only statewide executive office on the ballot this year. Neither Toulouse Oliver or Espinoza, a Roswell state representative, is opposed in the June 7th primary. As you can seen the general election campaign for this pair is well underway.


In blogging the recent campaign finance reports, we quoted this passage from a 2014 Santa Fe Reporter article:

Randy Briggs is planning to host Martinez at a $2,600-a-plate fundraiser at his home this Thursday, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Briggs, a Carlsbad native and optometrist, is also listed as the business agent for Grandote Green LLC. The company applied for a commercial development license earlier this year to start a "marijuana medical and retail" business in La Veta, a tiny town of 800 in the south central region of Colorado.

Briggs responds with this:

First, a minimum requirement of Colorado for dispensers and growers is that license applicants must have been in-state residents for at least two years. I am a lifelong New Mexico resident, and I always will be.

Second, I have never applied to be a marijuana dispenser or grower, nor do I ever plan to. I’m a land owner and property manager (Grandote Golf & Country Club). That’s it. 

The very misleading reference to a “commercial development permit” was just a first-time zoning application for an old building that was acquired with the purchase of the golf course, and it had never been zoned. With a zoning permit, it’s customary to check every box, and I happened to be the first lucky applicant to check the newly added “marijuana medical and retail” box along with all the others. Being first generated news in the small town, but I was simply navigating local codes for legitimate and legal operations for a tenant’s use of the building. . .

Maybe “marijuana medical and retail” on the application sounds scandalous in New Mexico where non-medical, retail operations are not legal, but I’m just a retired landlord with properties in Colorado, not a “connection” to the medical marijuana industry, as you put it. Randy Briggs, O.D.


Dd you know how close to Arizona is to holding a vote on legalizing marijuana in the November election?

The campaign to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Arizona has gathered more than 200,000 signatures in its effort to qualify for the November ballot, it reported Tuesday. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which has been pushing the effort for about a year, needs 150,642 signatures from registered voters to make the ballot. Some of the gathered signatures may be invalid because they were signed by people who cannot vote. To account for invalid signatures, the group aims to collect about 225,000 signatures, a spokesman said, and hopes to have a healthy cushion once the signatures are verified by the Secretary of State's Office. Barrett Marson, a campaign spokesman, could not say when those signatures would be filed with that office.

Thanks to Tuscon reader Kathryn Carroll for the heads-up.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

A Failed State? Economic Minefields Continue To Explode Across The State As Intel Layoff Announcement Looms; Crime And Education Stats Spread More Gloom And Doom; The News And The Analysis Is Up Next 

We're pulled back on the econ beat as a major Intel development is impending and demands the real deal, no-holds-barred biz coverage you will get only here. . .

It's as if New Mexico has become an economic booby trap. Everywhere you step another minefield explodes.

--In the southeast it's the oil and gas price crash threatening to plunge the region into recession--if it's not already there--and acting like a Boa constrictor on the state's budget.

--In the south Las Cruces is still stuck in a recession that began over a year ago.

--In the southwest Luna County unemployment is threatening the 20% mark and layoffs hit the mining industry in Grant County.

--In Alamogordo they are preparing for a deep recession in a couple of years as the German Air Force announces nearly 500 military and civilian employees are heading home as the Germans end their decades-long training mission at Holloman Air Force Base.

--In the west Peabody Coal announces bankruptcy, shaking up over 300 employees near Grants whose futures are uncertain.

--In the Four Corners the economy has been in a near decade long slump because of the energy crash.

--In the north budget shrinking at Los Alamos Labs ($2.242 billion in FY 12; less than $2.2 billion in FY 15) cramps the region's economy. And Santa Fe continues to be punished and miniaturized by the new and not improved tourism market.

-- In the ABQ metro we're preparing for what may be the biggest minefield explosion of them all--the possible shuttering of what is left of the once giant Intel manufacturing plant in Rio Rancho. The computer chip maker is expected to announce layoffs tomorrow. It's only a question of how bad we get hurt, not whether we're hit.

Intel has shed thousands of employees here in recent years--it had 5,300 in 2005--and is now down to 2,300 at what is clearly an antiquated plant that the company decided was not worth retrofitting.

A complete shutdown in one fell swoop played out over a short time frame would be an economic shock of historic consequence. We'll soon know, but whatever the decision the Rio Rancho housing and retail market better brace itself--and so should ABQ. 2,300 employees plus hundreds of well-paid contractors losing their jobs or threatened with job loss would cast a very long shadow indeed.


Joe Monahan
The state's economy is being radically reshaped and not for the better. Still there is no plan from the Martinez administration. The Governor, who rarely (if ever) mentions the decline, has cashed out and is now devoting herself to the national stage as she and her highly paid political consultant gobble up more PAC money.

We hear occasional chirps from beneath the rubble from the likes of businessman and sometimes politico Alan Webber in Santa Fe who has argued for an array of economic development concepts. Then there's Innovate ABQ which looks good on paper but skeptics await results.

But as the minefields continue to explode the political leadership--he Governor, the Legislature as well as the business community--seem to lack the will and/or inclination to advance the bold, big ideas necessary to give the state a chance against the immense economic forces now aligned against it. Reader Davis Lee sums it up this way:

It occurs to me that our governor is a pretty face that no one is taking too seriously--kind of like our state with pretty sunsets that no one is taking too seriously.

The remaking of the New Mexican economy in the 21st century. It's the big story and about to get a whole lot bigger. Stay tuned.


The always busy crime beat is certainly not helping the city and state get back their glamour and attract and keep young talent. Take a look:

The latest crime numbers for Albuquerque show police struggling to keep up with criminals--something that is difficult to do with dwindling officer numbers. . . For the first six months of 2015 (the state reports) some alarming increases in certain crimes over 2014. The biggest increases were in murders, robberies and car thefts. . . Also alarming in the report: two years ago, the average APD response time for Priority One calls was 10.5 minutes. That moved up to 11 minutes in 2014, and the latest numbers show the time increased another half-minute, to 11.5 minutes.

With a weak economy comes lower incomes and that means lower high school graduation rates. The news:

New Mexico schools had an overall graduation rate of about 68.6 percent for 2014-15 — down from about 69.3 percent in 2013-14. The number lags behind the most recent national statistic available, which shows an all-time high of 82 percent for 2013-14. The downward trend in New Mexico also contrasts a national trend of rising graduation numbers.

The economic implosion, the ongoing crime wave and the education crisis are signs of a failed state. Only a call for accountability from our elected leaders of all political persuasions will begin the long process of a turnaround. So far, that call has not been made.


The Bernie Sanders campaign announces it will send staffers to New Mexico at the end of the month for our June 7th primary. Hillary Clinton is also expected to have paid staff here soon. New Mexico Dems will send 43 delegates to the national convention. . . Longtime ABQ businessman and prominent Republican Bud Dziak says he is supporting Donald Trump in the state's GOP presidential primary. Dziak, who is in the insurance business, says he is raising money for Trump. He tells us: "We are raising money to fund an incredible effort for the GOP National Convention like you have never seen before."

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