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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Reader Vox Populi: An In-Depth Look At Keller And Crime Plus: MLG And The Wall; Having It Both Ways? You Decide 

Reader Norm Gagne kicks off this edition of Vox Populi with an in-depth take on Mayor Keller, crime and our coverage:

Joe, Your blog has been tough on Mayor Keller of late because of the city’s continuing crime problems (Tuesday, August 7, 2018 among others). While I agree that the Mayor and Chief Geier are now responsible, along with the City Council, for addressing crime in the Duke City, the Mayor has been in office since last December, the Chief for less time and the problem has been festering throughout the terms of the previous two Mayors, Chavez and Berry and some of the underlying causes for long before that. From your blog:

Thursday, December 1, 2005 (Inauguration Day for Mayor Chavez’ last term and well before the onset of the Great Recession)

“ABQ's biggest problem is the ongoing crime wave and the poor image it has spawned nationally. It has also been a considerable impediment to economic growth. Chavez has done about all he can in getting tough on crime. Now we face difficult social and economic issues to beat this problem.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 (During Mayor Berry’s second term and in response to his proposal for a study on the causes of crime in Albuquerque).

“Come on, Mayor. Again, it's drugs, poverty, lousy wages and few jobs. We don't need no stinkin' study. But we do need a fully staffed and reformed APD ready to protect us, more emphasis on drug prevention and treatment and more jobs.”

In his eight and one half months in office, Keller has gotten budget approval from the Council to hire one hundred additional officers this year and plans to ask for funding for one hundred more each year for the next three years. The final budget also includes money to address some of the underlying causes of crime. Keller had asked for more but some of the items were trimmed by the Council. Money was approved to fund compliance with the police reform settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Judge overseeing compliance has lauded the change in the City’s attitude and cooperation. The Mayor has announced job creation plans and other measures aimed to address underlying causes of crime.

I don’t want to sound like a public relations agent for the Mayor. The problems are many, deep and some systemic, dating back generations - failure to develop private employment opportunities because of over dependence on Federal government spending for instance. Keller and Geier will be measured soon enough by their ability to bend the curve in the right direction. But it is a bit early to declare failure and predict political consequences because crime hasn’t gone away in less than nine months.

Thanks for the thoughtful note, Norm. Let me tackle your concerns.

First, the serious crime we noted in the December 1, 2005 blog did not turn into a multi-year crime wave which is what we have on our hands in 2018, in large part because of the economic decay caused by the Great Recession. As for the Sept. 28, 2016 blog, that does back your contention that Mayor Keller indeed inherited the crime problem. We agree.

Second, we did not declare Mayor Keller's administration a "failure." We pointed out that the myriad of other topics that he has addressed in his first eight months seem to be overshadowed by the ongoing and sinister crime wave that dominates the city's conversation. Further, we said if a year from now--after which the Mayor would have had over $50 million to employ from a new tax that took effect July 1--the crime wave was still wreaking havoc then there would likely indeed be political consequences because by then the mayor would have been in office 1 year and eight months.

Finally, let's note what former ABQ City Councilor, attorney and political analyst Greg Payne believes. He says that if in a couple of years the electorate is not satisfied on the crime front, the city could be ripe for a populist crime fighter ala former NYC Rudy Giuliani.

MLG AND THE WALL

Dem Guv nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham paid a visit to the border this week and made comments that had the state GOP claiming that she performed a "flip-flop" for "political convenience" and that “Lujan Grisham says she is now for border security, including a wall at the southern border." Did she flip? Here's the report from the Las Cruces Sun News. You decide:

Most of the fencing Lujan Grisham visited has been in place about a decade, the result of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. But an extension of the tall fencing — described as a "wall" for the first time this year by the Trump administration — that began earlier this year has sparked contention amid Trump's proposal to build a full-fledged wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Asked her thoughts on the fencing, Lujan Grisham said she thinks federal lawmakers should listen to police and policymakers who are on the border. And if they "say that this physical barrier is going to help us, I think Congress has to have the resources to do that, and states need to be as supportive as they can." 

However, Lujan Grisham said spending tens of billions of dollars on a proposed wall will take away funding from manpower and technologies that "the experts in the field tell you would give you operational security" of the international border.

Meanwhile, questions arise again on how serious the Trump administration is about building a wall when it is offering peanuts to get the land needed for the project:

After months of negotiations, State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said he’s disappointed that the government’s appraisal of the land amounts to less than $9,000. He said that’s a fraction of the easement fees the state would receive for allowing a section of existing border wall and a road on the property near Santa Teresa, New Mexico. Dunn had hoped to sell the one-mile (1.6-kilometer) stretch of barren desert near where the borders of New Mexico, Texas and Mexico meet to the U.S. government for a “reasonable price. “I’m disappointed with the federal government’s confiscation of state trust lands and the compensation offered. President Trump continues his push to funnel billions of dollars to construct a border wall, yet his administration seems bent on shortchanging our beneficiaries.”

Dunn, elected as a Republican but since turned Libertarian, has been acting the part, pulling no punches with the R friendly oil and gas industry which is upset with him as well as the Trump administration. Why he wandered around running for the US House and then the Senate and not going for a second term at the land office only he knows. But with his straight talk to both R's and Dems the voters just might have given him another four years. 

THE BOTTOM LINES

The metro court trial of ABQ GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood on an aggravated DWI charge has been reset from the late August date we reported to September 12. Judge Kevin  Fitzwater will handle the case. He is retired but is called in to handle the hot potato cases that the other judges won't touch. Maybe we should send him a pair of mittens to handle this one.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Key Points Now That Johnson Is In US Senate Race, Plus: Think Positive: Former Lawmaker Wants Good News And We Deliver, Plus: Bash Vs. Youngblood; A Banner State House Race?  

We’ve already blogged extensively about Gary Johnson and what it would mean if he joined the US Senate race as the Libertarian Party nominee. Now that he has made it official here are some key points.

—The Senate race now becomes more interesting and with Johnson’s outsized personality more entertaining. The first TV debate featuring the three candidates—Dem Martin Heinrich, Johnson and Republican Mick Rich—should be the biggest ratings grabber of the political season.

—Heinrich will be kept on his toes by the Johnson candidacy and probably subjected to a negative campaign by third-party interests. That will make the race more expensive for him. However, don’t expect him to take any sudden swerves. No Libertarian has ever been elected to the US Senate and Johnson’s thinking remains outside of the mainstream.

—How much the independent Super PAC that is supporting Johnson will raise remains a big unknown. There’s only 2 1/2 months before the election. In the relatively inexpensive New Mexico TV market around $750,000 would give Johnson more than a decent TV presence for eight weeks.

—Johnson will draw from both Democrats and Republicans but in the end his victory is highly unlikely because he will split many conservative votes with Mick Rich. Also, after 25 years on the political scene there’s not a lot of upside for Gary Johnson. You either know him and like him or you know him and you don’t like him. That’s why the Heinrich polling that has Johnson in the low 20s at the start signals a roof on his support.

—The Johnson candidacy could actually have the most impact on the governor’s race and that is not good news for Republican Steve Pearce. He needs laser-like focus from this electorate if he is to pull the upset and beat Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham. Now he has to share the oxygen in the room with Gary Johnson. With Johnson’s penchant for outlandish behavior that’s like sleeping with an elephant in the room.

The Johnson Super PAC released a 90 second video in support of his candidacy Tuesday,

THE GOOD NEWS

Former ABQ Dem State Rep. Delano Garcia writes on our Facebook page:

Mr. Monahan, I agree that New Mexico has a lot of issues, but why don't you and the rest of this state's media spend just a little more time reporting the good things in NM. Let's put a little more focus on the good things just a little, not suggesting to cover up or sugar coat anything, but too much focus on all negatives!

Okay, Delano, we'll give it a whirl. Here is your positive news report:

--The NM unemployment rate for June was 4.9 percent. That puts us at 48th in the nation but still a solid improvement from recent years.

--The state general fund surplus is excepted to hit $600 million or more giving lawmakers next January a lot more breathing room to draft a budget.

--UNM's four year graduation rate has nearly doubled since 2014.

--The NM teen birth rate is at its lowest in decades.

--A heavy monsoon season has taken a bite out of the drought. In ABQ year to date rainfall total are just a bit below average.

--There are cool developments in the works for a mountain coaster and a new restaurant atop Sandia Peak, perhaps the most famous landmark in the state, and that will mean an improved experience for thousands of tourists each year as well as locals.

And there you have your good news report, Delano. You were right. It was long overdue.

BASH VS. YOUNGBLOOD

Karen Bash 
It's pretty much all pablum from the Dems thus far as they eye a possible takeover of the Republican-oriented district currently in the hands of ABQ GOP Rep. Monica Youngblood but who faces an aggravated DWI charge that will go to court at the end of the month.

The video accompanying her arrest is potentially devastating to her re-election chances. But the hit squad has not been called in yet and the Dem contender Karen Bash is playing nice. The House Dems, in listing women to watch who are running for the House, said of the race:

Karen is a former teacher and retired ordained minister who has dedicated her entire life to helping others. As a wife, mother of two and a concerned citizen, Karen knows New Mexico can do better. She is running for House District 68 because she cares about our families and our communities and wants to bring her experience and dedication to helping others to Santa Fe.

Sounds good, but Youngblood is a fighter and the initial insider polling shows the DWI charge has not significantly damaged her in the northern Westside district. It will be up to Bash and the Dems to hammer away at that, if they are to take a seat that at the start of the year was not in play but is now a ripe D target. Meantime, Youngblood needs some good news out of that DWI trial.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Breaking: Johnson Joins Senate Race; Heinrich Starts To Unload On Johnson As Former Guv Weighs US Senate Bid, Plus: More On the MLG-APO Rift, And: UNM Prez Takes Prestige Hit Over Botched Athletics Decision  

Former New Mexico Governor Gary officially joined the race Tuesday for United States Senate in New Mexico. He joins US Senator Martin Heinrich and Republican Mick Rich in the contest. 

In this mid-term election when the electorate is older than usual the Martin Heinrich campaign believes the best way to halt any early momentum for potential Libertarian Party challenger Gary Johnson is to take him down on Social Security and Medicare.

Those, of course, are the two entitlement programs that are crucial to the high-voting older population. In a fund-raising message Heinrich's campaign says of Johnson, a former two term NM GOP Governor:

In the Senate, Johnson would side with Republicans on everything from slashing Medicare and Medicaid to threatening Social Security and blocking increases to the minimum wage.

Johnson is still deciding whether to join Heinrich and Republican Mick Rich in the race. A committee is currently asking for donations for Johnson's candidacy. How that goes will probably be the deciding factor in his decision. If he does take the plunge he is going to have his hands full defending himself against a Heinrich entitlement assault. From Forbes:

Johnson favors raising Social Security’s full retirement age from the current maximum of 67 to either 70 or 72. . . Whether Americans could afford to hold off claiming until 70 or 72 to receive full benefits, however, is a real question, considering the majority of beneficiaries today start taking their Social Security money at the earliest age they can, age 62. And Johnson would like to see Social Security begin “means testing that’s very fair.” Translation: The amount people receive in Social Security retirement benefits would be based on their financial well-being at the time they apply.

And on healthcare Johnson says:

Medicaid and Medicare both need to be devolved to the states.” Johnson has referred to those programs as “the worst runaway expenditure in the federal government today.

The entertainment value of a Johnson Senate candidacy would be a ratings grabber. But what about his ratings at the polls with those controversial positions? Perhaps not so much.

THE MLG-APO RIFT

A reader writes of the rift covered on the Monday blog between Dem Guv nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham and unsuccessful Dem Guv contender Jeff Apodaca and his father, former Gov. Jerry Apodaca who has endorsed GOP Guv nominee Steve Pearce:

MLG is in a position to rise above pettiness and reach out to those who may have not supported her in the primary. I am disappointed that she is choosing to try to run a campaign without key elements of the Democratic base. She may win without us and she is calculating that she can win without us. I urge her to reach out to Governor Apodaca's group before the rift widens and hurts the Democratic Party.

WHAT A MESS

What a mess for new UNM President Garnett Stokes. The NM newcomer has been badly blindsided by the UNM Regents who stepped in a pile of dung when they cut the UNM soccer team and other sports to make up for a deficit and she went along with it without protest.  Now the AG says the meeting they made the cuts at was in violation of the open meetings act. Didn't any of Stokes' well compensated advisers (hello, UNM executive VP David Harris) give her any warning about any of this?

President Stokes was diminished in the public eye because of the controversy just as she was trying to build her credibility with the Legislature and public. She looks weak and a tool of the the Guv. Martinez controlled Regents. While her political naiveté was a partial cause, bad advice or no advice appears to be another.

MAKE ROOM, DEB

Sharice Davids
Shout out to ABQ Dem congressional Deb Haaland: Make some room on the sofa. You may have to share the title of "first Native American woman to serve in Congress.'" The news:

Sharice Davids shattered the mold for a congressional primary winner from ruby red Kansas, becoming the state’s first Native American and gay nominee for Congress. The 38-year-old attorney and activist prevailed in a close six-candidate Democratic primary and will face four-term Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder. Democrats are targeting Yoder this fall because Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district in the 2016 presidential race. . She’d be the first LGBT Native American woman in Congress. Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, of Wisconsin. . . Davids spent eight years working her way through college and law school.

Haaland still has the better chance of becoming the first Native American woman in Congress because she is in a race with no incumbent and in a deep blue congressional district, with victory in sight. Davids has to unseat an incumbent.

HOW HOT IS IT?

The National Weather Service in ABQ tweets out:

Through July 2018, New Mexico has been the warmest on record. The same is true for the past year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years and 5 years! #nmwx

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Former Dem Governor Apodaca Endorses Pearce But Logic Seems Confused; Pearce A "Moderate?" Plus: Jeff Apodaca Still On Trail Despite Primary Loss 

Gov. Apodaca
It must be personal. How else to explain a former Democratic Governor lamenting what he sees as his party's abandonment of "moderation" and then turning around and endorsing the Republican gubernatorial nominee, one of the most conservative members in the US House?

The former Governor in question is 83 year old Jerry Apodaca who served from 1975-79 and whose son, Jeff Apodaca, lost a bitter primary '18 battle for the Dem nod for Governor to Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham.

A post-primary meeting between Jeff and Michelle is said to have gone badly, with Apodaca's supporters claiming he was dissed by the nominee in the short session. And in his op-ed endorsing Pearce, the senior Apodaca notes he was also jilted by her:

. . . Friends recently suggested I sit down with both gubernatorial candidates to discuss the concerns I outlined above. . . I never heard from Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham. I did receive a call from Congressman Pearce. I was surprised how open he was and how we agreed on about 80% of the issues that plague New Mexico. I found him to be straightforward and an honest man. In fact, he reminded me of the moderate Democrats and Republicans of the past I worked with for the betterment of New Mexico. 

In TV ads Pearce has recently presented himself as the moderate Apodaca says he found him to be. But Pearce's conservative credentials are what have always made him stand out. He is a member the House Freedom Caucus, described on Wikpedia as "sympathetic to the Tea Party movement. The Freedom Caucus is considered the farthest-right grouping within the House Republican Conference."

The left wing of the Democratic Party can be seen as forsaking Apodaca, who described himself as a "JFK Democrat" in endorsing Pearce. Say what? That's like saying McGovern would endorse Nixon. Alligators asked if Jerry wrote this stuff or was it Jeff?

However, Lujan Grisham has separated herself--some say would say startlingly so--from that left wing. For example, she has denounced calls to abolish ICE and even condemned the Medicare for all proposal. On top of that, she described herself in an interview as a "fiscal conservative."

So while the Bernie Sanders wing may have left Jerry in the dust, Lujan Grisham appears to be right in his "moderate" wheelhouse--and to the chagrin of liberal Dems.

And then there is Jeff Apodaca's run for Governor. Wasn't he the candidate who decried Lujan Grisham as a member of the "establishment" and who eagerly assumed the mantle of the "progressive" in the race?

The confusing logic used by the former Governor in endorsing Pearce reflects the campaign run by his son who started as a moderate businessman but morphed into a  progressive and whose mixed message ultimately doomed his campaign.

Now in another turnabout Jeff Apodaca is back to hugging conservatives or at least hanging out with them. He is doing a weekly broadcast to discuss the views of the Governor candidates on conservative radio talker KKOB radio.

Governor Apodaca had plenty of reason not to endorse Lujan Grisham after the alleged shabby behavior she showed his son while basking in her victory. He could have stuck to that reasoning for ditching her, rather than muddling his legacy by asserting the conservative candidate for Governor isn't actually conservative and abandoning the party he supported for a lifetime and which sent him to the highest levels of political power.

PACKMAN PACKS

Packman
This is a corrected version on the hiring of political consultant Alan Packman by the administration of Mayor Keller. The first said he would be working in constituent services in the Mayor's office under Alan Armijo. 

High profile Dem political consultant Alan Packman, who served as Mayor Keller's campaign manager, is packing up and moving into new digs. Packman, the city confirms, will be working in the Department of Technology and Innovation which oversees the 311 service. That's the centralized call center for all non-emergency inquiries and services. His official title will be Integration Specialist at a salary of $75,000. It's a perch from which he can be expected to deal with constituent issues that impact Keller's political standing.

Keller, Packman and his Rio Strategies firm came under fire during Keller's mayoral campaign over financial improprieties. Packman solicited $30,000 in cash donations but listed them as "in-kind" services to the Keller campaign. The city ethics board ruled the Keller campaign had violated the ethics code but did not mean to and did not fine or reprimand him.

Packman's star was dimmed after he ran into the ethics buzzsaw. Rio Strategies had been charging clients as much as $10,000 a month for consulting services. His last campaign was for Garrett VeneKlasen who lost the Dem nomination for state land commissioner in the June primary.

Insiders point out that Mayor Berry also hired his campaign manager. Her starting salary they say was $109,000.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In a headline last week we used the term "unphased" and several readers pointed out it should read "unfazed.". . . Heather Nordquist is the write-in candidate in the state House race in Santa Fe County running against Democrat Andrea Trujillo. There is no Republican running. Nordquist is a Democrat.

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Thursday, August 09, 2018

MLG Throws A Bone To Uneasy Progressives As She Talks Guns; Pearce Strikes Back, Plus: Heinrich Unfazed By Possible Johnson Candidacy; Circulates Poll 

Giffords and Grisham
The progressive wing of the Democratic Party, feeling as welcome as ants at a picnic in the circumspect, centrist campaign of Dem Guv nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham, finally had a bone thrown to them. Lujan Grisham brought to town former US Rep. Gabby Giffords who survived a 2011 assassination attempt and is today an ardent advocate for stiffer gun control laws.

A crowd of several hundred packed Lujan Grisham's downtown ABQ headquarters where she declared her support for measures expanding background checks for all gun sales and ban domestic violence offenders from buying guns.

There was not much talk of a federal ban on military style assault weapons but Lujan Grisham has been for that since being elected to Congress in 2012.

Predictably, the event drew the wrath of GOP nominee Steve Pearce who blasted MLG for supporting "extreme policies,” like a ban on the AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle which has been involved in so many mass shootings.

Pearce had the politics right for his side in going after the assault weapons ban. His mainly rural base constituency is with him. MLG has already lost those votes.

More important for her are the Democratic cities of ABQ, Santa Fe and Las Cruces--all of which have become more liberal and have been waiting to hear something they could grasp on to ever since she dissed major progressive policies in a controversial interview with the ABQ Journal.

Sisto Abeyta, a consultant who worked with State Senator Joe Cervantes who MLG beat in the June primary, says the two points of weakness in the Lujan Grisham candidacy right now are "Anglo progressives who need reassurance" and "Hispanic males who are finding g some appeal in Pearce."

The Democratic Party is a big tent and it's like herding cats. MLG will need to throw many more bones out as she labors to hold the tent up and get over the finish line November 6.

WHAT? ME WORRY?

That seems to be the message from Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich who, like the rest of us, is waiting for former NM Governor Gary Johnson to announce whether he will accept the offer of the NM Libertarian Party and run against Heinrich on their ticket.

The pro-Johnson crowd has floated all kinds of poll numbers as he hypes his possible interest, so it's only right to give a hearing to the survey commissioned by the campaign of Heinrich. It was done August 1-5 of 800 likely NM voters by GBA Strategies and says:

--Heinrich leads a potential 3-way race with Republican Mick Rich in 2nd place, followed by Libertarian Gary Johnson in 3rd. . .In a 3-way matchup, Heinrich receives 47 percent of the vote, while Rich comes in second with 29 percent. . . Johnson comes in third with 22 percent

--In a contest with only Heinrich and Johnson, Heinrich leads Johnson by 12 points, 50-38 percent. Heinrich gets support from 81 percent of Democrats, while only 61 percent of Republicans say they would back Johnson. Heinrich leads Johnson with Independents 51-33 percent.

The GBA survey seems more in line with what you would expect. Johnson says he wants to get in if he thinks he can win and with those kind of numbers no wonder he is hesitating. Then, there's raising the money. Would Gary's numbers improve if he actually announced his candidacy? Good question.

TO APPROVE OR NOT

Here's an interesting tidbit from that Heinrich poll:

Heinrich's job approval stands at 53-33 percent approve-disapprove, while Independents approve of the job he is doing by a similar margin of 53 – 36 percent.

In the Morning Consult Survey conducted over a three month period--April thru June-- Heinrich scores a somewhat anemic approval rating of 43 percent. However, Morning Consult conducts its surveys only online and does not use live interviews with cellphone and landline users. It also interviews "registered voters" not "likely voters."

So where is Heinrich's approval number right now? Based on the difference of methodology in the two polls most observers would put it much closer to 50 or more than 43. And Senator Udall's approval rating of 46 percent in Morning Consult is probably higher when you adjust for methodology.

We got into all of this because it was that Morning Consult survey that got the chatter going over Heinrich perhaps being more vulnerable than thought.

One other note. The GBA survey may have bumped Heinrich's approval a smidgen as his first TV ad of the campaign went up during the survey period.

CITY BEAT

Let's finish up with a check on the city beat. Here's veteran radio talk show host (and Republican) Larry Ahrens:

Joe -Your post about the Mayor and crime was quite interesting. I've had the feeling that Keller has been treating the crime issue in ABQ as more of a PR problem than an actual crime problem. City Hall thinks doing a few more news conferences about crime stats is going to change the perception.

SANCHEZ AND KELLER

Keller and Sanchez
Elaine Romero, policy analyst for ABQ City Council President Ken Sanchez, writes:

Councilor Sanchez asked that I send his statement below in response to your story and remarks, regarding the Topgolf veto override:

After I made the decision not to run for Mayor, I supported Tim Keller’s candidacy to lead our city. Although we didn’t see eye to eye on the details of the Topgolf plan, since being elected President of the Council, Mayor Keller and I have worked on many projects together and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Mayor. 


We have already been able to make some great strides with the Mayor’s leadership, including key initiatives to get our economy growing again and to improve public safety. We have worked together to pass a significant pay increase to recruit and retain police officers. We have also increased resources for the Safe City Strike Force to address nuisance properties, and I supported the Mayor’s initiative to increase funding for summer and afterschool programs that provide safe learning and recreational activities for our children.  

Peace, harmony and good 'ol back slapping at City Hall. Come on, Ken, you're going to kill the blog ratings.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

NM Back In The Headlines Again For The Wrong Reasons; A Filthy Compound Full Of Kids; What About CYFD? Plus: Andrea Busted Again In Audit, Packman Packing For City Hall And Pearce TV Ad Gets Critique 

New Mexico is again back in the international headlines this week for all the wrong reasons--the  discovery of a filthy compound in Amalia in the far north where 11 children were rescued but the remains of one has been found.

It's another sad example of extreme child abuse that haunts the state with sickening regularity and which has put the troubled Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD), led by Secretary Monique Jacobson, under a harsh spotlight. 

Not that the compound disaster can be laid at the feet of CYFD, but the agency still doesn't seem to have embraced the seriousness of their lengthy list of institutional failures that are readily familiar to even the most casual consumer of the news. 

A group of about 40 concerned citizens staged a protest recently outside the offices of CYFD, protesting the endless abuse and murder of children in the state. Jacobson responded with this: 

We are all outraged by the acts of violence against children and I’m encouraged to see the community’s passion to fight against child abuse. I hope everyone who came out today will volunteer and help us in our work to improve the lives of children across New Mexico. I urge all New Mexicans to be vigilant and to report child abuse and neglect.

So the taxpayers are supposed to "volunteer" to help the agency that can't do the job it is supposed to do? That's a new twist. And when New Mexicans are vigilant and do report abuse and neglect how often does CYFD drop the ball? Lots. Also, why hasn't this Secretary been pounding the table to get the resources she needs to do the job instead of silently acquiescing to budget cuts?

You shudder to think that the murders and abuse are going to continue at this pace under a Governor Lujan Grisham or a Governor Steve Pearce.

ANDREA AND CARL

All that Democrat Andrea Romero has to do now to win her race for a Santa Fe County legislative seat is to beat a write-in candidate, but that write-in could get more votes than expected after this stinging report:

An agency of New Mexico municipalities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory approved improper reimbursement for alcohol, food, travel and baseball tickets, the state auditor announced . The released audit especially hits Andrea Romero, former Regional Coalition of LANL Communities executive director, over unlawful reimbursements and found a lack of adequate documentation to support many expenditures “in violation of the published travel policy and state law.” The scathing audit comes as Romero is seeking to win a seat in the state House after defeating Rep. Carl Trujillo in the Democratic primary in June. 

Romero beat Rep. Carl Trujillo in a bitter primary in which she was accused of being a crook and he a serial sexual harasser. Trujillo is probably thinking how he can come back against her in two years. The Speaker of the House might be thinking how he can keep her off the money committees--at least for a while. And will someone in the state's congressional delegation think about shutting down this agency that seems to specialize in boozy dinner parties and not much else?

PACKMAN PACKS

High profile Dem political consultant Alan Packman is packing up and moving into new digs. Packman, according to City Hall insiders, will be working in the Department of Technology and Innovation which oversees the 311 service. That's the centralized call center for the city for all non-emergency inquiries and services from constituents. 

Keller, Packman and his Rio Strategies firm came under fire during Keller's mayoral campaign over financial improprieties. Packman solicited $30,000 in cash donations but listed them as "in-kind" services to the Keller campaign. The city ethics board ruled the Keller campaign had violated the ethics code but did not mean to and did not fine or reprimand him.

Packman's star was dimmed after he ran into the ethics buzzsaw. Rio Strategies had been charging clients as much as $10,000 a month for consulting services.

No word yet on what Packman will be getting paid at the city. His last campaign was for Garrett VeneKlasen who lost the Dem nomination for state land commissioner in the June primary.

An earlier incorrect version of this report said Packman would be working in the Mayor's office in constituent services under Alan Armijo.

THE POINT

The point on the Tuesday blog was not that ABQ Mayor Keller was wrong for opposing the big subsidies to attract Topgolf here. The point was that you don't expend so much political capital on a low agenda item such as Topgolf that you're veto is overridden by seven of the nine councilors. And you end up having to suck up to City Council President Ken Sanchez who appears to have his own idea about who is Mayor. Keller's reaction on getting his veto overridden:

. . . We were pleased to welcome Topgolf to Albuquerque, but we felt that this deal missed the mark. We believe in spirited public discussion, even when we agree to disagree. Our focus remains on using the tools in our toolbox to grow the local economy and create good-paying jobs. We continue to work with the council on a variety of initiatives under the steady leadership of Council President (Ken) Sanchez.

Geez, Tim. "Steady leadership?" Does Ken say that about you?

ON THE TUBE

On the tube in the Guv's race, MLG is running an anti-crime spot and Steve Pearce sticks with jobs. Reader Bruce Blevins has a critical look at the Pearce spot:

Pearce's ad is pie in the sky. A "silicon mesa" is a slogan where he implies that integrated circuit fabrication can be the salvation of New Mexico by selling to LANL and Sandia National Labs. A few questions: Is the market for specialized integrated circuits at LANL and SNL a significant part of the LANL and SNL budgets? No, their volume is small compared to other purchases. Is there already a fab for ICs in New Mexico? Yes, there is a company, Intel, with a fab here in ABQ. Is there a fab for rad-hard ICs in New Mexico? Yes, there is one at SNL. 

Suppose you were contemplating a start up here in NM - would you concentrate on the LANL and SNL markets as your primary customer? You had better not. The customer base must be much larger than these two organizations. Why would you limit yourself to these two customers? So, the real impediments to industrialization in NM are the availability of educated workforce and parochial viewpoints. Steve Pearce is an example of a parochial view point. . .

Blevins is the chief technical officer of Antenna Development Corporation in Las Cruces. He  comes with more of his take on the Pearce economic proposals here.

We welcome media critiques from both sides of the aisle.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

No One Said It Would Be Easy: Crime Still Defines ABQ And Mayor Keller, Plus: The City Council's Rare Veto Override 

Mayor Keller
Try as he might with the latest PR techniques featuring a myriad of announcements on small ball stuff, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller remains behind the eight ball as a violent summer continues pretty much unabated in the state's largest city.

The city is approaching 50 homicides for the year (47 so far) and that number has already been surpassed when you include all of BernCo. The latest slaying was that of a 25 year old man Saturday night in downtown ABQ, delivering a further blow to the city's economic development even as Keller prepared the release of his economic plan.

Downtown ABQ, with often good cause, is perceived by tourists and visiting businessmen and women as a dangerous place to traverse. Keller has resisted pleas from business owners to establish a downtown police district, something they assert he promised during the campaign.

The administration has claimed some success in reducing auto theft and other property crimes since taking power last December, but the spate of shootings and murders lend a sense of anarchy when it comes to getting crime truly under of control.

Patience is starting to wear thin, with not only the violence weighing on residents but the still uncertain leadership skills of APD Chief Michael Geier.

Mayor Keller's economic plan has long concentrated on bolstering local businesses. That's good. Because what major national business with good jobs, young employees and their families would want to come here given current circumstances?

CAMPAIGN ON CRIME

The ABQ crime wave has entered the Governor's race, with Dem hopeful Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham releasing a TV ad that touts her success in winning federal funding for crime fighting:

In Congress I got millions of dollars for our police. I can do even more as Governor.

More money is always welcome but that is not ABQ's problem. The Mayor and City Council approved an increase in the gross receipts tax that took effect July 1 that is expected to pump over $50 million a year into city coffers, the lion's share of which will go to police and crime fighting.

That money is Mayor Keller's last leg to stand on. If a year from today we are still dealing with an orgy of violence, drug-dealing and horrid child abuse cases it won't be for a lack of money, it will be for a lack of leadership.

COUNCIL BYPASSES KELLER

Meanwhile the city does continue to attract some mostly low-wage employers with enticing financial incentives like the ones offered to TopGolf and which has won the backing of the nine member city council but which Mayor Keller vetoed. Monday, in a rare rebuke of a Mayor, the Council on a 7-2 vote, overrode that veto. His dream is for high paying economic base jobs. The council is desperate to put any kind of economic points on the board.

Keller's council setback is somewhat stunning. He garnered 62 percent of the vote in his landslide election last November to win a four year term. That he has already suffered such a stern political defeat is worrisome for those hoping for a firmer hand at the helm in the wake of the failed tenure of former Mayor Richard Berry.

CONGRESS ACTION

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues an ABQ visit on behalf of ABQ Dem congressional candidate Deb Haaland that started Monday with a fund-raiser at the home of ABQ attorney Lisa Curtis.

Today. . . Pelosi will join Haaland to call out Republicans who refuse to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence, including Native American women. If elected, Haaland intends to prioritize the crisis of violence against Native Women. Currently, programs supporting law enforcement in Indian Country are drastically underfunded based on estimated need. . . Pelosi will urge voters to rally around Haaland to ensure she can bring the fight for survivors and justice for Native American women to Congress.

Pelosi is a lightning rod in many congressional districts but ABQ's has gone a deeper shade of blue and should boost Haaland. Not that the Dem nominee is in any trouble. The seat continues to be ranked Safe Dem as Republican Janice Arnold-Jones struggles to gain traction.

In blogging that, it struck us that for the first time it appears two of the three NM US House members will be women. Both major party ABQ nominees are women and ditto for the southern congressional district. (There is also a Libertarian candidate in the ABQ District, Lloyd Princeton.)

THE BOTTOM LINES

Maybe after all Senators Udall and Heinrich, who have combined forces with other Senators whose states are impacted, can get the funds to keep the Southwest Chief train rolling. We've mentioned that issue here as a possible signal of NM weakness in DC during the Trump era. . .

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Monday, August 06, 2018

Johnson Hesitates On US Senate Run; Libs Give Him Their Nod But He Frets Over Chances Of Victory, Plus: Report From Indian Country On Prez Race There And More MLG Vs. Pearce 

The peripatetic, shoot-from-the-hip personality of Gary Johnson has been put on hold as the former two term NM GOP Governor hesitates over running for the US Senate.

The more cautious Johnson emerged Saturday evening immediately after the NM Libertarian Party awarded him their Senate nomination to replace Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. who pulled out of the race, hoping that Johnson would lead the third party effort to unseat Dem Senator Martin Heinrich.

Johnson said he is still mulling over whether he can win the race which also includes Republican nominee Mick Rich:

A major factor is, simply, whether I can win. When I set out to summit Mt. Everest, I did not do so with the thought that I would just go half way up. Seeking to serve New Mexico in the Senate will be no different. If I run, it will be with the intention to win, and give our state a strong, independent voice in Washington.

And Johnson seems to be facing a political Mount Everest. By stalling on whether to take the plunge, he appears to be waiting for a mini miracle--that somehow Republican Rich will find a reason to withdraw from the race, giving Johnson a chance to take on Heinrich one-on-one, increasing his chances of unseating the incumbent.

But Rich has signaled strongly and repeatedly that he is not getting out. And to have a major party with an over 150 year history forgo putting up a Senate nominee in favor of a Libertarian could tear the party apart and further weaken its already fragile minority standing. Not to mention that Johnson ran as the Libertarian Party presidential candidate against Trump in 2016 and the GOP is now owned  lock, stock and barrel by Trump. 

The Libs have given Gary two weeks to make a decision. But one is expected within days.

Then there's the money. You can assume that Johnson did not get millions of dollars in immediate donor pledges as he floated the prospect of his Senate candidacy for better than a week. That also could be keeping him on the leash.

So Johnson, 65, has to make what will likely be the last consequential decision of his political career. But even if his decision is to dive in it may not be of much consequence to the state. No Libertarian has ever been elected to the Senate.

NANCY IN THE HOUSE 

They're keeping it relatively quiet because wherever she goes she is chased down by Republican video trackers and/or protesters, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is in ABQ today. She will be attending a fund-raiser for ABQ Dem congressional candidate Deb Haaland. The event will be held this afternoon at the home of ABQ attorney Lisa Curtis and will also be hosted by northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Dem Congressional Campaign Committee.

You can click on the invite posted here for more info. Should she win, Haaland would be the first Native American woman to serve in the US House. And that brings us to this news. . .

NAVAJO VOTING

Do you think there's just a little bit of interest in becoming the next president of the Navajo Nation? How about 18 candidates competing in the August 28 primary? We get a report from one of our Indian Country Alligators who says while candidate interest is high, he's not so sure about the voters:

Joe, Earlier this year, 18 presidential candidates qualified for the August primary. A few notables, as well as a few recycled candidates, have now been working their way through the reservation, the size of West Virginia, looking for votes.

Current Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, brother of former and embattled NM State Rep. Ray Begaye, is also facing battles of his own after his hired legal counsel and daughter was arrested in Arizona for a DUI in a tribal vehicle, which was smashed into a semi. Begaye’s current vice president, Jonathan Nez, threw his hat in the ring, which many are noting as an act of defiance of the president. 

Former Navajo President Joe Shirley, his fourth attempt at running, has again decided to try to convince Navajo voters he has new and fresh ideas. Former Navajo Vice President Rex Jim also qualified and this is his second attempt at the top spot. Others include: Navajo Nation Council members – Tom Chee and Alton Shepherd; as well as a few community leaders. 

 Former Navajo Nation presidential candidate Chris Deschene, who was this year’s apparent front runner, decided against another bid, when a language qualification jeopardized his run four years ago. So, there will be some rumblings out this way in the next few weeks, but we'll have to see if  this group of 18 excites and motivates. 

The Nation is struggling to find its footing after coal-fired electric power plants are set to be mothballed, tribal revenue is drying up, faith in tribal leadership is at an all-time low and a new generation of voters are often disenfranchised when trying to infuse ideas into a government built and protected by tradition. 

Well, that's one Gator's perspective. The top two candidates will face off for the presidency November 6, the same day NM elects a new governor.

PEARCE VS. MLG

About Rep. Steve Pearce getting that South Valley irrigation ditch cleaned up and leaving his Dem Guv opponent--Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham--who represents the area-- looking a tad weak reader Janet Blair comments:

Joe, a few years ago, I reached out to Pearce to give him my opinion on a national issue that affected all of New Mexico. The staffer I spoke to would not take my name or my message and summarily dismissed me because my zip code indicated I was not in his district and therefore did not merit his attention. He has no real interest in representing all of New Mexico and will never get my vote.

Okay, but GOP Guv nominee Pearce will be getting the vote of another Democrat. that would be 95 year old Dorothy Runnels, widow of Dem Congressman Harold "Mud" runnels who represented the southern district from 1971-80. She said:

Our state needs help in so many ways. I tell every Democrat I know that in the race for Governor, Steve Pearce is the right person for the job. Steve Pearce puts the country and the people of New Mexico above party. I am proud to support his candidacy and know he will be a great Governor for all of New Mexico.

Runnels lives in Hobbs. Her late husband was involved in the oil business as was Pearce. Her son, Mike Runnels, became lieutenant governor of NM. Mike Runnels died at 69 in 2015. Harold Runnels died in office in 1980 at the age of 56. He was replaced by Republican Joe Skeen who won the seat in an historic write-in vote.

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Thursday, August 02, 2018

Pearce Tries To Break The Ice In ABQ, Ben Ray Has TV Trouble With ICE, And: Obama Endorses A Trio Of NM Contenders 

Steve Pearce's Guv candidacy is dead money if he can't break up a potential Michelle Lujan Grisham landslide in the ABQ metro. So you get this news:

It took the intervention of a U.S. congressman to get the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to clean out a long-neglected South Valley drainage ditch – even though the MRGCD claims it has been providing regular maintenance on the ditch twice a year. At a news conference in the South Valley, adjacent to the Isleta Drain, Theresa Baca, president of the Atrisco Viejo Neighborhood Association, and Patricio Dominguez, association vice president, thanked Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., for getting the project done, even though the area is not in Pearce’s district.

Rep. Lujan Grisham, the Dem Guv nominee and who represents the South Valley, was left holding the bag:

It’s unfortunate that this group did not reach out to the congressional office for assistance regarding this matter,” said a campaign spokesman. “Had they done so the congresswoman and her staff would have been able to assist them.”

MLG's steadfast support of that pillar of our quasi-welfare state--Medicaid--could stand her in good stead as Pearce tries to come up with more hat tricks in ABQ. Dems reminded their brethren that this week marks the 53rd anniversary of the signing of the bill that made Medicare and Medicaid possible. And our own Senator Clinton P. Anderson, pictured here on the right, was a chief sponsor.

ABOLISHING ICE 

It's a tricky question for the Dems as their left wing calls for doing away with the immigration agency known as ICE, but polling shows a majority of Americans don't agree. And NM Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Dem Congressional Campaign Committee, found himself pinned to the mat on the hot issue in an appearance Sunday on ABC's This Week.

Asked several times about the Dem position on ICE Lujan bobbed and weaved. He was called out by his Republican counterpart, Rep. Steve Stivers, chair of the Nat'l GOP Congressional Campaign Committee, who said Lujan did not "talk about ICE."

Moderator Martha Raddatz, who asked Lujan several times about ICE said Lujan "did not answer that question" and as Lujan interrupted her she rebuffed him" "I think you had a fair chance to make your argument. We're going to have to stop there. You had your chance."

OBAMA ENDORSES

Former President Obama is back on the campaign trail with a list of his endorsed candidates. Among those making his cut is Deb Haaland, the Dem nominee for the ABQ congressional seat. Her Republican opponent is Janice Arnold-Jones. Libertarian Lloyd Prince is also in the running. The seat is ranked Safe Dem.

Obama also gave his blessing to Sandoval County State Rep. Daymon Ely who is in a swing seat and faces Republican Barbara Boatman.  Also getting the presidential nod was Dem Natalie Figueroa who is seeking the seat being vacated by House Minority Leader Nate Gentry. Her GOP foe is John Jones.

The Ely seat is a swing area but we rank it Lean Dem based on current trends. The Gentry NE Heights seat is also ranked Lean Dem for the November election.

One other note: John Jones is married to Janice Arnold-Jones. Both of them got the thumbs down from Obama. Dems love it. The couple probably wears it as a badge of honor.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Hey, we don't steer you wrong. A reader writes:

Hello Joe, we took our long awaited trip to El Norte this weekend. We stayed at the Taos Inn as planned but after reading about Angelina's restaurant in Española in your blog we had to stop and try the Costillas. All I can say is that after your advice we have a new favorite spot. Thanks for the great tip!

Yep, lamb in many varieties is the specially of the house, with the lamb costillas (ribs) being a fave. Don't forget the red chile with those. . .

And one other foodie note. On a recent stop at Santa Fe's Coyote Cafe we had something we had never had before--Elk. Or as the menu puts it "Tellicherry Peppered Elk Tenderloin." It was quite delicious but competing with lamb costillas is a tough task.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Campaign Kerfuffles: Carson Visit Has Dems Calling Out Pearce While MLG Partying In Puerto Rico Draws R Ire, Plus: Needles And CYFD 

Pearce and Carson at San Felipe
The jousting between the camps of Michael Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce is getting more intense as each passing day takes us closer to the November 6 election.

On Tuesday campaign kerfuffles broke out between the duo over a visit by a Trump cabinet secretary and the release of photos of Lujan Grisham partying in Puerto Rico at a luxury hotel while on a two day congressional fact finding tour last week to assess hurricane damage there.

The cabinet secretary in question is Ben Carson, head of HUD, who Pearce trotted out for a visit to San Felipe Pueblo to inspect low income housing and learn about pueblo culture, but the Dems called it a ”fake visit" and demanded to know why taxpayers dollars were being spent spent on what they asserted was an obvious campaign event.

Pearce did enjoy the pics that showed him with the African-American cabinet secretary taken amid the San Felipe community, groups that this GOP nominee believes he can appeal to more than those of the past.

MLG in Puerto Rico
Meanwhile, the R's acted like their summer lemonade was spiked with Puerto Rican rum as they relished photos of MLG having a drink with a fellow lawmaker and enjoying some dancing with with New York Representative Adriano Espaillait.

While the pics were innocuous (the campaign says she had one drink and paid for it herself) the R's felt they scored on the optics--MLG partying on an island gripped in a humanitarian crisis that Congress has oversight over isn't exactly what you would call a campaign photo op.

Ironically, R operatives were saying that MLG reminds them of outgoing and unpopular Governor Susana Martinez whose holiday pizza and drinking party a couple of years ago started her long downward polling descent. But Dems cackled that rather than a political hurricane, this was a tempest in the teapot. Former ABQ mayor Chavez weighed in on Facebook about MLG's trip which was also attended by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

Let's see, the day of work was done and she went downstairs for a drink with her colleague and someone asked her to dance. Not much of a scandal. The real scandal is Steve Pearce's slavish loyalty to Trump and his absolute disregard for the well-being of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the horrific hurricane. Nothing funny about that.


All of this is the prelude to the main event when the negative TV ads will start raining down like a nonstop monsoon, probably later this month. As Mayor Chavez might, say--nothing funny about that.

NOSTAGLIA CORNER

Call us nostalgic but ABQ today often seems like a city we don't recognize:

Mayor Keller unveiled a plan to clean up improperly disposed needles and syringes around the city. The new program, called SHARP – Safe Handling and Routing of Paraphernalia – is a coordinated effort among several city departments, along with Bernalillo County, to cut down on the number of improperly disposed sharps in public spaces.

And then the drugs lead to cases such as this over and over and over again:

An Albuquerque mother and her boyfriend who are facing child abuse charges in a case that left a 1-year-old boy in a medically induced coma will not await trial in jail, a judge ruled. Dahn Leidy, 24, and Florencio Mendoza, 35, were arrested last week on suspicion of child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and tampering with evidence. They will now be released with certain conditions they will have to follow. 

And, of course, once again CYFD:

The state Children, Youth and Families Department was investigating Leidy and her son at the time of alleged beating, Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson told the Journal last week. Police had been called to the home in early July when the child was found walking alone and without shoes, pants or a shirt at Leidy’s apartment complex.

Heaven help us if MLG or Pearce puts another political appointee in charge of the agency. Or we should say Heaven help the scores of endangered New Mexico kids.

FAST TRACK

After slowing down the decision making process for the state's sixth and final racino the state racing commission has quickly put it back on the fast-track:

The state Racing Commission, reversing a decision made just 11 days earlier, voted at a hastily called meeting Monday to restart the process of licensing a new horse track.The commission met in secret before setting a new deadline of Aug. 17 for applications for the racing license. “We did this because the commission decided to, plain and simple,” Commissioner Chairman Ray Willis told an attorney for four tracks when the lawyer asked why the commission was changing course.

You gotta love that line "because the commission decided to." This racino selection is up to a horse's neck in politics, with Gov. Martinez's administration appearing to want to make this decision before her term expires at the end of the year. All the groups that have applied for the racino have political connections to Martinez (primarily campaign contributions) so if she is trying to wire this deal (like the Downs at ABQ racino lease at the start of her term) she may have to make some friends mad.

Meanwhile,

The Fulton family decided not to seek a license for another track so it could focus on running the Sunland Park racino, said Rick Baugh, general manager of the track and casino. The family wants. . . to make the racino a destination resort, Baugh said. 

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