Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ABQ's New Crime Paradigm: City Soaked In Violence Prompts Run On Guns; Analysis, Commentary And Some Outrage 

(Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
The very fabric of Albuquerque seems to be unraveling as a crime wave soaks the city provoking the kind of primal fear you would expect roaming the streets of Sarajevo--not New Mexico's largest city, 

The shocking news that citizens are flocking to gun stores to buy arms to protect themselves against an ever bolder class of local criminal reveals for all to see the breathtaking and systemic failure in leadership that has engulfed ABQ and threatens its future as a livable environment.

Like a wildfire, crime is now leaping boundaries that previously served as barriers. The cold-blooded killing of a 60 year old in his driveway by a mob of teens near the normally placid Lomas and Tramway neighborhood was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. It followed closely a series of other alarming crimes and gave us the run on guns and reawakened our instinct for vigilante justice. So how did we get here?

It's about accountability. There is none. It's about apathy. There's too much.

Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry have lost control of events. They have stubbornly refused to implement the sweeping personnel and policy changes so desperately needed at APD to halt the decline in police response times and the collapse in the number of officers patrolling the streets. The criminals get the message. You get a Smith and Wesson for your bedside.

The city council has awakened from a deep slumber but is still napping. There is no passion or fire for the fight that is now so necessary if ABQ is to be rescued from the death spiral it is enduring.

In many ways we have become a community in retreat. In the face of the chaos two city council seats in the October city election go unopposed. The speculation about who might be the next leader of the city barely rises to a murmur. The historic crash in turnout in the 2013 city election now seems more predictive of the future and not a fluke.

Local journalism is failing. How in the name of Billy the Kid can you do a news story about citizens arming themselves out of fear and not interview the mayor, the police chief and the business leadership and ask them what they are doing about it? How? Why do we get sensational TV reports about "Boomerang Thugs" that fault the judiciary but exonerate the leadership of this city, state and APD whose duty it is to keep us safe? Why?

The business community continues to play ostrich and refuses to acknowledge that ABQ's reputation for violence and now racial division is killing us economically. We are the only Sunbelt city not thriving yet even when the crime extends to the city's most affluent and heavily gated zip codes, the rationalization goes on. "Well, it's not as bad as Detroit or Baltimore." Does the Anglo business community that is Mayor Berry's political base still not see that by turning their heads away from confronting him that they are enabling the city's decline and the decline of their own economic fortunes?

Albuquerque is a city that has learned to live with lower expectations economically and in other ways in exchange for the unique way of life offered here. But that bargain does not include feeling terrified in your home no matter your neighborhood.

I'm older now and sometimes the outrage turns to sadness, even nostalgia. What would leaders like former Mayor Kinney have done? Or Senator Pete Domenici who led the city for a time in the 60's? Did the economic collapse and federal cuts make today's Albuquerque of callousness and indifference inevitable? Or does a passionate, competent leadership make all the difference to a city's fate? We still believe the latter. Albuquerque sorely misses the political ethic of the past. It yearns for leaders who will begin patching the fabric of a city so torn apart. And it waits.

This column is also running in the current edition of the ABQ Free Press on newsstands now. 

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Some Sorely Needed Drama For La Politica As Keller Vs. The Machine Continues, Plus: The Dems New ED And Guv Urged To Change On Early Childhood  

Keller & Balderas
New Mexico politics is getting some sorely needed drama back in the picture. The only question for the past five years has been who will the Guv's political machine attempt to crush or intimidate today and who would be the next Dem to fold in the face of the onslaught. Now that Dem State Auditor Tim Keller has stuck his neck out and ordered a probe of possible preferential treatment of a taxpayer by Martinez's secretary of taxation and revenue political junkies have something to watch.

The mini-drama is enough to get both the R's and Dems back from vacation as they send out zingers to their loyalists (the R's here and Dems here). Even political junkies of the Republican persuasion have to take some joy in Keller's battle. They get just as bored as the Dems.

In the latest chapter, Keller is front-paged by the Machine for being mentioned in a California lawsuit dealing with his former job as a consultant. There's not much "there" there but the light jab was the only counter punch they could dig up and you go with what you got.

Everyone knows the next story line: What does Attorney General Hector Balderas do with Keller's charges of preferential treatment allegedly given by a Martinez cabinet secretary?  The latest development on that has a Martinez political operative taking to social media asking the question. Will the operatives be sorting through any dirty linen in Hector's hamper as they are with Keller--just in case?  Duh.

For those of you gaming this as a prelude to a possible Keller-Balderas face-off for the '18 Dem Guv nomination, you are way too early. Okay, we have to say that for the record but
around here it's really never too early. So. . . .

Hector had $260,000 in cash on hand in his April finance report. Keller had $35,000. Balderas has scheduled a Sept. 16 fund-raiser, with tickets topping out at $1,000 a shot and bottoming at $250. Checks go to "Balderas for New Mexicio." That name keeps his options open, doesn't it? As for Keller's fund-raising, he's not pressured--not when you're getting media coverage of late that would cost a half million or so.


Okay, we hear you. Never mind the '18 cycle. What about '16 which is right in front of us?  Here's some news about the new executive director of the NM Dems as they prepare for Campaign '16:

Joe Kabourek, an attorney and top-level staffer from Colorado has been called on to lead the Dem’s into the crucial 2016 election cycle. . .Kabourek, 30, comes to New Mexico from Denver where he worked on multiple federal, state and local campaigns, as well as being a licensed attorney in Colorado. 

The way it works these days is Kabourek gets to come down here and if the R's can't find any weird stuff he has tweeted he gets to stay. And to make him feel right at home, here's an Alligator strike upon his entry into La Politica:

The Democratic Party has done a horrible job turning out its base. In 2008, 464,458 people voted for the Obama-Biden ticket. Democrats were only able to get 219,262 people to vote for King-Haaland ticket. Hispanics were 41% of voters in 2008 and only 33% in 2014. The drop off in Hispanic voters is killing the party and one of the main reasons why the state House flipped. It is obvious that party leadership does not understand this. If they did, they would not have hired an out-of-state white male with very limited political experience to run the party.

Don't fret, Joe. The Keller-Machine contest has made the Gators even hungrier.


TV news picked up on our Monday blog courtesy of the Alligators who broke the news of the tax troubles of WisePies pizza, the start-up that has promised to pay UNM $5 million over ten years for the naming rights for the famous Pit. UNM Prez Bob Frank said he is not concerned at all about the ability of WisePies to pay all that cash. But then Bob was last seen strolling near the UNM duck pond singing, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."


Newsman Milan Simonich comments on the state's 49th ranking in child well-being in the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation study. It found that 31 percent of the state's children live in poverty, up two points from last year:

Gov. Martinez has a rare opportunity to help reverse New Mexico’s. . . high poverty and low academic achievement. . . Martinez has opposed using a portion of the state’s land grant endowment to expand early childhood education. The endowment is worth about $15 billion. . . Many people want to use a portion of the endowment to get kids off to a fast and productive start by expanding early childhood education. In New Mexico, a state with just 2 million residents, this would be easier to achieve than in most places.  New Mexico, though, won’t have much of a future unless it moves decisively to turn around poverty rates. Expanding early childhood education--generally defined as prenatal to age 5--would be the surest way to produce more high school and college graduates, build wealth and reduce prison populations. . . Martinez, 56, is the politician who’s key to getting the initiative on the statewide ballot next year. If she changed her position, enough Republicans in the state House would follow minority Democrats and vote to put the proposal before voters. 

The proposed constitutional amendment needs approval of both the House and Senate in order to be sent to the voters. The Guv would not be able to veto the measure, but as Simonich points out, it would very likely take a change in her position to get the House--now controlled by the R's--to support the amendment.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

WisePies Pizza And UNM Easy Prey For An Alligator Strike, Plus: Machine In The Shop? Guv Misfires In Hit On Keller, And: More From The "No BS" Economists 

(click to enlarge)
There's s a lot of easy prey for the Alligators of La Politica out there. And you can reliably count on the UNM Athletic Department to feed the frenzied critters. Take the recent announcement that the department had "record fundraising" for the 2014-15 fiscal year of nearly $15 million. Really? Here's the Gator strike:

UNM said nearly half that total was money pledged by WisePies pizza and U. S. Bank. Actually, both companies have only made a very small payment on that pledge. WisePies has paid less than 2 percent of the $5 million in renaming rights for the Pit but had it renamed with signage as well given a suite and parking passes which cost some $35,000 a year. Since the pledge, WisePies had at least five tax liens, four of which were listed in recent legal ads. Joe what are the odds that UNM actually sees that $5 million that they are acting like is already money in the bank?

Four of the tax lien notices are on the graphic we posted with this report. WisePies also had a tax lien notice back in December and at the time said it did not mean it could not keep its $5 million UNM commitment. But now there's more liens.

The odds that UNM will see the $5 million over the ten years that it's due but is already counting as a done deal? Well, let's put it this way: Before it's all over Dion's may be able to pick up those WisePies naming rights for a dime on the dollar.


Love it or hate it, you gotta give the Guv's political Machine credit. It has altered the political landscape here, but now they are playing defense for the first time. And doing it sloppily. The Guv herself was busted for getting her facts wrong as she pushed back against State Auditor Tim Keller's investigation of possible preferential treatment of a taxpayer at the taxation and revenue department. Martinez said:

“The auditor right now is merely holding press conference after press conference,” she said. The governor added that the auditor “hasn’t even interviewed folks who work at Tax and Rev.” Actually, Keller has held only one news conference. . .And, according to the State Auditor’s Office, the outside forensic audit firm that was hired to look into the accusations against Padilla interviewed several employees of the tax department. Keller’s office has said there are several hours of recorded interviews with these employees, which have been turned over to the attorney general.

Did someone shred the Guv's briefing book? Or is the Machine in the shop for repairs or on summer vacation?


Susana & Demesia
So putting aside the harsh campaign-style rhetoric (as Keller calls it) where does the Fourth and Fifth Floors really stand on the controversy embroiling Tax and Rev chief Demesia Padilla? They are carving out cover. That's where they stand:

When asked if she still had confidence in Padilla, who has served as tax secretary since the beginning of Martinez’s first term in 2011, the governor said, “Of course.”
“I have seen nothing that has taken place where any evidence or facts would ever cause me to this point to lack confidence in that department,” Martinez said.

"To this point" is the operative phrase, but if you didn't know that your Alligator credentials would be revoked.

And as we keep the chess pieces moving they all point in the direction of Attorney General Hector Balderas who now decides future action on the Keller investigation. Will he or won't he?

Hey, we might not have Donald Trump around here for entrainment but Keller, The Machine and Balderas aren't exactly summer rerun material.


We forgot to add to our list of "No BS Economists" the folks at the Brookings Institution. Their take on the ABQ economy gets routinely ignored by the cheerleaders but they've been nailing it throughout the Great Stagnation. Their take:

Mixed signals blurred the story in Albuquerque at the start of the year. Job growth accelerated, and employment expanded by a strong 0.6 percent during the first quarter. Output, however, contracted by the same amount. Albuquerque was the only major Mountain metro area to follow the national economy into negative territory on this measure. The unemployment rate decreased for the sixth straight quarter, falling 0.1 percentage points in the three months through March. At 5.8 percent, the metro area’s unemployment rate remained the region’s second-highest. Home prices increased by 1.3 percent in the first quarter; over the year, they rose by 3.4 percent—a below-average increase both regionally and nationally.

Our other "No BS Economists" are Dr. Chris Erickson at NMSU and ABQ's Dr. Kelly O'Donnell as we continue to bring you the real story on the state and city economy that you won't get anywhere else. Not that being on that list is going to have them winning any popularity contests.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Ugly Rhetoric In Santa Fe, Those Government Jobs And A Letter From Springer 

State Auditor Tim Keller continues to get under the skin of the Guv's political machine as he reports on his investigation of possible preferential treatment of a former client of the taxation and revenue secretary. The ugly rhetoric raining down on Keller prompts NM columnist Ned Cantwell to write:

That rush to judgment mentality, the hate and vilify your opponent mindset, is exactly the reason so many younger citizens find the political system a joke and therefore refuse to identify with either party. They don’t take politicians seriously. . .And if Martinez prefers knife throwing to diplomacy, she is doing the state a significant injustice. A common thread of commentary concludes New Mexico is losing steam. People want to leave. Companies don’t want to invest. Raising capital is difficult. Last on every list. Etcetera. I wonder why?

Keller's findings of possible wrongdoing are on the desk of Attorney General Balderas and await action. Balderas is watching closely the abuse Keller is taking. And the Machine knows it.


Oh, no! Not more government jobs. Someone call the "diversification cops" because what job growth we're seeing is a result of tax dollars at work:

Employment growth in education and health services outperformed all other industries in New Mexico in June. Not only that, but the industry also added more jobs than it has since January 1991 — 7,700 jobs. Growth in the industry made up about 45 percent of the sum of all year-over-year job gains in June and education and health services' gains have not fallen below 4,000 jobs in the past 10 months.

Much of the growth in health care employment can be traced to expansion of the Medicaid program for low-income New Mexicans. Education funding is the largest component of the state budget and also subsidized by federal spending.


Colfax County Commissioner Landon Newton, a resident of Springer, writes:

I take issue with your comment this week that the rural towns are being hammered hardest by poverty and if you'd like to see an example just drive around Springer or Raton.

Our town, Springer, is a clean well kept town. The town employees work hard to keep the town in great condition. Our local leaders are working toward growing economic development in Springer. The Chamber of Commerce is active and promotes our town. The same goes for Raton and our other communities in Colfax County. Are there things that need improvement; do we have some vacant buildings and homes? Yes, of course we do. However, we are definitely not what I would consider a depression town of the 1930's.

Colfax County has some of the most beautiful scenery in the state of NM. There are many things to do in the county. Philmont Scout Ranch employees over 1200 seasonal employees every summer. 

Finally, come up to Springer for the Colfax County Fair and Rodeo on August 8th. We will treat you to an old fashion parade, home cooked BBQ and a great Rodeo.

We just might take you up on that Fair and Rodeo invite, Landon. The scenery is spectacular and the people friendly.

That's it for this week. Thanks for stopping by. We appreciate it.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dubious Distinction: Duke City #19 On List Of Top 20 Cities People are Ditching; El Paso #1, Plus: The Spaceport Pause, Udall Blistered On Chemical Bill And Our Bottom Lines 

(click to enlarge)
They're outta here. You're probably aware that more folks are leaving Albuquerque than moving in but this map from Bloomberg puts the problem in stark perspective. ABQ ranks #19 among the top 20 cities in the USA that folks are ditching. The info is based on 2013 numbers but we're not seeing signs of any explosive group. Stagnant or slow-population growth could be a long-term trend.

The reason why more people are leaving here than moving in seems pretty obvious--jobs, jobs, jobs. And some may be leaving because of crime, crime, crime.

Remember, this is not only the ABQ city limits being ranked, but the four county metro area of Bernalillo, Valencia, Sandoval and Torrance counties.

We have seen no statements from Mayor Berry or Gov. Martinez about the fleeing folks. Has anyone asked them?

And how about El Paso ranking #1 among the top 20 cities losing residents? Again, the prime reason is jobs. We've done extensive reporting on the Las Cruces recession. But the "R" word rarely makes it into the mainstream media in Cruces or ABQ. Seems folks just don't want to deal much with the fact that folks are hoofing it out.


We ran into Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz the other day and he strenuously disagreed with us about future population growth. He said he has watched the area grow for 40 years and growth will soon resume. He said that's why he supports the controversial Santolina Development that projects tens of thousands of new residents for the West Side area in the decades ahead.

Mesa del Sol was another land development projected to have tens of thousands of residents but the crash took care of that. And economist Dr. Kelly O'Donnell has come with an erudite analysis of why she believes Santolina's projections are off base:

I have reviewed the economic and fiscal impact analyses submitted with the Santolina Level A Master Plan, and find that although both analyses are methodologically sound, they each contain unrealistic assumptions about the population and economies of the middle Rio Grande Valley and consequently overestimate the project’s net benefits. When these assumptions are replaced by more accurate ones, estimated net benefits decrease by 56 percent, the jobs to housing ratio falls from 2:1 to .6:1.

Good stuff, Kelly. We're going to add her to our list of "no bullshit economists" which includes Dr. Chris Erickson at NMSU.

No crystal ball is perfect and maybe Commissioner Art will be shown to be right 25 years from now. If we're still around we'll buy him an adult beverage of his choice.


There's nearly a zero chance that Virgin Galactic will launch flights into space from the NM Spaceport next July but the head of the Spaceport put that out as a possibility when lawmakers pestered her over the operating expenses for the facility near T or C.

Predictions of Virgin taking tourists into space have been going on for 11 years. Industry insiders say last year's fatal test flight crash has made the future of manned spaceflight  in NM unknowable. The Legislature has been subsidizing the $225 million state-owned Spaceport to the tune of over $2 million a year, and if they want to keep the place going they're going to have to keep it up into the unknowable future.


Sens. Udall & Vitter
Sen. Tom Udall has a reputation as a leading environmentalist but he continues to get blistered by both the right and left for championing a chemical safety bill, even as he announces that over half the Senate is now supporting the measure. Here's the latest Udall thumping from the right from the American Spectator:

Here’s the ugly. The American Chemistry Council, Dow, Dupont, BASF, 3M, Honeywell and Koch Industries spent $62.9 million in 2014 lobbying members of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and lobbying disclosure forms filed in Congress. While the disclosure forms don’t link the lobbyists to specific bills, a study by the Environmental Working Group found that most of the forms referred to TSCA. . . Senator Tom Udall, in Congress since 1999, has been largely ignored by the industry—until the 2014 election, when he turned up in the top 20 recipients of American Chemistry Council money, according to opensecrets.org. The Chemistry Council also ran television ads supporting Udall’s successful race against Republican challenger Allen Weh. It appears they’re getting a decent return on their investment.

Udall's office defends the measure:

This bill was written by Sen. Udall and Sen. Vitter in one of the most open and inclusive processes for a major piece of legislation to ensure all sides got a chance to be heard -- environmental advocates, industry, public health NGOs and others all were involved,” she said. ACC had no more input than environmental groups, and as a result of the input from many stakeholders, the bill has moved further toward what environmental groups and others said they wanted to see.


A proposed gross receipts tax hike of one-eighth of 1 percent to finance improvements to the ABQ BioPark will be on the October city election ballot thanks to a petition drive that gathered the required 14,000 signatures of registered voters. The city clerk's office says it has verified the signatures. The petition drive was managed by Steve Cabiedes of S C Consulting. He says it was hit or miss during the months-long drive but a push at the end put the BioPark foundation over the top. Cabiedes has been doing petitions for decades.

Cabiedes had better luck on this deal than when he last made the news. That was in 2012 when he managed the campaign of the primary foe of ABQ Dem SE Heights State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton. It got so heated that Cabiedes was attacked in mailers by Dem interest groups for having worked in the past for GOP candidates. Cabiedes is a longtime contributor to our election night coverage for KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Confederate Flag And Berry's Future And Busting Bussey; Cabinet Secretary Scored Over Dental School Comments  

We kick off the Wednesday blog from downtown. . . .

Mayor Berry's eagerness to engage protesters upset that a confederate flag is displayed in ABQ's Old Town is in sharp contrast to his willingness to engage with other activists, particularly those bird dogging APD. One of the Alligators says it's a sure sign that Berry is eyeing a political life beyond city hall:

Berry must be getting ready to run for something otherwise he wouldn't be making such a big deal out of meeting with folks on the Confederate flag issue. He has hid under a rock the last 5 years and you had to pry him out to get him to meet with the public. How long did it take for him to meet with victims from the police shootings? Nine months? Now he puts out a statement the day after a "protest" and actively engages the Old Town Confederate flag issue. Something is up because his far Northeast Heights political base could care less about this issue.

What's up is that Berry is eyeing a Guv run in '18. That may sound surreal to those who are fully aware of the heavy baggage this mayor carries but it's what you get when you have a city council, a Democratic Party and a newspaper that has given him a pass. Possible Republican foes of Berry for the GOP Guv nomination might want to think about that?


Secretary for Workforce Solutions Celine Bussey brought the Alligators out of the pond when on the Tuesday blog she supported building a dental school at UNM. Here's one of the critters (a Republican) who calls himself "C.U. Laytor Gator" (no kidding):

First, as a Gator who remembers previous dental school debates, it would be wise to do a cost benefit study before breaking open the coffers for a somewhat specific field of advanced medical training like dentistry. The state has, in the past, found it much more cost effective to pay neighboring state tuition to get New Mexicans trained up as dentists. Before this administration goes down that path, it ought to do an updated analysis. My hunch is that, even with some folks going out of state for dental school and then not returning, it was much less expensive than the dis economy of scale involved in creating our own dental school.

Those in favor of the dental school say cost is not the issue but the opportunity it provides to New Mexicans to enter the profession and to staff the state with dentists who are committed to staying here. Would it be cost effective to send New Mexicans who want to be doctors or lawyers to out-of-state schools? Probably but we don't because the point isn't the subsidy it takes for the education but the beneficial impact to the state's long-term future.

When you stick your neck out in La Politica you can be sure it will get snapped at. Here's a Senior Alligator strike on Bussey:

Secretary Bussey cannot even run the Workforce Solutions Department, making people wait on hold up to 45 to 60 minutes. The fact that the Workforce Solutions secretary is talking about the need for a dental school is backwards. I agree 100% with you about the need for a dental school but I would suggest that it is a conversation that the regents at UNM should have. The workforce solutions secretary should spend her time seeing if she and her department could not do a better job putting people back to work and administering the programs that fall under her domain.

Another of Gov. Martinez's cabinet secretaries--Monique Jacobson of Children Youth and Families is taking hits. They come from ABQ Dem State Sen Michael Padilla. That story is here.


A reader who is a friend of the family who lost their son in a fatal shooting in March at the Los Altos Skate Park in ABQ's NE Heights says he expects more transparency in the case if APD is truly undergoing reform:

APD was quick to put on a PR show to portray Jaquise Lewis, a 17 year old African-American, as a perpetrator who was gunned down in "self-defense." APD released to the media several highly selective screen shots from a video taken that night as part of that effort.

Jaquise's mother has repeatedly called on APD to release the full video because she believes it shows Jaquise did not start the fight that occurred that night, that he did not have a gun, and was shot in the back twice in an act of premeditated murder.

While willing to release selective screen shots from a video that is almost three minutes long, APD refuses to release the full video. After repeatedly asking for the video's release Jaquise's mother was forced to file a public records lawsuit against APD in order to get the video released. She has stated publicly that she will drop the public records lawsuit if APD will release the full, unedited video. APD says they won't release the video because there's an on-going investigation. 

That development certainly raises the curiosity quotient about just what went down at that skate park.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

For New Mexico It's Still "Thank God For Mississippi" Plus: We're #1 In One Category, Also: Dusting Off The Dental School Idea And More Early Scrambling For BernCo Commission Seat 

When it comes to the rate of child well-being in New Mexico, it's still "Thank God For Mississippi."

NM ranks 49th in the nation in the just released national Kids Count rankings for 2015, the same as 2014. Mississippi, as it so often does, spares us from the bottom of the barrel by coming in 50th. Some details from the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation report:

New Mexico’s child poverty rate was 29 percent (using 2012 data). That has risen to 31 percent in the new report that uses 2013. . . .The number of children living in high-poverty areas has increased by 25,000 kids, and 27,000 more children live in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment than did in 2008. “Over the last several years we’ve seen 38,000 children fall into poverty in New Mexico. That is simply not acceptable,” said Dr. Veronica García of NM Voices for Children. “Poverty has very detrimental effects on children. If we want them to succeed in life. . . we need to ensure that they have the opportunities that will put them on the right path early in life.”

The ranking is more bad news for the state's political class which for years has struggled to adequately address widespread poverty here. A proposed consittional amendment that would ask voters to tap the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to fund very early childhood education (ages 0-5) is one of the more prominent ideas in circulation to break the poverty cycle. It has been stalled in Santa Fe for several years.

Based on our visits and those of others, rural NM continues to be getting hammered worst with poverty. Political observer Hal Rhodes has likened it to a second Great Depression there. Travel around Raton and Springer, for example, and you can see for yourself.

WE'RE #1!

While NM finds itself near the bottom in the child poverty rankings it is #1 in the USA in one category: the amount of federal spending coming in here. That's according to  Wallethub, a personal finance resource website. About New Mexico, it says:

In the Land of Enchantment, residents get $2.19 for every dollar they pay in federal income tax, the fifth highest rate in the country. 37.89% of New Mexico's state revenue is supplemented by federal funding, which is the eighth highest in the country. New Mexico also has 18.50 federal employees for every 1000 residents, which ranks sixth highest in the country, and 9.03 non-defense federal employees per 1000 residents, which is the third highest rate in the country.

Thanks Uncle Sam, and please don't take too seriously those who believe all that funding is detrimental and who claim "diversifying" away from it will be good for our little isolated place. We're already feeling enough pain from your scissors.


Sec. Bussey
Some things get really dusty around here. Like the idea of building a dental school at UNM to provide career opportunities and dentists for a state that has far too few. Former politicos Bill Richardson and Jeff Bingaman were supportive as is the state dental association. But the dust has just kept gathering. But hold on. Now comes a lady with a can of Pledge in her hand to wipe away some of it. Republican Celina Bussey is Secretary of NM Workforce solutions:

Bussey said her office is watching the physician shortage, for example, and is applauding the forthcoming medical school on the campus of New Mexico State University. For several years, health care companies have struggled to fill open positions and the medical schools here have not kept pace with demand. “It’s 2015, and I cannot believe just now we’re having this conversation,” Bussey said. “We have no dental school. We send [students] away and hope they come back.”

Welcome aboard, Celina. Now could you pass that can of Pledge on to Gov. Martinez? The dental community says a full-fledged dental school would complement the successful UNM medical and law schools that have turned out so many state professionals over the last 50 years and more (no, we don't know if Bussey is going to run for something, but it is on the Alligator radar).


Steven Michael Quezada will bring star power to next year's race for the South Valley Bernalillo County Commission seat. Whether he'll be able to take political power is an open question. Quezada, an ABQ native, has joined three other contenders already seeking the seat being vacated by term-limited Art De La Cruz.

Quezada, 52, gained fame as an actor on the Breaking Bad TV series filmed in ABQ, but he also has experience acting as a public official. He was elected to the ABQ school board to a term that expires in 2017.

The race for the Valley (and West Side) commission seat always draws a crowd because it is kind of like being mayor of the South Valley. Most of the district is not in the ABQ city limits and is not represented by a city councilor, giving the county commissioner for the area special status.

One of he big issues in the race is the proposed Santolina development project for the West Side. Quezada has voiced opposition. So has candidate Adrián Pedroza.

Others in the race so far include another school board member--Analee Maestas--and retired police sergeant Robert. G. Chavez. There will likely be more. All the candidates are Democrats. No R's need apply in this heavy Dem district

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Hillary's NM Pals Make National Fundraising Team, What Keeps Sandia Labs Ticking In Age Of Fewer Nukes And The APD Crisis Is Old Enough To Vote 

Guess who?
If she takes the presidential prize next year two New Mexicans appear to have a good shot at having Hillary's ear. A Dem consultant reports:

Former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez and former US Ambassador to Spain Ed Romero have both raised in excess of $100,000 for Hillary and are on her national finance committee, known as Hillblazers." There's only 122 members nationwide. Chavez and Romero are two of six Hispanic names on the list. Thought it might deserve a mention.

It does deserve a mention given New Mexico's deep relationship with the federal government. Chavez has been a Clintonista since Bill befriended him during Chavez's first mayoral term in the early 90's (remember them golfing together in the city?).  Romero was named ambassador by Bill. The businessman recently hosted a high-dollar fund-raiser for Hillary at his ABQ home.

Establishing a relationship with the presidential contenders is more difficult for NM since we are no longer a swing state and fall safely into the Dem column. The Romero-Chavez connection to Clinton should help keep New Mexico in her sights. On the GOP side, state R's have solid ties to both of the former presidents named Bush. They hope those ties will translate to Jeb Bush should he take the White House.

And speaking of the feds impact on New Mexico. . .

What makes ABQ's Sandia Labs tick this deep into the 21st century as the number of nuclear weapons decrease? The Center for Investigative Reporting comes with the answer and more about the impact of the nuclear complex here and on the world. It also takes on the controversy over the huge amounts of money going for  nuke "modernization:"

The B61-12 bomb’s Life Extension Program at Sandia is among those projects. This year, the $643 million for that program accounts for more than a third of Sandia’s $1.8 billion Energy Department budget. . . Obama pledged that the United States would produce no new nuclear warheads and that life extension programs of existing weapons would not provide “new military capabilities.”Officials from the Obama administration, Pentagon and Energy Department continue to argue that the B61-12 stays within the bounds of that pledge by modernizing an aging family of bombs and in the process ensuring a reliable nuclear arsenal to scare off adversaries.

The state is more dependent than ever on federal dollars as the Great Stagnation continues. The latest news that the slot machines at area Native American casinos are seeing a lot less action is hardly surprising. Flat population growth and flat incomes make sure of that.

Casino gambling is now a mature industry here. It has been unable to establish much of a foothold with out-of-state tourists, forcing the gambling houses to compete against one another for a shrinking customer base.  It doesn't appear that any of the casinos is in danger of going out of business. But the state is saturated with gambling and until there's a major uptick in the economy and/or population growth, it can be expected to stay flat as a tortilla.


In the timeless category of "the more things change, the more they stay the same," we get this from one of our Legal Beagles avidly following the APD crisis:

Attached is a major study and report done for the city of Albuquerque about police oversight and the excessive amounts paid in judgments and settlements in police misconduct cases. It is not about today but for 1990 to 1995. It reports on the cost to the city and what the money could be used for if there were not such excessive settlements. Just increase the amounts and dates in the report and it is still relevant. Here's the the report's conclusion:

"We conclude that a major part of the current problems with the APD are the result of the failure of other city officials to exercise their oversight authority. We believe that the City Attorney should develop a policy of examining chronic problems in police behavior and providing the appropriate feedback to command officers in APD. Together with Risk Management the City Attorney's office should develop specific goals and timetables for reducing tort claims against the city. We believe that both the mayor and members of City Council need to take a more active role in overseeing the APD."


Reader John Saucedo writes of the ABQ October city council election in District 6 in ABQ's SE Heights:

Sam Kerwin is running for council and I was wondering why you hadn't mentioned his name. I've been helping him with his campaign and heard that you had mentioned the other competitors, but not him. He has been going to neighborhood meetings, building coalitions in neighborhoods and maintaining his regular volunteer work. I would appreciate it, as well as everyone else involved, if you were to actually mention his name in your blogs. 

We have mentioned Kerwin but not each time we blogged of the race to replace retiring Dem Councilo Rey Garduño. The leading candidates are Democrat Pat Davis and Republican Hessito Yntema. Kerwin is a Democrat. Here is his Facebook so John can tell him we mentioned his name.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

The Week That Was: We End It Where It Started; With That $5 Million ABQ Settlement In The Boyd Case; WSJ Says ABQ APD Payouts Highest Per Officer Among Major USA Cities 

We had much discussion this week about the soaring cost of settling the APD shooting cases with the $5 million settlement over the killing of homeless camper James Boyd sparking the conversation. It's not just an ABQ issue, either. Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Frosch, a onetime NM journalist, writes from Denver:

Joe, Thought you’d be interested in this front page story we did on the soaring cost of paying for police misconduct, in which Albuquerque is prominently mentioned. I know it’s an issue you’ve been following. Here’s the in-depth story.

Frosch and reporter Zuscha Elinson write:

The 10 cities with the largest police departments spent $248.7 million last year on settlements and court judgments in police-misconduct cases, up 48% from 2010, according to data gathered by the Journal through public-records requests. They collectively paid out more than $1 billion over the five years for such cases, which include alleged beatings, shootings and wrongful imprisonment.

And what did the WSJ reporters find about ABQ?:

According to Ms. Schwartz’s study, which tabulated civil-rights payouts in 44 large police and sheriff departments from 2006 through 2011, Albuquerque paid out the most per officer—more than $2,000 a year. . . The city of about 550,000 has had a high number of fatal police shootings and has spent more than $25 million on civil-rights and police-misconduct settlements over the past five years, with annual payouts nearly quadrupling over that period. . . Albuquerque officials say the city has been bracing for more settlements and has had to allocate funding it could have spent on raises for employees, parks and other municipal projects. . . .“Any time you are putting more money into a risk-management fund, you are taking away money from somewhere else,” said city councilor Ken Sanchez. “Having to put more money into that fund to pay for the lawsuits has really been challenging.”

The highest payout per officer among the largest departments in the USA is in ABQ? Well, we finally made it to the top of a list.

The media here this week asked the city for a figure on the total payouts for the police shootings since 2010 and was told it was about $28 million. The city said that was not a definitive number. Also, it did not include the $5 million Boyd settlement which when paid would take the number to $33 million.

We said this week we didn't think that the $28 million included lawsuit losses involving non-shooting cases, but the WSJ says it does. What threw us a bit was a TV news story putting the total at $44 million but that was for all lawsuits--not just for APD.


Meantime, while the city swallows hard over these historic payouts (and while some of the lawyers involved pop the champagne corks) our Legal Beagles piece together the motive for the city throwing in a $5 million towel in the Boyd case. One of them offers this unvarnished opinion:

The $5 million to settle the Boyd case was not just about money and reducing what may have been awarded by a jury. It was also about the Berry Administration saving face, avoiding being questioned and held accountable for incompetence and mismanagement of APD before a judge and jury, and avoiding further damage to Chief Gordon Eden’s and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry’s reputations. This is the same shooting that Chief Eden characterized as “justified” with the backing of CAO Rob Perry while Berry was out of town. Berry waited a few weeks before he said the killing was a “game changer.” One month after the killing the Dept. of Justice issued its scathing report, with the Boyd shooting nothing more than a footnote in the report. There is little doubt that Chief Eden, Rob Perry and perhaps even Berry, would have been called to testify under oath, in open court, in the Boyd lawsuit to explain their remarks and their actions and explain APD’s handling of the shooting.

Yeah, kids. That's the real stuff you only get here.

Meanwhile, Eden, Perry and Berry cannot settle the case against the two officers criminally charged in the Boyd slaying. They could still be called to testify in a trial and asked to explain their actions.


Did Fox News Latino--which did a report on the issuance of driver's licenses to undocumented workers and attributed fewer of them in NM to a crackdown by the Martinez administration--forget something? The report does not mention the state's stagnant economy and how immigration--both legal and illegal--has slowed to a trickle. Well, we reported it. You decide.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thursday Vox Populi: Readers Write Of High Priced Pizza Men, Confederate Flags, Matt Chandler, The NM Workforce And Legalizing Pot 

As you've heard time and again business is booming in the states surrounding New Mexico and a reader drives the point home with this pic he snapped in Austin.

Pizza delivery drivers there are pulling down $16 an hour, plus $1.00 for each delivery and get a $250 bonus just for signing up. Austin is about a ten hour drive from ABQ but it seems the economies are light years apart. . .

We dip digger into the mailbag and find this from reader and ABQ attorney Steve Suttle:

Does the Confederate flag on the Old Town plaza bother anyone? Admittedly, it is the flag of the Confederate government (seven stars commemorating the first seven secession states) and not the offensive Confederate battle flag. However, doesn't it represent slavery as much as the battle flag? Although it doesn't have the close association with the Ku Klux
Klan or the likes of the Charleston church mass murderer, it nevertheless was
equally a symbol of rebellion, oppression, and enslavement. Some might also point out that the royal standard of Spain on the plaza can be associated with extreme brutality to the native population during the Entrada.


A reader writes of that $5 million lawsuit settlement over the fatal police shooting of homeless camper James Boyd:

Speaking of accountability, how about that $5,000,000 settlement the city of ABQ paid to the family of James Boyd who was killed by APD? By now Albuquerque, under Mayor Berry, has spent how much in lawsuits against APD. What could Albuquerque have done with this money? Better streets? Not raise water prices to fix an aging water system? Hire the 800 vacant city job openings? And is anyone ever held accountable? 

The latest figures from the newspaper say at least $28 million has been paid out since 2010 to settle lawsuits involving police shootings. However, the city hedged by saying that is its best estimate, not necessarily the total figure.

The total is higher than $28 million when you account for the settlement of all lawsuits involving APD--not just those involving shootings--but we don't know what that number is. Again, we ask where are the fiscal conservatives in the city? Shouldn't they naturally be demanding the total amounts and accountability?


A critic of former Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler--whose nomination by the Governor to the UNM Board of Regents was rebuffed by the state senate but who this week was appointed by her to fill a vacant district judgeship--comes with this angle:

There is no one more ill-suited to the bench than a guy who makes false accusations against a chief justice of the NM Supreme Court. Forget his involvement in the GOP political PAC in 2012, his official actions are the real problem. From 2011:

Chief Justice Charles Daniels said  he won’t remove himself from any matters arising from criminal charges against a Las Cruces judge--and said the request that he do so contained “false allegations” and “factual misrepresentations.” Daniels took aim at allegations raised by special prosecutor Matt Chandler, who wanted the Supreme Court justice out of the bribery and witness intimidation case against District Judge Mike Murphy. Chandler, the district attorney from Clovis, filed a motion requesting Daniels recuse himself, citing a series of events and comments he said would bring Daniels’ impartiality into question.  In the order denying the motion, Daniels said: The suggestion that he or his wife, Randi McGinn, paid or made political contributions for his appointment to the Supreme Court by then-Gov. Bill Richardson in 2007 are “patently false” and “groundless gossip.”

For sure, Judge Matt is going to have a lot of second-guessers peering over his shoulder when he makes his judicial decisions.


Reader Sheik Yerbuti Jr. writes:

Joe, I could not agree with you more about NM's lack of an educated workforce as a major component in the failure to attract businesses. And attracting new industry won't be the be-all-end-all, either--at least, initially. One only has to look back when Intel first set up shop in Rio Rancho--or when Silicon Valley exploded in the '70's  In both cases, the companies brought workers from elsewhere. They had to. There weren't enough qualified workers to find. This remains especially true for the engineering-type jobs. We don't have a good engineering-hi-tech base in NM. Remember when there were lots of out-of-staters moving to Rio Rancho and the West Side of ABQ--and how resentment grew among the locals? 

We really need to beef up our educational system. We need to develop new generations of tech-oriented youth before we can focus on trying to attract industry. If we don't, then yeah--we might bring the next Apple or Microsoft here, sure; but these companies won't be hiring very many New Mexicans. They'll be bringing qualified workers with them--workers drawn to our (comparatively) cheap cost of living which will come along with their new jobs.

Reader Kay Nixon writes of a variety of topics:

Marijuana is going to be legalized because Wall Street wants it. Wall Street sees it as a money maker. There have been articles about Wall Street exploring ways to set up public marijuana companies to trade on the market. Speaking of Wall Street, I hope the none of the state's trusts, municipal funds or retirement funds are invested in Puerto Rican, Greek or Chinese bonds. Also, from what I hear on Bloomberg radio the price of oil will never go back to the highs that it did in the last ten years so the citizens, NM Legislature and Governor need to expect lower returns on oil drilling here. Unfortunately our leaders thinking seems limited in their world view.


Reader Ron Nelson maintains that legalizing marijuana in New Mexico as has been done in Colorado is a lousy idea:

I’d like to rebut Representative Bill McCamley’s proposition to legalize marijuana here. The lessons learned from legalizing alcohol should be a stellar role model as to why this is a bad idea. . .The amount of money spent on the health, social and public safety issues that are a direct result of excessive alcohol consumption is staggering and in the billions of dollars. And yet we promote more businesses that solicit alcohol, with little to show for it at the medical and public safety end of the spectrum. . . Colorado has also cited a 68 percent shortfall in projected tax revenues. The politicians blame the medical marijuana program for underselling the legal market, but other sources claim black marketers are underselling legal businesses almost 3-1.

Thanks for the thoughtful mail. Drop us a line any 'ol time

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