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Monday, February 19, 2018

A Tax Increase? Already? Councilors Float Tax Hike To Bail City Out Of Budget And APD Mess; Keller Noncommittal; Wants Everything "On The Table" Plus: Finding New Money Without Boosting Taxes 

Councilors Sanchez & Jones
A tax increase? Already? ABQ's City Council, reawakened after eight years of slumbering while the city was mismanaged into a deficit, presided over the ruination of the police department and an economic recession that goes on and on, now says the way to solve the city's problems is not to reform the wrongheaded ways that got us here but to paper it over by increasing taxes.

Specifically, Councilors Ken Sanchez, a Democrat, and Republican Trudy Jones are proposing a hike of 3/8ths of a cent in the regressive gross receipts tax ($55 million a year) that would take it very close to 8 percent, putting it at 7.875 percent. They want to use the money to resolve the city deficit and to hire more APD officers.

As former Mayor Jim Baca pointed out this is a regressive tax that would mostly hit the many low income households in the city. He urges Mayor Keller to veto it should it reach his desk.

We would add that a nearly 8 percent GRT is a red flag for professionals like doctors, lawyers and small business owners wanting to set up shop here.

So where is Mayor Keller as shrapnel flies from this mini-bombshell? Not very visible, at least not yet.

Remember, Keller is the former State Auditor who revealed millions in wasteful spending and fraud--a record that paved his way to being elected mayor last November. So it's natural to ask: Where is the Council's and administration's in-depth audit of the city before the tax bandwagon gathers speed? Where are the reforms to improve performance?

The past waste and mismanagement right in front of us is epic--the ART project, the $60 million in APD lawsuit settlements, the APD overtime debacle, just to name a few. And then there are the many creepy-crawlers still under the City Hall carpets that we don't yet know about. Heck, a controversial tax hike might invite Republican State Auditor Wayne Johnson, who succeeded Keller, to take a peek at the city's books.

KELLER CORNER

Mayor Keller 
Keller's only comment on the tax increase was to have his office say "all options" should be "on the table." It looks as if he is watching the wind to see if this trial balloon gets ballast. But a major campaign pledge of the Mayor's was to get voter approval of any public safety tax. And since Sanchez is saying the bulk of the money from any tax hike would go to public safety, it's hard not to get busted if that pledge is not kept.

Keller needs millions to hire more officers for the severely understaffed APD and if he doesn't show results in his first year, he may start going under water politically. That makes the tax hike look like the easy way out.

But after eight years of bungling it's hard to justify funding Mayor Berry's administration without deconstructing it.

--There is not at least a million or more in annual savings available by downsizing outside legal contracts?

--Business registration permits have been at $35 for over 8 years. Time for a increase?

--The Mayor's office can't lead the way and provide a quick symbolic $100,000 in savings? Ditto for the council?

--We can't put the economic development department under the mayor's office?

--How about finally dealing with APD overtime?

--How about raising some money by putting more traffic cops on the Wild West, anything goes freeways?

That's just little stuff. And the list goes on and on.

FINDING THE MONEY

Even with reforms and savings it's clear that there is going to have to be new revenue to plug the deficit--in the area of $40 million--and finance APD staffing. That money is staring the mayor and the council in the face. It's the $18 million a year flowing in from a 1/8th of a cent gross receipts tax increase approved two years ago for capital projects at the BioPark. Redirect 75 percent of that tax--with voter approval--to the public safety emergency and you get $13 million annually.

But that would take spending political capital. The BioPark protectors will vigorously defend their tax that came while the crime wave was building but which was downplayed by the business community and the media in an effort to avoid pinning responsibility on their favored Mayor Richard Berry. The true scope of the problem became known publicly only after the stats came out following the tax vote.

Raising taxes so soon after the last election as a faux means of solving the leadership problem the city faces is only going to further advance the current and correct stereotype that this city council is out of touch and unable or unwilling to produce real results. If Keller agrees to it before at least enacting true reforms and savings, it could be a sign that the new administration is not so serious after all and is going to govern by auto-pilot for the next four years.

TAX HIKE POLITICS

ABQ City Council
A Republican supporting a tax increase? NE Heights "conservative" R and tax co-sponsor Councilor Trudy Jones is not expected to seek re-election in two years. If she were staying she would not sign on to it.

Republican Councilor Brad Winter is also serving his final term and faces no political consequences if he supports the hike other than looking like a hypocrite. We'll see.

NE Heights GOP Councilor Don Harris is freshly re-elected but his somewhat conservative district is not going to swallow a tax increase without objection. Maybe he sells it as essential to break the back of the crime wave?

The council is divided 6 to 3 with Dems in the majority so the D's could pass a hike without any R support. But westside Councilor Cynthia Borrego represents a swing district. A vote to raise taxes as her first major decision would have possible opponents crawling out of the woodwork.

Dem Councilor Klarissa Peña represents a Valley district that is one of the poorest of the nine. Does she want to burden that low-income constituency with a higher tax on everyday expenses?

SE Heights Dem Councilor Pat Davis is running for the ABQ congressional seat. His liberal district might look favorably upon the proposal but if Davis votes yes, what does that say about what he would do in DC when it comes to taxes for working class families?

Dem Councilor Ike Benton suffered a recent loss when he proposed an increase in the gasoline tax to finance road repairs.  He would likely be a "yes" vote for the hike. Councilor Diane Gibson, freshly re-elected, may go for it because of the high crime in her NE district.

So it appears there are three firm votes for the increase: Sanchez, Jones and Benton. Much now is going to depend on how Keller plays his hand from the 11th floor.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Low Energy, Small Ball Session Crawls To Close; "They Came Here Already Checked Out." Plus: '18 Session Sore Loser Award And Sex Assault Charge Rocks Gonzales As He Quits Lt. Gov. Race  

The low energy, small ball legislative session of 2018 crawls to a close today. As one Wall-Leaner put it:

Joe, they came here already checked out, acted that way for the month and then just checked out. There was no energy."

Checked out meaning they were exhausted from the 7 years under Gov. Martinez and just waiting for it to end and get on with whatever comes next.

That it was a small ball session was not a disaster. The lawmakers did do their main job for a short session. They passed with little rancor a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. And while you will read of long lists of "accomplishments" in the press and elsewhere, that was the major significance of the 30 day meet.

Not that Santa Fe went on a spending spree. They didn't have the money to do that. As we have pointed out, the $6.3 billion general fund budget just approved is lower than the budget passed 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation.

Democrats decided to go easy on the minority R's, even to the point of giving some of them in theHouse ammo for their re-election campaigns. But the D's believe this cycle belongs to them so they assume this "checked out session" preserves the gains they see coming in November in the governorship, the statewide offices and in the House.

The 30 days is best compared to this year's annual Senate-House basketball game--unlike past games there were no injuries and no tackles.

A WINNER? MAYBE

If there was a big winner in Santa Fe this year, it came from the outside. BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez received a big--a really big increase--in his budget after marshaling the media and convincing lawmakers who were afraid of being cast as "soft on crime."

It was well done as not one story appeared in the mainstream media--TV or newspaper-- about how Torrez is handling the money he already has, the office vacancy rate and whether current pay levels are appropriate.

State Senators put off by the Torrez pressure are now laying in wait and come next January will be expecting glowing reports from him about how ABQ crime is rapidly receding because of all that new money. Good luck with that.

And that so-called "bipartisan crime package,"containing as it does measures that have about as much bite as a month old puppy, was, like the DA budget boost, just an optical play by both sides to assure the public that were doing something--anything--about the crime waves that roll through the state.

Gov. Martinez laid low for the most part for her final legislative session. Like everyone else the fight is out of her. With only 10 months left her staff can be expected to start looking for work elsewhere and so can she.

PORK BARREL

This year's capital outlay or "pork" bill is about $180 million for projects across the state.  You can find a list of those projects for your area here. They are mainly financed with bonds drawn from the Severance Tax Permanent Fund which gets its money from oil gas taxes and royalties. And those have been going back up as oil recovers.

That pretty much sums up the major themes, but one final note. . .

GONZALES ALLEGATION

On Wednesday we referenced a "backstory" on Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales when we reported of his withdrawal from the race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Wednesday night that backstory went front and center when charges made against Gonzales at a Santa Fe City Council meeting from two weeks ago surfaced.

KRQE-TV decided to run tape from that meeting of Roger Rael addressing Gonzales at that council meeting and repeatedly demanding he answer his question: "Did you sexually assault a member of your family"? (Full news report here.)

Gonzales interrupted Rael and urged him to move on or he would be removed from the meeting. The TV station asked the NM State Police if they are investigating the charge that Gonzales assaulted a family member some 35 years ago when he was a teenager.
The agency confirmed it was investigating but added what the station called an odd addendum by saying that it is not naming any suspect because no crime has yet been charged.

The shock claim from Rael was rebutted by Gonzales' campaign who characterized him as a "right-wing nut job, an anti-Semite, anti-African American" and urged anyone who believes he has credibility to Google and YouTube Rael's name. Gonzales said in a statement that the charge dates backs to when he was going through a divorce. Gonzales has come out as a gay man but was formerly married and is the father of two daughters.

Gonzales denies that the charge had anything to do with him withdrawing from the Light Guv race. He said he got out because "my heart is no longer in it."

Whatever the reason for the withdrawal this mess would have been sure to sully the atmosphere for the Dems if Gonzales had become the ticket's #2. You can bet after getting an earload of this the Dem candidates for Governor are glad to bid Javier "Adios."

Earlier, ABQ Dem State Senator Michael Padilla withdrew from the Light Guv race because of decade-old sex harassment charges that resulted in the city of ABQ paying a lawsuit settlement.

Republicans have relished the Dem dysfunction from the sidelines and hope that there is more to come in this sex opera. The Dems are praying that the Gonzales mess is the end.

But it isn't the end of the Dem sex woes. The latest from the Dems PR arm at the Roundhouse:

After official allegations of sexual harassment against Dona Ana County Commissioner Vasquez came to light, Democratic Senators Mary Kay Papen (SD38), Bill Soules (SD-37), and Jeff Steinborn (SD-36) and Democratic Representatives Doreen Gallegos (HD-52), Bealquin “Bill” Gomez (HD-34), Bill McCamley (HD-33), Angelica Rubio (HD-35), Nathan Small (HD-36), and Joanne Ferrary (HD-37) released the following statement:

“As elected officials it’s essential that we conduct ourselves professionally and treat all citizens with respect. We are very troubled by reports of Doña Ana County (Democratic) Commissioner John Vasquez engaging in harassment and unwanted sexual behavior. We stand with the women who have come forward and been affected by this behavior, and call on Doña Ana County to immediately investigate and take action."

That one is dragging in Richard Ellenberg, chairman of the NM Democratic Party. And we thought the election was about the economy. Silly us.

SORE LOSER

The sore loser award for the session goes to PNM. Get a load of this from the electric company:

Public Service Co. of New Mexico wants to stir a public backlash against the Santa Fe-based environmental group New Energy Economy for its role in defeating a legislative bill this month that could have accelerated the utility’s replacement of coal-fired generation with renewable energy.

That statement after PNM received a giant federal tax cut that made unnecessary any major rate increase, sparing them more public enmity and also after years of increasing profits courtesy of previous rate hikes.

Hey, PNM, its not a winner take all game anymore. And for not recognizing that, you're the winner of the 2018 Legislative Sore Loser Award. Congrats or something. . .

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Trump's NM Numbers Still In Cellar: A Boost For Dem Hopefuls? Gonzales Is Gone; Ends Bid For Light Guv Nod And BernCo Dem Chairman Praises Socialism 

He's more popular here than Gov. Martinez but not by much and that could boost the Dems chances to pick up some strength this November.

President Trump, according to a Morning Consult poll taken January 20-29, has an approval rating of only 38% among the state's registered voters. The R's knew it was going to be a tough year for them and this survey signals the rough waters ahead as they attempt to hang on to the governorship and prevent erosion in their numbers in the state House.

Gov. Martinez had an approval rating of 33 percent in a Morning Consult poll that was conducted over the last three months of 2017.

Still, R's warn, the Dems could overplay their hand by going anti-Trump all the time, pointing out that there are a bevy of local concerns that they will use to keep the focus away from their White House weakness.

In neighboring Texas the GOP can breathe easier. Trump wins an approval rating of 51 percent in the Lonestar State. To our north, Colorado voters are similar to ours when it comes to Trump. Only 41 percent approve of the president's job performance.

One of the ABQ congressional candidates isn't wasting any time in trying to use Trump's unpopularity to his benefit. ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis, one of six hopefuls for the seat being vacated by Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, came with a TV spot Tuesday that said in part:

. . . He'll be a leader to battle Trump and fix a corrupt political system. With all that's going on we need Pat Davis in Congress.

A consultant for an opposing campaign said Davis only spent about $2,500 on the ad for a one month run and that it will air only on MSNBC. Davis has lagged in fund-raising compared to Deb Haaland, Damon Martinez and Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez.

But Davis is preaching to a small audience right now--the hundreds of delegates who will attend the March pre-primary convention where there will be a vote on the hopefuls. Whoever comes out on top or near it will claim momentum for the June primary.

GONZALES GONE

Is there a back story on why Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales has decided to end his run for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor? He confirmed he was out shortly after Alligators put out the word on the blog yesterday that he could be headed for the exits.

It was odd that he got in the race after saying he was getting out of politics to tend to the needs of his daughters. Then on his way out the door there were some nasty reports about Gonzales that were floated to this blog and to the New Mexican. They did not see publication but still. . .

Then there was Dem gubernatorial front-runner Rep. Lujan Grisham. Did she really want to run with Gonzales thinking he would be highly popular in the North? He would not have been, judging by his polling numbers in his own city.

In any event Gonzales's departure leaves four contenders for the #2 spot: Taos educator Jeff Carr, Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, former House Majority Leader Rick Miera and state Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City. Morales and Miera are seen as the two to watch.

A DEM SOCIALIST

Peifer
Here's some Dem messaging that had us doing a double take. BernCo Dem Party Chairman Bill Peifer recently wrote to party members:

Dear Democrat, Most Republicans believe that "socialism" is a terrible thing. They incorrectly equate it to communism, which they again incorrectly equate to despotic dictatorship. Most of them can't even comprehend situations where socialism works better than greed-based capitalism, even when they are themselves being helped by socialistic entities. . . In fact, sometimes they can't even see socialism working better than capitalism when it IS right in front of them.

. . . W can see dozens of areas where competitive capitalism just doesn't work. Socialism isn't a pervasive evil that needs to be eradicated. In general, it can be argued that the things for which all of society has an overwhelming need are best left to a socialized system. Fire protection, law enforcement, education, culture and basic old-age pension fall into that category. Quality healthcare is certainly another overwhelming need of society in general. Every other civilized country in the world has recognized that fact, and have socialized their entire healthcare systems. It's time for America to move into the 21st century and do the same.

Peifer has been one of the more active BernCo Party Chairs in recent years and has reinvigorated the base with fighting words like those. Of course, the R's could soon use those same words against him (and Dem candidates) to ignite their own base.

ROUNDHOUSE WIND DOWN

"Dr. No" is at again.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith says he will not give a hearing to the proposed constitutional amendment to use a portion of the state's $17 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood education. That's par for the course for the Deming lawmaker who has killed the measure in the past, despite its approval by the state House.

The amendment continues to pick up public and media support and will be back in the '19 session when supporters say if a Democratic governor is elected that could help win Senate approval and send it to the voters in 2020. . .

THE BOTTOM LINES

Ray Moran
Media and business old timers in ABQ and NM will remember the name Ray Moran, the pioneer broadcaster who in the 70's and 80's served as General Manager of radio stations KRST and KRZY in Albuquerque, growing them to industry prominence. He founded KTEZ radio in Lubbock in 1972. In 1981, Moran's Ramar Communications launched channel 34 in Lubbock, RX as an independent TV station.

We worked for Ray at ABQ's KRZY-AM and KRST-FM as a news director in the late 70's. He always gave us the freedom to report the news free of any commercial restraints or pressure. He believed in talent and we grew and prospered because of it.

Moran, 82, a past president of the NM Broadcasters Association, died February 11 in Lubbock. Ramar Communications currently has 16 TV and radio stations in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

Well done, Ray, and thanks. Those were the good times. RIP. . .

Political consultant Chris Brown is already earning lashes with the wet noodle. He made an error in predicting the Santa Fe City Council District 4 race on the Tuesday. His actual prediction is that JoAnne Vigil-Coppler will take the race, not the candidate he first mentioned here.

If his predictions don't pan out at the March election a more stern punishment of no green chile for a month will be handed down.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Martinez Kisses Trump Ring At WH Meet, Keller Hits DC For ART Money, John Sanchez In Line For Something Big? And Santa Fe Mayor Predictions  

DC sources close to the congressional delegation report that ABQ Mayor Keller was in Washington in late January making the rounds for $75 million in ART funding. They say he focused on the staffs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees where any bill that includes the delayed ART funding would be written.

His chances of getting the stalled cash for the so fair failed transit project appear to have improved. There are big dollar increases in the recently approved two year Federal budget so money for the ART project on Central Avenue might have have a better chance of getting here.

Keeping it on Capitol Hill. . .

When the star of US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi shines bright so does that of her NM protege, Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. Right now the Pelosi star is looking a bit faded:

David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said that in an era when voters are disaffected with Washington, it is difficult for Democrats to make the case that they are change agents with Ms. Pelosi at the helm.

Ben Ray is chairman of the DCCC, charged with the campaign strategy to take back the House for the Republicans in 2018. He and Pelosi we're also in charge of that task in '16 and took heat for making only a tiny gain, but they survived. This could be the pair's last try. If they can't bring it home this year when the President's approval rating is so low, this could be their last hurrah as key national players.

We've reluctantly come to this same conclusion but see zilch in the way of momentum for a constitutional amendment that would be needed to make the switch:

. . . Upgrade the quality of legislators by paying them a base salary. A fair amount would be $50,000 a year. . . Having a reasonable base salary would allow people of every demographic group to run. By expanding the pool of candidates and, more important, the pool of talent, New Mexico might get better lawmakers. . . Some will say New Mexico cannot afford to add 112 legislators to the payroll. . . Good legislators are essential for state government to be what it often is not--efficient, open and competent. There are plenty of places to cut fat, starting with the job of lieutenant governor. That position pays $85,000 a year and the office drains another $447,000 annually.

Speaking of the lieutenant governor, the current one is John Sanchez whose political career has become roadkill under unpopular Gov. Susan Martinez. But all may not be lost. The rumor mill--and we stress it is the rumor mill--has Sanchez under consideration for a possible appointment as a US ambassador to somewhere. Well, considering what has happened to him here, John would probably welcome relocating to an exotic locale.

Is Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales dropping out of the race for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor? Alligators raised the question and we asked Gonzales and his consultant for comment but got none. Phone home when you're ready, Javier. . .

UPDATE: Gonzales ended his candidacy Tuesday afternoon, saying when he got in he feared there were no progressive candidates in the contest:

. . . The progressive voice across the state is strong, and that many qualified candidates are bringing their passion and perspective to the Lt. Governor race. Unfortunately my heart is not in this race, so with a clear conscience, I have decided to end my campaign


Gov. Martinez was at the White House along with other Governors and politicos for a meeting with President Trump Monday on his infrastructure plan, She clapped approvingly and smiled cheerily at the man she refused to endorse for the presidency and which surely got her into his dog house. But now with limited time left on in her governorship maybe she's looking to get out of it and dropped off her resume during her visit. Can she at least join Sanchez on that rumor list of possible ambassadorial appointees? Knowing Trump he'd send her to Siberia if he could.

FILING ACTION (CONT.)

More Alligator musings on this week's candidate filings for statewide offices. This one deals with the Court of Appeals in which five seats are on the ballot:

Joe, it's interesting that it's 4 Republican men versus 5 Democratic women in the Court of Appeals races. And if my sources are correct, all the woman are graduates of the  Emerge program  designed to get Democratic woman elected to office. This would put 8 women on the ten member bench. Bad optics for the Republicans IMHO.

There are currently three women judges on the court and with the state leaning blue in the statewide races, we could easily get to 8. Dem Judge Jennifer Attrep is one of them and a sure thing. She was appointed to fill a vacancy but drew no GOP opposition.

SANTA FE MAYOR

Now that he's the clear front-runner in the Santa Fe march mayoral election, it's time Alan Webber to take the hits. Here's reader Savannah Baca taking a swing:

Webber is with the sugar tax bunch that were defeated soundly! The New Mexican endorsement can also be the kiss of death! Ron Trujillo has a strong and aggressive grass roots campaign so don't count him out.

Trujillo is a Santa Fe City Councilor and seen as one of the leading challengers to Webber in the five way race.

Longtime NM political consultant and media buyer Chris Brown, also a longtime resident of Santa Fe, starts the countdown fun to the March 6 mayoral election with the first round of predictions. Here they are:

Mayor Alan Webber. Broadest support, best ideas. Most money, but he started slowly. I don’t think his money or newspaper endorsement(s) will be decisive. He does have by far the most membership organizations endorsing him, so that has to be a plus.

Mayoral surprise: Ron Trujillo will get more eastside votes than one or both of our councilors, Maestas and Ives.

Mayoral top three in ranked order, as we say: Webber, Trujillo, Noble, in that order, all with strong showings. Then a big gap to Ives and Maestas


District 1--Incumbent Signe Lindell; 2--Carol Romero-Wirth; 3--Roman "Tiger" Abeyta (unopposed);4:Joanne Vigil Coppler.

In District 2 the edge goes to Romero-Wirth because of the Sierra Club endorsement which goes a long way in that area.

If Chris is wrong there will be punishment--at least 25 lashes with a wet noodle made fresh from one of this fancy Italian restaurants up there.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Monday, February 12, 2018

Trouble At The Journal And What Its Troubles Stem From, Plus: How Low can She Go? Susana Polling Slump Bad But Not Worst, And Webber Mo; Can He Keep It as Santa Fe Election Nears?  

The good news for the ABQ Journal is that the cartoon that caused such an uproar, well, caused such an uproar. It spoke to the relevancy (if still waning) of the only paper in town. The bad news? The cartoon again revealed the identity crisis the Journal now struggles with. Here are the key points:

--The state's population is now over 60 percent majority-minority, with Hispanics making up nearly 50 percent of that total. In BernCo 65 percent of the population fits the majority-minority definition. If the media can't stay in touch with that dramatic demographic change, it's in trouble

--The Journal has an aging, Anglo leadership which represents the demographic that is shrinking here. The publisher, the senior editor and the editor are all well into their 60's. All joined the paper when the city was a drastically different place economically and socially.

--That's not "ageist." It's just a matter of fact that keeping up with and truly understanding marked cultural change is more difficult when your point of reference is a world and decades away.

--The trouble the Journal is having adjusting was laid bare in the October mayoral election when for the first time they endorsed two candidates as they tried to navigate the new electorate that apparently so baffles them.

--The paper needs to attract more younger minority journalists who are tapped into the city's new zeitgeist and who can bring the paper more fully into the community.

All of that is a tall order for the 125 year old Journal which was founded by and for the town's new Anglo business interests who began to build the city in 1880 when the railroad arrived.

The Journal has adhered to those roots, catering to the local business community and quite often to the Republican Party. But corporate America has driven prominent local businesses from the picture and we now have the aforementioned demographic shift to a majority minority population. On top of that, the Republicans have been sent into hibernation in Bernalillo County, possibly for many years.

In other words the constituency the Journal is so accustomed to serving has shrunk and continues to shrink while the new constituency and its agenda is being ignored and waits restlessly for its majority voice to be recognized.

Whether the paper is even profitable at this point or being carried by the Lang family's real estate interests is unknown, but just about all newspapers today face financial challenges. The current publisher--William P. Lang--is known for his business acumen, but according to one source who spoke with him directly, he does not have a deep interest in day to day news operations.

Rather than fight for survival amid even more sea changes that are coming to the state's population and economy, this would seem a good time for the Journal's publishing family of nearly 90 years to sell the operation. But are there any buyers? Papers in DC, LA and Las Vegas have all gone to billionaires who are willing to assume some risk in exchange for the power of the publisher. But there are no billionaires here.

The often brilliant and now retired public relations executive Lanny Tonning once said: "The ABQ Journal: The only newspaper that resents the town it covers."

That may or may not be true but unless there is a reshaped agenda and leadership at the state's largest paper what it says in the future--no matter how controversial--may be greeted by the silence that accompanies irrelevancy rather than citizen demonstrations and condemnations from politicians.

HOW LOW?

Gov. Anaya 
How low can she go? Gov. Martinez's approval rating has plunged to 33 percent in the latest Morning Consult survey. That ties the low registered by Dem Gov. Richardson in his last year in office in 2010.

Martinez would appear to have hit bottom but if she hasn't she could still drop a long way before she became the state's most unpopular governor in polling history.

When Democratic Governor Toney Anaya ('83-87) was about to leave office in November 1986, an ABQ Journal survey had his "favorability" rating at an astounding low of 12.2 percent.

Toney's authoritarian instincts put off the electorate and his four year term was chaotic. But 12 percent? We dare say that's a record like DiMaggio's hitting streak--a record that will never be broken.

The irony for Martinez, of course, is that she rode Big Bill's unpopularity into the Fourth Floor in the 2010 election. Now the Dems appear about to do the same with her own unpopularity.

In practical terms Martinez's bad polls makes vetoing bills a more difficult prospect as even Republicans might be prone to override her. And her power to put public pressure on the Legislature is weakened.

And pity Steve Pearce, the GOP Guv nominee-to-be. He not only has Susana's baggage to carry but the Donald's as well. That's what you call a heavy load.

MO AND MONEY

With the Santa Fe mayoral election now less than a month away, he's got the mo and the money, but the often topsy-turvy politics of the City Different have been known to turn quickly so entrepreneur Alan Webber may find himself tested in the final weeks.

Besides raising more money than his opponents, Webber, who became know politically when he unsuccessfully sought the 2014 Dem Guv nomination,  also picked up the endorsement of outgoing Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. That might be a mixed blessing in a two way race. The Gonzales tenure has proved divisive and not all that popular, according to the polls. But the endorsement math works for Webber in this five way contest.

Webber has also won the endorsement of the New Mexican.

The mayoral campaign has been less aggressive than those of the past. The new system of ranked voting in which candidates need to appeal to voters not only to be their first choice but also their second--has calmed the animal spirits that usually take hold at this point.

Webber has worked the beat hard and assumed the front-runner position, making the question of the campaign not "Why Webber?" but "Why Not Webber?" Will any of his foes take up that question?

THE BOTTOM LINES

At the Roundhouse, it appears BernCo DA Raul Torrez will walk away with a big budget boost, if not all that he wanted. The Dem DA can thank GOP Gov. Martinez and the unrelenting crime wave that has caused near desperation as citizens look for solutions. . .

Some are saying that Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith has now given Torrez "enough rope to hang himself" if the money doesn't make much of a difference. And it may not.

By the way, not a bad play for lame duck Martinez in how she got Senate Finance to give in on overall crime funding.  No one likes being "soft on crime.". . .

The state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is coming in at around $6.3 billion. Despite having about $300 million more to appropriate, mainly because of rising oil prices, that budget is less than a 5 percent increase from the general fund budget of 10 years ago. How about that?. . .

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Thursday, February 08, 2018

BernCo DA Torrez Gets Major Pushback On 30% Budget Hike Plan, Alligators Pile On With Powerful Info As Senate Handles This Hot Potato, And: ABQ Congressional Race Heats Up Over Money Reports  

DA Torrez
The heat is on in the Senate Finance Committee to cave on a major funding increase for the office of Bernalillo County Democratic District Attorney Raul Torrez.

For example the conservative media--e.g. KOAT -TV 7--has started some kind of war to get the money. The general manager is urging viewers to jam the phone lines of committee members to get them to support a whopping 30 per cent budget increase for Torrez--$5.4 million--that is being supported by GOP Gov. Martinez.

Torrez maintains he cannot fully prosecute criminals without the extra funds and says in addition to felons walking, the office has a low DWI conviction rate because of a lack of resources.

But as Senate Finance prepares to meet on his request this traffic case apparently involving a former NM Cabinet Secretary under Gov. Martinez is making the rounds, raising questions at the Roundhouse about how Torrez handled it (were the charges the result of a plea down from a more severe offense?) and how it could impact his money request.

What gets your attention with this case is that the ABQ attorney for the former government official shares office space (201 12th St.) with attorney Paul Kennedy, the legal Mr. Fix-it for Gov. Martinez who has had hundreds of thousands in contracts with the state (maybe more but the state won't release the contract totals to the media).

Kennedy once defended Martinez in court by calling journalism "a racket." Maybe the news department at KOAT might want to look into this? They wouldn't want to be part of a racket, would they?

As for the media, go ahead and advocate, play favorites and show your true agenda. We won't mind. Just stop trying to bullshit the public that that this is any kind of objective "journalism." Because it isn't.

TEARING ON TORREZ

That's not Raul's only problem as he tries to pressure rural lawmakers for more money. Critics are coming out of the closet, like Pete Dinelli, a Dem who served as the Chief Deputy District Attorney for BernCo in the 90's:

Torrez wants funding for an additional 34 attorneys without explaining why he cannot fill the 18 attorney vacancies he has. Torrez has given no explanation how he is going to recruit so many more prosecutors to work for him while competing with other District Attorney offices in the state. What is known for sure is that Torrez is hiring retired Assistant District Attorneys and retired former Assistant United States Attorneys, some on contract, and paying them anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000 a year which is significantly more than entry level positions that pay between $45,000 to $50,000 a year.

In his first year in office Raul has railed against the judges and now he and his political consultants have employed the media to ride herd on the Legislature and shift the blame for the crime wave to them. But where is the coverage of the concern of how he is handling the budget he already has? We suppose the Senate Finance Committee will have to provide that.

ALLIGATOR PILE ON

The Alligators are everywhere on this one. Yet another Torrez takedown as the DA and his consultants attempt to redefine the criminal justice system to his liking but finding it's a tough sell to those in the know. Heads up Senate Finance. Here's the real deal:

It is short sighted to believe that the funding of the DA will actually solve anything. The DA wants 34 more attorneys to prosecute an additional 2,000 felony cases. The next step, the legislature would have to increase funding for public defenders who represent 85% of those cases. Then the legislature would have to fund the courts to pay for additional judges and jurors needed to handle all these cases.

And most costly, there will be additional funding to the Dept. of Corrections. For example, if the DA got a 1 year prison sentence on 10% of those 2,000 cases then that would be an additional 200 people in prison at 36k per year for a total of $7.2 million. Probation costs DOC $2,700 per year, so if the DA secures 1,000 additional people on probation then that would add up to $2.7m.

Senate Finance is staring at a $20 million hole if they go the DA's way and they know it.

Assuming the legislature is going to spend $20m to address the crime problem in Albuquerque, the question becomes 'what is the best use of that money? Torrez subscribes to locking people up in a cage as a way of addressing the problem. Many nationwide trends and majority of think tank institutes believe there are better ways. Education and prevention lead the way. Once a person is identified as having a mental illness or substance abuse addiction, it is far more effective and less costly to address and treat the underlying issue. 

First the DA chose to blame the district judges for his bad results. Then the DA blamed the defense attorneys for his bad results. Then the DA blamed the New Mexico Supreme Court's rules for his bad results. Now, the DA admits that his office fails to open cases, loses cases and is ineffective in its prosecutions. Would we allow a coach of a losing team to blame the referees for the loss, then blame the other team for cheating, then declare that the rules of the game must be changed. And would we then support that coach to get a pay raise and be promoted to athletic director?

Oh, my, Raul, you've let the Gators out of of their cages and there's not a darn thing KOAT's Mary Lynn Roper, KRQE's Larry Barker or the editorial writers at the Journal can do for you. That $5.4 million increase is not happening. Something less, yes, But all is not lost. You can then add Senate Finance to the list of those to blame for the crime wave that you were elected to help resolve.

A WILD ONE

That six way battle for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat is getting really heated. One of the Gators came with a round of analysis of the recent fundraising reports that had Damon Martinez, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Deb Haaland in the top tier and he took a bite out of Haaland for having spent so much of what she has raised. Another Gator has an angle more friendly to her:

Hey Joe, The analysis by one of the Alligators of the CD1 money race was a little bit misleading. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez raised $506,000 total so far but gave herself a $50K loan, her actual fundraising is at $456,000. Therefore she has $347,000 with the loan cash-on-hand but without the loan it is $297,000 cash. Sedillo Lopez has spent about 158K, most of it on her staff but some on media consulting. 

Damon Martinez has raised $370,000 total but gave himself $60K in loans, meaning his actual fundraising is closer to $310K. He has $322,000 on hand with his loan, $262,000 without the loan. Damon did spend very little of the money he raised--47K. This is not necessarily a good thing, there are very little payments for staff, and Damon does not have a lot of name recognition not to mention he entered the race late. 

Deb Haaland has raised $386,000 and has given herself no loans. She has 195K on hand which seems low, but why? Her expenses were $190K so far. This may seem like a lot and it is, but for good reason. Deb has already solidified her staff and media consultants, the other candidates have not.

DAYS OF DAVIS

And what about ABQ City Councilor and congressional candidate Pat Davis not making the top tier in Alligator land in this race? Davis has been a punching bag for just about everyone with a beef with the city. Here's Davis supporter Noah Seligman with some equal time:

I definitely consider Pat Davis a top tier contender. No other candidate can match his progressive credentials given his strong record in City Hall and with ProgressNow. He also is quietly building a top level field operation. His opponents will have to spend some of their money on expensive ads to introduce themselves to the small primary electorate. Meanwhile, Pat can invest more in field and targeted GOTV. I don't believe fundraising prowess or burn rate will be determinative. There's definitely lots of great energy for Democrats this year, but that doesn't mean turnout will equal general election levels. So that benefits the candidate with the strongest field operation and that's clearly Pat Davis.

Okay, Noah, and let's keep on our radar Damian Lara and Paul Moya, the two remaining candidates. This one is getting wild. Just the way we like it.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Filing Day Focus: Heinrich Preps For Re-Elect, Father And Son Team Will Be On State Ballot, A Jumbled Dem Light Guv Race, Plus: Early Childhood Amendment Passes House After Insightful Debate, And: PNM Embraced By The Bear; Stock Hit In Sell Off 

Filing day has come and gone. All those making bids for the Federal and statewide offices in Election '18 are listed here. Now to the action. . .

The 2018 New Mexico US Senate match-up will be between incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich, Republican Mick Rich---and Aubrey Dunn.

If you're more familiar with Richie Rich than Mick Rich, you're not alone. National R's with the deep pockets are taking a pass on spending the millions it would take to unseat Heinrich so Rich, a political neophyte, will be left to his own devices to try to pull off the upset.

What about Land Commissioner Dunn, the Republican castaway? Yes, he is running as the Libertarian Senate nominee. The Heinrich camp will keep a very close eye on him but it would appear Rich and Dunn could split the GOP and anti-Heinrich vote. Still, Dunn is sure to give Heinrich a good pounding.

Rich has personal wealth from his contracting business that could keep his campaign afloat. And Heinrich's approval rating is below the 50 percent mark, giving Rich and Dunn a sliver of an opening. But with the state voting solid Blue in Senate contests for nearly a decade and Trump's unpopularity dragging them down, that sliver might only be wide enough for an ant to crawl through. Also, at the end of last year Heinrich reported $4 million in cash on hand while Rich reported $250,000. Dunn will need to play catch-up.

When you think about it Heinrich is probably more vulnerable to a Democratic primary challenge than from a GOP opponent. Money he has raised from corporate America--including the pharmaceutical and defense industries--has tarnished his star with the Bernie Sanders wing of his party--but not enough to cost him a free primary ride and clear front-runner status for the general election.

By the way, with this kind of lead there's no need to bash Trump and stir everyone up. Heinrich's filing day statement:

. . My top priority is diversifying New Mexico’s economy and creating new jobs--whether by securing forward looking missions for our military installations, pushing for public land protections that fuel our thriving outdoor recreation industry, or working to position New Mexico as a leader in renewable energy.

MORE FILING DAY ACTION 

Let's pick some other cherries from filing day. It will be Attorney General Hector Balderas facing ABQ GOP attorney Michael Hendricks and a Libertarian nominee in November. Neither drew primary opponents. Balderas will be heavily favored as no R has been elected AG in decades and Hendricks will face a challenging fundraising environment.

ABQ Attorney Blair Dunn, son of Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, is running as a Libertarian.That gives us a father-son team on the statewide ticket. For the first time?

State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg will face ABQ Republican Arthur Castillo. Neither contender drew primary foes. Eichenberg  is a former BernCo treasurer and state senator with name ID in the metro. Also, when the last R was elected treasurer the Beatles were still together.

You know the drill on the Guv's race. The four Dems filed and now everyone is waiting for something to happen. Will Jeff Apodaca, Joe Cervantes or Peter DeBenedettis begin negative campaigning of consequence against Dem front-runner Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham? The primary election is June 6.

Whoever wins that Dem nomination will face GOP Rep. Steve Pearce in November. He has no primary challenger. The Dem hopeful will be favored to beat him. Fortunately for Pearce, however, he will not have to deal with a Libertarian candidate. They took a pass on the Guv race.

ABQ's Michelle Garcia Holmes was the only Republican to file for the office of lieutenant governor and she just switched to the party. That gives you a clue on how R's feel about their Guv prospects. Still, Pearce is a player and the race is not going to be a rollover.

In the Dem lieutenant governor race it's a five way dash, with three veteran politicos leading the way. They are State Senator Howie Morales of Silver City, former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera and Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. Billy Garrett, a Dona Ana County Commissioner, is also running as is Taos educator Jeff Carr. The mid-March Dem preprimary convention will help us sort this one out.

EVEN MORE ACTION

Incumbent Secretary of State and Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver is considered safe against GOP attorney JoHanna Cox who is the sole R running. Former State Rep. Sandra Jeff is running as a Libertarian and that could liven up things.

The land commission race features three Dems chasing the nomination--State Senator George Munoz, State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard and environmentalist Garrett VeneKlasen. Former land boss Pat Lyons will again be the GOP nominee. Libertarian Michael Lucero will carry his party's torch.  The seat is likely Democratic. The D nomination battle will come more into focus at the March preprimary.

State Auditor Wayne Johnson was appointed by Gov. Martinez to fill the shoes of Dem Tim Keller when he was elected mayor of ABQ. He will carry the R banner. Dems Brian Colón and State Rep. Bill McCamley will battle for the Dem auditor nod. Colón has the edge because of his name ID in the ABQ metro. The winner of the Dem nomination will be favored to win, but Johnson will have the advantage of the incumbency and we'll see what he makes of it.

We covered the ABQ congressional race on the blog this week. We'll scope out the others for you in the days ahead.

THE GREAT DEBATE

The three hour debate on the state House floor over the early childhood constitutional amendment Tuesday was one of the more meatier and informed ones you will see. No wonder. The proposal, according to amendment advocate Allen Sanchez, president of Chi St. Joseph's Children, has been introduced a total of eight times. The debaters know this issue inside out and it showed Tuesday.

Republicans Rebecca Dow of T or C and ABQ's James Dines did their best to take down ABQ reps and amendment co-sponsors Moe Maestas and Javier Martinez but they more than held their ground. No minds were changed and the amendment passed the House for a second year in a row, mostly on a party line vote of 36-33 with no Republicans breaking ranks.

(Hey, what happened to all that "bipartisanship" everyone was touting in Santa Fe? As we blogged, that's only for the fluff.)

Amendment advocates such as ourselves were disappointed to see ABQ GOP State Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes "take a walk" and fail to cast a vote. Don't her constituents in her ABQ NE Heights swing district deserve to have their voices heard on this landmark legislation?

Make no mistake. This is landmark stuff. The Amendment would tap the state's $17 billion Land Grant Permanent School fund for $150 million a year and devote it mainly to early childhood--ages zero to five--when brain development is at its most critical stage. If the investment proved successful, it could bring dramatic improvement to the future NM workforce and put us on a path to correcting the state's long-standing social conditions crisis.

Like last year the amendment is now headed to the state Senate where Republicans, in coalition with a group of conservative Democrats, have their swords drawn to kill the measure again. Maybe Senate Leader Wirth should invite Representatives Maestas and Martinez over to replicate their spirited and passionate House debate for those wary Senate conservatives. It just might make a difference,

PNM'S BEAR HUG

The wild gyrations on Wall Street have sent the state's only New York Stock Exchange listed company into a bear market. PNM's most recent stock peak was $46 a share but Tuesday it was trading below $35, a plunge of about 25 percent from the top. A bear market is defined as a decline of at least 20 percent. The culprit is primarily higher interest rates now available from government bonds. Investors in search of yield are fleeing utility stocks for the more secure government income.

PNM's annual dividend now amounts to 3 percent annually, but some experts say investors will be demanding even higher returns as government bonds provide stiff competition. That could mean PNM and other utility stocks stay in the cellar.

For long-term investors in the electric utility the picture is less sour. PNM traded at around $22 a share in February of 2013. Those investors are still up 50 percent, not counting their dividend payments.

There is some more bad news for PNM shareholders to contemplate. That controversial bond proposal the company put before the Legislature to pay the costs and lost profit of shutting down a coal-fired plant in the Four Corners was tabled by a state Senate committee, signaling the end of the deal--at least until the 2019 session,

The bill was pushed hard by ABQ Dem Senator Jacob Candelaria, despite widespread opposition among progressives and environmentalists. His advocacy of the measure has raised talk of a possible primary challenge to the ABQ westside senator in 2020. But that's a long way off.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Primary '18 To Pick Up Today As Candidates For Statewide Offices And Congress File Their Papers, ABQ Congress Contest Appears To Narrow And Reaction To State House Dems Bipartisan Play With R's  

It's filing day for Primary Election '18. No surprises are expected when candidates for US Senator, US House, governor. lieutenant governor and all the statewide offices file their declaration of candidacies today along with required option signatures to make it on to the June 6 primary ballot. But you can make sure of that by following the filing action at the Secretary of State's office here.

One of the more competitive races this year is the battle for the ABQ Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who seeking the Dem nod for Governor. But according to the latest finance reports, the race has become a bit less competitive.

Insiders, analysts and Alligators seem to agree that there are now three leading contenders who have emerged for the Democratic nomination--Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Damon Martinez and Deb Haaland.

And the nomination is nearly tantamount to winning in November because the district has been in Dem hands for a decade. Here's one of the Alligators with the first winnowing of this multi-candidate scramble as he assesses the fund-raising:

Although (ABQ attorney) Antoinette Sedillo Lopez has a slight lead over (former US Attorney) Damon Martinez in their current cash-on-hand, Martinez is clearly the more efficient fundraiser and was raising money at a faster rate than anyone by the end of the year. He has $322,00 on hand but only spent 12% of what he raised to get there. Sedillo Lopez had $347,000 on-hand but spent 31% of what she raised in ’17 to get there. It appears that Martinez and Sedillo Lopez both will have the funds needed to launch a media campaign. Sedillo Lopez needs to trim her expenses if she’s going to keep up with Martinez. She paid a hefty $13,000 in December for staff. Someone needs to remind her she’s not running for U.S. Senate (yet, right?).

(ABQ attorney) Damian Lara has $147,000 on-hand and (ABQ City Councilor) Pat Davis is sitting on $73,000. The real story of the reports is the disappointing showing by (attorney and former NM Dem Party Chair) Deb Haaland. She’s got only $195,000 on hand and almost spent more than she raised. She’s barely outpacing newcomer Lara.

Political consultants should bring their buckets to the Haaland HQ ASAP to catch all the cash she’s shoveling out the door. Last November she spent a whopping $34,000 on consultants and staff. She hasn’t even dipped into paying pricey media consultants and pollsters. Last fall she gave out staff bonuses (guess it wasn’t a “win” bonus, huh?). If she had spent at the rate of Damon Martinez, she’d be sitting on $340,000 right now. Hey, but at least the consultants and staff are fat and happy—that what’s really important!

That's a pretty good drubbing of Haaland but she has fallen considerably behind her two main foes in the cash contest. However, we would add that her candidacy has powerful symbolic appeal. She would be the first Native American woman elected to the Congress and that's something the party faithful respond to. Still, we have a race to watch here in the top tier.

MORE ON "BIPARTISAN" D'S

Our Monday blog scoring the state House Democrats over their anxiousness to make "bipartisan" deals with the House R's in an election year where they should be looking to take advantage of the R's weakness drew some insightful comments. First, this from the "On the Sidelines Alligator:"

Joe, I have a slightly different take. In the parlance of the weekend, I think we need to wonder whether this year's "bipartisan" approach is a preventive defense designed to run out the clock on the upcoming election. It is a 30 day session with a Governor who still has a veto pen. Why take the chance of giving up a Hail Mary pass to the Republicans this late in the game by creating an election issue? If this strategy works, I expect in 2019 we will see a no huddle Democratic offense with the Republicans unable to blitz.

We'll see about that '19 call as conservative Senate Dems continue to dominate liberal Majority Leader Wirth. We asked this Gator why don't the Democrats at least force controversial votes that could be used against House R's in swing districts regardless of whether the bills have any chance of being signed by the Governor. After all that's what R's did when they recently controlled the chamber:

I think theirs is a risk adverse strategy. The Democrats would just as well have the election tomorrow and don't want to raise any new issues. That approach does not come without its own risks but they are playing it safe. None of this, of course, has much to do with defining and enacting policy, at least until next year.

Another Alligator of the Dem variety is not pleased with his party's action at the session:

Those of us who receive non-stop solicitations from the House Majority Dems will think twice about contributing if it means supporting House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, ABQ GOP Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes (who are in key swing districts) and other Republicans who receive assistance and cover from House and Senate Dems. Why are our Democrats engaged in giving these Republicans legislative victories that they will then use to claim they are “bipartisan” on the campaign trail? They never did the same for us! ABQ Dem Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto has 5 bills he’s cosponsoring with Gentry and 3 with Sarah Maestas Barnes. Last election cycle Gentry and Barnes were two of Dems’ top targets. Our Democratic leadership should be busy digging the graves for Barnes’ and Gentry’s political careers not finding ways to extend their terms.

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Monday, February 05, 2018

Getting Partisan Over "Bipartisanship"; Santa Fe's Latest Mantra Rings Hollow In Face Of A Crime Wave And Long Economic Decline; Our Analysis And Commentary Are Up Next  

How do you make people believe you're doing something when you really aren't doing much of anything? Well, in the bubblefied air of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe you crow  about "bipartisanship" and how we are all there to work together, like you're in church and everyone is singing songs from the same page even if they harbor deep disagreements with the neighbor sitting next to them.

For Democrats, who seem genetically incapable of putting up a fight, bipartisanship is the perfect cover for preserving the current order. It's a lobbyist's wet dream. And with only days left in the '18 legislative session the Dems began to lay the groundwork for that to become their closing theme.

Heck, the cries of bipartisanship are so ubiquitous they should name a soup after it at the Capitol snack bar. While they're at it they should drop the tortilla burger from the menu because this is an all vegan session with no red meat on the table.

Take, for example, the triumphant bleating over a "bipartisan crime package" that passed the House on  a 66-1 vote. First, anything that passes by that margin is sure to lack any political protein. Let's get out the soup spoons and do a taste test:

The proposal would increase penalties for violent felons caught with firearms, provide retention bonuses to veteran police officers and reclassify certain nonviolent offenses.

That's it? That's what is supposed to begin putting a halt to an historic crime wave? Talk about thin gruel. Bonuses to retain officers is a nice morsel but its hardly earthshaking and hardly controversial which is why it flew through the House. Increasing penalties for violent felons is another no-brainer vote, even if you have the brains to realize it will have zero impact on crime. Ditto for "reclassifying certain nonviolent offenses?" Boy, the criminals are really shaking in their stolen cowboy boots over that.

But House Speaker Brian Egolf and House Minority Leader Nate Gentry unabashedly touted this as some kind of distinct change in crime fighting and even called it a "comprehensive framework that will keep out communities safe."

Only in Santa Fe's thin air could that definition of this skimpy crime package pass muster. And if the air didn't do the trick, you imagine lawmakers throwing down a couple of shots of Johnny Walker at the Bull Ring to convince themselves of the fantasy.

But what is quite sobering in Santa Fe is the alarming way in which Speaker Egolf has laid down his arms against Minority Leader Gentry, the guy whose hair you would think he would be mussing every morning in preparation for the '18 election.

Time and again it has been pointed out that Gentry's ABQ NE Heights district is vulnerable to a Dem challenge. You wonder what Natalie Figueroa thinks of these goings on as she weighs another run against Nate after a strong showing last time. But the Speaker apparently didn't get the memo:

When I started as speaker,” Egolf said, “I was disgusted by what I saw in D.C., and I was very disappointed in a lot of the politics I saw in New Mexico.” He said he wanted to help change that, and he has found an ally this session in Gentry, the Republican minority leader.

Change it to what end? To produce tepid crime packages that give Gentry political cover but little else? As a former state legislator said of this maneuvering:

Don’t worry, Nate! We Dems love having you here! We’ll do everything we can to make sure you stay! And so will the Journal! It’s all about Being There - and we’re all going to be there in Santa Fe 4ever!!

For seven years Governor Martinez and her Shadow Governor Jay McCleskey banned bipartisanship from the dictionary, waging a fierce political operation against the House Dems and ousting them from power for two years in the '14 election. Apparently the Speaker wasn't "disgusted over that" and is letting Gentry, a leader of that attack machine, off the hook and in fact rewarding his hyper-partisan activity.

As our former legislator said (wonder who that is?) in Santa Fe it has become all about "being there" and preserving the status quo. And that's really what "bipartisanship" is all about.

Not to belabor the point but the inanity of this bipartisanship play is just plain insulting to the intelligence. Look at what else they are extolling as bipartisan achievement:

Without a dissenting vote, the Senate and House passed a measure signing New Mexico on to a multistate compact allowing nurses licensed elsewhere to continue practicing here.

You mean there was some danger that dreaded "partisan politics" was going to thwart that piece of political pablum from passing unanimously?

REALITY BASED NM

Meantime, back in reality-based New Mexico, Jim Peach of NMSU, a charter member of our "No BS Economists" club, comes with this news that ought out to crack the Roundhouse walls but probably won't even penetrate them:

“We are now identifying what are those three to five critical areas that help turn the economy around,” he said. There would be costs in making the investments needed to change the structure of the state’s economy. Fully funding early childhood education, for example, would take tens of millions of dollars a year, advocates say. And that’s just the start. To really put new muscle in New Mexico’s economy, Peach said hundreds of millions of dollars in investment are needed.

You read that right. "Hundreds of millions in investment." Raise your hand if you think "bipartisanship" is going to free up that money and start to get this 50th in everything paradise turned around. Yep. No hands.

We have unanimous agreement here, Santa Fe.  Can you put that in a "bipartisan" package so we can all get to work?

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