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Friday, July 25, 2014

King Gets A Break: Rasmussen Poll Says Guv Race A Dead Heat; GOP Scorns Survey, But Window Opens For King To Change Perception Of Contest 

King & Haaland
Perception often drives reality so a Rasmussen poll--scorned mightily by the GOP but showing the 2014 race for Governor in a dead heat--gives Dem Guv nominee Gary King his first real chance to argue that he can win the race--a notion constantly belittled by the conventional wisdom.

The survey--the first independent one since the June 3 primary--has Gov. Martinez and King tied at 43% and 7% of voters undecided. Rasmussen says "some other candidate" is the choice of 7% of likely voters, even though there is no other candidate on the ballot.

The R's say Rasmussen polled too many young voters and not enough older ones. They point out that King leads by 30% among young voters--an unlikely scenario.

The GOP anxiety over the poll was somewhat amusing as Rasmussen is often cited as a "Republican-leaning" pollster. But there was no anxiety in the King camp--only glee.

What this shows is that New Mexicans are ready for a Governor that will stand up for our kids, teachers, families and our state. . .

So what does it mean on the street? Back to that perception vs. reality matter and the comments of veteran Dem consultant Mark Fleisher:

The poll is the first really good news for Gary. Whether it is accurate or not, it is the first independent poll of the race and will cause the Democratic base to take a second look at the contest. It will help him with fund-raising. The best thing that could happen is that the poll becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and causes Dem voters to start stampeding toward King. Then the perception would indeed become the reality.

But King will need more than a poll. He needs money and messaging. He had only $116,000 in his bank account at last count compared to over $4 million for Susana. And how long will this window of opportunity stay open? How fast can he act? Will he seize the moment or revert to Carpe Mañana? Stay tuned.

POLL ASIDES

The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday of this week just as the horrendous news broke that three teenagers had bludgeoned to death two homeless men on ABQ's westside. Did that bleak news influence the Rasmussen survey? Something to ponder. . .

Since the June primary these are the polls: Martinez's camp released a poll showing her beating King 54% to 38%, the state GOP had a poll showing her winning 53% to 40% and a King internal poll showed her winning 45% to 39%.

TOO SOFT?

Reader Harold Gerhenson writes:

While we're talking about the lack of leadership in New Mexico and real demands for change, take a look at the pablum in the New Mexico Voices for Children press releases and blog posts on the release of the devastating Kids Count figures. They point the finger at "the recession" when they should be calling out State Senator John Arthur Smith--chairman of the Senate Finance Committee--who for years has blocked access to the state Permanent Fund for early childhood programs. They should also be naming Governor Martinez's destructive policies so that everyone understands that these statistics are not just bad luck but part of the Governor's plan. When our advocates won't take a stand, we're really in trouble.

NM was ranked 49th in the USA in child well-being in the latest Kids Count survey. That's up from 50th in the previous annual survey. 

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

ABQ Right-Wing Radio Takes Major Hit; KKOB Falls From Ratings Throne, Plus: Weh Looks To Colorado For A Udall In Trouble, And: Colbert Takes On Pearce 

Right-wing talk radio just isn't what it used to be in the Duke City. For the first time in years KKOB-AM has fallen off the ratings throne. The station has lost the crown to top 40 station KKSS-FM. The latest Nielsen Audio ratings have 50,000 watt KKOB--home to national talkers Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage--plunging to a 5.1 percent share of the audience aged 12 and over. KKSS garners a 5.5 share to take the top spot. And country KRST-FM is nipping at KKOB's heels, coming with a 5.0 share.

Since KKOB was purchased by Cumulus Media the station has undergone severe budget cuts and lost top local talker Jim Villanucci to Oregon. In addition to the cutbacks and more competition from the digital world, the station faces an ABQ metro area where Anglo males--the backbone of conservative radio--appear to make up a smaller percentage of the population.

And the format has grown increasingly hostile. At least that's the judgment of Scott Stiegler, KKOB's own afternoon talk host. Upon learning of the ratings news we tuned in and heard him chastising his own audience for being intolerant and asking for callers to be "more civil" when assessing viewpoints other than their own.

KKOB once routinely garnered audience shares of 10 percent or more. That was when mass media still had a mass. Niche programming has taken over and KKOB is a prominent example. . .

UDALL VS. WEH

Republican Allen Weh has yet to get in play his race against Dem US Senator Tom Udall, but he might look north to Colorado for some inspiration. Up there, Tom Udall's cousin--Dem Senator Mark Udall--is running into re-election trouble. The Daily Kos reports:

PPP weighs in and finds both Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper have identical 44-43 leads over their Republican foes, Rep. Cory Gardner and former Rep. Bob Beauprez respectively. They've found Udall in a dogfight for months but they have usually shown Hickenlooper in better shape.. . .Udall looks like he's in really bad shape, with a 36/47 approval compared to Gardner's 34/39 favorable rating. The undecideds don't look incredibly promising for either Democrat, with self described Obama and Romney voters being represented in roughly equal numbers.

New Mexico's Udall is campaigning pretty much furiously at this point, issuing constant news releases and dashing around the state to make sure he is not seen as a creature of the anything but beloved bunch on Capitol Hill. And he comes with a mild surprise by touching the state's #1 problem--the jobs depression:

Udall visited with workers in Questa and has been leading efforts to get Trade Adjustment Assistance and other help to enable the community rebuild its economy after the mine closes. In his speech, Udall said he is working to do all he can to support new jobs in New Mexico. As part of that effort, he urged the Senate to pass the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would protect American jobs and eliminate tax loopholes for corporations that move jobs overseas.

“The mine will close in Questa. We can’t change that. We can’t bring it back. Some folks say it feels like a death. And I’m sure it does – it has been the lifeblood of the community for so many years and for generations of families,” Udall said.

300 workers are being laid off by Chevron Mining which is closing its molybdenum mine for good. It is devastating news for Questa--population, 1700.

THE "J" WORD

Udall's visit there was a mild surprise because the state's top politicians have shied away from getting directly involved in the jobs crisis. For example, there has been no gubernatorial visit to Questa in the wake of the mass layoffs. Martinez has come back on the air after a several week hiatus with a new TV ad, but it focuses on education not the economy and jobs. The ad says New Mexico is now the top state when it comes to improving graduation rates. Martinez says to the camera: “There’s more to do but let’s focus on moving forward, not turning back.”

Dem Gary King has not yet restarted his TV ads.

TV TIME

Udall has come with his first TV ads of the campaign. They center on the help he says he has provided to veterans. That makes sense since his opponent is a decorated combat veteran.

PEARCE PAIN

Besides Udall, southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce is the other member of the state's congressional delegation facing a re-election challenge that insiders are keeping an eye on. He hit a pothole this week when he got a load of ridicule from the Colbert Report after a weekend trip he made to Guatemala and Honduras to assess the refugee crisis. The political comedy show swiped at Pearce for--among other things--staying closeted in his hotel with other members of the visiting delegation. Said Colbert:

Congressman Pearce found no evidence of danger anywhere he looked which turns out was mainly around the hotel lobby as Pearce said he and the rest of the delegation did not venture from their hotel very often because of the danger..

The line drew raucous applause and laughter, again reminding Pearce that stepping out on the national stage is a whole lot different than interviewing with the Deming Headlight. . . .

THE BOTTOM LINES

Reader Paul Donisthorpe reacts to the ruthless murders of two homeless men on ABQ's westside by three teenagers and which has dominated the news this week:

Recent events sadly remind me of events in my hometown of Farmington in the mid-70's where three Anglo teens murdered and mutilated three Navajo men. This was chronicled professionally in a book by Rodney Barker entitled "The ‎Broken Circle."

I agree that our state's financial resources need to be better used and better spent to make lives here better now and in the future. But I also tend to agree with my 91 year old father in law who says "‎ ... people are just no damn good!"

ABQ State Senator Bill O’Neill says he will again introduce a bill in the legislature "that protects homeless individuals from being targeted for harm."

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Let's Talk About This Town: 2014 As A Seminal Year For ABQ; Appalling Murders Of Homeless Spark Reader Outrage, Commentary And Solutions  

2014 will go down in ABQ history as a seminal year--the year when the full force of the social conditions crisis haunting this place hit like a jackhammer. It began with the shocking fatal police shooting of homeless James Boyd and the subsequent federal intervention in APD by the US Justice Department. It then transitioned to the appalling murder of 9 year old Omaree Varela and now to the horrific slaughter of two homeless men with cinder blocks as they lay on mattresses at a vacant lot near a busy Central Avenue intersection.

All of these gut-wrenching events catapulted ABQ into the world news headlines. They were that disquieting. In short, we have become a very different city than what many of you grew up in or came to know after moving here.

Our Tueday blog explored these themes and more as we attempt to move the discussion from denial to doing. The readers respond.

From ABQ, Michael writes:

Apathy is thy middle name when it comes to New Mexico and Albuquerque. Simply put, our city and our state are both devoid of leadership. Leadership takes courage, and the willingness to fight for a better future. Can you point to anyone in government or the business community that demonstrates those qualities? I can't. It also requires a media willing to challenge the power brokers. To hold their feet to the fire and hold a mirror up to those in power so they can see where they have gone wrong. But that too is gone. How can we expect the average New Mexican to create a better life in this kind of climate? You can't. No wonder so few people view casting a ballot as a way to make a difference. It is hard to get motivated with such an absence of leadership.

You are right that the state Permanent Fund should be tapped for early childhood. So much of our tax dollars, especially in education which represents half of our spending, are now handed over to out of state companies. Once those dollars leave our state they are gone for good. Instead of building an economic infrastructure for generations to come, we are left with boarded up neighborhoods, towns, and cities. 

Retired ABQ newsman Rodger Beimer writes:

I wonder if State Sen. John Arthur Smith--"Dr. NO"--and his buddies at the state legislature are paying attention? They’ve got the financial authority to start making changes--how long will it take? Our social services and educational institutions are filling the roles of foster parents in many cases so let’s recognize that and fund them appropriately. It’s the least we can do as a society. And t’s not just an Albuquerque issue. How many reports of incidents in rural and small town New Mexico occur every day, going unreported in the media because there isn’t any media to report? When does the rainy day come that forces release of Permanent Funds to better our state? Or are those funds so permanent that all that can be done is look at the bank balances and say, “Good job, we’ve got lots of money in there.” Isn’t it raining now?

Reader Robert Palacioz writes:

Joe, A great big "Brazo" for having the intestinal fortitude to speak the truth! Remember, this does not fall on deaf ears but is slowly sinking into the people who are apathetic and in denial. There are no quick solutions....but the early childhood programs coupled with families being given the "tools" to remedy their dysfunction can and will happen. When our beloved New Mexico hits rock bottom the only way is up! Money comes and goes but the children will always be with us....they are our responsibility.

MORE VOX POPULI

W. Peifer of ABQ writes:

Helluva good job Tuesday! Not the usual fare, by a long shot, but a really great commentary. Well done!

Reader Liz Bustamante writes:

Great work, Mr. Monahan--I wish you were not the only one out there afflicting the comfortable, though.

Reader Phil Parker writes from Mexico:

Hey Joe. Very nicely written piece . My wife and I had our first baby last year and we moved to a beach town in Mexico. A lot of our friends and family said we shouldn't come here because it's dangerous. It is not more dangerous than Albuquerque, where cops kill and their politicians bosses shrug it off. Those kids' mugshots look terrifying—there's your soulless faces of the city. Also, we have better medical care here and we pay the doctor directly. It's lovely here. I still read your blog. Keep up the great work.

Richard Randals writes:

Why is it some think ABQ’s problem is a state problem? You guys are big boys take care of it and stop blaming the state. Albuquerque has gotten themselves in this position, why should the state pull your bodies to safety, you did it, not us. As for early childhood programs, the parents of these children don’t want to learn, that’s why they dropped out of school and chose to have sex instead and continue on the 4th. 5th., or sixth generation of welfare. How do you teach those who do not care and never have? Throw money at it, that’s the fix? parents. .  have not been held responsible for their actions and do not want to learn. Can’t read, can’t add, can’t write, it’s ok you can drop out and we will take care of you. That social promotion really worked, right? It’s too late New Mexico. It just makes me want to throw-up, how about you?

Reader Louis J Lafrado, Ph.D writes:

Joe, I just finished reading the post on the murder of two homeless men in Albuquerque. The three youth are indeed sociopaths. But in this political climate there has been little more than a peep from the politicians. Is this the level we have fallen? Where the act of three miscreants can go without response from either gubernatorial candidate? A tepid response from the city’s ineffectual mayor is the best, we in the metropolitan area, can hope?

Where is the outrage? Where are the parents? The wanton disregard for human life is rotting this metro area and this state from within. It was after all just the deaths of two homeless men for whom a city cannot develop sufficient passion to scold let alone castigate three misfits. Three children who are also lost to society now.

Thank you for raising your voice over the din of silence and ignorance.

THE CITY SPEAKS

ABQ attorney Miguel Suazo writes:

Joe, The heinous beatings of our most unfortunate are clearly the product of extensive self-neglect by the New Mexico community on multiple fronts. Poverty, children having children, lack of opportunity, few examples of success for our least fortunate, poor long-term planning and failure to compete with our surrounding states on business development incentives are just some of the causes. Most importantly, I feel that we have failed to pick-up each other. I think that your Tuesday posting helps invigorate an important debate about the NM that is and the NM that we have dreamt of for decades.

. . . The most striking thing I saw from the many talented people with whom I spent my early adult years was that they were reared by families and communities with a sense of what is possible and a yearning to strive. As a mass group many New Mexicans lack that. Yet, there are plenty of examples of home-grown success—but we need to teach people to search for those influences or else they become more apt to gain fulfillment by indulging their most primal and evil inklings, as did these 3 youths. 

I think that tapping the Permanent Fund is necessary. If it’s there for a rainy day, guess what, it’s raining and it has been for a long time. . . We need to think about how we can spend that money on ourselves in a way that will yield a return on that spending. You have to spend money to make money. You have to take risk to get reward. Early childhood education is just the tip of that iceberg. 

Amanda Bergamo writes:

Joe, I just have to say, Why are we as a culture (in NM) so afraid to hold people accountable for their own choices that create outcomes such as death and catastrophes? Bad behavior is not OK! Just finished reading your post from today and had to get that out!

Reader Chris writes:

You have written many excellent pieces, but none of them tops Tuesday's. It is excellent. You not only have exposed the soul of ABQ but suggest some possible (and realistic) solutions.

Unfortunately, we lack the leadership that is up to the task--including not only the city administration, but also the NGOs and the middle and upper class citizenry which has the economic and political resources to make a difference. Our local media could be of great positive influence but instead focuses on scandals, crimes (real and alleged), fires and other sensationalist tabloid features. Moreover, we have a corrupt "law enforcement" system that would rather play army against the "civilian" citizenry and engage in publicity stunts than "protect and serve" the citizenry.

I am a 13th generation New Mexican and a fourth generation Albuquerquean, but my family and I are seriously considering leaving. Two of our doctors have announced they are leaving this city because of the rampant anger, conflict, meanness and corruption so noticeable here. Too bad it has come to this in the Duke City.

Thanks for the comments. Apathy was crushed here today. . .

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A City's Soul Dies Along With The Murdered Homeless; Acceptance By Some; Demand For Solutions By Others 

ABQ Journal
Two ABQ homeless men have their faces smashed in with cinder blocks wielded by three sociopathic teenagers. They die horrible deaths and with them dies another part of the city's soul. What's left of it.

This new strain of mindless violence that has emerged--epitomized by the epidemic of child abuse and the parental murder of 9 year old Omaree Varela, these diabolical slayings of the homeless and the out of control police shootings--are the direct result of ABQ and New Mexico's unofficial slogan:

"Look The Other Way."

MORE TO COME

We'd like to predict this latest abomination which has the city unwillingly vaulted into the worldwide headlines will be the turning point, but it won't. We have family dysfunction so widespread here and so ignored by policy makers that it is likely to get worse--much worse--before it gets better. . .

Affluent ABQ has put a moat around itself. The BMW's can be safely parked behind the gates of Tanoan or in the driveways of High Desert.

The social conditions crisis so in evidence in so much of the city--the SE Heights war zone, miles of Central Avenue, the decaying Downtown and most of all in the beastly crimes that sear the conscience---can be kept at bay only when you reside in a dense cocoon of denial.

But it's getting harder to hide.

A friend tells of being panhandled at the Starbucks in wealthy Corrales. We see the homeless now in middle class neighborhoods like Juan Tabo and Comanche, too, not just the back alleys of downtown. And we see them brutally murdered or run over by drunken drivers as public life here becomes even more drenched in rage and hostility.

EVIL IN OUR MIDST

It has always been a shoot-em-up town, but not an evil one. A fella would get drunk on Saturday night and shoot someone at the bar. Happened all the time. Then came the shocking 1996 Hollywood Video murders. They were the first wake-up call that the strain of crime here was becoming more virulent. Flash forward 20 years and mix in a Great Recession with a willful neglect by what passes for leadership around here and here you are. . .

The economic and quality of life solution for many has been to vote with their feet. The migration out of the state is witness to that. The small, mainly upper income voting class that cast ballots in the 2013 ABQ mayoral election simply wants "to keep a lid on things." That means keep the crime out of their area and if need be unquestioningly pay off millions in APD shooting lawsuits. As for the underlying causes for what we have become or any serious effort at a remedy, ABQ has two middle names: "apathy" and "denial."

POUNDING THE TABLE

It's going to take more table pounding to force collective action to address what is shaping up to be a dreadful NM future. Reader Stephen Spitz comes with the latest on using a portion of the state's immense Land Grant Permanent Fund to get at the innards of the dysfunction afflicting children here--before they are beaten up by relatives or use cinder blocks as murder weapons:

According to an editorial in the ABQ Journal, Minnesota found that by “putting money into early childhood programs like pre-K, nurse visits and prenatal care, we can produce a return of between 10 percent and 18 percent.”  How? Educational and health outcomes were improved and poverty was reduced. The “problem (according to the editorial) is that New Mexico, unlike Minnesota, isn’t rich in big local companies with the resources needed to duplicate the program.”

That’s true, but New Mexico does have a mammoth funding source that is the envy of the nation: namely the 3rd largest Permanent Fund in the US, worth $13.98 billion as of April 30. In June, $71 million flowed into the Fund from oil and gas fees for an annual contribution rate in excess of $800 million--which  now exceeds all annual distributions. This net-positive contribution rate is expected to continue well into the future. Last year none of the fund was spent on the early childhood programs that the editorial indicates produces returns of 10 to 18%. But surely, as the editorial concludes, it should be: “If the money could be found, [the early childhood programs] certainly would be worth trying here, even on a small scale.” The solution is staring us in the face. 

New Mexico is a poor state. But one of the reasons it remains poor is that we have been unwilling to spend the money we do have to generate substantial societal and economic benefits now and for the future. By investing in early childhood programs, New Mexico stands only to gain. The risk lies not in early childhood programs which all agree are “worth trying here” but in the failure to act.

Unfortunately, the consequence of that "failure to act" were on full display at Central Avenue and 60th street.  That's where three maniacal teenagers left two men to die on bloodied mattresses with chips of cinder block embedded in their faces. And as this city and state again looked the other way. . . 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, July 21, 2014

What If It's A Tie? Battle For State House Control Raises The Question, And: Healing The APD Wounds 

Now that it's clear that the battle for control of the NM House will be nationalized--labor unions in one corner and GOP groups in another--an intriguing question arises. What if the House currently divided 37 to 33 in favor of the Dems ends in a 35 to 35 tie on Election Night? What then?

You would have a coalition speaker, Roundhouse observers opine.  One outcome would have a handful of conservative Democrats--or even just one--bolting to the Republicans and backing the GOP choice for speaker. But another scenario would have the Dems offering up their own speaker, luring the R's into supporting that pick and being rewarded for doing so with committee chairmanships.

A conservative coalition now governs the state Senate and in the early 80's there was the "Cowboy Coalition" in the House when conservative Dems shared power with the R's. Back then a conservative Dem speaker was selected. . .

But it's a long way from a tie ball game. Dems appear better positioned than earlier this year. That's because of the national labor money coming in. Dems had feared a "nobody cares" attitude would take hold and the House would be allowed to fall easily into R hands for the first time in over 60 years.

With Democrats pledging a major fight, they improve their odds of keeping control. However, as one Alligator put it: "That the Dems have to fight to keep control of the House in a state where they are the  majority party speaks volumes about the condition of the party...."

And look at the money being spent on the key House races that will determine control of the 70 member chamber. From Cruces:

Joanne Ferrary, Democratic candidate for House District 37, announced raising over $70,000 for her second run against the incumbent Terry McMillian. After narrowly losing to McMillian by just 8 votes two years ago, Ferrary is back on the campaign trail. . .

That race will easily top six figures for each of the candidates--and that's for an unpaid job.

HEALING THE WOUNDS

Anguished parents who have had children slain by APD since 2010 have been in the forefront of the movement to change the culture of the department. Mayor Berry, who has been criticized for being aloof to the pain and suffering of the police shooting victims, recently met with ABQ Forward--a coalition of community groups seeking reform. The group reports:

The mayor invited APD Forward to take part in his community collaborative process to reform APD. The first meeting for this series of community discussions will take place in August. All in all, it was a cordial and productive meeting. It ended with the mayor offering an apology to Steve Torres, Ken Ellis and Mike Gomez, who have all lost sons to officer-involved shootings.

The apology is obviously in order as the millions of dollars in lawsuit judgments against the city continue to mount. The US Department of Justice is negotiating a consent decree with ABQ that will call for specific reforms at APD.

WHAT IF?

Our reminisce about former NM Gov. Toney Anaya on the Thursday blog drew this from reader Hal Hensley in San Antonio, TX:

Joe, Another interesting “what-if” is whether or not the use of  “The Chinese Ship Jumping Scandal” in the 1974 attorney general campaign might have ended Toney’s career in elected office before it started. As a part of Frederick B. “Ted” Howden’s campaign during the Democratic primary, there was strong support by many to use this against Toney. Given his small margin of victory, despite support from most of the powers that were, it could very well have made a difference. In Ted’s usual understated style, however, he simply said we were not going to use it and we weren’t going to talk about it any more; end of story. I was sad to see New Mexico lost Ted earlier this month. He was one of the most decent individuals and candidates for whom I have ever worked.

Anaya beat Howden by only about 2,500 votes in that '74 primary duel.

WIPP LASH

The NM congressional delegation wants to protect funding for the troubled WIPP site, but if they are not vigorous in pursuing accountability, their Capitol Hill colleagues could balk. The news:

Just five days after an underground truck fire closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the Energy Department awarded the contractor that operates the nuclear repository $1.9 million for “excellent” performance during the past year. One radiation leak and two sharply worded accident investigation reports later slamming the same contractor for long-running safety and maintenance problems, that award now looks to some like insult atop injury. How could there have been such a disconnect between the Department of Energy’s own assessment of its contractor’s performance and what independent investigators would find soon after? 

Much like APD, DOE and WIPP need a major cultural change and it will take leadership to get it.

THE BOTTOM LINES

This is always a quaint part of La Politica:

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — A county magistrate race that ended in a tie has finally come to a head, or rather, heads. Kenneth Howard Jr. made the lucky call in a coin toss in a Gallup courtroom, winning a four-year term as McKinley County magistrate judge. . .A recount of the June 3 Democratic primary found Howard and Robert Baca each received exactly 2,879 votes. State law mandates a tie must be decided by lot. A Democratic Party official tossed a 50-cent piece, and Howard got to make the call as the candidate who was lower on the ballot. Since there's no opponent on the general election ballot, Howard gets the job. . . 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

"The clouds swallowed the sunset." That's how one news report described this week's epic thunderstorm in the ABQ metro. It delivered the most one day rainfall since 1933. That torrential downpour was one of many storms that have been welcomed in our water parched neighborhoods.

Through it all flooding has been kept to a minimum, and unlike past years we rarely see dramatic TV footage of people who have fallen into arroyos. City voters have time and again approved flood control bonds by landslide margins and supported flood safety measures. As we saw this week, it pays off. What would similar investments do that were aimed at reversing the state's abysmal rankings in a myriad of social conditions?. . .

BIG BILL MUSINGS

Former Guv Bill Richardson's rocky relationship with the Clintons is well-known. Here he is talking with talk host Larry King about the Dem chase for the '16 prez nomination:

I wanna see who the candidates are, I think there should be open competition, I know Hillary Clinton is a formidable candidate. It’s not that I won’t ever be there but right now, I’m not one of those hundred of democrats flocking and saying the race is over.

And about his breach with Bill Clinton when he endorsed Obama over Hillary in 2008:

He’s still mad at me. . . so far he hasn’t forgiven me, I’ll be honest. I still have a lot of affection for him. I served under him, he was good to me. I was good to him You know, sometimes you have these breaches and sometimes it takes time to heal. This one has been unusually long but if he wishes to keep it separate and a breach then so be it. I’m not uncomfortable. I’m not begging. I’m fine. I’m happy.

Meanwhile, Richardson's sucessor is on the summer campaign trail. Maybe the heat got to her because she seems a bit annoyed in this interview with the Taos News:

While Martinez visited Northern New Mexico, Democratic Party nominee for governor Gary King attended a conference in Albuquerque on child welfare and well-being — both areas in which the state has ranked poorly in recent years. “I don’t need to go and pretend I care about kids,” Martinez replied when asked by a reporter why she did not attend the 2014 Kids Count Conference, which a spokesperson for the governor described as being aligned with a "far-left" group. “I don’t wait for a campaign to worry about kids. I’ve been doing that for 25 years,” referring to her work as a prosecutor. “That’s nothing but a little show.”

New national child well-being rankings are expected to be released soon. Word has it that NM has improved a notch from its most recent ranking of 50th in the USA.

For Gary King the summer is all about turning around the perceptions that he has little hope of victory.  Martinez insiders are rejoicing over the news that top political odds maker Nate Silver at  FiveThirtyEight pegs King's chances of taking her out at a mere 12.5 percent. But King begs to differ. He said in a campaign email this week:

Despite having over a million dollars of negative ads spent against me - our latest poll shows this is still a statistical dead heat - and only a 6% difference between Martinez and me.

King's Poll was conducted July 7-10 by Lake Research and showed Martinez at 45%, King at 39% and 15% undecided. Is Martinez really under the all-important 50% mark? If King could get that confirmed by an independent poll he could be off to the races but there are no such polls. A survey conducted for the Martinez campaign shows her at 54% and one conducted for the state GOP had her at 53%. Here is the King polling memo. The margin of error is pegged at + or - 4 percent.

THE BOTTOM CLIPPING

Allen Weh is digging deep into his own pockets to try to keep pace with the fundraising totals of Dem US Senator Tom Udall but Udall's cash on hand total beats Weh's five to one:

Udall has stockpiled more than $3 million for his re-election bid. . . Weh is dipping into personal money to jump start his campaign for the general election. Weh, a former state GOP chairman, has lent his campaign more than a half million dollars in the past three months, allowing him to raise more money than Udall during that time, according to a Federal Election Commission finance report. . . Udall reported $3.4 million in his campaign account at the end of last month. Weh had a balance of $627,806.

The only federal race that has even an inkling of drama is that featuring southern congressional district Rep. Pearce and Dem Rocky Lara. Reps Lujan and Lujan Grisham are safe. The money totals for those campaigns are found at the above link.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Former Gov. Toney Anaya Splashes Into The Headlines; We Remember Him And The Pivotal Years Of '74, '82 And '86 

Toney Anaya (Bralley)
We note with irony the news that former NM Democratic Governor Toney Anaya has settled fraud charges brought against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Back in the mid-70's when Anaya was attorney general it was he who brought a multitude of charges against various politicos dealing with corruption and other wrongdoing. He parlayed that performance into the Governor's chair in 1982. Now it is Toney who is a prize on the wall of federal investigators.

Anaya first waded into ethical controversy long before he had transformed himself into the crusading post-Watergate attorney general. It was in the 60'swhen he was on the DC staff of Dem US Senator Joe Montoya. The late political columnist Fred McCaffrey recalled the episode:

At the time time Chinese seamen were jumping ship in U.S. ports, after their homeland was taken over by the Communists. Senator Montoya was among the handful of members in the upper chamber who introduced private bills to speed the sailors' acquisition of U.S. citizenship. 

Anaya, then a Montoya aide, told a reporter that it was actually he who put he bills for that purpose into the Senatorial hopper. There was nothing wrong with that at the time--except for the persistent rumors, which went unproved, that money was being paid for the introduction of the bills.

The night he was elected attorney general in 1974 Anaya appeared at the victory party with Jerry Apodaca who led the ticket and was elected Governor. In our report for the UNM Daily Lobo we quoted Anaya--who was strenuously opposed by the ABQ Journal--as telling the crowd: "There are a few choice words that I think we would reserve for other times Jerry, that we may want to share with the news media but I think I'll hold those off to later."

In yet another great irony, it would be the Journal who lionized Anaya for battling political corruption and helped make possible his ensuing governorship.

Anaya left the Governor's office at the end of 1986 as probably the most unpopular governor in state history. The intervening years have done little to polish his image. But he did get a boost when Gov. Richardson put him in charge of the federal stimulus monies for the state following the Great Recession. It was hundreds of millions of dollars and Anaya by all accounts ably administered the funds. It might have been a career capper, if not for the SEC fraud charges.

THE GREATEST TWIST

Joe Monahan
The greatest plot twist in Anaya's career in La Politica came only last year when it was disclosed that former Republican US Senator Pete Domenici had fathered an illegitimate child in the mid-70's and kept it secret for decades.

In 1978, Anaya was the Democratic US Senate nominee and a real threat to Domenici who was seeking a second term and had not yet acquired his legendary status. The story is one of the great "what ifs" in state political history.

What if it had been disclosed during the campaign that Domenici had fathered an out of wedlock child with a twentysomething lobbyist who also happened to have been the daughter of fellow Republican US Senator Paul Laxalt? Given the tenor of those times there is little doubt that Domenici would have been forced to resign or suffer defeat at the polls. For all we know Toney Anaya would be holding that Senate seat to this day.

The law in 1986 limited Anaya to one term, but he went out with a bang that would forever define him as one of our most controversial governors. He decided at Thanksgiving time of that year to commute the sentences of all the prisoners on death row. I was at that news conference at the Guv's office when the announcement came. National media flew in for the occasion. I can still remember my lead for CBS Radio News: "Governor Toney Anaya today set off a political firestorm. . . " It was one for the books.

And in still another note of historical irony, decades later New Mexico's legislature would repeal the death penalty, proving Anaya to be ahead of his time.

Toney Anaya grew up dirt poor in Moriarty, NM planting in him a burning ambition. He streaked across La Politica like a comet that burned only briefly but oh so memorably.

The years were '74, '82 and '86. I was there. . . And that's how I remember it.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Biz Community Split Over Susana; ACI Challenges State Spending On Out-Of-State Contracts; We Have The Inside Scoop, Plus: APD And the AR-15 

McClure
As the soft economy continues with no end in sight, we are seeing the first public cracks in the biz community's support of GOP Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI) is calling out the Guv by asking the state to tell it just how much several departments are spending with out-of-state contractors.

And in news you will only get here, we learn that this needle in the side of the Martinez administration is prompted not only by the hits business is taking in the lousy economy but by frustration within the ACI board over the Guv's refusal to meet with ACI president Beverlee McClure. She served as Secretary of Higher Education under Dem Governor Bill Richardson who the Martinez campaign frequently targets in its re-election missives.

Usually Martinez and company immediately pull out the long knives whenever they are challenged, but they are holding back on this one, knowing that a battle with ACI and its hundreds of business members who are GOP friendly would do them no good and could provide an opening for Dem Guv nominee Gary King. Take a look at the administration's unheated response:

The state Department of Transportation has told ACI that it can’t comply with the group’s request to see how much it has spent on out-of-state contractors. . . The department said the request is, “broad and/or burdensome. . . "The association also filed a request for similar records from the state Tourism Department, which said it will respond to the request. . . The requests were made as part of the association’s efforts to drive more state business to New Mexican companies. 

“When state government spends money in New Mexico, that money stays here, creating jobs and opportunities for New Mexicans and ultimately generating even more revenue for the state. . . But when we spend it outside the state, it’s gone—no more opportunities for New Mexicans, no return on our investment, no hope of creating more jobs or revenue,” said McClure.

The grumbling in the usually Martinez friendly business community is that more needs to be done to stimulate the economy here. You won't hear that grumbling from the ABQ Chamber of Commerce which has nothing but praise for the political status quo, but as the ACI breach demonstrates that stance does not reflect reality. 

As more businesses struggle to keep their bottom lines in the black in ABQ's double dip recession the grumbling will only get louder and insert itself further into the political debate.

P.S. We're told ACI will soon undergo a name change and "rebranding."

ROCKY MUSCLE

Southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce will outspend her but his Dem challenger Rocky Lara is not going away. She is very close to raising a total of $1 million:

Lara reports her strongest fundraising quarter to date, raising more than $375,000 in the second quarter of 2014 (and) having more than $710,000 cash on hand. Since entering the race in September, Rocky has raised more than $945,000.

In this latest quarter ending June 30 Pearce had $1.467 million in cash on hand.  Now Lara, a Carlsbad attorney, is going to make him spend some of it.

GOBSMACKED

First this news:

The Albuquerque Police Department, which has drawn criticism for its use of excessive force, plans to supply officers with hundreds of military-style weapons. The department awarded a bid to a local vendor to purchase 350 AR-15 rifles over two years, with the option of buying quantities of 50 thereafter, as needed. The rifles cost about $1,000 each and will be purchased with taxpayer funds. 

Reader David Nava says:

I am gobsmacked. What in the hell are these people thinking? This town is on a permanent spiral to hell and we have no leadership and no vision. Funny thing--the dope slingers have free rein and the homeless live in fear. You tell me.

But another reader says the AR-15 purchase is no big deal:

Go back to Christopher Chase in October of 2013. Four police officers shot by a guy who has this type of weapon. We must not be scared to equip officers with the equipment they need. In today’s world most police departments have gotten rid of the shotguns and have moved to the AR 15. This is because of the world we live in. It also makes sense because, like it or not, police have to shoot people (sometimes). The pistol (as Christoper Chase showed) doesn’t match up to bad guys with assault rifles. Therefore the AR 15 is the best choice. It allows the officer to hit only what he is shooting at, thereby being safer for the public. It also allows the officer to match up with what the crooks are carrying.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Can ABQ "Reinvent" Its Economy Or Is What You See What You Get; Biz Leaders Awaken To Debate, Plus: NM Dem Party Getting New Faces As Udall Gets Serious, And: Santa Rosa And The Roast Beef Burrito 

Can ABQ's economy be "reinvented" or is what you see pretty much what you get for the foreseeable future? Business groups--reeling from federal cutbacks in the metro as well as an inability to attract new jobs--will put their heads together in a two hour panel discussion Thursday as they finally acknowledge the epic downturn here that has led to stagnant population growth, sluggish economic activity and a growing social conditions crisis.

They may not say this at their meeting, but business leaders here confront a city with growing swaths that resemble wastelands and a city more divided than every between the haves and have nots.

More observers are concluding that replacing the high-paying Federal jobs and contracts that have been the backbone of the ABQ economy for nearly 75 years may be a pipe dream. Allen Parkman, professor emeritus from the UNM Anderson School of Management, sums up this line of thinking:

. . .Unless a Microsoft or an Apple pops up out of the blue, this is not the place for economic activity. You produce goods either where the consumers are or where the workers are, and we aren’t any of those. If you are Tesla and you are thinking of coming here and you want 2,000 moderately well-qualified workers, are they here? I don’t think so. The problem for New Mexico, Parkman said, is its remoteness and small population. Parkman isn’t so high on tech transfer from New Mexico’s national laboratories either. “It’s interesting how little spin-off we have ever received. We are not Silicon Valley. . . “In terms of a [decision] to [relocate or expand a company], if you have a blank slate this ain’t the place where it is going to go.”

As the Federal cash is cut the new jobs coming on line are primarily those in the low-paying service sector.

It doesn't seem accidental that since the onset of the Great Recession (we are about the only place still in it) we have seen the ABQ police department spiral out of control as it confronts a tougher criminal element spawned by the economic retrenchment. Add to that the outbreak of extreme child abuse cases and  the depopulation of the metro by many of its best and brightest and you have enough to fill 200 hours of brainstorming--never mind two.

DEMS GEARING UP?

The state Democratic Party and its chairman Sam Bregman have been taking hits ever since he took over for failing to live up to expectations that "a storm is coming" for Governor Martinez. But now with only months before the election and everything on the line--the governorship and the state House--it appears Dem US Senator Udall has stepped in to step things up at the moribund party. A new executive director has just been hired and two data experts will soon be on board. Udall leads the ticket this year as he seeks a second term and if he wasn't going to do something, who would?

The new ED is Jon Lipshutz who most recently handled the Dem Guv campaign of Howie Morales. In 2012, Lipshutz, 35, was a key player for the Dems in the state House battle. The party picked up two seats in that presidential year. This year the Dems face a battle for outright control of the House.

 "These changes that are taking place in the party show that we are gearing up and ready to fight. There are stark contrasts between our candidates and those of the Republicans. We'll be showing them," declared Lipshutz.

He replaces Lissa Knudsen in the post who is admired by party stalwarts, but one consultant said she is not a "wartime consigliere" and clearly this is war.

In the background for Udall and the Dems are some of the usual suspects who have had their share of political success---Dan Sena, Amanda Cooper and Dave Contarino. Republicans are counting on Martinez political adviser and veteran GOP campaign consultant Jay McCleskey to lead them to the victory circle. He has assumed control of not only the Martinez re-election campaign but also the GOP strategy to win control of the House.

LABOR PAINS

A number of consultants say national labor unions are going to play might hard in NM to prevent a GOP state House takeover. The fear for the Dems was that no one really cared. One Dem consultant says the national unions came with $180,000 to seed a political action committee for the House races "because they don't want this to become another Wisconsin" where a Republican governor has run roughshod over the unions in a Democratic state.

The R's could spend upwards of $2 million to win the House, but with the union backed Partiot Majority Fund and Speaker Ken Martinez's political action committee, it appears the Dems will be outspent but not outgunned. . .

The campaign of Dem Guv candidate Gary King is telling the unions that they need to play in the governor's race. It warns that if Martinez is allowed to tote up a big victory it could have a coattail effect in key House races. King only had $116,000 in cash recently, compared to $4.3 million for Martinez.

A SANTA ROSA OKAY

And now the important stuff. Our quest for an ABQ roast beef burrito--not a Santa Fe one--led readers to suggest the Copper Lounge and the Burrito Lady in the NE Heights who says her New Mexican dishes are "Santa Rosa style." We wanted verification. From Santa Rosa comes the official word from Christiana Campos at Joseph's Bar and Grill on historic 66:

I just read your story on the Burrito Lady--Consuelo Flores from Santa Rosa. She is a dear friend of the family and actually grew up right across the street from Joe and the Campos family. Joe and I eat there every chance we get, and are never disappointed. I can certainly attest to the deliciousness of her burritos, especially my favorite the chicken and calabacita burrito. Joe prefers the carne adovada burrito.

 She also serves some sinfully rich homemade brownies, but get them before they're gone! I wanted you to know that as Santa Rosans, and as restaurateurs, we wholeheartedly enjoy and recommend the Burrito Lady's Santa Rosa home style and delicious food!

Thanks, Christina, The Burrito Lady it is, but only Tuesday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. And no credit cards--cash only. Who said getting an ABQ roast beef burrito would be easy?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Heinrich-Hillary Early Honeymoon; What's That All About? Plus: Weh's Woes: Big Government Is His Big Friend 

Why is the new guy on the block so eager to go with the old guard? That's the question in the wake of Dem US Sen. Martin Heinrich's very early endorsement of Hillary Clinton--if she decides to seek the '16 presidential nomination.

Heinrich is going all in for Clinton, attending a weekend ABQ North Valley "Ready for Hillary" event and issuing this statement of tribute:

. . .  I am joining millions of Americans in pledging my support to former first lady, senator and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, should she choose to run for president in 2016. The next presidential election may seem far off, and it is. But this will be a tough campaign with a lot at stake. As she makes her decision, I want Secretary Clinton to know that people across the country share her values and believe that she will be the best person to lead us at this critical time.

Maybe. Maybe not. There is plenty of Clinton fatigue going around, and look what happened in '08. Obama knocked the front runner tag off her lapel in no time at all. And here we are again with Hillary being presented as the default candidate but with that reminder of her glass jaw far from erased.

Heinrich pulled out a close and important 2010 re-election bid for the ABQ US House seat by veering to the left and planting his flag in the liberal SE NM Heights. It set him up for his 2012 US Senate win. In that context the endorsement of centrist Clinton seems out of sync.

That former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez--who fought Heinrich's election to the ABQ city council in 2003--is the chief NM cheerleader for Hillary--shows how Heinrich has joined the establishment Dem camp with this endorsement, rather than remaining outside the circle and taking a wait and see attitude.

Chavez is barely concealing his hope that Hillary will give him a top administration job if she's elected. Maybe something similar is motivating Heinrich this early--like Secretary of Interior?

ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has also come out early for Hillary, but notably Dem US Sen. Tom Udall--facing re-election this year--has not. And speaking of the senate campaign. .

WEH'S WOES

Did Republican US Senate candidate Allen Weh just have the stool pulled out from under him? He constantly attacks gridlock in Washington and Udall for bering a "big government politician" but it turns out that it is Weh who is directly benefiting from big government and in a big way. From the Los Angeles Times:

As a Republican candidate for Senate retired Marine Col. Allen Weh says it's time for tougher border security. As a businessman, Weh stands to benefit from the border crisis. His air charter company, CSI Aviation Inc., is the largest private contractor for ICE Air, the aviation wing of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, winning more than $560 million in ICE contracts since 2010. President Obama is seeking $3.7 billion from Congress to help stem the surge of young immigrants from Central America crossing the Southwest border. The proposal includes $116 million for transportation, and a good portion of that is likely to go to CSI.

And Weh's response

Our country is knee-deep in a humanitarian, emergency response situation that appears will only get worse before it gets better. As the CEO of CSI Aviation, I have only one concern and that’s to make sure that every detainee, every woman and child who is in our care while being transported, whether they are here legally or illegally, and our crews and support staff, all arrive safely.

Political insiders have long known of Weh's lucrative government contracts, but the public at large has not. It complicates his uphill battle to take Udall out as he argues against the very government that is making him a wealthy man.

Weh is not alone in the Republican camp in singing the praises of the "free market" but actually making a living from the Feds. ABQ GOP Mayor Berry's construction company was deemed a minority business because it is owned by his wife of Hispanic heritage. Federal contracts were a chief reason for its success--not the "free market." And Republican Governor Martinez--who also preaches the evil of big government and the wonders of the private sector--has been a government employee just about all of her  adult life, serving as an assistant district attorney, district attorney and another four as governor.

It is this brush with hypocrisy that Weh must now overcome.

WORK FOR WHITE

Former Bernalillo County sheriff, former ABQ public safety director and Martinez political insider Darren White has left a management position at the ABQ Downs Racetrack and Casino and announces he is becoming a private investigator. One of the Alligators already has some assignments for him:

Maybe someone will hire Darren to investigate the allegations of bid-rigging in the awarding of a racino lease for the Downs, first gentleman Chuck Franco's hunt for alligators in Louisiana where the Downs' owners are based, and former ABQ police chief Ray Schultz's issues with Taser International and the contract he "greased" for them with the city. White could also help track down all those city-issued cell phones that disappeared (including White's) after a district court judge ordered them turned over because they'd been used to photograph attorney Mary Han after she'd been found dead under suspicious circumstances.

The FBI has investigated the racino lease, but no charges have been brought. Schultz's controversial relationship with Taser remains unexplored and the death of Han--suicide or murder?--continues to create legal fallout. It was also the subject of a recent KNME-TV roundtable discussion.

BEEF OVER ROAST BEEF

If you can't blog about roast beef burritos during the dog days of summer, when can you? Our plea for New Mexican restaurants in ABQ--not just  Santa Fe--to include them on their menus brings out the foodies. One reader pointed out that the Copper Lounge near UNM serves the tasty entree, and veteran politico and ABQ radio talk show pioneer Mike Santullo comes with yet another:

Another delicious roast beef burrito in ABQ is at "The Burrito Lady" located on Eubank near Lomas. She's been there for almost 10 years and makes the most delicious roast beef burrito I have ever had. It's a very small hole in the wall, but she has lines out the door at 6:30 in the morning and for lunch. Best kept secret in ABQ. She specializes in what she calls "Santa Rosa NM" style cooking. Very home style and delicious.

Santa Rosa style cooking? Nice, But we'll have to clear that with the Campos family in Santa Rosa as they hold forth at Joseph's Bar and Grill on historic Route 66.

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